Cover 3 is a weekly feature column written by PewterReport.com’s Tampa Bay Bucs beat writer Trevor Sikkema published every Tuesday. The column, as its name suggests, comes in three phases: a statistical observation, an in-depth film breakdown, and a “this or that” segment where the writer asks the reader to chose between two options.

Sikkema’s Stat of the Week

Five years ago they were the can’t miss prospects in the class. Entering the 2015 NFL Draft, the teams picking at the top had a treat. If you get one sure-fire quarterback in a draft pool, you’re happy. But two? And at the caliber of these players? It was a win-win. You couldn’t go wrong.

Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota; the NFL had been waiting a long time to get their hands on these guys. As a redshirt freshman in 2013, Winston set the world on fire. In his first year as a full-time starter, he was the best in college football. He threw for 40 touchdowns to just 10 interceptions, won some of the biggest games the sport had to offer, including a National Championship, and won the Heisman Trophy that season. On the other side, we hadn’t seen an assassin in the pocket like Marcus Mariota in a long time. In his three years as a starter, Mariota threw for 105 touchdowns and just 14 interceptions. His QBR was 171 for his career, and he, too, was a Heisman Trophy winner in 2014 one year after Winston.

As the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Tennessee Titans were set to kick off the 2015 NFL Draft, there was hardly any pressure in terms of which position to pick. Sure, there was a lot that had to go into choosing between Winston and Mariota, but it was like a choosing between rib eye and filet, a Benz and an Audi, Michael Jordan or LeBron James. You could argue forever — there were plenty of pros on each side — but in the end both were great. You couldn’t lose.

Fast forward to 2019 and not only did one of these teams lose, we’re now getting dangerously close to saying both did.

Marcus Mariota was benched at halftime this week for Ryan Tannehill, a move that certainly puts into motion that the Titans are going to be looking for a new franchise quarterback next offseason. The Bucs didn’t bench Winston this week — though they have before — but his six-turnover performance was one of the worst days we’ve seen from him in a Buccaneers uniform, and that, unfortunately, is saying a lot.

We’re a long way from 2015. Have both of these quarterbacks improved? I would say they have. They are better than when they came into the league. But the injuries around Mariota really set him back, something he was never able to recover from, physically or mentally. He is no longer the automatic assassin we saw at Oregon, and instead makes the small things look difficult. And for Winston, his downfall is that his superman complex, one that made him a hero at Florida State, has now (ironically) become his biggest kryptonite.

Three head coaches, even more offensive coordinators and even more quarterbacks coaches; each has brought their own twists and tactics to teaching the position in hopes of finally getting through to Winston in a way that allows him to take the next step so many believe he has within him. These many teachers have certainly all taught Winston different tricks and different styles (which can become a negative with limited continuity). But from all of them there has likely been one common lesson that continues to be taught to this day.

“You don’t have to be Superman.”

Bucs QB Jameis Winston
Bucs QB Jameis Winston – Photo by: Getty Images

It’s safe to say that for as long as Winston has been playing football he’s been one of the best if not the best players on the field. In high school he was dominant, in college he was dominant, and even in the NFL, when he’s at his best, he’s shown flashes of Top 10 QB talent. Going back to his roots, Winston has been leaned on to be “the man.” Certainly his talent has something to do with it. But the quarterback position is also a natural spot for eyes and ears to rest on and look towards when a play needs to be made. Winston puts a lot of pressure on himself to be the one to make such plays. He did in high school. He did in college. But he doesn’t do it nearly enough in the NFL for the very reason of he works his hardest to achieve them.

Winston wants to win. The desire to win keeps him up at night. It’s what causes him to be in the building before anyone else each morning. It’s what made him the choice at No. 1 all those year ago over Mariota. He’s starving for it. That has never been in question. But at what point does the costs part of “winning at all costs” start to become the approach to winning itself?

I would argue that point is right now, and it’s been present for a long time.

A big reason why Bucs head coach Bruce Arians came out of retirement to this Tampa Bay team was because of Jameis Winston. He loved Winston’s talent and his fire, and Arians thought he could fix Winston with those cornerstones of character in place. But if this were a movie, Dirk Koetter would be playing the role of Red Skull in Avengers: Infinity War where he is talking to Thanos about obtaining the soul stone. Thanos thinks he has what it takes to get the stone; Arians thought he knew what it would take to change Winston. In the words of Koetter as Red Skull: “We all think that at first. We are all wrong.”

Winston becoming the franchise quarterback he was drafted to be isn’t going to cost a soul, but it is going to cost an identity. Winton has to let his Superman complex die — a request I am not sure he can adhere to. There are times when Winston wants to make the play so bad he doesn’t, and not only does he not, he often makes things worse. Every coach who has come through Tampa Bay has talked about not wanting to coach the gunslinger out of Winston, and yet they require him to not be Superman about plays. I’m starting to wonder if such a middle ground even exists in Winston.

This past Sunday Jameis Winston threw his 100th touchdown pass. He is the only Buccaneers player to do so, and is only the fifth quarterback to ever do so by age 25 or younger. He has the most completions, the most passing yards and the most passing touchdowns in Tampa Bay Buccaneers history. His name already claims the top spots on many of the pages of the franchise’s record books, all before his second contract. And yet if he’s not careful, his name, like every quarterback’s name that has come before him in Tampa, will fail to get a second contract.

Winston’s six turnovers on Sunday were the most in a single NFL game since 2016. He now has five games with four or more turnovers since 2015. No other player has more than two such games. He has the second most turnovers in the league since the start of the 2018 season.

The problem isn’t that Winston won’t stop turning the ball over. The problem is that he can’t seem to help it.

Head coach Bruce Arians – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

The Bucs O-Line was terrible on Sunday, but Winston didn’t help them. The secondary has been terrible for years, but that doesn’t take away Winston’s blunders. The coaching staffs haven’t been what the team thought they would be before. But now they have a proven winner — proven winners — all across the staff, and they can’t seem to make it stop.

I am not saying that Winston is void of talent. That is clearly not the case. Just look at what he did in the middle of their first six games. He was fantastic. But what I am saying is that it is getting more and more obvious that at some point, Superman Winston will come back, and ironically that is this team’s kryptonite. Winston wasn’t the only reason why they lost last week, but he was a reason. And that’s been his story since 2015.

The longer they do this the more it becomes clear that Winston’s 2013 season at Florida State was an outlier. Since then he’s been unreliable. Don’t get me wrong. At times he’s been stellar, and they’ve won because of it. But of all you know about Winston, can he ever string those games along long enough for it to matter?

You could see it on Arians’ face on the sidelines this past weekend. He knows this is going to be tougher than he thought. Winston has helped this team ascend in many moments. But he is also what holds them back. That’s reality. Can you win a Super Bowl with that? Time and patience to answer that question is running out.

On Monday, Arians was asked if this week’s game changes whether or not he believes Winston can be a franchise quarterback.

“No. I look at the reasons why, what happened, and if it happens again, yeah, it’ll concern the hell out of me.”

Sunday wasn’t the first time, Bruce.

Sunday was the “again.”

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Trevor Sikkema is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat reporter and NFL Draft analyst for PewterReport.com. Sikkema, an alumnus of the University of Florida, has covered both college and professional football for much of his career. As a native of the Sunshine State, when he's not buried in social media, Sikkema can be found out and active, attempting to be the best athlete he never was. Sikkema can be reached at: [email protected]
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BUC-ASS-BOB

Bruce Arians thinks denial is a river in Egypt Bruce Arians is going to ruin his reputation here if he does not Change the course of this team.
At first I was excited when Bruce Arians came to Tampa but when he got up on the podium and told how much respect you have for the glaziers I saw he was a bullsh-tter and I see it here NFL has a habit of exposing BUll Sh-t Good luck Brucie

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Bucsfan1983

I’m not done with Winston. I don’t think Arians is in over his head. I think BA needs to take over play calling. I am done with Jason Licht. Since drafting Jameis, he has don’t nothing to improve the O Line or secondary. Both have been major weaknesses for the team for years, the secondary being weaker longer. He has tried to fix the secondary in recent years, but most look like failures. Outside of D Smith, Marpet (both in the same draft) and Cappa, he hasn’t done much drafting OL. I still think we can see Jameis be a… Read more »

EricNV

I’m somewhat skeptical about Leftwich’s ability to game plan and call plays. This offense excels when using the run to setup play action. This can only happen when: (1) you rush the ball effectively enough that the defense has to take the threat seriously, and (2) you’re not putting yourself 3 touchdowns or more behind with turnovers. No. 2 is not on Leftwich, but no. 1 is. At least it is when you abandon the run too early or run it so often it becomes predictable, both of which Leftwich is guilty of doing. Rate this item:Thumb UpThumb DownSubmit Rating00… Read more »

papi

You don’t know what you are talking about.
Bucs Offense Points Scored Rank in the NFL with Jameis.

4th – 2019
12th – 2018
18th – 2017
19th – 2016
20th – 2015

Bucs Defense Points Allowed
30th – 2019
31st – 2018
24th – 2017
15th – 2016
25th – 2015

It’s Not Him. It’s the Defense

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thegeebo

You just showed us the offense has been mediocre. That’s not all Jameis’ fault. But watching him play, he’s not good. Indecisive, inaccurate, turnover prone. For every great game he plays, he has a terrible game. The rest are average. Considering the weapons he has, this team shouldn’t struggle. It does. The defense is a problem, no doubt. But Jameis isn’t worth the money or investment moving forward. If this defense were to improve and we somehow made it to the playoffs, would anyone trust Winston to win those games? Not a chance. Rate this item:Thumb UpThumb DownSubmit Rating00 No… Read more »

Buc76

None of this analysis does any good right now. All they can do is regroup and try to beat Tennessee. Yes Winston had a melt down. The line is garbage. The bigger problem is that Licht does not know how to build a football team. So many bad draft choices. Bad free agents. They have to take what they have and try to win with it. Quick throws. Long Drop backs are not going to work because he has no protection. Focus on beating Tennessee and go to 3-4 then deal with what comes next. That’s all they can do… Read more »

Charlie

Certainly done with Winston, his first INT and the one to Kuechly are just constant reminders that this dude just can’t figure it out. Luke Kuechly is an absolutely great linebacker, he made a great fake, but who on our team was Jameis even throwing the ball too? None of our receivers were even breaking into that zone on the field! He threw it straight to him!! He will never be able to win a Super Bowl cause he can’t even play well for 4 games or longer to even get us into the playoffs! He’s worse than Trent Dilfer… Read more »

nmkinley

Just to point out for clarification, Charlie, Winston was throwing to the bottom WR who was doing a crossing route behind the LB’s. So there was actually a receiver being thrown to – Keuchly just picked it midway.

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Charlie

Not buying that crap, the receiver that broke over the middle was going in the opposite direction or the throw and the other was barely within 10 yards of the throw…this was Winaton throwing it to nobody, like he so often does.

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TBAtlas

I’m just going to watch the rest of the season before I answer those questions. So tired of the see-sawing of the fans on a week-to-week basis.

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EricNV

Absolutely agree with you.

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bucballer

The Bucs go as Jameis goes! It’s that simple. The QB gets all the glory and all the venom. I hope Jameis and Bucs can turn it around. Leftwich seems to have left Jameis out to get killed with his play calling. Not impressed. Like to see BA take back play calling duties. This offensive scheme does not appear to put Jameis in a good position to excel a lot of times. If u can’t block the defense then max protect with a TE in backfield or something! Why did Leftwich seem to go away from using RoJo? With out… Read more »

Michael76

With regards to establishing the running game…. a statistic not identified often here, is how effective the play-action has been for the Bucs

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Michael76

Winston is still a young man with a arm and sufficient athleticism to become a good quarterback some day. IMHO giving up on him now will one day rival our decision to give up on Steve Young. But the only way one learns is truly holding them accountable. BA is the quarterback whisper… and is known for holding people accountable. So I was a little surprised with the repeated message of take chances. Leftwich has experience… even with weak teams… I’m surprised that he doesn’t game plan to allow Winston a few easy passes to help get him in a… Read more »

buddah

I’m all in with BA. He acknowledged that they were out coached. I would say they were also out hustled. The Panthers wanted it more. We were lethargic and uninspired. That’s terribly disappointing. We are what we are–a team with an outstanding run defense, some good receivers, and a decent left side of the offensive line. Every team has weaknesses in the NFL. The good teams make adjustments and figure out how to compensate when they have been exposed. The Panthers are a very beatable team. You shut down McCafferty and stop them on third down. We did that for… Read more »

Dman

Good post. I’ve been a consistent supporter of Jameis. He has the physical skills and flat out desire to be great. He’s the hardest worker on this team for as long as he’s been here and so far, has avoided major injuries. It may be semantics, but I attribute his weaknesses to personality and maturity, not character. He’s made progress this season, but in bad situations he reverts to self destruct mode. To me that’s mostly maturity. His Superman mentality is personalty to me, where he just believes in himself that he can make the play no matter what. Call… Read more »

SenileSenior

After close to 5 1/2 years in the NFL Winston does not seem to be able to change. He cannot overcome the trait or inner habit. I had hoped it was just a matter of long standing bad habits. In that case it should be able to be coached out of him. Right now BA has his work cut out for him. If it is habit and not a much, much deeper flaw then so be it. The next nine games will have to demonstrate a dramatic change and seemingly miraculous turnaround in Winston’s performance for him to be signed… Read more »

deeznuts

Trade Winston for Mariota, maybe it will revive both of their careers….like Eli Manning and Phillip rivers

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I need to see quicker plays (ball out quick), develop more running plays for other guys (Miller, Howard, Perriman), why cant we ever run a fricking jet sweep? More screens to Rojo , more draws and for gods sakes more Winston moving the chains with his legs. I was over finally over Winston on Sunday, but a couple days later it wasn’t all his fault. If his first or second reads are not there look to run or throw it away. Not to run around and dance around and look for a miracle pass!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Rate this item:Thumb UpThumb DownSubmit Rating00… Read more »

BUC-ASS-BOB

Dear Bruce You have 2 weeks off if you want to save your reputation! send a letter to Jason and Glazer’s informing them you are running the team, you are coaching the team the way you see best, It is clear they are calling major shots, it is your reputation on the line they hide their mistakes behind your face. If they do not agree walk away save your own ass! You have been in football 50 years the Glazers are clueless of how to win they were raised on a silver spoon and given the pass on everything thier… Read more »

Buc stops here

Fascinating story that shows what happened to the 2015 draft when the Bucs picked first. Not only have neither QB worked out that well, but many of the players that followed them. It is going down now as one of the worst draft’s in NFL history. Not done yet but getting close.

https://www.msn.com/en-us/sports/nfl/simultaneous-implosion-of-jameis-winston-and-marcus-mariota-signals-sad-end-to-2015-nfl-draft/ar-AAIMhz4

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Buc off

Before the 2015 draft talk got heated up it was viewed as the weakest draft class in memory. All that sober talk goes out the window as the draft nears though. That is a direct result of journalism being a for profit industry. They don’t generate buzz, no one reads, they don’t get paid.

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Larry Harmon

Winston is average at best. A great game. A miserable game. That is NOT a starting NFL QB. He is also an embarrassment to his community. Would you leave your daughter alone with this guy??? DON’T pay him the going rate for an NFL QB. Take the money and get an EDGE rusher, and offensive tackle, and and DECENT, PREDICTABLE QB. They are out there. The panthers found one.

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BucRy

Winston is who is he, a hot and cold qb who will always be inconsistent. He will always have a place in his league as a solid back up or maybe even a journeyman, but I am finished with Winston unless we start winning a lot of games and he goes the rest of the season without a multi turnover games which I highly doubt will happen. It sucks cause I really believed that this would be the year we finally see some consistency but we can’t sign him to a long term deal! It’s time to start over with… Read more »

aStrayPirate

I don’t envy the decision makers at One Buc. Winston is what he is, and seems that is unlikely to change. If you keep him, you will see this type of game again. BUT, the problem really comes to light when you stop and ask: could many other QBs do better with this team? Maybe they would turn it over less, but would we see more wins? Would the best performing QBs out there be any better than Winston behind this O-line? What about with the pedestrian run game? Or lackluster defense? Perhaps the better question is, would any QB… Read more »

BucRy

I think of a player like Russell Wilson who has had to run for his life in Seattle cause of their previously poor offensive line, yet he still won.

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Austin Williams

For the love of God. Give the man a decent OLine to where he can go through his progression and he will be the Winston that we all know and love. It is not rocket science and everyone just prefers to say that it is all his fault. If we drafted any OT in the previous 2 drafts like we al wanted then we wouldn’t be having this convo.

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DailyRich68

I just feel like that Superman complex is what makes Winston great. You can see him trying to rein himself in and he looks tentative and lost and afraid of making the big mistake. It’s in no way a direct comparison, but I always likened him to Brett Favre — he’ll throw four touchdowns, but give you at least one mind-boggling interception per game. Except Winston doesn’t give you just one.

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SenileSenior

Favre had one Super Bowl win and a whole bunch of career interceptions. His best TD-INT ratios were 33-7 in his 19th year and 39-13 in his 6th year. His worst were 11/19 in his 20th (and last) year and 20-29 in his 15th season.

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BUC-ASS-BOB

Asked 6 people at Breakfast in St Pete this morning all 6 said they were done with Winston 4 of them expressed this with great energy, no one said they wanted him period.
The longer they keep giving him chance the longer the fans will keep leaving !

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seat26

Excellent Article. This has been agonizing. I am a huge Winston fan and it is difficult for me to admit that he is failing. But if we have any chance of saving this season, he may have to be put on the bench. Until we can fix the offensive line and come up with a running game that compliments him, we are going to continue to struggle. But when he threw his very first pass for an interception this week, that was it for me. Enough.

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surferdudes

Trev, the second interception when you say it wasn’t Winston’s fault look again. I noticed when I rewatched the game Winston has a habit of patting the ball before he throws it. On that pick, it’s a little pat, but none the less that extra split second can make all the difference in getting his elbow hit or not. On deep routes, I noticed sometimes he pats it twice before letting it go. Not only does he stare down receivers, he tells the DB when the ball is coming out by patting the ball first. His first fumble you say… Read more »

a-bomb

Excellent analysis. It is frustrating to me to see the play calling from last week. Leftwich knew (or had to know) that the right side of the line was weak and that weakness would be exploited. Great coaches take their own weakness and turn it into a strength. The Bucs just have not been able to do that in forever. Instead, the game plan still is to throw the ball 10-20 yards down field. We know that Winston is good in the no huddle hurry up. Why don’t they run that? I believe that running a no-huddle with a two… Read more »

papi

You don’t know what you are talking about.
Bucs Offense Points Scored Rank in the NFL with Jameis.

4th – 2019
12th – 2018
18th – 2017
19th – 2016
20th – 2015

Bucs Defense Points Allowed
30th – 2019
31st – 2018
24th – 2017
15th – 2016
25th – 2015

It’s Not Him. It’s the Defense

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surferdudes

By the way to the fans who dread starting over drafting a QB in the first round, think again. With the rookie wage scale it’s a benefit to draft one. If he pans out it gives the club four years of cap space. If it doesn’t, big deal, won’t crush your team like the old days. Look at AZ, moved up for Rosen, didn’t like him, or the coach after one year, got rid of both, and are better off for it. Just because we’ve invested 5 years in Winston, isn’t a reason to invest five more hoping he changes,… Read more »

fredster

No I’m Not done with him YET, but I was 70/30 in pre season he would be good this year and either signed a second contract or franchise tagged if he was better but still not really good or consistent. Now I’m 50/50 on if he’s here next year. That game was nuts. I have no delusions another QB would be better in that situation but when it’s going bad he melts down. That has to change rest of this year or he has to go period. If he’s done then we can count another 5 years or more of… Read more »

scot pederson

Mariota certainly does not have the Canon arm JW has. More of a precision passer with mobility. But he has no Allstar WRs on his team and a running game with a beast but the run game is up & down with their Oline. JW has studs at WR and we thought at TE too with 2 decent RBs but inconsistent run games there as well. Main difference is Marcus wont have a 300 or 400 yrd game with 3 or 4 TDs very often, but he also doesn’t have 4, 5, 7 Turnovers in a game like JW. Those… Read more »

Dman

Corey Davis and Adam Humphries can both run and catch. Titans also have a much better O line.

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Horse

After 7 years being hopeful, I realized finally his field vision/decision is the issue and has been for many years.
Sunday morning I gave up on Winston.
I no longer support him as a quarterback with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Ditto with Licht too.

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Allanh1

I watched the highlight of the game while waiting for my first class..turned it off after Hargreaves crapped on some assignment..still, I feel a bit better today than Sunday. I really hate the Panthers, much more now that GMC will most likely reach the playoffs.

At this point, I dont even blame JW anymore. No one can see what the QB sees.

I feel defeated…

Go Bucs.😂😅😐😫😥😪

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4girls

Okay, here we go…This is going to be a long post. Read on or scroll on. Your choice. Jameis has his problems with turning the ball over. We all know that. Aside from his first year at FSU, it’s been a problem. Whether it’s Superman syndrome, to me, is irrelevant. I think that is part of the problem, of course. I feel the biggest problem with Jameis is he was drafted by the Bucs. Picture Jameis as the QB for a team like the Vikings. (Obviously, he would drive Zimmer INSANE, but that is beside the point.) Minnesota has very… Read more »

bEubanks11

Winston is like a super hot chick that just wants to be friends. Just when you think things are progressing towards something more, the rug gets pulled out from under you and reality sets in. I’ve been a huge supporter. I love the guy, I really do but Sunday a switch went off in my head finally that I’m not sure can be turned back on. I’m feeling pretty done. Like to a point that I’ve been a fan my whole life and have supported a bunch of bad football but I’m not sure I want to do it anymore.… Read more »

Allanh1

Eubanks, I feel it too.im 33, birthday next month. I began loving this team in 98. I was 13. Seen them hoist the big one and dominate a few more years after. Sometimes I think, how happy would ai have been had I liked Bledsoe in NE Or Ty Law so much that I became a fan for life? Why I didn’t like the home team ( Giants) and witness 2 bowls come home in my lifetime?. I too gave up on 3. I’ve seen Derrick Brooks not get resigned, Lohn Lynch the same,and even Sapp- regardless of how he… Read more »

scubog

I’ve always been a proponent of Yogi’s “50% of it is half mental” saying. There is collateral damage with turnovers. This game was a prime example. Here we are in the stands at the “Spur”, outnumbered by Panthers fans 3-1 at supposedly our “home” game, excited about the game and on the very first play an INT. Now, if the mood of we fans goes from hot to cold in an instant, imagine how the players feel. The worst was the back-to-back fumbles in scoring position. I knew it was a long walk home to Clearwater from London, but even… Read more »

warrenfb12

I’m not done with Winston. I hate these games but we really have to get better around him. And I think most of the issue has to do with Lichts personnel moves. When do we have ANY rookies making an impact? The pass defense is horrendous and if we don’t score on every possession we lose the game. The dude tends to force stuff once the game starts to unravel. Nobody wants that first pick, but even the great QBs throw picks. Glazers made a mistake not moving on from licht. Rate this item:Thumb UpThumb DownSubmit Rating00 No votes yet.… Read more »