If there’s one way to scar a rookie quarterback mentally, it’s by hanging him out to dry behind poor protection. Perhaps no coach knows that better than offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter, who held the same position in Jacksonville during Blaine Gabbert’s rookie season in 2011.
A first-round draft pick, Gabbert got his first start in Week 3 and, over the next 14 games, was sacked 40 times and led all quarterbacks with 14 fumbles en route to a disastrous rookie season.
“My own personal experience would be best (exemplified) with Blaine Gabbert,” Koetter said Wednesday. “When he was a rookie at Jacksonville, we definitely got him hit too much. I think Blaine got kind of a rough rap because he got off to a bad start. Maybe he played before he was ready to play, and that’s not his fault. That wasn’t his decision.”
Hearing Koetter admit that Gabbert, who descended from first-round pick to draft bust in two years, was thrown in too early would make at least a few Bucs fans concerned about starting Jameis Winston from Day 1. However, Koetter assures that this is a different situation and that Winston, who played in a pro-style system in college, is ready to start on Sunday.
“Absolutely. Jameis is ready to go and he’s foaming at the mouth as you can imagine,” he said. “You guys have spent time with him. Jameis is a football player. He’s going to continue to get better throughout his first year, second year – he’s going to improve. But Jameis loves to compete and he wants to play. It’s exciting to see but he’s got a good track record. You look at what he did in college and he did pretty good.”
It’s true Jameis Winston and Blaine Gabbert are different players with different collegiate backgrounds. And there’s no telling if Gabbert would have ever developed into a franchise quarterback, regardless of an improved offensive line during his rookie year. But it’s an interesting connection with their offensive coordinator and another example of why the Buccaneers need to keep Winston upright, especially early on.
“Young quarterback or old quarterback, let’s try not to get him hit too much,” Koetter said.
Zach is entering his 3rd year covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as a writer for PewterReport.com. Since 2014, he's handled a large part of the beat reporting responsibilities at PR, attending all media gatherings and publishing and promoting content daily. Zach is a native of Sarasota, FL, and a graduate of the University of Tampa. He has also covered high school football for the Tampa Tribune and the NFL for Pro Player Insiders.
Contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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