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FAB 1. How Would A 9-7 Finish In 2019 Have Affected The 2020 Bucs?

It’s third-and-1 at the Houston 23-yard line when Ronald Jones II picks up two yards down to the 21. On the next play, Jameis Winston hits Justin Watson for a 21-yard touchdown down the middle of the field against Cover 2 to put the Bucs up, 24-20. Tampa Bay’s defense would hold the Texans to a fourth quarter field goal and win 24-23 to improve to 8-7 on the year.

The next week, the visiting Falcons would take the Bucs to overtime, but Winston would drive Tampa Bay down the field for a game-winning 36-yard field goal in the north end zone from Matt Gay, who previously missed his first three field goals from the south end zone and the swirling winds of Raymond James Stadium. Tampa Bay’s defense held Atlanta scoreless on its only overtime possession and won the game with a turnover on downs.

While the Bucs finished Bruce Arians’ first season in Tampa Bay with a 9-7 record, they just missed the playoffs. Just like the team did in Dirk Koetter’s first season as head coach in 2016 with the same record.

Winston finished the year throwing for over 5,200 yards with 34 touchdowns and 29 interceptions. In his five years in Tampa Bay, Winston had two 9-7 seasons, but that wasn’t enough to get the Bucs over the hump and into the postseason.

Of course that’s not what happened.

None of that happened.

Jones didn’t pick up the first down in the third quarter against Houston and the Bucs settled for a 41-yard field goal from Gay and lost to the Texans, 23-20. Tampa Bay’s record fell to 7-8 on the year and the team couldn’t finish with a winning record.

The next week, Winston didn’t lead the Bucs down the field for a game-winning field goal. Instead, he threw his NFL-record seventh pick-six of the year, which was also his 30th interception of the season, on the first play of overtime and Tampa Bay lost, 28-22, to finish 7-9 on the year.

But what would have happened if the Bucs had gone 9-7, just missing a wild card spot? What would have happened if Winston had thrown 34 touchdowns and 29 interceptions instead of throwing 33 TDs and 30 INTs?

Former Bucs QB Jameis Winston

Former Bucs QB Jameis Winston – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

Would the Bucs have been more inclined to keep Winston if Tampa Bay had won six straight games to end the season, including seven of the last eight games?

If so, would the Bucs have given the franchise tag to Winston instead – because a long-term deal may or may not have been warranted in the team’s mind after throwing 29 interceptions, including six pick-sixes? Or would the Bucs have opted to re-sign Winston to a long-term contract extension?

And if Winston got the franchise tag, what would have happened to Pro Bowl outside linebacker Shaquil Barrett, who was tabbed the franchise player?

If Bucs general manager Jason Licht and director of football administration Mike Greenberg were to have offered Winston a contract extension what would it have looked like? Would they have overpaid for Winston, who wound up signing a one-year deal worth $1.1 million with New Orleans to battle for Drew Brees’ backup job after receiving little interest from other teams?

There’s no way to tell how the market value might have changed for Winston with one more touchdown, one less interception and two more wins had he hit free agency? Would that have made a difference?

Would Winston have received a deal similar to the three-year, $63 million deal that former New Orleans QB Teddy Bridgewater got in Carolina?

The bigger question is whether or not the Bucs would still have been tempted to sign Tom Brady this offseason. Just because Winston would have finished the season with a winning record and the league’s leading passer doesn’t mean that head coach Bruce Arians didn’t want an upgrade.

Bucs PR Fantasy Draft Brad Johnson

Former Bucs QB and Super Bowl Champion Brad Johnson

The Bucs were thinking the same thing in the 2001 offseason when general manager Rich McKay and head coach Tony Dungy wanted an upgrade over Shaun King, who threw 18 touchdowns and 13 interceptions in 2000 while the team went 10-6, but lost in the first round of the playoffs in Philadelphia. That’s why the Bucs signed free agent quarterback Brad Johnson, who helped the team win Super Bowl XXXVII in 2002.

The Bucs might have made the move to sign Brady regardless of whether Winston went 9-7. After all, Brady has 30 postseason wins in his 20-year career, which are two more total wins than Winston had (28) in his five years as a starter. Not to mention those six Super Bowl championships.

There is no doubt that it would have been much tougher to part ways with Winston, whom the Bucs had invested five years, over $45 million and a first-round pick in, had the team finished 9-7. Winston is 26 and likely has between five to 10 years of worth of football left to play. He would’ve been the team’s QB of the future.

Brady will turn 43 this year and signed a two-year deal through 2021. It’s hard to believe Brady will play beyond the age of 45, which makes him only the QB of the immediate future.

There is no doubt that Brady’s impact with the Bucs has already been felt from the national media attention given to Tampa Bay this offseason to the amount of nationally televised games the team was given to the massive surge in ticket sales that should lead to every game at Raymond James Stadium being sold out.

Even coming off a winning season, Winston wouldn’t move the needle like Brady did this offseason.

Arians and Licht are expecting Brady’s impact over the next two years to go beyond that and immediately affect the win column, in addition to the locker room where his championship influence on younger core players like Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Devin White and Vita Vea will be felt and carried after Brady’s days as a Buccaneer end.

Bucs QB Tom Brady

Bucs QB Tom Brady – Photo by: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Whether he finished 2019 with a winning season or a losing season, the truth is that Winston is gone and Brady is here. Right now on paper that seems like the better move, especially since Brady’s arrival in Tampa Bay also led to him and the Bucs luring Pro Bowl tight end Rob Gronkowski out of retirement to don the pewter and red for at least one year.

Time will truly tell if the addition of Brady was worth it, and if Winston goes on to win a Super Bowl with another team like Doug Williams, Steve Young and Trent Dilfer did after leaving Tampa Bay, or if Winston will follow in King’s footsteps as nothing more than a backup quarterback with a shorter than expected NFL shelf life.

Sometimes a losing season in hindsight is just what the doctor ordered. Bucs fans felt that way when Tampa Bay tanked its season finale at home against New Orleans in 2014 to ensure a 2-14 record and the No. 1 overall pick, which wound up being used for Winston.

Given what has happened already this offseason with Brady’s arrival, a 7-9 record may have been a huge blessing in disguise for the Buccaneers.

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About the Author: Scott Reynolds

Scott Reynolds is in his 25th year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds spent six years giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: sr@pewterreport.com
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Jonbuc
Jonbuc(@jonbuc)
1 year ago

Excellent piece, SR. I was contemplating point #1 just this morning. It’s an exciting 2 year window any way you look at it. It makes up for nearly missing out on Favre in ‘07 in my mind.

PissedOffBuc1988
PissedOffBuc1988(@buclover1988)
1 year ago

I was a big fan of Morris. I really believed in him and wanted him to succeed probably more than most. The fact was that he tried to hard to be friends with his players and took it too far when he started to go out on the town with them. IMO that’s when the players stopped looking at him as their coach and views him more as “one of the guys”. As a young head coach who was thrown into the fire, I don’t necessarily blame him. I do agree with Scott that his second go around will be… Read more »

danielob
danielob(@danielob)
Reply to  PissedOffBuc1988
1 year ago

Not general knowledge, but Akib Taleb broke curfew in London when the Bucs were playing there, Raheem confronted him in the lobby and Taleb cursed him out. I think the team lost respect for him after that. You can’t be ” one of the guys” and be the boss, I know first hand, there has to be a professional seperation when your in charge. I expect Raheem to get another head coaching shot in the near future, but look for Brian L. to be our next head coach if we continue to suceed on offense.

BigSombrero
BigSombrero(@bucwild02)
1 year ago

Holy crap! I am shocked to learn Leftwich and Arians say that Tom Brady is known to check down passes to RB’s and will be expected to continue doing that!

Almost everyone on these boards argues until they are blue in the face that Brady is a prolific deep passer who never had the weapons Tampa has!

42 year old Brady (soon to be 43), will be dumping off pass after pass to shallow crossers, leaking running backs and releasing tight ends. The very definition of DINK and DUNK.

Dave
Dave(@bucball02)
Reply to  BigSombrero
1 year ago

Your recent Brady comments are really flirting the troll line. Just saying. Who gives a crap how he succeeds so long as he succeeds. Brady adapts to whatever type of offense he has. Between 01-03, it was all dunk and dunk to the small WR’s and Faulk. In 04 when they got Dillon, it was more power run, and play action passing, which resulted in 7.8 YPA in both 04 and 05. Then from 07-10, when he finally had an elite deep threat, he had 2 MVP seasons, and 8.3 YPA in 07. When he got Gronk in 2011, he… Read more »

Last edited 1 year ago by Dave
BigSombrero
BigSombrero(@bucwild02)
Reply to  Dave
1 year ago

More like flirting the lines of reality. You knuckleheads are blinded by Tom Bradys 20 years with Bill Bellicheck. When all the backups through the years played under Bellicheck (Brissett, Jimmy G, Hoyer, etc.) they ALSO had low turnovers and great winning percentages, just like Brady. Arians has had his QB throw massive amounts of turnovers in the first year together EVERY time.

gcolerick
gcolerick(@gcolerick)
Reply to  BigSombrero
1 year ago

Lol….have to agree with Dave on this one. How you can throw the goat into the 30 interception heap with Winston just doesn’t make sense. You have a lot of good takes BS but you won’t have any problems with social distancing on that take. Think you’ll be on an island by yourself.

BigSombrero
BigSombrero(@bucwild02)
Reply to  gcolerick
1 year ago

Love the social distancing commen! That was really good!

drdneast
drdneast(@drdneast)
1 year ago

I always liked Bisaccia and thought he should have been chosen as head coach over the stiff anal retentive Rutgers college coach we hired.
At the time he certainly wanted it and under Dungy, who valued special teams, we had one of the best units in the NFL under Bisaccia.
Scott, it looks like you have a very nice family but like me and fortunately for your children, it appears like they got their looks from their mom.

BigSombrero
BigSombrero(@bucwild02)
1 year ago

Fab 2: This list is mostly correct. I would just say that Gay, Evans, Godwin, and Jensen are less critical to the teams success than Gronk, Dean, Whitehead, and Suh. I understand there is depth at TE, but not the kind of depth that has all time rapport with Brady. OJ can’t catch and Brate cant block. Davis, Dean and Whitehead MUST remain healthy and continue improving or Brady will be forced into shootouts and that will lead to interception numbers like Winston, Palmer, or Rothlisberger in his first year under Arians and that will be BAD. Suh commands a… Read more »

Last edited 1 year ago by BigSombrero
Dave
Dave(@bucball02)
Reply to  BigSombrero
1 year ago

You had me until that dumb comment about Brady, per usual. If he’s forced into shootouts he’ll have INT numbers like Jameis, Big Ben, and Palmer? The 3 worst seasons the Pats D has had under Brady/Belichick were 02, 05, and 11. The Pats D in those seasons ranked as follows in pts/yds. 17/23, 17/26, and 15/31. In those 3 seasons Brady never threw more than 14 INT’s, had 1 MVP, and had the following average stat line. 4370 yds, 63.6 %, 31 TD’s vs 13 picks, and a 95 QB Rating. Along with the following records. 9-7, 10-6, and… Read more »

Last edited 1 year ago by Dave
awwdembucs
awwdembucs(@awwdembucs)
Reply to  Dave
1 year ago

Dave I couldn’t agree more with you. J.W was a turn over machine!! Just look at what NOLA is paying him, just a little more than a project QB.
Also he was a project here, 5 years of INT’S and over thrown receivers.

BigSombrero
BigSombrero(@bucwild02)
Reply to  awwdembucs
1 year ago

Look at what Winston was willing to take to ensure the team that jilted him wouldn’t get the last laugh by going to the division leader and key rival.

BigSombrero
BigSombrero(@bucwild02)
Reply to  Dave
1 year ago

Until Arians offense, Winston had thrown 15, 18, 11, and 14 interceptions per season. The secondary was in the bottom 3 every season, if not historically awful. He had no rushing attack. Shoot outs were the Bucs only chance.

Context buddy. Context.

Brady will have to prove it to me. I think its a classic tale of old dog/new trick. He’s in a new place running a new offense with new players and new coaches at age 43.

DerLutz
DerLutz(@lutzgermany)
1 year ago

RoJo on the most important list? RB is the most replaceable in the league. The easiest Position to go from College to NFL. RoJos last year was solid, not more. The Bucs drafted two RBs, including one in the 3th Round. Other Players (Marpet, Dean, SMB, …) are way more important

surferdudes
surferdudes(@surferdudes)
1 year ago

Dink, dunk, deep ball, I don’t care how we do it, just win. Find it odd BA didn’t trust Jameis to audible. We’re talking about a first pick QB in his fifth year, and they didn’t think he could audible? There goes the myth of Winston’s high football I.Q.. Scott, if the Bucs went 9-7, and Jameis wanting North of 30 million, with Brady wanting to come to the Bucs, Jameis would still be gone. He might have got a better deal as a FA, but Brady wanting in meant JW was out.

JayBuc52
JayBuc52(@jaybuc52)
1 year ago

It’s not often that I disagree with you. The last time was over Josh Freeman. I didn’t see in him what you saw in him despite the one fluke season. I am really glad that they are going all pewter for their color rush because I thought the Bucs looked like bottles of ketchup running around in those all red unis.

scubog
scubog(@scubog)
Reply to  JayBuc52
1 year ago

Me too. I hated that bottle of catsup look, especially when we played the mustard jar Rams.

revfish
revfish(@revfish)
1 year ago

If we finish 9-7 then MAtt Gay is the goat of the season and we are angrier at the call vs Tennessee that cost us a TD. At that point, good or bad, Winston stays but we don’t get Wirfs

Dman
Dman(@dman)
1 year ago

I really liked Raheem and wanted him to be our coach for a long time, but it was just too soon. My own story about him is from a local high school football game. With the game over, Morris is standing up against the fence talking with the players, energized and captivating these young guys. As I walk past him, I offer a, “Good luck Coach, Go Bucs!” over my shoulder. Morris wheels around and comes over to me, extends his hand, says thanks and just starts chatting. It was like I was a long lost friend. Unbelievable. Can’t wait… Read more »

twspin
twspin(@twspin)
1 year ago

Actually Scott, I wish we had a winning season last yr or at least 8-8. We would not have made this ill-fated move with Brady. We could have kept jameis one more year and put pressure on him drafting his replacement by moving up in the 1st this past draft. But the powers that be went all in with a Has been Brady. I don’t see it working out well. I believe we will start this season and end it after to many players are infected. That gives us a year window with Brady. I think we wasted 60 mil… Read more »

43 Is Only Old in Human Years
43 Is Only Old in Human Years(@bringbackalstott)
1 year ago

Don’t know if we got better but we did get older

43 Is Only Old in Human Years
43 Is Only Old in Human Years(@bringbackalstott)
1 year ago

You think the New England “Fab Five” talks about what would have happened if Brady wouldn’t have thrown pick sixes in his last two games? Especially the one that knock them out of the playoffs

BigSombrero
BigSombrero(@bucwild02)
Reply to  43 Is Only Old in Human Years
1 year ago

Good point. They’re actually saying “In Bill We Trust”. Brady hasn’t been the same QB for 2 years according to Pats fans now that he’s gone.

Everyone in Tampa is wearing blinders to those stats. It never happened because Brady won 6 championships. GOATs don’t throw Pick-6’s. GOATs don’t age. Most on here argue that Brady is actually a BETTER player now that he’s 43.

But its really not about Winstons interceptions for most. Most are just happy that there are no more crab legs jokes, or rape accusations, or eating of W’s.

Dman
Dman(@dman)
Reply to  BigSombrero
1 year ago

I spent lot of time in Boston the last year and fans were saying Stidham looked better than Brady. He was a rookie of course and only played preseason, a couple of snaps in regular season, but I heard lots of grumbling about TB12.

Johnny Cannons
Johnny Cannons(@johnny-cannons)
Reply to  BigSombrero
1 year ago

Knowing several, and being old enough to remember when you couldn’t find one – Pats fans are not exactly sources of reason. Just saying.

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