FAB 2. Where Does Winston’s Bad Season Opener Rank?

As I sat there and watched in disbelief as fifth-year quarterback Jameis Winston threw not one, but two pick-sixes in a 14-point loss to San Francisco on opening day, I wondered how this bad performance stacked up against some other travesties I’ve watched in over decades of covering the Buccaneers.

I’ve seen a lot of jaw-dropping, bone-headed quarterback play sink Tampa Bay’s ship on opening day through the years. Where did Winston’s 2019 stinker rank among the Week 1 defeats?

Here is a list of some awful Week 1 performances by Bucs QBs in the modern era – going back to Tony Dungy’s first game as Tampa Bay’s head coach in 1996.

1. Trent Dilfer vs. Green Bay – 1996

The slogan was “A New Day In Tampa Bay” as Dungy took the helm after Sam Wyche was fired after a 7-9 finish to the 1995 season. But it ended up being more of the same for the Buccaneers, who were the personal whipping boys for the NFC Central champion Green Bay Packers. Brett Favre and the Packers came to town and thrashed the Bucs 34-3 on opening day with tens of thousands of Cheeseheads in the Big Sombrero cheering them on.

Dilfer was 13-of-30 (43.3 percent) for a mere 123 yards with four interceptions and no touchdowns and he was sacked once in the loss. The Bucs never had a chance in this blowout loss.

2. Trent Dilfer vs. New York Giants – 1999

Dilfer single-handedly blew one of the greatest defensive performances in Bucs history with four big blunders in a shocking 17-13 loss to the Giants in the home opener. Tampa Bay’s defense held New York to just 107 total yards, including 28 rushing yards on 25 carries, and the Giants were just 1-of-13 on third down. Quarterback Kent Graham completed 12-of-24 passes for just 91 yards and the Giants had just 79 net passing yards once sacks were factored in.

Former Bucs QB Trent Dilfer - Photo by: Getty Images
Former Bucs QB Trent Dilfer – Photo by: Getty Images

Dilfer completed only 15-of-31 passes (43.8 percent) for 174 yards with one touchdown and three costly interceptions against a very good New York defense. He was also sacked twice in the game and fumbled with Giants defensive lineman Christian Peters scooping up the loose ball and scoring a critical touchdown in New York’s upset win.

3. Josh Freeman at New York Jets – 2013

This was the first game of Freeman’s contract year and he was in a fog from the start (there is a shocking story behind this one). On the Bucs’ first possession, Freeman took back-to-back delay of game penalties because he couldn’t hear the play call over the crowd noise (begins at 4:00 mark of the video below). The Bucs called a timeout and then had unnecessary back-to-back delay of game penalties because Freeman was so out of sorts.

Another Freeman blunder was taking a safety after he wasn’t ready for a shotgun snap that went through the back of the end zone and he kicked the ball out of the end zone before slamming himself into the goal post. He then went on to complete 15-of-31 passes (43.8 percent) for 210 yards with one touchdown and one interception and was outdueled by Geno Smith as the Bucs blew a winnable road game in Week 1.

4. Chris Simms vs. Baltimore – 2006

The Bucs were coming off an 11-5 record in 2005 and a home playoff loss to Washington, and were eager to get that bad taste out of their mouths. The visiting Ravens had different idea and destroyed Tampa Bay 27-0 as Baltimore’s stars shined that day. Ray Lewis had one of two sacks of Simms, who completed 17-of-29 passes (58.6 percent) for 133 yards with three interceptions and no touchdowns.

Cornerback Chris McAlister had a 60-yard pick-six to give Baltimore a 14-0 lead, and the other interceptions came from nose tackle Haloti Ngata and safety Ed Reed. Simms would lose the next two games over the next two weeks, and also his spleen in a Week 3 loss at home to Carolina.

5. Jameis Winston vs. San Francisco – 2019

Yes, Winston’s three-interception game against San Francisco last Sunday ranks as the fifth-worst season debut by a Bucs quarterback in the modern era. Three interceptions, including two pick-sixes, gets him on the list as Winston completed 20-of-36 passes (55.5 percent) for 196 yards with just one touchdown and those three costly picks. Winston was also sacked three times and fumbled once in addition to fumbling a snap – both were recovered by Tampa Bay.

Winston’s 2019 season opener bumped his NFL debut in 2015 down a notch. Winston, the first overall pick in 2015, was outplayed by Tennessee’s Marcus Mariota, who was drafted one spot behind him and threw four touchdowns while completing 13-of-15 passes (86.7 percent) for 209 yards and didn’t have a turnover in a 42-14 beat down by the Titans. Winston completed 16-of-33 passes (48.4 perent) for 210 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions, and he had his first career pass go the other way for a pick-six. Winston was also sacked four times.

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

To be fair, Winston has also shined on opening day, even winning the NFC Offensive Player of the Week award in 2016 by completing 23-of-32 passes for 281 yards with four touchdowns and one interception in a 31-24 upset win at Atlanta in Dirk Koetter’s first game as head coach in Tampa Bay.

Yet the best opening day performance by a Bucs QB in the modern era came last year in New Orleans when Ryan Fitzpatrick engineered a 48-40 upset of the Saints by completing 21-of-28 passes (75 percent) for 417 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions. Like Winston in 2016, Fitzpatrick was given the NFC Offensive Player of the Week award for his tremendous game in the Big Easy.

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Scott Reynolds is in his 24th 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 son's Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: [email protected]

47 COMMENTS

  1. How many years do you give Winston on his play on the field before bucs mgt decide to move . isn’t going on 5 years enough? (not including his personal lapses)

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    • It’s this year. He has this year. If he doesn’t cut it they’ll be Drafting another QB. If he does cut it then he will stay, especially since there’s been no evidence of personal lapses since entering the NFL.

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    • This goes for spitfires comment too…

      For those who want to give up on winston, we are NOT drafting a QB next year. You draft a QB with the no 1, 2 or 3 spot in the draft. the Bucs, even if they win only 6 games, will be drafting 8-11. Your looking at years of Free Agent Nick Foles, Keenum, Cousins type QBs, not another franchise. you have to go 2-14 to get that.

      As for Sunshine Ben and all others, lets play a game about Winstons “Personal issues”
      How many Jameis Winston transactions or problems has he committed SINCE he was suspended from playing at FLORIDA STATE in that Game his last year?

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      the uber incident, which happened at the end of his rookie year.
      Winston has only played under one offensive system, Koetter’s. Carson Palmer took 8 games before he was playing Arian’s system well.

      Lets give Winston the full 16 game season. And for god sakes, leave his 20 year old college issues in the past where they belong

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  2. I think you need to add some context to Winston’s interceptions against San Fran. 2 of them were not on Winston as one bounced right out of OJ’s hands and one of the pick 6s was a result of a wrong route by the receiver. The other pick 6 though… yuck.

    I’m sick of this crap, too, but not all interceptions are created equally.

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    • I still think they should add an INT category. If a ball is catchable and bounces off a receiver then it should count against the Receiver, not the QB.

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  3. You give him this whole year Ben. Dumb question to ask. No 3 1/2 years isn’t enough given the defense was worst in league most that time and no run game. He hasn’t played 5 years or even 4.

    You think that’s a formula for success or any QB would be much better? If you do then your stupid. The run game needs to be average and it looks like it might but it’s been 1 game. Will see. The defense look ls like it can be average finally too. So if he doesn’t have good year and those two things happen you move on.

    Who do you think they should play if they move on now which would be retarded???!!!

    Griffin who has never thrown pass in regular season? Gabbert? If you think either of them would be better now then you are retarded.

    This season will play out how it does and they will decide if they are going to cut Winston and move on. Not before so just sit back and shut up about moving on now. It’s idiotic to even suggest after 1 game with the new system and considering how piss poor this whole offense played not just Winston.

    But then you and suck-ass-bob don’t comment on other aspects like penalties negating TD’s or wrong routes run, etc nope just cry it’s all Winston and time to move on.

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    • fredster you very often make some very astute observations, but you seem to always want to put people down. You can argue successfully without calling fellow buc fans/poster’s questions stupid, retarded, dumb, ect. (except for B-A-B.)

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    • Before you blast someone with such ferocity for stating their opinion, you might want to consider running your comment through a grammar checker, or a friend. I think it will help. If not, maybe try an anger management therapist? Just thinking outside the box here.

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      • Yeah, I stopped reading after “your stupid”. I don’t need sports comments to have perfect spelling and grammar, but come on now.

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  4. If you go back to the days before they drafted Winston there a lot of experts calling him great and they were a lot of experts give a negative reports on him.
    Tampa Bay chose to ignore all the negative information that was out on Winston.For the life of me I can’t imagine what they were thinking but it looks like it’s going to be a seven-year mistake

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  5. Best article I have seen on Winston – both the hopes and the failures. Can only hope he can turn it around but as is very true, time is running out for him to do it and get a new contract in Tampa.

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  6. Would’ve liked to see Barrett go for the strip sack when he took down Garoppolo, being that he was cocked to throw the ball. Will take any sack obviously, but turnovers need to become a regular focus.

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  7. I’m going put my #3 jersey on tomorrow night and root for the Bucs to win. I hope Jameis has the game of his life. Then I’m going to do the same thing every week after. Why you say? Because I’m a fan of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers!!! At the end of the season if Jameis is gone then I will hang his jersey in my closet right next to the Freeman jersey never to be worn again. Then we will get another QB and I will buy his jersey and wear it for every game he plays for the Bucs. I’m tired of the losing and the turnovers just like everyone else. But I will not root against my team or any of the players on it. Jameis isn’t going anywhere anytime soon so it’s going to be a long season for some. Rooting against your team won’t make the losses feel any better and will only make the wins feel worse.

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    • you should be writing a blog. Great read (your comment).

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  8. Great article again Scott. Three of our former QBs that had bad interception rates with us went to teams with better OLs than us and WON 3 SUPER BOWLS: Williams, Young, and Dilfer. And every QB who has played for us has played behind poor OLs and had bad interception ratios. What does that tell you? Fix our OL and you fix Jameis! BA is working on it by finally cutting Benenoch who can never be developed! As our OL improves this team will WIN!

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    • Very good point owlykat. But fixing our O line has never been a priority with Jason Licht. He simply tries to make do and it results in poor offensive line play, year after year after year.

      Put any quarterback behind Dallas front five, and he’d look pretty darn good.

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      • I think the recent signing to replace Benenoch was just as much to send a message to Dotson as it was to cut Benenoch. Dotson made rookie mistakes/penalties in first game of season that cost us points while actual rookies had zero penalties. BA said penalties cost us game and Dotson was definitely a part of that. Hopefully Dotson feels more urgency to clean up his game now that Benenoch is gone.

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  9. Vividly remember the Freeman start vs the Jets unfortunately and recall wanting to fly up and smack Freeman around a bit to wake him up. Unreal start to a game, would love to know the real story behind it. And then to have LVD get that phantom personal foul penalty (Smith was still inbounds on the hit) near the end to set up their FG just capped it off.

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  10. The 49ers had four touchdowns taking back with penalties 49ers played very sloppy a real good top team would’ve won that game by 70 points five years is enough send The BUST to another team . Let him be a back up and compete for a job the best thing in the world for him he’s any good he’ll improve their

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  11. I have been screaming for 2 years this team needed serious answers from serious people there answer was to cut 7 good players to make room for a bust QB and fat O lineman Now one of the players they cut is the NFL player of the week and the quarterback they kept had 45percent rating. And Fredster making excuses calling me a moron.

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    • Will Rogers never met fredster(or you).

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    • BAB, you are a moron, always have been, always will be. Oh, and your beloved Broncos are 0-2 and sucking wind…..losing to Oakland (who was horrible last season and besieged by distractions all preseason), and Dah-Beahs (in Denver). The Bucs & Winston will be fine, not sure about your Mile High Morons.

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  12. If you go back to the days before they drafted Winston there a lot of experts calling him great and they were a lot of experts give a negative reports on him.
    Tampa Bay chose to ignore all the negative information that was out on Winston.

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  13. SR, has anyone in the Bucs organization or the media pressured Winston to try wearing his contacts prescription goggles on the field?

    https://www.espn.com/college-football/story/_/id/9941415/jameis-winston-florida-state-seminoles-says-squinting-habit

    I still think it’s his actual vision. I think he’s in denial that his his being nearsighted doesn’t affect his play. He’s like an elderly person that refuses to walk with a cane and is always falling down. They letbrheir pride get in the way.

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  14. When you’re watching De Sean Jackson Flapping wings and doing somersaults in NFL highlights after those long TDS Don’t be mad at me you should be mad at Jason licht and the glaziers .

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  15. 21-34 over career… 6-18 last three years! That is just stunning to this Buc fan! I mean we all lived it but damn! Jameis has led us to 2 wins a year the last 3 years. Wow! I like Jameis. I really do. I know it not ALL Jameis fault. Yes! I know this! But at some point he has to show us that he can win a game too! He needs to make the throws to win the game. How do u even begin to start contract talks for 22-25 mill a year for a $100 mill plus contract? If that happens, the Bucs will be in deep cap trouble for the length of that contract! Less money to upgrade where needed. I’m just saying…

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  16. So what’s the “shocking story” then?

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    • Yeah, sick of PR constantly mentioning these cryptic, obscure remarks about Freeman. But then when readers implore, PR says, “Oh, we can’t discuss it.”

      Then just quit mentioning it altogether.

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  17. Parnell Dickinson could get the Bucs 6 wins out of 48 games… about the glasses… I think ur right… Kameis seems to squint an awful lot. Surely, the team knows this and has tested him right? I’m a die hard Buc fan from 75! It’s when we were awarded an expansion team and no the owner was NOT Huge Culverhouse! Do u know that Culverhouse was so cheap that he let Doug Williams walk through free agency over about $100,000?!

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    • Been there right with you bucballer. It sure hasn’t been easy giving up my hometown Steelers in their mid-70’s heyday for our own expansion team.

      “Paydirt” Dickinson was one of the early hopefuls along with “Why Not Minot” Hedberg and countless others. My goodness that list of failed QB’s is a long one. I sure hope Jameis succeeds. I’m getting too old to wait for a 2020 rookie.

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  18. Fab 1:  Amen to that!

    Fab2:  Again, Amen.

    Fab3:  Would it not be great if Barrett had 9 or 10 sacks for the season at least.  Nassib comes in with 8.  David, Suh and Vea all have 6 and others contribute as well.  (JPP is able to come back for the last six or seven games and is able contribute a few sacks also.)

    Fab 4:  They might play some music in the locker room sometime during the week after a game.  After any losses use selected up tempo music that would appeal to the various players tastes.  For a win use a tempo appropriate for creating a “steady on” kind of mood.  They’ve got a method or a science to just about all of the other procedures and rituals that surround the team these days anyway. Otherwise, no music is good if BA says so.

    Fab 5:  More about Barrett.  This is great info.

    Thanks for another informative and useful article, Scott.  Keep up the good work.  We fans need it to help keep our very disappointing loss in perspective.
    ________________
    Go Bucs!!!

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  19. Yes, I want to know what the shock story was!!!! OBT, if Winston throws 13 int’s by game 7 we are doomed and so is he.

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  20. Bravo, MizzouBucs24!

    I am rooting for the Bucs no matter what happens. I am pulling for Bruce Arians and his coaching staff to achieve a turnaround here this year and next.

    I am hoping this year’s draft plus all of the other personnel decisions this year will demonstrate a positive change. I am hoping that together Licht and Arians will make decisions superior to those of LIcht and Koetter or Licht and Smith in the past. I am hoping Licht and Arians together will outperform Arians and his previous GM as well.
    _________________
    Go Bucs!!!

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  21. I’ve wondered about the glasses thing with Jameis too. Can someone from PR answer that question, does he wear contacts on game day? I’ve been calling for Dotson’s replacement for the last two years now. There’s no way the two new tackles we just signed can’t be any better. If they’re not, why did we sign them? I’m pulling for Jameis, always have, but it’s hard for me to believe he’s all of a sudden going to sop throwing picks. You know where I live on FL’s east coast the game was not shown on T.V.. I had to go to my favorite sports bar like I did 4yrs ago when Jameis had his debut against the Titans. Talk about deja vu all over again!! It was like going back in time to that first game. This time I thought Jameis would redeem himself. He was set up for that last drive to be the hero of the day. Instead first play, pick six the other way. You know the old saying, fool me once shame on you, Jameis fooled me twice, shame on me. Not much has changed since his first game. I’m not about to be fooled three times. He is what he is, a turnover waiting to happen.

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  22. There is not a lot to be gained from comparing Winston’s performance to former Bucs quarterbacks from decades ago when the game was played very differently than it is today. Today’s NFL offenses are much more pass heavy, a lot more short passes that frequently substitutes for a rushing attack, the rules are much more favorable to quarterbacks and receivers than they are for defenders.

    It is more helpful to compare Winston’s performance with his contemporaries around the league for the last several years, where everybody is playing with the same rule books, and have more or less the same expectations for quarterback performance.

    This does not constitute a defense of Winston, because judging by comparisons with his contemporaries he actually looks a lot worse than by comparison with Bucs QBs in the 80s and 90s.

    Winston leads the league in total turnovers over the last couple of seasons .. I don’t have the exact stats in front of me, but he is in a very bad position relative to his peers, and that’s a fact.

    However, all that being said, Winston is a symptom of the Bucs franchise problems – not the cause. The cause is crappy owners who hire and retain crappy general managers who in turn hire coaches who may or may not be crappy, but who in any case are stuck with mostly crappy players.

    Particularly when it comes to offensive line players, the Bucs have perennially bad offensive lines who don’t pass protect well and who don’t run block well. We’ve had that problem every single year of Jason Lichts’s Reign of Error at the Bucs. Even if we had Tom Brady or Patrick Mahomes at QB, I am afraid we’d still suck. And let’s not even get started on defenses of the entire Licht Reign of Error.

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  23. Did a quick read-thru and surprised not to see Vinny Testaverde’s name in that top 5 list. I guess none of his really bad games were the first game of the season?

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  24. Winston, through all of his mistakes, is a pretty decent QB. Not top 5 but still pretty good. Mistakes? Yep! Great throws from time to time? Yep! Will he ever be top 5? Not in my book, but I would rather have him than several others that are currently starting elsewhere. Out of 32 starters I would place him around 20 or so. Matthew Stafford, while not considered a top 10 QB, is still considered to be pretty darn good. Took his team to the playoffs 3 times so far. Compare Winston’s numbers to Matthew Stafford’s for the first 4 years:

    Stafford / Winston
    Comp% – 59 / 61.4
    Yds – 12,807 / 14,822
    TD – 80 / 89
    Int – 54 / 61
    Rating – 82.325 / 87.0
    Record – 22 – 42 / 25 – 39

    There will always be people who clamor for change when things aren’t perfect. Bravo. Keep making noise. It’s the dissatisfaction of the fanbase that encourages the players to up their game, and pressures the coaches to demand more from them. For now we need to bite the bullet and ride this one out. Will he keep making mistakes? You betcha! Every NFL QB has throws they wish they could take back. The real question is, can he overcome them and find a way to pull out the win.

    I’ve said all along that I feel Winston is a turnover machine, not a top tier QB, mistake prone, and that at the end of this season he will either be on a franchise tag for another year eval, or released. I still feel that way, but I also feel the need to defend him, at least during the first half of this season as he is still learning a brand new offense and is being challenged to change his entire approach to the game. Think about it: Winston has always been encouraged his entire career to “make something happen”. Now he’s being taught to “make money decisions, not money throws”. It’s going to be rough at first. Let’s see how it plays out. Hey, what’s one more losing season, right?

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  25. What matters in the end are wins. If Bucs have a winning season it is because Winston did enough to contribute. Does that mean he is re-signed? Automatically not necessarily. Then again Winston can play lights out and the Bucs end up with a record below .500.

    Like I said many times, winning hides a lot of flaws. Bucs win with Jameis and that will allow Jameis to grow confident in playing to live another day instead of looking for the big play.

    Winston is overthinking things when most plays are very simple.

    I watched the Falcons and Matt Ryan try to run Koetter’s offense. And Koetter was asking Ryan to thread the needle on many, many plays. Given the o-line struggles and the early deficit due to the ground and pound game of the Vikes that was difficult on Matty Ice.

    Winston has to embrace that this offense gives you options short and deep. Sidelines and down the seem. It is not a Sullivan scheme five step drop to the sidelines with no slants or slot WR. It is not a Koetter offense asking the QB to thread the needle on five step drops. Arians offense is a three or five step offense that looks to exploit vertical or horizontal plays on the defense.

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  26. If Winston has another bad game tomorrow night, he needs to be benched.

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  27. “Being challenged”… r u serious? BA came here knowing what Jameis is/was. He built this offense around Jameis! He’s being asked to be a distributor of pigskin. We don’t need u to try and win the game just facilitate. Hit ur check downs and use ALL ur talent and attributes. See a “go” route open, then sling it. This offense wasn’t built for the amount of drive killing, touchdown killing, penalties and turnovers. It’s like that. Execute the offense and minimize the negative and costly fumbles and INTs. That’s what BA wants from Jameis… if he didn’t think Jameis could be that QB then he wouldn’t be here… BA would not be the first coach Jameis got fired… I’m just saying

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    • Agreed.

      Bucs have talented skill players on offense. Arians understands what he wants but Winston has to see the bigger picture of orchestrating full drives.

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  28. I’d love to see the coach’s film of this game. There weren’t many uncontested catches and JW looked uncomfortable from start to finish. Was he indecisive, or did he just have nowhere to throw the ball. 9ers defensive backs were believed to be soft coming into the game, but they sure seemed like they were blanketing our Wars pretty well.

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  29. Only Jameis can control what happens to Jameis!

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  30. I’m not sure how of u Buc fans actually live in Tampa, but I’d like to make a comparison with the Rays. Pitcher Chris Archer and QB Jameis Winston. Both had that IT factor. Both showed good stuff at times, in fact, Pro Bowl and All Star fire power. Both were fan favorites and their jerseys were plentiful in the stands. In the end, Archer was dealt for younger players and is still, with the Pirates a sub .500 pitcher with flashes of brilliance. Perhaps that is all Jameis is/will be? At some point you have to live up to that potential. But, then, perhaps Jameis will never be nothing more than a sub .500 QB with flashes of brilliance. At some point you will have to judge him by wins and losses. The question becomes, when will that be? I’m just saying…

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    • Thats a lousy comparison. Archer, after all, was not the #1 overall draft pick in baseball, he was a 5th round selection by (not Tampa Bay) Cleveland, then traded to the Cubs, then the Rays. So, he was a journeyman before he even arrived here, and now gone. Winston is not even our worst 1st overall pick, not by a long shot.

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  31. Just watched the game today. Jameis wasn’t good enough, but didn’t have help on offense. Didn’t even think the officiating was that horrible outside of toe questionable calls. Also didn’t think the play calling was horrible, though still kinda vanilla. Offense writ large has a long way to go, though.

    Told y’all about Shaq Barrett. This man is the truth, and I hope he gets a multi year contract. In Tampa.

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  32. Scott, that’s great that you’ve followed the team for 24 years, this is my 40th anniversary as a Bucs die hard.

    VINNY was brought in an era when ownership was too cheap, and he cut his interceptions down when he got better coaching in New York with Jets under Parcells.
    Dilfer never shined as a QB, and at best looked like a Game Manager. only QB to get CUT after winning a Super Bowl.
    Freeman never had his heart in football.

    Jameis is unlike all of these examples, to give up on a 25 year old QB who is going on his second offensive system, is insanity. You franchise him another year. Consider this, the Bucs gave Left Tackle Smith great LT money when he is not a great LT. But left tackle is in short supply in NFL, as are franchise QBs. you don’t have to give him 7 years, you can give him 3 years and see what happens.

    When your a franchise that has NEVER signed a QB to a 2nd contract, that tells me a boatload.

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