The Bucs are back in a familiar quandary

LOREN ELLIOTT   |   TimesTampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston (3) greets teammates at the door to the locker room before an NFL game between the New Orleans Saints and Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla., on Sunday, Dec. 31, 2017.
LOREN ELLIOTT | TimesTampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston (3) greets teammates at the door to the locker room before an NFL game between the New Orleans Saints and Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla., on Sunday, Dec. 31, 2017.
Published July 23
Updated July 24

 

What about the quarterback?

That always seems to be the question when it comes to the Bucs.

The Bucs have been around since 1976, and for most of their existence, they've had one major concern.

The quarterback.

Well, Bucs training camp kicks off later this week and here we are. Again. The Bucs are back to where they always are. And we ask the question that we always seem to be asking.

What about the quarterback?

In a word, that entire situation is a mess.

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For now, that quarterback is Jameis Winston. Sort of.

He is. And he isn't. It's complicated. Thanks to Winston. He's to blame for this turmoil and uncertainty.

Winston will be around for training camp. There, I'm guessing, he will do two things. One, he will prepare for the fourth week of the regular season. And, two, he will try his best to completely dodge the questions of why he won't be available for the first three games.

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He won't be available because, as you know by now, he has been suspended by the NFL for acting like a total creep with an Uber driver. His abhorrent behavior on top of his too-many missteps and bad decisions away from the field should have been enough for the Bucs to cut ties with this trouble-maker. But that's not going to a happen.

The Bucs are going with the plan to, apparently, bury their head in the sand, enable his past bad deeds, ignore the whole thing while the murmurs die down. They'll move along as if nothing has happened.

In other words, Winston is still their quarterback. End of story.

Except he won't be the first three weeks of the regular season when the Bucs face a murderers' row of opponents: the Saints, Eagles and Steelers. With that daunting slate, the Bucs will turn to veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick. How head coach Dirk Koetter works the reps between Fitzpatrick and Winston will be one of the more interesting thing to watch this preseason.

Fitzpatrick is not spectacular or sensational, but he's certain capable and reliable. Maybe he has enough magic to keep the Bucs from starting 0-3, which could pretty much end the season just as it's getting started.

But what happens after Winston returns?

The questions about the Bucs quarterback situation don't necessary end at the same time Winston's suspension ends. There is still lots of uncertainty when it comes to Winston.

For starters, whose to say this will be the last time Winston does something wrong off the field? He doesn't exactly have the greatest track record when it comes to acting like a responsible citizen. Why should we now believe that all his issues off the field are behind him? Whose to say this will be his last suspension?

With that in mind, can you absolutely, positively, 100 percent trust this guy?

So there's that.

But there's also his play on the field.

Are we really convinced that Winston is the answer to the Bucs perpetual problem at quarterback?

In his three seasons, Winston has shown flashes of being a pretty decent NFL quarterback. When it comes to play on the field, he's certainly better than most of the quarterbacks the Bucs have trotted out in their history. And, as of this moment and talking strictly about play on the field, he remains the best option available.

But we've also seen enough troubling signs to make us wonder if he is ever going to turn into the true franchise quarterback that you expect from a first overall draft pick.

Winston still makes some of the worst decisions you'll ever see from a quarterback and, as a result, he can be a turnover machine. In 45 career games, Winston has thrown 44 interceptions and has lost 15 fumbles. And it's not like he's improving with experience. He had more turnovers in 2017 (18) than he did in his rookie season in 2015 (17) even though he played three fewer games in 2017.

And while the quarterback isn't out there by himself and shouldn't be solely blamed for a team's troubles, the bottom line is the Bucs are 18-27 with Winston as quarterback, including 3-10 a season ago.

The point of all these numbers? There just isn't enough to prove, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that the Bucs quarterback situation is a good one.

It might be, eventually. It might not be. We just can't be sure.

Which is why we've reached another Bucs season and we can't help but ask:

What about the quarterback?

Contact Tom Jones at [email protected] Follow @tomwjones

 

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