1. Bucs

Fennelly: Bucs need to quit trying to explain away Jameis Winston's lousy start

Jameis Winston leaves the field after he is stopped short of the end zone on the final play of the Bucs' loss to the Rams earlier this season. [DIRK SHADD | Times]
Jameis Winston leaves the field after he is stopped short of the end zone on the final play of the Bucs' loss to the Rams earlier this season. [DIRK SHADD | Times]
Published Oct. 7, 2016

As part of Stand Up For Jameis Week at Bucs headquarters, offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach Todd Monken read part of his term paper aloud on Thursday morning. It concerned Jameis Winston's eight touchdowns and eight interceptions in the first quarter of this 1-3 Bucs season.

Monken reeled off touchdown-interception ratios in the first two NFL seasons for the other three quarterbacks in the NFC South, Drew Brees, Cam Newton and Matt Ryan.

"Cam Newton, 40 (TDs) and 29 (interceptions). Drew Brees 28 and 31. Matt Ryan, 38 and 25. Peyton Manning, 52 and 43. Brett Favre, 37 and 37. John Elway, 25 and 29. It happens. As they develop, touchdown-to-interception ratio, it happens. Now, am I completely comparing (Jameis) to them? No, all I'm saying is I love that kid."

If the Bucs love that kid, forget trying to explain away his lousy start.

Hey, here's an idea: How about coaching and playing better around him?

Winston thinks he always needs to be the one to make the play every play. This is what comes of that.

It's time for the Bucs to play a game where it doesn't have to be that way.

What about Monken drawing up better run plays, because the ones the Bucs are using go nowhere?

Instead of taking shots at James postgame, maybe tough-love head coach Dirk Koetter should develop better schemes. I mean, it's not like he's spending nights working on game management. Koetter is off to a bad start, too.

Winston hasn't been very good to this season. He's 28th among quarterbacks in completion percentage and 31st in quarterback rating. His mistakes have cost the Bucs dearly, including two losses where they scored only seven points. He's trying to do too much.

But how about someone around him stepping up, beginning with Monday night against Carolina?

One reason Winston is trying to do too much is no one else is doing much of anything. The Bucs can't run, can't play defense. And they have so few leaders that young Winston is putting it all on himself. This is what comes of that.

Winston doesn't think pressing is part of his problem.

"No, actually, when things aren't going too, I actually get happier because I'm able to calm down and relax," he said. "I probably do better in chaos than I do just regularly …"

Kid Chaos still needs help.

The Bucs' future is riding on Winston. So is Koetter's future and Bucs GM Jason Licht's future. If Jameis doesn't rebound, if these first four games are who he really is, you might as well throw a tarp over One Buc Place. A point of light: Winston struggled in his first four games last season, but it wasn't who he was by season's end. He was a budding star.

The Bucs need that kind of turnaround.

But they need to play better around Winston, make him feel that every game isn't on him.

No. 3 is acting like it is.

This is what comes of that.


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