Each and every Friday, managing editor Gil Arcia and deputy editor James Yarcho will discuss topics from the week pertaining to the Buccaneers and the rest of the NFL. Some things may have a positive spin while others may get under their skin.
This column is broken up into different parts with brief takes: a hot button topic, a team headline, a wild card topic, and a point-counterpoint. We will also include the weekly Bucs Nation staff pick for Tampa Bay’s game.
The Hot Button: A QB Controversy?
James: Look, I get it. The NFL is a “what have you done for me lately” league. If the Buccaneers are 3-0, 2-1 after three weeks and Fitzpatrick keeps performing the way he did against New Orleans then he’s done a lot lately while Winston has done nothing.
But there is no controversy.
Winston isn’t going to lose this job due to his suspension. If the offense still fires on all cylinders with Fitz, imagine what they’d do with an even more talented quarterback. We’ve seen this play before at virtually every stop on the Ryan Fitzpatrick career tour. These types of games, these numbers, just aren’t sustainable for Fitzy. That’s why he’s not still in Buffalo...or Tennessee...or Houston...or New York. He has games like these, or he has stretches of success, then gets brought back down to earth.
Winston on the other hand has already seen his fifth-year option picked up and will be looking for an extension after that. He’s a first overall pick. He’s the present and future of the Buccaneers. One win in New Orleans - or two out of three, which Fitz did last season as well - doesn’t change any of that.
Gil: Many fans out there feel that the Bucs — if they go either 3-1 or 4-0 — into the bye should continue to sit Jameis Winston. Talk about pure and utter shenanigans.
For starters, Winston is serving a three-game suspension. Not four. Second, Ryan Fitzpatrick is not the future of the franchise. And after one game, do you really think Fitzpatrick will ever play like that again? The offense was expected to be much better this year. With a reshuffled offensive line, a projected better running game, and an improved group of receivers, we saw the results of of all of that put together last weekend in the Superdome.
Winston hasn’t had that yet here in Tampa Bay. You sit him, let’s say, for until the Bucs start losing, all you are doing is limiting his development. Despite the success from the veteran, this isn’t Fitzpatrick’s time. The team wants to sit him Week 4 before the bye week, that’s fine. But you don’t continue to bench him. If he struggles with the improved line play, running game, and receivers, then we can revisit this topic.
Bucs Headliners: Season over for VHIII
James: Man, this stinks. Say what you will about Vernon Hargreaves III, he was looking like a first round pick throughout training camp, preseason, and up until the moment he was hurt in week one. He was making plays, breaking up passes, creating turnovers, and being a bonafide leader on the defense. Losing him for the season hurt. Bad.
Yeah, Bucs fans love to rip on him almost as much as they rip on Chris Conte, but it isn’t always warranted. Did it get frustrating seeing VHIII play with such massive cushions at times? Sure. But that doesn’t take away from the good plays he made or the confidence we had witnessed him with leading up to and including this past Sunday.
Make no mistake about it, this VHIII injury hurts and is going to have its ripple effect throughout the season. In a young, inexperienced secondary, VHIII was a much needed piece to this team. And to all the people who love ripping him on social media - be careful what you wish for.
Gil: I had high hopes for the young University of Florida standout this season. We heard of the changes they would be making on defense so that Hargreaves can adapt better at the pro level. Placing him in the nickel spot showed he would excel. And throughout training camp and preseason, we saw the positive results.
Hargreaves was in the right spots last Sunday against the Saints. We noticed the improvement in his game. New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees tried to pick on him late in the game as they were coming back, but the 23-year-old broke up a pass on the play he was injured.
It’s an unfortunate situation for Hargreaves — who has just one season left on his rookie contract.
Week 2 Wild Card: James’ touching thoughts
James: Last week, we lost a Hollywood icon in Burt Reynolds. Reynolds, best known for his role as Bandit in “Smokey and the Bandit” as well as many other blockbuster hits - “Boogie Nights”, “Deliverance”, “The Longest Yard” (twice), “The Cannonball Run” just to name a few - was born in Michigan in 1936. Reynolds found his way to Florida State University where he was a standout running back before suffering a career ending injury.
Enter the USFL.
Reynolds would become a minority owner in the upstart league. That minority ownership just so happened to be in Tampa Bay for the Tampa Bay Bandits - no coincidence in the name.
Although the team only lasted for three seasons, Reynolds would attend every game, watching from the sidelines. Basically, he was the trend setter for the move Jerry Jones has since made famous. The Bandits led the USFL in attendance during their brief tenure and Reynolds left his impact within the community.
Beloved by many, Reynolds will forever have ties to the Florida State and Tampa Bay communities. His loss isn’t only felt through the world of red carpets and world premieres, but the world of pigskins and Gatorade showers. RIP, Burt. And thanks for everything.
Point-Counterpoint: Was Fitzpatrick that good?
Gil: So Ryan Fitzpatrick had a day. That was awesome to witness. His receivers and offensive line did him many favors. That’s not taking away from how well Fitzpatrick played. Because he played very well. But how good was he, really?
Is it possible that the Saints defense was just that bad? Listen, these guys were projected to be one of the top defenses that’ll help propel New Orleans well into the post season. But the Buccaneers offense — via the playcalling of Todd Monken and the play of Fitzpatrick of course — that completely undressed New Orleans’ defense. So what if they were really that bad?
This Sunday, when the Eagles come in to Raymond James Stadium, Tampa Bay needs to bring their A-game. Because if not, their linebackers and secondary will give the Bucs many more headaches than what the Saints were trying to give.
James: The last thing I’m going to do is take anything away from ol’ Fitzmagic’s performance. He was simply outstanding. A career high in passing yards, five total touchdowns. He did everything in that game I had said in writing or on the podcast that he couldn’t do.
But let’s take a deep breath, a step back, and look at this.
Fitz is a backup in the NFL. He’s had his opportunities to start and it just hasn’t worked. That doesn’t make him a bad quarterback by any means. I think he could start for some of the teams in the NFL right now today. Buffalo, Arizona, and Miami all come to mind when I think of starting quarterbacks that Fitz is better than.
But that doesn’t mean he would succeed against the defenses.
New Orleans, I still believe, is a top ten defense. However, they are notoriously slow starters. This is a team that has lost seven of their last eight season openers. How quickly everyone forgot about how the Saints were written off following an 0-2 start, only to miss the NFC Championship on a fluke play and come into 2018 as one of the favorites to win the Super Bowl.
It’s just one week.
All the credit in the world to Fitz for how he played, Koetter and Monken for the game plan, and Monken with an absolute gem of a game called - but there’s a lot more to this than just a backup quarterback dominating a Super Bowl contender. And this isn’t going to be forgotten any time soon by that Saints team.
Week 2 Game Predictions
Latest line: - Eagles by 3, over/under: 44
Gil (1-0): Bucs 27, Eagles23
James (0-1): Eagles 34, Bucs 31
Evan (1-0): Eagles 26, Bucs 20
Alex (0-1): Bucs 27, Eagles 24
Jon (0-1): Eagles 27, Bucs 17
Kyle (1-0): Bucs 27, Eagles 21
David (1-0): Eagles 34, Bucs 31
Bailey (1-0): Eagles 30, Bucs 24
Dustin (0-1): Bucs 31, Eagles 21