When I think of the Buccaneers, the first image that comes to mind is the orange unis and the rogue logo and, quite frankly, the bad football team from the old NFC Central days. It never made sense that the Bucs were in the “central” division, but that was rectified with expansion and realignment of the Bucs to the NFC South. With the Buccaneers sailing to Chicago for a week 4 showdown between two of the better early season stories, we tracked down the Bucs Nation pirate ship to talk to Captain Gil Arcia. I don’t know how many people had predicted this would be a showdown of one of the league’s hottest QBs against the league’s hottest defense a month ago, but here we are.
Windy City Gridiron: 1. Let’s talk about the sensation that is the continual rebirth of Ryan Fitzpatrick’s career and the interesting QB situation in Tampa. The Harvard grad has shot out of the gates with an unbelievable 1,230 yards, 11 TDs against 4 INTs and even chipped in 68 yards on the ground and another score. He’s a big reason the Bucs are off to a strong 2-1 start, but Jameis Winston is returning this week from suspension. What is the whole story of Fitz, Jameis, and the future of the QB position in 2018 and beyond?
Bucs Nation: I believe the team will play Fitzpatrick this week against Chicago. I think Jameis will have a better chance of returning Week 6 after the bye. Now, Fitz didn’t have that great of a game on Monday Night Football. If it were me, due to the short week, I would still play Winston Sunday. Winston still practices during his own time using the team’s exact time they schedule them, held walk-throughs, etc. with former NFL and others during the three weeks he was gone. People are concerned about rust, but I think that is a reach.
WCG: 2. I was somewhat surprised that Head Coach Dirk Koetter survived Black Monday last year. There were some offseason rumors linking Tampa to Jon Gruden, so looks like you dodged that bullet there or Mike Evans might be playing somewhere else. Have you noticed a difference in Koetter this season and do you believe he has this team headed in the right direction?
BN: Ownership is understanding of certain situations. They really like Winston and understand he played with a hurt shoulder for the majority of the year which may have perhaps given Koetter an extra season. But I ultimately feel that wasn’t all necessarily the case. General manager Jason Licht and Koetter are practically tied to each other. Licht got an extension through next season. If the team fails next year, it’ll be a new regime. But if they fall flat on their faces this year, there won’t be a 2019 for any of them.
WCG: 3. The Bucs feature a fun group of pass catchers, led by Mike Evans and the ageless DeSean Jackson. What has Chris Godwin and OJ Howard added to this group and how do all four work together in this passing game? Is there one guy the Bears should focus on taking away or do they need to play it straight up because of the diverse skill sets?
BN: They certainly give opposing defenses headaches when it comes to game planning against them. Evans and Jackson are always going to receive the most attention. But Godwin, Howard, and even Cameron Brate are threats, too. Bears may be better off playing them straight up. Steelers did some of that Monday night but Fitzpatrick still managed to throw for over 400 yards.
WCG: 4. The defense is led by the great Gerald McCoy, one of the best players and unique personalities in this league. Along with a couple former Bears (Chris Conte and Mitch Unrein), who else should Bears fans be familiar with on the defense?
BN: Linebackers Kwon Alexander and Lavonte David and definitely defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul. Second year safety Justin Evans has really come on strong since the second half of his rookie season last year. And with Conte on I.R, keep an eye on rookie Jordan Whitehead as he may be getting some action.
WCG: 5. Back to Fitzpatrick because I just can’t help myself - what percentage of Bucs fans are going to dress up as “Ryan Fitzpatrick in DeSean Jackson’s clothes” for Halloween next month? Are we talking >50%? Set the over/under for us.
BN: I really hope it’s well under 50%. Because by that time, either the hype has died down or he’s already back to backing up Winston.
Editor’s note: I’m hoping it’s well over 50% - that’s an amazing look!
WCG: Bonus: I’ve been to Tampa a few times and love the place but I wonder if people from the Midwest are familiar with the tradition of Gasparilla. What is it and how much rum is consumed over that time period?
BN: Lol. Well, it’s kind of like a pirate invasion of Mardi Gras right smack in the middle of a sunny day. So it can get very hot at times. As for rum consumption, it’s probably a lot. But I was never much of a drinker when I used to go. Now with a wife and two little girls later, I tend to lean towards the family friendly version of Gasparilla which is held the week prior.
Thank you to Gil and Bucs Nation!