Nobody is a bigger supporter of Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston than head coach Dirk Koetter.
That was the passionate message that offensive coordinator/receivers coach Todd Monken unloaded at his news conference Friday, saying that reports that Winston and Koetter are "not in a good place" are untrue.
"First of all, no one has his back more than Dirk Koetter," Monken said. "No one. Nobody in this building. I promise you. "
Monken took issue with the whole premise of the story, insisting that everyone has strains in their relationships from time to time. He also said that the shoulder injury and a 4-9 record have contributed to Winston's frustration.
"I want to talk a little bit about what we've had to deal with in terms of talk about relationships, okay?" Monken said. "I've been here almost two years and from a coach/player relationship, I have never seen anything close to what's being talked about between our head coach and our quarterback. Not one thing.
"What I want people to understand is this: the majority of players that I've ever coached in my life at some point in our relationship, it's been strained. Fact. If you asked any player I've ever coached, 'Have you had a strain in your relationship?' You bet. The best man in my wedding was my roommate in college. You don't think we had strains in our relationship at times? My wife of 26 years, that I wouldn't be what I am today without her, that we haven't at times in our life when we've had strains in our relationship? And of a sudden it becomes news? That all of a sudden there's a strain? You know what the strain is? The frustration of being 4-9. That's a frustration."
Last Sunday, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com reported the relationship between Winston and Koetter was "not in a good place" and that the quarterback had several issues with his head coach.
The report said Winston felt Koetter did not support him when he missed three games with a shoulder injury and he described the play-calling and offensive scheme as too predictable.
Winston suffered a AC joint sprain in a 38-33 loss to the the Arizona Cardinals Oct. 15 and could not finish the game. He did not practice until the following but played well in throwing three touchdown passes in a 30-27 loss at Buffalo. The Bucs wound up losing all three games following Winston's shoulder injury until doctors shut him down for three games.
"When you put everything into it, what you've got is a quarterback who is very competitive, a guy who wants to be great and has had a frustrating year, probably some things on and off the field," Monken said. "And a head coach that does an unbelievable job coaching our players and our quarterback. And that becomes news? Holy cow. News flash. We've got a strain in our relationship. There's not one person that can't say that's never happened. That is a flat-out joke that that even becomes news.
"What's frustrating? Being hurt. Not being able to play. You don't play like you'd like to play. Not our team not playing like you'd like to play. Or a relationship that's not going as well as you would like it to go or a job or a boss or someone you're dealing with on an everyday basis. Yet it becomes news. It is not any news at all. Fact."
Monken also defended Winston's play this season. His quarterback rating is 18th but he has continued to struggle with committing turnovers under duress and throwing the deep ball.
"It's a young player still developing," Monken said. "That's the way it is. Do we want him to throw the deep ball better? Yes we do. Do we want him to protect the football better? Without question. But if you look, I don't know how else to judge it. Ok, QB rating. I don't know. But you look at the stats and you say, "who's 14? Matt Ryan. Dak Prescott. Ben Roethlisberger, Andy Dalton, Jameis Winston, Derek Carr.' Now that's from 14 to 19 within three points of anybody. Not's not bad. That's not a bad collection of players right there. Now are we the top 10? No.
"I don't know what the average age of that would be. I don't know. Some older some younger. But I don't what Jameis will be in five years. I have no idea what he will be. But I'm not going to put some parameters on what he can be at age 23 and had a season where he's been banged up and fought his ass off to come back and play. I'm not. And I'm not going to listen to people talk about things they don't know. It's frustration. It's human nature."