As I await my 40th Tampa Bay Buccaneers season as a die hard fan, I can’t help but think back to all the times the Bucs were ‘on the verge’ of great offense; drafting a top notch QB like Vinny Testaverde, or Trent Dilfer, Two Ultra high draft picks thought to be can’t
miss. Yet a few years later, the Bucs were right back into the same mess, muddled in with the rest of the pack at 28th or 26th ranked on offense.
With Pro Football Focus naming two Bucs players in its Top 25 under 25, it reminds me that the recent trend toward offense the Bucs have been enjoying, is not going to come to an abrupt end.
Think about the Bucs foundation:
The Bucs have tried since forever to get a real 1st class Wide Receiving threat. More often than naught they would turn out to be Alvin Harpers, or Burt Emanuels. They never dreamed they would find one like Mike Evans: for 4 years Evans has been a Buccaneer, signing his second Buccaneers contract; he has NEVER had less than a 1000 yard receiving season; and he’s under the age of 25! The future looks so bright….
…because Evans has someone to throw him the ball with even more promise. Only just turned 24, Winston is eligible for this list next year too, a testament to how young Jameis Winson truly is.
But just being young doesn’t do anything for turning the luck of a franchise around. This does:
James Winston started his career with two 4,000 yard passing
seasons, and even last year with Winston missing 3 games, he still finished with just over 3500 yards!
All the numbers are on the rise for Winston. He plays the game on a different level, his love for competition is only superceeded by his love for football.
With an Offensive line being built in front of him, and the Bucs drafting a serious home run threat of a running back behind him, the future is….as Jon Gruden once said in a press conference… “so Bright, you have to wear shades”.
Dont despair Bucs fans, as Jon Gruden once said after a disappointing loss in 2006 “Futures so bright, you gotta wear shades”! Well Dirk Koetter should say the same thing, IF he’s allowed to hang around until then that is.
For starters, and for a future article, the 2011 CBA was a disaster for football. It was great for the players who no longer have to deal with 2 a day practices in pads. In fact, the CBA has practically made padded practices disappear; and I fear thats why you see so many injuries. NFL players need that contact during practice to stay in game shape all year. But thats not the reason the Bucs offense hasn’t been able to get going on offense.
We’ve spent so many draft picks acquiring talent on offense, when the defense is where the Bucs need to go with badly. You’ve heard of complimentary football, where the Defense helps the Offense score, and the offense helps the defense by keeping the ball and letting the D rest, and special teams helps both out by giving Offense the Ball in short field (from good returns), or taking the other team out of scoring range (with good punts). But the offense needs to sue the defense in 2017 for non support, and here is why; The Bucs have too many weapons now on offense for the limited amount of snaps the team has with the ball.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2017 have one of the worst 3rd down defense in the NFL. Opponents convert more 3rd down opportunities, keeping the ball longer, PREVENTING the BUCS offense from doing the same.
Last night vs the Atlanta Falcons on Monday Night Football, TE OJ Howard and WR DeSean Jackson went down and out with injuries, leaving the offense to its 2016 form more or less: Winston, an RB (Peyton Barber instead of Doug Martin) , Mike Evans and Cameron Brate.
The offense looked like last year again, Jameis Winston to Mike Evans. Winston to Brate; and it was clicking again because these three players got into a groove. But the Bucs added another WR and TE to improve but they dont have anywhere NEAR enough snaps to develop any kind of groove with these extra weapons.
Last year, the Bucs were 94/214 or 44% on 3rd down conversions by the offense. This year? Not so hot people.. 66/167 or 39.5% a far cry from last year. Thats when the Bucs DO have the ball, when they dont have the ball the defense cant get it back for them, so they dont get the reps needed with more stars on the field.
This year opponents are 94/191 or just under 50%. Last year? 67 out of 195; 34.3%, which explains why the Bucs offense was so good last year compared to this year; they simply have less plays in a game than they did a year ago.
With less plays in the game, and the Bucs not keeping the ball when they DO get it back, but instead punt it right back to the other team, they are in essence playing complimentary football….for the OTHER TEAM.
Next year, the Bucs front office MUST put defensive talent on the field; specifically defensive line talent.
In 1979 A coach took over the San Francisco 49ers and improved their offense immensely, but they had the worst secondary in football. They were bringing players in off the street in 1980 to try to improve the secondary. The answer was obvious, the 49ers drafted 4 DBs in the 1981 draft;
1st Round Ronnie Lott DB USC
2nd Round Eric Wright DB Missori
3rd Round Carlton Williamson DV Pitt
5th Round Lynn Thomas DB Pitt
When the 1981 49ers came out of the Tunnel in the Pontiac, MI Silverdome for week 1 meeting with the Detroit Lions, they started 3 rookies in the secondary, and 3rd year Free Safety Dwight Hicks.
There was trial, there was error, but at the end of the year, the same 49ers came out of the Pontiac Silverdome tunnel one more time that year. The Super Bowl was played in the Silverdome in 1981, and the 15-3 49ers beat the bengals.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers should trade, maneuver any way possible to get pressure on QBs next year, to get other team off the field on 3rd downs (like they did in the last minute last night), to give Jameis Winston and the Bucs offensive weapons more reps to get into some kind of rythym so OJ Howard and DeSean Jackson AND Brate and Mike Evans can get some more balls thrown their way, and work off the rust!
You can add it up, and you can figure it out, its not hard.
This team was supposed to make the playoffs, it was supposed to grow from last years 9-7 Bucs team that came very close to failing if not for Jameis Winston grabbing the Bucs by the horns and pulling them up for a win.
At the heart of the Bucs Jameis Winston led franchise, the coaching of Dirk Koetter. Anyone who knows me, knows that I support continuity.
No, not the Apple feature on newer Macs, the kind the Packers have with Mike McCarthy at coach, or the Steelers with 3 coaches since 1969. But the great Derrick Brooks, Warren Sapp and John Lynch all taught us… The Tape doesn’t lie. “the eye in the sky, does NOT lie!”
This season is over, the Bucs are not making the playoffs. However, that doesn’t mean tune out. There is a lot at stake.
I’m a Bucs historian, Ive studied, followed the Tampa Bay Buccaneers since week 2 of 1979; There are people who know more about the Bucs locker room than I do, but there is only a handful who know the BUCS ORGANIZATION’s history like I do, and so that is the basis of this article.
It wont be short, so cop a squat and get your read on!
RIGHT HERE, RIGHT NOW
The concept that Dirk Koetter was the driving force behind the Bucs turning the corner, winning 5 games in a row, is pure fantasy. Jameis Winston started to take over this team right about the same time, and it’s not obvious this team ebbs and flows as Winston does. For all the good Dirk Koetter did as Offensive Coordinator in 2015 setting Bucs records, when he became the Head Coach he added on a world of responsibility he has never had to accept before and the offense hasn’t been the same since.