This team drives you crazy doesn’t it? For about 40 minutes of football time, the Buccaneers dominated one of the best teams in the NFL, the New Orleans Saints. Then, the Bucs started Bucing. That’s how it is with this football team, isn’t it? Especially this year, where they get you believing, then rip your heart out, stomp on it and take a whizz.
Pieces of Eight
1) The Bucs should teach a course in how to blow football games. I mean, you’re up 14-3 and your defense forces a turnover at your opponent’s 27 yard line. If your team is worth a damn, you go in for the kill, score another touchdown and basically end any hope of a comeback with a 21-3 lead. Or, at worst, you kick a field goal, get up by 14 points and still have a feeling of complete control. Some would say that the play that changed the momentum of the game was the blocked punt that set up the Saints first touchdown. I disagree, I think when Cairo Santos missed his second field goal of the day and the Bucs came up empty instead of putting the kill shot on the Saints – that’s where the momentum shifted. Even though the Saints did nothing with the possession, you could feel their confidence building. Once the blocked punt happened, it was game over. Good teams take advantage of momentum swings and never reliquish it.
2) It’s strange how a half of football can completely change your perspective. I was already writing in my head how there’s no way the Bucs can fire Dirk Koetter the way the team had rallied around him. Of course, at that point the Bucs were dominating the Saints and looked to be on their way to one of the biggest upsets of the day. Then the Bucs had penalties, poor offensive line play and the special teams imploded. The Bucs became the Bucs and the Saints were the Saints, and that’s why a team that was winning by 11 points at halftime lost by two touchdowns.
3) Hell no, I don’t blame the defense for this loss. Not one bit. When the Saints had to drive the field, they managed 3 points. But give a team like New Orleans the football at the Bucs own 30, the New Orleans 49, 47, and 41 on consecutive drives – what do you think is going to happen? Sure, the Bucs defense could have forced a turnover to try and change the tide or held the Saints to a field goal, but come on man, it’s Drew Freaking Brees. How about your punter doesn’t punt the ball for under a net of 40? How about your punt team doesn’t allow an unblocked man a clear path to said crappy punter? How about your kicker not miss two field goals that most NFL kickers can make (okay, the 46 yder was a bit tougher, but you should be able to hit that if you kick in the NFL)? How about your offense not go 3-and-out when your team is reeling and need an answer?
4) The Bucs offensive line was abysmal, simply abysmal on Sunday. Tampa Bay is one of the few offensive teams that have their starting o-line intact. No injuries. Just suckage. Donovan Smith is one of the few players in the NFL I’ve ever seen to have his worst season in contract year. Marpet has been solid, but he’s one guy. Jensen hasn’t lived up to his contract and has played undisciplined, selfish football, Benenoch may be the worst starting guard I’ve ever seen and Dotson is struggling with injuries and a shell of his former self. How do you stay together all season and get worse – not better? If Dirk Koetter survives this season, George Warhop, the offensive line coach, should be the first guy he fires.
5)No, Winston wasn’t good on Sunday. At all. Of course, it didn’t help that he ran for his life most of the game. But Jameis’ inconsistency reared it’s ugly head again with passes that basically sailed on him all day. He was inaccurate with the football and offensively, I think the Bucs as a whole were caught a little by surprise with the defensive scheme the Saints ran, which according to a number of reports was a lot of Cove 2 Man, something the Saints have rarely run. They’d show their base Cover 2 shell, then flip to Man and by the time Jameis was able to diagnose the change, the Saints’ defensive line was abusing the Bucs’ o-line and he had to run for his life. For the Bucs to win, Winston needs to be better, certainly. The offensive line has to protect better and hey, a running game not led by your quarterback would be nice.
6) So it will be interesting to see if Cairo Santos can rebound from his terrible outing on Sunday or if he’ll crumble like so many other Bucs kickers have. Look, guys are going to miss kicks. It happens. Few kickers in this league are 100% accurate on every kick. The key is not to fold like a house of cards when things go awry. If Santos can shake this off, he has a chance to stick. If not, rinse, lather, repeat, sigh.
7) Another coach who should be looking for work if Koetter survives is Special Teams coordinator Nick Kaczor. The Bucs’ special teams unit has never been very good under Koetter and have lost them more than a few games in Dirk’s three years as Tampa Bay’s head coach. Bryan Anger was one of the best punters in the NFL before he came to Tampa Bay. Now he’s one of the worst. We all know about the kicking curse. The coverage units have been substandard and the return game has been downright terrible. If the Bucs happen to get a good return, typically it is wiped out by a penalty. Kaczor needs to go.
8) So where are we now? 5-8, mathematically the Bucs are still alive for a very weak NFC wildcard race. Any of that talk will likely end next week in Baltimore. If the Bucs lose to Baltimore or in Dallas against the surging Cowboys, they’re guaranteed their second consecutive losing season under Koetter. The Glazers have never allowed a coach to survive back-to-back losing seasons. Heck, Raheem Morris sandwiched a 10-6 season between losing seasons and it wasn’t enough. So to think Koetter survives at 7-9 or worse I think is pretty unlikely. GM Jason Licht? I’m not so sure. I do think there’s a chance Jason surives. Someone told me on twitter that the feeling that the Bucs are close is an illusion, that they’re not close. I completely disagree. If you can beat the Saints in the opener and have them down double digits at half time with an injury riddled defense, you’re not that freaking far away.
What you are is a team and coaching staff that doesn’t know how to win games in the NFL. Think back to the season, folks. How many ways have the Bucs invented to lose games? How many times have we said or written, “Man, if they would have just done…” – too many times. The reason the Bucs lose, is they consistently do the little things that beat themselves. Things that should be ingrained in their minds until it’s second nature. Tony Dungy always stressed “the little things” because he understood it’s those things that cost you football games. It’s the difference between being an 11-2 team and a 5-8 team. Frankly, I don’t think Dirk Koetter is the man to get the Bucs out of this rut because he doesn’t have the answers, either. In fact, Dirk’s answers have been the wrong ones. Keeping Mike Smith in the off-season. Then not firing him when it was perfectly obvious he should be. Sticking with Fitzpatrick when it was obvious to everyone that “Fitzmagic” had returned to the mean. His choices for assistant coaches (Kaczor and Warhop). Yanking play calling duties from Monken, then giving them back…and do we even know who called plays on Sunday? It was a very Dirk kind of gameplan.
What use is having the top offense and passing game in the league (in yardage), if you can’t win games? Answer: It’s a waste. I would like to see Todd Monken, Brentson Buckner and Mark Duffner stay, but not at the expense of finding a coach that has won in this league. A Mike McCarthy, Ron Rivera, John Harbaugh, or even a Mike Tomlin (if the Steelers fail to make the playoffs and do a very non-Steeler type thing).
If this team has to be dismantled to become a consistent winner, so be it. The Bucs have talent, but if they don’t win, none of that matters. As Herm said, you play to win the game, HELLO!