The Bucs ended any hope of a turnaround with a dreadful and embarrassing performance in the Big Easy in a loss to the Saints. The season is essentially over. Now what?
Pieces of Eight
1) Yes, I did think of retitling this section with a different type of “Pieces of”, because frankly, that’s how they played on Sunday. The evidence is clear. This is a broken football team. I don’t know why it broke or how the coaches and leaders of the team let it break but it is clearly broken.
I was stunned by the lack of effort by some of the defensive players (some of them supposed stars). The quarterback lost his mind. The offensive line got him killed (again). The running game is as non-existent as the pass rush.
Players, coaches, the front office, fans and more importantly, the owners, are looking around and wondering what in the hell just happened here?
“With all the hype that was given us,” Demar Dotson told the Times’ Rick Stroud, “It don’t put wins on the board. We got to go out there and play, and we’re not playing good. We thought we had everything we needed to get us over the hump. Unfortunately, we’re nowhere near the hump.”
2) When expectations aren’t met, the blame game begins. Jason Licht is getting it for not providing defensive players, particularly pass rushers, in his four years as general manager. Koetter is getting it for his pillow fight of a training camp, his play calling and the team’s lack of direction. Smith is getting it because the defense is embarrassingly bad. Jameis is getting it because frankly, he’s regressed this season. And yes, it’s time to admit he has. I think a lot of it is due to his injury but I think the weight of the burden is also starting to effect this 23 year-old phenom.
The bizarre pre-game speech Winston delivered that had his teammates watching him with blank stares and his antics that caused the melee in the third quarter makes you wonder if he’s hopped up on pain meds to get through the game.
Frankly, I think it’s time to shut down Jameis Winston until that shoulder is completely healed. There’s no saving this season, that ship has sunk. Now it’s about protecting the franchise’s most valuable asset – and yes folks – he is still that. While Jameis has had a rough season, he’s still one of the best young quarterbacks in this league. He still can be the guy the Bucs and their fans want him to be. But not yet. Perhaps shutting Jameis down will not only give him an opportunity to heal physically, but also mentally. To take account what’s happened to get him here, to watch another professional quarterback in Ryan Fitzpatrick handle his business. To take the pressure off him for a little while and make the players who sit around waiting for Winston to make a play to save them accountable for their own play.
Winston can be saved. He’s not a lost cause yet. But Coach Koetter, who is definitely feeling the heat, has to have a big pair to sit down his best player for the good of a franchise he may no longer be coaching in a few months.
3) Yes, that drum beat certainly has begun. When the owners are ticked off and embarrassed, people get pink slips. Bucs GM Jason Licht, Koetter and the rest of the staff know these owners aren’t a patient lot. What’s really hurting them is looking around the league you see first year coaches like Sean McVay taking a mediocre Rams team and turning them into a Super Bowl contender with youngster Jared Goff (who looked completely lost last season) leading the best offense in the NFL. Doug Pederson, hired the same year as Koetter, has young QB Carson Wentz playing like an NFL MVP and his team has the best record in football. Ben McAdoo is about to be fired in New York and his team went to the playoffs in his first year. The Glazers desperately want a return to the glory years. They’ve seen it turn quickly for other franchise, then look at their coach, their GM and their quarterback and wonder what’s wrong with us? Why isn’t this happening in Tampa Bay?
That’s why this team is in constant flux. Flushing one coach after another. Restarting the rebuild every two seasons. The Glazers are desperate to find their McVay or their Andy Reid. Someone who will have the Bucs in playoff contention year in and year out.
And they’re beginning to wonder if that guy is Koetter.
4) Pewter Report has been talking about the return of Jon Gruden for several weeks now. They’ve been on it. Scott Reynolds was the first to say he believes Gruden’s return to coaching is imminent. He’s put two-and-two together in that things certainly appear to be patched up with the Glazers as Gruden will be inducted into the Ring of Honor next month. The truth is, the Bucs have had two winning seasons since Gruden’s firing and no playoff appearances. Under Gruden, they won three division titles and a Super Bowl championship.
It was an odd time in Tampa Bay. The Glazers had made a significant investment in Manchester United and were cash-strapped. They wanted to cut payroll, while Gruden wanted to retool with the veterans he loved so much. Keep the ship going, keep winning, take another crack at the rock. The Glazers saw the end of the era of Derrick Brooks and John Lynch. They wanted to tear it down and rebuild with young players. Gruden wasn’t willing to do that.
Of course, it was a colossal mistake and the Bucs have made one mistake after another since. Gruden has had his cushy Monday Night Football gig at ESPN for a while now, so long that many just think he likes hearing his name talked about and doesn’t really ever intend to return to coaching, like Bill Cowher.
Some think he’s just looking for the right fit. Of course, he loves Tampa. He’s a Bucs guy. If it were really in his heart to return to the game, Tampa Bay might be the only job he truly wants. Now, he might take another one for money. If McAdoo is fired in New York, the Giants might put a huge paycheck in front of Jon to get him to come the Big Apple.
But if his heart is in Tampa Bay, it could happen. Why now? I mean, since Gruden was canned, the Bucs have fired three coaches. He didn’t take over any of those other times. Well, if Reynolds is right and that coaching itch is really starting to burn, plus the instability at ESPN with all their changes and layoffs and the reconciliation with the Glazers, who desperately want to return to the days when Chucky roamed the sidelines, it may just be feasible.
I’ll admit it would surprise the heck out of me, but you never know.
5) Now, the bigger question is it a good idea? Well, one example is Joe Gibbs coming out of retirement to return to the Redskins. Everyone thought it was crazy. After having 1 playoff appearance in 10 years prior, Gibbs led the Skins to two playoff berths in four years before re-retiring.
Pete Carroll came back and has been amazing with the Seahawks. Dick Vermeil, after 15 years out of the league, came back and won the Super Bowl with the Rams, then retired again, only to return two years later and lead the Chiefs to a 13-3 record.
We all know the mercenary that Bill Parcells became and the success he had.
So yeah, old coaches can recapture former glory.
6) So will the Bucs win another game this season? Look at that schedule, where do you see a win? The reality of a 2-14 or 3-13 level season is starting to sink in. Players are checking out. It sucks. You wish it didn’t happen, but it is. Jameis and Kwon aren’t backing up their bark with their play. Jameis constantly being inaccurate with his throws, Kwon missing tackles and blowing coverages. Their teammates are tuning them out. They may have tuned out the coaches weeks ago.
A team this talented going 3-13 or 2-14, hell, going 5-11 – is a fire-able offense for any regime.
There’s something to be said for stability and continuity. If the Glazers still believe in Licht and Koetter, then they need to keep them intact for another season. Give Koetter another crack at getting the Bucs back to the playoffs. Give Licht one more draft to fix the defense.
Write this season off as a fluke year where everything turned against them and believe the Bucs will be back and live up to expectations next year. Have Koetter make a few changes on the coaching staff to placate the fans and get their pound of flesh.
Have Licht attack the draft and free agency for the defense like he did the last few years on offense. Show the players that quitting on the coach won’t automatically get them a do-over. Or don’t. Recycle again and hope it works this time.
7) I know we’ve talked a lot about the future in this article and not much about the game. That should tell you all you need to know about the game, folks. What is there to say? It was Lovie-level embarrassing. It was Schiano-esche. It was Rah-like. Those aren’t names you want to be associated with if your a Buccaneer head coach, folks.
8) The Jets come to Tampa Bay next week and our old friend Josh McCown returns to the place where Lovie almost sacrificed him to the football gods. The shocking thing here is at the beginning of the season, everyone circled this game as an easy win for the Bucs. Now Jets fans are circling the Bucs as an easy win for the resurgent young team from New York. Stunning how quickly the fall has happened. It’s going to be a long off-season, folks.
DLT’s Emotional Tweet of the Week
— JC De La Torre (@jcdelatorre) November 5, 2017