Monday Column: Blame Lovie for the Bucs’ Opener

At first glance, it’s easy to look at the numbers from Sunday’s embarrassing 42-14 loss to the Titans, and place blame accordingly.

Sure, Jameis Winston struggled mightily in the season opener. He completed less than 50% of passes while throwing two ugly interceptions, the first of which was returned for a touchdown. His quarterback rating was a measly 6.7. I don’t know a lot about that stat, except to say that 6.7 is probably very bad.

I’m not letting Winston off the hook here, not in the least. But as a rookie quarterback, I’m willing to bet he’s going to have a lot more days like he had on Sunday. Even the great QB’s in the game today struggled in their first season. All I’m looking for from him is improvement as the season progresses.

No, there’s one guy who deserves the bulk of the blame: head coach Lovie Smith.

The short version is this: he did not have his team ready to play, in a much-anticipated opener, in front of a (briefly) energized fan base. When the Buccaneers walked off the field at halftime, that fan base was booing his players – loudly. I was listening to the radio broadcast; I heard it loud and clear.

For those who don’t know, Smith is now calling the plays on defense. So he deserves to be slammed for allowing Marcus Mariota to find wide open receivers, playing pitch and catch with them for three quarters before sitting out the fourth.  Smith has known for five months that he’d be facing the Titans in the opener, and that was his game plan?  His “Tampa 2” defense has not worked well from the minute he stepped foot at One Buc Place.

Smith deserves to be slammed for all of those penalties – 12 of them in all – and that doesn’t count the ones that Tennessee declined. Penalties=lack of discipline. Lack of discipline=bad coaching. Heck, the Bucs were the most penalized team in the league last year. Based on what we saw in the opener, they’re going to do it again in 2015 unless something changes in a hurry.

Is Lovie on the hot seat, just one game into his second season? If not yet, it won’t be long before he is. He has coached nine regular-season games at Ray-Jay, and is 0-9. Based on reading social media after Sunday’s debacle, most of the fans are irate with the head coach right now.

Count me as one of them.

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