Some Final Thoughts on the 2018 Bucs

 

As we say goodbye to 2018, it’s time to reflect on the Buccaneers season that ended with a last-place finish, and the firing of Dirk Koetter as head coach.

 

BEST MOMENTS: the first two games against the Saints and Eagles, both won by the Bucs.  Nobody outside of us diehard fans thought they win a shootout in the Superdome, then beat the defending champs in the home opener, both with Jameis Winston suspended for the first three games.

 

WORST MOMENT: things started going downhill with the blowout loss to the Bears in Chicago, followed by another defeat in Atlanta after the bye week.  It was only then that the Bucs decided to fire Mike Smith as defensive coordinator.  Smith should’ve been let go before the season began, much less five games in. With Smith at the helm, his defense allowed at least 30 points in four of the first five games.

 

BEST OFFSEASON ACQUISTION: Jason Pierre-Paul.  What a steal this guy was.  He had 12.5 sacks on a team that, last year, hardly got any pressure on the quarterback. 

 

BIGGEST DRAFT DISAPPOINTMENT: Ronald Jones.  The Bucs drafted him in the second round.  He gained a grand total of 44 yards rushing.  He didn’t even play in more than half of the games, and not all of those were due to injury.  The Bucs clearly were not happy with him from the start of training camp, hence the lack of playing time.

 

GOOD RIDDANCE AWARD: DeSean Jackson.  He made it clear he wants out.  I say, get out of town.  This whiner was unhappy that Winston wasn’t getting him the ball.  He pulled off similar antics when he played for Philadelphia and Washington.

 

BIGGEST QUESTION MARK GOING FORWARD: Jameis Winston.  General Manager Jason Licht has made it clear that Winston will return in 2019.  We saw a lot of good Jameis, and a lot of bad Jameis: 19 TD passes, 14 INT’s and three lost fumbles.

 

INTERESTING FACT: on December 2nd, I saw the Bucs beat the Panthers at Ray-Jay.  That was the last time Tampa Bay tasted victory. 

 

Sure, there are other good and bad moments, but these are the ones that come to mind at first.  I wish all of you a Happy New Year, and go Bucs.

 

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Dear Bucs: Please Fire Mike Smith NOW

Let’s face it: when your team loses by a score of 48-10, there is absolutely nothing positive worth writing about.  I could go on and on about so many things that happened in Chicago on Sunday.

 

But the bulk of my anger – and the anger of many Tampa Bay fans – is pointed directly at defensive coordinator Mike Smith.  I have seen enough.  If I’m the Bucs, I send him packing by noon tomorrow at the latest, and bring in someone who can try to fix this laughingstock of a defense.  And if they don’t fire him during this bye week, I will gladly borrow someone’s blowtorch and literally set him on fire.

 

The Bucs have given up 139 points through four games.  In two of them, their opponent scored at least 40, and Pittsburgh put up 30.  And it’s not just all those points.  We the fans are sick of seeing wide-open receivers on just about every play.  How many of those touchdowns they’ve allowed could be classified as “too easy?”  The answer: too many.  And it’s not just the first four games of this season: we saw too much of this in 2016 and 2017.

 

This team brought in, and drafted, a lot of defensive talent.  Yes, I know there are injuries.  Yes, I know they’re young.  But for goodness sake: can we please get someone who can cover somebody?

 

There are other problems, of course: I think we’ve seen the end of Fitzmagic.  And the Bucs still don’t have much of a running game to speak of.  But the defense – or lack thereof – is by far the biggest problem.  To those in charge of the organization: you’ve got a week off to make what appears to be an easy decision.  Please, throw Smith in one of the cannons and fire his ass out of Ray-Jay, and into a bay full of alligators.

 

Photo Courtesy: USA Today Sports

 

 

Some Thoughts on the Bucs’ Schedule

The Buccaneers’ 2018 schedule is now out.  Now it’s time to dissect it, decide which games are most winnable, and for out-of-town fans like me, think about which game to head south to see.

 

My first thought after taking a look at this: ouch!  What a tough five-game stretch to open with.  The Bucs face four playoff teams, starting with the division champion Saints in the Superdome, followed by the Super Bowl champion Eagles in the home opener.  Then, they get the Steelers on a Monday night.  How does a Bucs’ team that went 5-11 last season end up on MNF?  Oh, that’s right, they’re playing the Steelers, which will give the idiots at BSPN something to crow about while at the same time dissing Jameis Winston, even if Winston gets off to a good start.

 

Tampa Bay goes to Chicago in September.  It sure beats December.  But Baltimore in mid-December could be interesting to say the least.

 

There is a stretch of three straight home games in late November/early December.  And wouldn’t it be interesting if the finale against the dirty birds from Atlanta is meaningful?  One can dream, anyway.

 

Here’s the schedule:

 

Sept. 9 — @ New Orleans

Sep. 16 — PHILADELPHIA

Sept. 24 — PITTSBURGH (Monday)

Sept. 30 — @ Chicago

BYE WEEK

Oct. 14 — @ Atlanta

Oct. 21 – CLEVELAND

Oct. 28 — @ Cincinnati

Nov. 4 — @ Carolina

Nov. 11 – WASHINGTON

Nov. 18 @ NY Giants

Nov. 25 – SAN FRANCISCO

Dec. 2 – CAROLINA

Dec. 9 – NEW ORLEANS

Dec. 16 — @ Baltimore

Dec. 23 — @ Dallas

Dec. 30 – ATLANTA

Solid Opener: Bucs Roll the Bears

If you were worried about any rust from the Buccaneers’ season being delayed by a week, worry no more.  Tampa Bay dominated the bumbling Chicago Bears at Ray-Jay on Sunday, 29-7.

 

You don’t have to look far to find the story of this one.  The Bears were sloppy, and the Bucs made them pay.  Tampa Bay’s first TD came one play after Chicago fumbled while deciding to scoop up a punt.  A Mike Glennon (remember him?) fumble led to another touchdown.  And the icing on the cake, if you will, was Robert McClain picking off Glennon, and running it back for a “pick six.”

 

And that was all in the first half.

 

Mike Evans is poised for a gigantic year.  He caught his first TD pass of the season following the fumbled punt return, and finished with 93 yards on the day.  The addition of DeSean Jackson is huge.  Even though D-Jax only had 3 catches, his presence allows for a lot of 1-on-1 coverage for both receivers, and Evans is already reaping the benefits. 

 

Jacquizz Rodgers had a decent day that included a 1-yard touchdown run.  Speaking of the running game, can we please get rid of Charles Sims?  He’s terrible, and I’ve been saying that for a while.

 

So, what about Jameis Winston?  I’ll call his day ‘efficient.’  He did have the nice TD to Evans, and he didn’t throw a pick.  But he still needs some work on the deep ball.  There were several times where he missed an open receiver on a long ball.

 

For the defense, it was all about the turnovers.  Good thing, because Glennon was finding open receivers, and had a number of dropped passes.  But if you can take the ball way, who cares?

 

Nick Folk made all 3 of his field goal attempts.  But he missed an extra point.  Oh, Roberto Aguayo, where are you?  That’s right – he’s unemployed.  He could’ve been on the field for this one, but he didn’t make the Bears’ roster after the Bucs let him go.

 

It’s great to win the opener.  It gives us fans hope that this season will be special.  Next week: the Bucs head to Minnesota to play the Vikings.

 

Photo courtesy: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

 

Bucs Win a Game They Absolutely Had To Have

The Buccaneers needed this game in the worst possible way. And they got it.

With the exception of one play, the Bucs dominated the Bears on Sunday, winning 36-10.

After the defense looked downright awful the past two games, they actually decided to show up against Chicago. They sacked Jay Cutler four times. They forced four turnovers, including an interception return for a touchdown by the much-maligned Chris Conte.  They also forced a safety, and shut out the Bears in the second half.

So what was that “one play?” Cutler completed a Hail Mary for a touchdown on the final play of the half that made it a seven-point game. But on the first drive of the third quarter, Jameis Winston pulled off another magic act. If you haven’t seen it yet, I’m sure it’ll be on every NFL highlight reel. He escaped a bunch of Bears, avoided a major sack, scrambled around and launched one downfield that Mike Evans came down with. That was the play of the game. Two plays later, Winston threw a long TD pass to Freddie Martino (who?) and the Bucs were in control the rest of the way.

It was great to see Doug Martin back on the field. The Bucs need him desperately. And while the running game struggled mightily behind a makeshift offensive line, he did find the end zone late in the fourth quarter.

But this day was really about the defense finally showing up and playing a good game. And heck, it’s about time the Bucs won a game at Ray-Jay. They only won one of three consecutive home games.

Tampa Bay is now 4-5. Atlanta, Carolina and New Orleans all lost, so this was good day all the way around for the Buccaneers. A tough trip to Kansas City awaits next Sunday.

Photo courtesy: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Some Thoughts on the Buccaneers’ 2016 Schedule

For those of us who love taking road trips to see an NFL game, it’s always fun when the NFL schedule is released. It came out this past week. Here’s how 2016 is shaping up for the Bucs:

SEPTEMBER 11      @ Atlanta 1:00

SEPTEMBER 18      @ Arizona 4:05

SEPTEMBER 25      L.A. RAMS 4:05

OCTOBER 2            DENVER 4:05

OCTOBER 10          @ Carolina 8:30 (Monday Night)

OCTOBER 23          @ San Francisco 4:05

OCTOBER 30          OAKLAND 1:00

NOVEMBER 3         ATLANTA 8:25 (Thursday Night)

NOVEMBER 13       CHICAGO 1:00

NOVEMBER 20       @ Kansas City 1:00

NOVEMBER 20       SEATTLE 4:05

DECEMBER 4         @ San Diego 4:25

DECEMBER 11        NEW ORLEANS 1:00

DECEMBER 18       @ Dallas 1:00

DECEMBER 24       @ New Orleans 1:00

JANUARY 1 –           CAROLINA 1:00

 

A number of things stand out to me immediately:
*The Buccaneers have to make three trips to the western time zone. I can tell you from past experience: things haven’t gone well over the years when they head west.

*Is it me, or does Tampa Bay have more 4:00 games than usual, whether it be 4:05 or 4:25? Even three of the home games are late kickoffs.

*They have to play both Super Bowl teams from a season ago. Obviously they get Carolina twice since it’s a division opponent, but the world-champion Broncos also visit Ray-Jay.

*Cold weather doesn’t seem to be much of an issue, although we’ll see what mid-November in Kansas City is like.

*Wouldn’t it be sweet if the season finale against the Panthers was for the NFC South title? Hey, a guy can dream.

I like to head to Tampa in November or early December. So I’m eyeing the games against the Bears or Seahawks, two teams I have never seen in person before. We shall see.

 

Photo Courtesy: Tampa Bay Times

 

Monday Column: The Bucs Were in Playoff Contention, and Then….

Let’s flash back to November 22 for a moment. The Bucs were in Philadelphia, and turned in their best performance of the season, a 45-17 thrashing of the Eagles. Tampa Bay improved to 5-5, and was very much in the playoff hunt in the NFC.

Today, the Buccaneers are 6-9, and will miss the playoffs for the ninth consecutive season.

So what happened? Since that impressive performance at Lincoln Financial Field, the Bucs have dropped games to the Colts, Saints, Rams and Bears. We’re not talking Patriots, Panthers or Cardinals here. We’re talking about games that were winnable, and yet Lovie Smith’s team didn’t get the job done, aside from a victory over a Falcons’ team that just knocked off Carolina.

The biggest disappointment down the stretch has arguably been the biggest one all season: the play of the defense. Now we know why Smith says he needs his defenders to force turnovers. When they don’t, the other team seems to march down the field at will, particularly through the air, regardless of whether the quarterback is Drew Brees or Case Keenum. The secondary is awful, regardless of who’s back there. There’s no question the suspension of Kwon Alexander hurts. But I can’t picture the loss of one player having that much of an impact.

Tampa Bay is -4 in the turnover ratio. Somehow it feels worse than that. Over the past five games, the Bucs have forced a grand total of one takeaway.

Should Lovie Smith be fired at the end of the season? I think he should, but my gut says he won’t. The team did triple its win total from a year ago. But consider this: Smith is calling the shots on defense this year, and I have seen absolutely no improvement in this unit from 2014. None.

Smith is 8-23 in two seasons in Tampa. His predecessor, Greg Schiano, went 11-21 before receiving his pink slip. If Schiano got fired for that record, then why should Smith get a free pass? There’s a growing “rumbling” (for lack of a better term) on blogs and social media that the fans would like to see offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter promoted to head coach. He has done a nice job this year with an offense that includes a rookie quarterback, and Jameis Winston wouldn’t have to learn a entirely new offense. So why not give Koetter a shot? You’d keep the rhythm on offense, and it would allow them to give the other side of the ball a much-needed shakeup. There is talent on defense (Lavonte David for one) but the scheme is not working out.

One final note: the Bucs’ season finale against Carolina is now scheduled for 4:25 p.m. instead of 1 p.m.   Carolina is coming off its first loss of the year, and needs to win to clinch home-field advantage.  Why can’t they just play the game at 1:00 and get the torture over with?