Tagged: Dirk Koetter

Recapping the 2017 Bucs, and the Expectations That Weren’t Met

Before the season began, it was understandable why so many Bucs’ fans were expecting a playoff year in 2017.  After all, Tampa Bay did go 9-7, and added a lot of firepower on the offensive side of the ball.

The Buccaneers finished 5-11.

So what happened?  Was the bar set too high?  I don’t think so, based on the success of last season.  But let’s break down what turned out to be a disappointing season in Bucs’ country.

Let’s start on the defensive side of the ball.  This was the biggest area of concern on 2016, the feeling that Mike Smith’s unit couldn’t stop anybody.  Well, in 2017, they still couldn’t stop anybody.  Guess where the Buccaneers finished in total defense (based on total yards allowed per game.)  They were dead last.  When it came to stopping the other team on third down?  Yep, dead last.  Guess which team had the fewest sacks in the NFL?  That would be Tampa Bay.  The defense gave up nearly 24 points a game, which puts them in the bottom ten in that category.  Sometimes stats can be misleading.  These aren’t.

And yet, Dirk Koetter said Monday that he expects Mike Smith to return with him next season.  Right.

Offensively, this was supposed to be the year Jameis Winston made the jump to the next level.  He’s shown flashes of brilliance.  The biggest one that comes to mind was just a day ago, when amazingly he led his team 95 yards in the final two minutes (with no timeouts) to beat the eventual NFC South champions.  But the turnovers are a problem – a big problem.  He continues to force the ball into double coverage (even triple coverage.)  And the fumbles are just as big an issue.  He has to do a better job hanging on to the football.  Period.

Finally, there was the disaster known as special teams.  Nick Folk started the year as the team’s kicker, taking over for Roberto Aguayo.  Folk was just as bad.  He single-handedly cost the Bucs the game against the Patriots.  Patrick Murray returned and stabilized that position a bit, though he missed some important kicks down the stretch.  And we won’t soon forget the other mishaps: allowing 100+ kickoff returns in each of the last two games, the punt block that the Saints ran back for a score in the Superdome.

So where do the Bucs go from here?  I was hoping Mike Smith would get fired, but Koetter says that’s not going to happen.  Koetter also said he’s going to keep calling the plays.  Good Lord.  The Buccaneers have a top-ten pick in the draft.  They need help just about everywhere, but fixing the defense should be the first priority (though other areas aren’t far behind.)

Finally, I conclude with some thank yous.  Thank you Gene Deckerhoff, Dave Moore, TJ Rives and the rest of the people at the Buccaneers radio network for keeping me entertained all season long.  Thank you to bloggers like JoeBucsFan and Pewter Report for their excellent coverage during the season (and offseason.)  If you don’t follow them on Twitter, I strongly suggest you do.

But most of all, thank you to my readers who come here for my sometimes silly take on my favorite football team.  Without you, I would not be doing this.  I live in the greater Boston area, and not everyone here is a diehard Patriots fan.  I just wish there were more Buccaneers’ fans around here.  This blog will remain mostly dormant until the NFL Draft.  But if something big happens before then, I’ll offer my take here.

Happy New Year, God Bless, and Go Bucs!

Photo Courtesy: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

 

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No Defense, No Victory, Another 10-Loss Season

With another loss in the loss column, we’re getting closer to finding out what happens to Dirk Koetter and his cast of characters at the end of the season.

 

The Buccaneers lost again last night.  For the second week in a row, the score was 24-21.  For the second week in a row, the defense couldn’t stop anybody or get any pressure on the quarterback.  Oh, wait: that’s been the case all season.

 

I’ll be honest: I thought the Bucs would get blown out by the Falcons.  That didn’t happen.  Jameis Winston was outstanding, having arguably his best game of the season, even with his teammates dropping like flies due to injuries.   But Tampa Bay did what 4-10 teams do.  The fumble by Peyton Barber in the red zone was costly.  Twice the Falcons put the ball on the ground – including once in the Bucs’ end zone – and twice they couldn’t come up with a key takeaway.  As for Patrick Murray’s missed 54-yard FG attempt that would’ve forced overtime, well it’s been that kind of year.  At least Murray’s been light years ahead of guys named Aguayo or Folk.

 

So, what’s my big takeaway from this one?  Mike Smith’s defense still stinks.  Sure, he didn’t let Julio Jones go for 250 yards this time (but did you notice the times he was all alone in the middle of the field?)  So, Smith contained Jones, but he had no answer for Devonta Freeman.  If anyone deserves to get canned in two weeks, it’s Mike Smith.  Koetter may very well be done as well.  But if I had to pick one to get rid of, it’s the defensive coordinator.

 

Photo Courtesy: USA Today

A Disappointing, Chilly Day at Ray-Jay

On Sunday, I saw in person what I’ve been listening to on the internet and seeing on social media all season long: the Bucs are a bad team.  On Buccaneer Bri’s annual trip to Ray-Jay, the Bucs lost to the Lions, 24-21, on a field goal in the closing seconds.  But honestly, it shouldn’t have even been that close.

 

I saw with my own two eyes all of the reasons the Buccaneers are now 4-9.  They had five turnovers.  The tackling was terrible.  They have no pass rush.  None.  They never laid a finger on Matthew Stafford.  Heck, by my unofficial count, they only chased after him once….in the entire game…and that one play ended with a roughing the passer penalty.  The play-calling was questionable at times, as was the use of timeouts at the end of the game.

 

And yet, there they were, rallying from a 14-point deficit in the fourth quarter to tie the game.

 

Do you think Mike Smith’s defense could do the job from there?  (insert sarcastic laugh here.)

 

Instead of me rambling on about how Dirk Koetter and Mike Smith are doomed after the season, I will dedicate the rest of this article to my personal Ray-Jay experience, since I only get down there once a year.

 

It was chilly.  No, really.  I brought my jacket and wore jeans, and I needed both.  The two ladies who came to the game with me were shivering as well as the game went on.  This was, by far, the coldest game I’ve ever been to in Tampa.  But it beat the snow that fell back home while I was gone.

 

I know Tampa always draws a lot of visiting team’s fans.  But geez, did the entire state of Michigan fly in for this game?  It felt like there were as many Lions’ fans there as Bucs’ fans.  Detroit fans deserve praise for traveling en masse to support their team.  But it’s depressing for Tampa Bay fans like me, and ownership needs to do something to change that.

 

This was also my first time sitting in the upper deck.  I don’t think I will do it again, and it had nothing to do with how far away I was from the action.  There was absolutely no vibe upstairs.  It was like being in a library for much of the game.  I didn’t feel like I was part of the festivities at all.  Oh well, I chose to sit upstairs because the area where I usually sit was just too expensive.  From now on, I think I will just spend the extra bucks and go back down to the lower bowl.

 

There was a nice couple from Detroit sitting behind us.  They left before halftime, after Stafford threw his second pick.  The guy said, “same old Lions!”  I overheard the lady he was with talk about going to the movies.  I hope they made it in time, if that’s in fact where they ended up.  For all I know, they may just have been sick of me yelling and trying to the enjoy the game in a morgue-like atmosphere, and they have just moved to another section.  Where they ended up is a question I will likely never know the answer to.

 

So, there you have it, ladies and gentlemen.  The Bucs have three more games left – all of them against division opponents – and in case you haven’t noticed, the rest of the division is really, really good.  I can easily see the Bucs finishing 4-12.  They’re on Monday Night Football next week against Atlanta.  Jon Gruden will be calling the game, then he’ll be honored at halftime.  If the ceremony is streamed live someplace, that may very well be the best part of the night.

 

Photo Courtesy: Me

Another Tampa Bay Loss, Another Tampa Bay Rant

I’m getting sick and tired of writing about the same old problems with this team every time they lose. 

 

The offense can’t score early in the game.  The defense can’t stop anybody from scoring.  The play-calling leaves a lot to be desired.  And after this latest loss to Atlanta, the Bucs are now further cemented in the cellar of the NFC South at 4-7.

 

Let’s start with Mike Smith’s pathetic defense – you know, the one that allowed at least 30 points for the fifth time this season.  Look: Julio Jones is a great wide receiver – one of the best in the game.  But how do you let a guy like that torch you for over 250 yards?  You’d think it’d be worth double-covering him every now and then, even if it means man-to-man coverage on another receiver like Mohammed Sanu.  You have to make someone other than Jones beat you, and Smith didn’t give that scenario a chance to play out.

 

This defense also has to be the worst in the league at getting off the field on third down.  The Falcons were 11-of-14 on third down in this game.  That is insane.  And it’s been happening all year long.  And let me tell you: we’re not talking 3rd-and-short, either.  A lot of these conversions require double-digit yards, and the Bucs are letting their opponents convert with ease.  How many times to do you a see a Tampa Bay defender playing so soft, that all the receiver has to do is run about two yards to move the chains before the defender even lays a hand on him?

 

Forcing turnovers is still an issue, though they did get a big one in the fourth quarter that nearly led to the Buccaneers coming all the way back from 21 points down.

 

That leads me to my next point: Dirk Koetter’s play-calling.  After the turnover, the Bucs marched down the field and into the red zone.  With about seven minutes to go, Tampa Bay had 2nd and 2 from the 19.  Koetter called three straight pass plays – all of them incomplete.  This was their big chance to tie up a game they had no business even being in, and they couldn’t get two yards in three plays?  As for his decision to go for it on 4th down instead of kicking the field goal, I’m a bit torn.  If you kick the field goal (and yes, we have a guy that can kick now) then you’d be trailing by four, meaning you’d still need a touchdown to win the game, not to mention stopping the Falcons’ offense.  So I was actually okay with the decision to go for it, but I did not like the play-call at all.

 

Naturally, Atlanta got the ball back, marched right down the field and scored the you-knew-it-was coming insurance touchdown.

 

But that’s not the only questionable play-calling.  Tampa Bay has two really good tight ends on this team: Cameron Brate and rookie O.J. Howard.  Can someone explain to me why neither of them saw a pass thrown in his direction for the entire first half?

 

I really don’t see how Koetter and Smith still have jobs at the end of this lost season, especially Smith.  The defense was the biggest problem last year; they’ve done nothing to fix that.  On offense, they’ve got all of these weapons, yet they consistently struggle out of the gate.  I know Jameis Winston is injured, but it’s been this way even when he’s been in there.  That ultimately has to fall on the head coach.

 

OK – rant over.

 

Next week: the Battle of the Bays, at Lambeau Field.

Photo Courtesy: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

 

This is Bad, Bucs Fans. Very Bad

Just when you thought the Buccaneers’ season couldn’t get any worse, it has.

 

Oh, has it ever.

 

In what is quickly becoming a season to forget, the Bucs were trounced by the Saints in the Superdome today, 30-10.  We saw a lot of the same old Bucs: the defense got picked apart again. The running game was non-existent.  Jameis Winston was ineffective (before leaving the game with a shoulder injury.)  And special teams were problematic yet again, with the Saints blocking a punt and returning it for a touchdown, and another missed field goal (though that was the least of the problems on this day.)

 

But here’s the question that a lot of fans – including me – are asking right now: has Dirk Koetter lost this team?  The lasting image from this game will be the scuffle on the Tampa Bay sideline, which appeared to be instigated by Winston, and involved Mike Evans annihilating Marshon Lattimore.  I am shocked Evans did not get kicked out of the game, but he could very well be suspended for that hit.  But look closely at the replay: you see Koetter doing absolutely nothing to diffuse the situation.  Nothing.  Doesn’t the head coach need to take the control there?  Well, Koetter didn’t do that.   This is about a lack of discipline, and a lack of discipline can be traced to bad coaching.  I’ve written the same thing about Lovie Smith in years’ past, and I’m not letting Koetter off the hook, either.

 

This was supposed to be the year the Bucs made the jump to the next level – the playoffs.  Instead, they sit at 2-6 and in the basement of the NFC South, and are arguably one of the most disappointing teams in the NFL right now.  This five-game losing streak started with the New England game the Bucs could’ve won.  There was the early knockout punch in Arizona.  There was the late meltdown in Buffalo.  And now we’ve seen back-to-back abysmal performances against division opponents.  Do the Glazers have the guts to make a change-mid season?  We shall see.

Photo courtesy: Tampa Bay Times

A Postgame Rant on the Bucs’ Loss to Arizona

Head coach Dirk Koetter and defensive coordinator Mike Smith deserve the blame for this performance in the desert, the second year in a row the Buccaneers have stunk up the joint in Arizona.

 

The final score was 38-33.  Forget, for a moment, that the Bucs valiantly made a game of it in the second half, and that the Cards gave Tampa Bay every chance to actually pull it out.  Let me take aim at the aforementioned coaches.

 

Let’s start with the defense.  Adrian Peterson is a good running back.  There is no denying that.  But the Bucs made it look too easy for him.  And how in the world can the defense let the Cardinals’ receivers get so wide open, especially superstar Larry Fitzgerald?  You’d think you’d make sure he was covered on every play.  I guess not.  The tackling was abysmal.  And what all of those defensive offside penalties?  Smith’s unit was the one I was concerned most about going into the season.  Five games in, and my opinion hasn’t changed.

By the way, I was listening to the radio broadcast coming out of the locker room.  When asked about defensive adjustments, Koetter said they had to tackle better.  I think covering wide-open receivers would also have been a good idea.  At one point, it was 31-0.

31-0!!!

 

Now let’s rip Koetter for a few moments.  At the end of the first half, the Bucs were getting whipped 24-0, yet were in scoring position.  Koetter decided to go for it on 4th and goal, and were stopped.  I’m pretty good at math.  When you’re down 24, you need three touchdowns and a field goal.  Why not kick the field goal (with your brand-new kicker) in that situation to at least get points on the board?  The Bucs reached the end zone five times in the second half, and went for the two-point conversion four out of five times.  Had they just kicked extra points after the first three – and taken the FG at the end of the half – we could’ve been looking at a one-score game.  After an awful throw by backup QB Ryan Fitzpatrick that gave Arizona a free touchdown, the Bucs went down and responded, yet missed another two-pointer.  Again, this could’ve been a one-score game late in the fourth quarter, with the Bucs having a chance to cap off a miraculous comeback.

 

Hey coach: pick up a manual that tells you when to go for two, and when to kick the PAT.  You really screwed this up big-time.  I don’t know if the Buccaneers would’ve won this game in crazy fashion, but they certainly would’ve been in a better position if you had known what to do, and when to do it.

 

See you in Buffalo next Sunday.  Will Jameis Winston be able to play?  Stay tuned.

 

Photo courtesy: Arizona Cardinals

Plenty of Blame to Go Around For This Bucs’ Loss

There are many reasons why the Buccaneers lost to the Super Bowl champion Patriots on Thursday night, 19-14.  Let me count the ways:

 

The kicking game still stinks.  This is the most glaring problem, but as you’ll see, hardly the only one.  Why can’t we get a kicker who can consistently kick the ball through the uprights?  Nick Folk missed three more field goal attempts.  That’s six missed kicks in less than a week, covering two games.  And these were bad misses – not even close to being good.  One of them was a 56-yarder that would’ve been no good from 26.  I am stunned that he is still on the roster after his performance.  Can we turn the clock back and bring Matt Bryant back to Tampa?

 

Jameis Winston is too inconsistent.  Ignore his final numbers, which show he threw for over 300 yards.  He continues to throw into double coverage.  He’s missing open receivers.  He can’t consistently throw the deep ball very well.  Remember that play where DeSean Jackson was open down the sideline?  Jackson can’t be a factor downfield if Winston doesn’t get him the ball.

 

The play-calling was pathetic at times.  Doug Martin was running wild through the Pats’ defense in the first half.  So why did Koetter basically abandon the running game in the second?  Fast-forward to the fourth quarter, after the Bucs cut the lead to two with just over two minutes remaining.  The Bucs went for the onside kick, which was unsuccessful.  New England converted it into three points.  Why the onside kick?  They had one timeout left plus the two-minute warning.  They could’ve kicked it deep, gotten a touchback, meaning no time would come off the clock.  They could’ve stopped New England, and gotten the ball with about a minute left – in much better field position – and only needing a field goal to win the game (and heck, maybe Folk would’ve made one for a change.)

 

All the talk up here in New England is about the Pats much-maligned defense bouncing back.  Okay, I’ll buy that.  But this is a Bucs’ blog, so you get the Bucs’ perspective on the game.  Tampa Bay held a Tom Brady-led team to under 20 points.  The game was there for the taking, and the Buccaneers didn’t grab it.

 

Photo courtesy: Getty Images