It’s about time this happened. But what took them so long?
On Monday, the Buccaneers announced the news that I and every other Bucs fan have been waiting to hear: Mike Smith is out as the defensive coordinator.
Under Smith, Tampa Bay had the worst defense last year, and so far, the worst defense this year. The Bucs have given up 30 or more points in four of their five games. Remember that fantastic win over the Saints in the season opener? Yes, I do. It’s easy to overlook at Smith’s defense still allowed 40 points. This, even though the team supposedly upgraded the defensive side of the ball during the offseason.
This move should’ve been made a long time ago – as in, say, nine months or so ago. But the Bucs finally pulled the trigger.
So now what? Linebackers’ coach Mark Duffner will take over as defensive coordinator in the interim.
How this plays out over the next eleven weeks remains to be seen. We’d all be shocked if this defense pitches a shutout against an improved Cleveland team on Sunday. But finally, the Bucs have rid themselves of the guy responsible for the biggest weakness on this team.
Before I rip Mike Smith to shreds again, let’s start off with the final play of the game.
On one hand, it seems crazy: with the ball at the Atlanta 20, they call a play featuring a couple of laterals, that could’ve ended with DeSean Jackson running into the end zone with no time on the clock. D-Jax never caught the lateral from Mike Evans, so it was a moot point. Had Jackson caught it, would he have scored? He says he would have. But after watching the play over and over, there were three Falcons closing in on him. It would’ve been VERY close.
Now, here’s my beef: you had the ball at the 20. You have guys like Evans, D-Jax, Cameron Brate and O.J. Howard on your team. This wasn’t a 50-yard Hail Mary. Why wouldn’t you take a shot in the end zone with those stud receivers/tight ends? I don’t understand that.
Let’s talk about Jameis Winston’s first start. He had four touchdowns, but he also threw two interceptions: an overthrown deep ball, and a pass that ricocheted off a defender in the end zone. You can’t have those kinds of plays.
Then there’s the kicking game, featuring a missed PAT by Chandler Catanzaro. That was huge, because when the Bucs cut the lead to 24-22 early in the fourth, they had to go for two to try to tie the game. They failed.
And now, let’s get to that so-called “defensive coordinator” with a last name of Smith. This was the fourth time already that his unit has allowed at least 30 points. And again, the opposition racked up over 400 yards of offense, with wide open receivers all over the field. And lest we forget that final 26 seconds of the first half when the Bucs had cut the lead to 21-13. Smith’s defense allowed the Falcons to easily get into field goal range to add three points before going to the locker room.
And Koetter refuses to fire him. Well, if this keeps up, Koetter will also be gone at the end of the season.
There is still time to right this ship. There are still eleven games remaining. But based on the unwillingness of Tampa Bay to make changes on the defensive side of the ball, this has the potential to get very ugly, very quickly. I hope I’m wrong.
They made too many mistakes.
When you turn the ball over four times and make other costly miscues – like committing a holding penalty on what would’ve been a punt return for a touchdown – you usually don’t win in the NFL. The Buccaneers dug themselves a big hole on Monday Night Football against Pittsburgh, and there wasn’t enough Fitzmagic left in the air at Ray-Jay to complete a miraculous comeback.
Ryan Fitzpatrick threw three interceptions, including one in the red zone and one from his end zone that ended up being a pick-six. He played much better in the second half, but it wasn’t enough. The Steelers gave the Bucs every opportunity to pull it out, but there was no miracle on this night.
Let’s look at the big picture here. After three games without Jameis Winston, the Bucs are 2-1. And they’ve done it with a backup quarterback, Mike Smith’s still-awful defense (especially the secondary) and no….and I mean no…running game whatsoever. I will gladly take a 2-1 record given those facts.
So now that Winston’s suspension is over, now what? Who gets the start at Soldier Field next Sunday? Will Koetter stick with Fitzpatrick for one more game, knowing the bye week follows? Or does he think Winston will be ready to go? That will be a very interesting decision the coach has to make.
Photo courtesy: Associated Press
One of the big questions coming into this season was: how would the Buccaneers start out with Jameis Winston suspended for the first three games?
Wow. Just wow.
Enter Mr. Fitzpatrick. He was unbelievable in Sunday’s 48-40 stunner over the Saints in the Superdome. How amazing was Fitz? He was 21-28 for 417 yards and four touchdowns. He also ran for a score. And, he made arguably the biggest play of the game by running for a first down late in the fourth quarter to help the Bucs run out the clock.
Remember last year how Winston couldn’t connect with DeSean Jackson on the deep ball? Fitzpatrick had no problem. The two connected for two long touchdowns. Fitz also hit Mike Evans for a deep score. We didn’t see much of that last year. Evans and Jackson combined for almost 300 receiving yards in this one.
It’s worth mentioning that offensive coordinator Todd Monken – who called the plays during the preseason – was calling the shots in the opener. Dear coach Koetter: please keep it this way.
This was not a perfect game by any means. Mike Smith’s defense is still a sieve, allowing 40 points to Drew Brees and company. The pass rush – even with all those off-season acquisitions – only had one sack. The secondary had its struggles. They did force two turnovers, including a fumble return for a TD, but Smith is lucky the offense bailed him out.
But this was all about “Fitz-Magic.” I said it before, and will say it again: what if the Bucs win 2 out of 3 without Winston? Well, they’ve got the first one.
Photo Courtesy: Associated Press
Training camp for the Buccaneers is underway. And so is Buccaneer Bri’s sixth year of writing this little blog about the team.
What should we be looking for as workouts begin? Well, Ryan Fitzpatrick is our starting quarterback for the first three games because Jameis Winston is suspended. The offensive and defensive lines have both been overhauled. Dirk Koetter is starting the year on the hot seat (and in my opinion, so should defensive coordinator Mike Smith.) And the team’s apparent new slogan is “wreak havoc.”
Expectations appear to be low. That makes sense, since Tampa Bay went 5-11 last year and the other three teams in the NFC South all made the playoffs.
One thing will not change: my passion for this team. Diehards stick with their team through good and bad. So will I. And I hope you will tag along for the ride that officially resumes September 9 in New Orleans.
Let’s prove the pundits wrong and shock the world.
Photo Courtesy: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Buccaneers’ defensive line – you know, the one that couldn’t rush the quarterback – is going to look a lot different next season. And on paper, it actually looks impressive.
The biggest move came today, when the Bucs got Jason-Pierre Paul from the Giants. Throw in Vinny Curry and Beau Allen, and with Gerald McCoy already in the mix, you’ve got a unit that looks sure to get more than the 22 sacks Tampa Bay got all of last season. Robert Ayers and Clinton McDonald are both gone.
As I mentioned, this all looks intriguing on paper. Will any of it matter as long as Mike Smith is still the knucklehead running the defense? And lest we forget how awful the secondary was last year. Part of that was a lack of a pass rush, but part of it was the generally-awful play of the corners and safeties.
And just to get caught up on all-things-Buccaneers, offensive stars Mike Evans and Cameron Brate both have new deals. They also signed a new center – Ryan Jensen – who will hopefully help the offensive line.
But Jason Licht is opening his checkbook, ladies and gentlemen. It’s not often the Bucs go on spending spree like this.
Photo Courtesy: Associated Press
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