Bucs fans, if it feels like you’re stuck in some macabre version of Groundhog day, you’re not wrong. It’s not de ja vu. You’ve seen this movie before. Again. Again. And yet again. It’s been the exact same script for every road game since the Bucs improbable Week One win in New Orleans. Fall behind early with terrible defensive play and turnovers galore by the offense, stage a hell of a rally, fall short of victory.
In the end, when Dirk Koetter is fired at the end of the season (or today if the Glazers get antsy and do something they’ve never done before), the epitaph on his era of Bucs football is going to be close, but not enough.
Pieces of Eight
1) I questioned the reasoning behind starting Fitzpatrick, a journeyman quarterback whose magic had worn off weeks ago, over the 24-year-old face of the franchise, Jameis Winston. Winston has to work through his troubles and become better as a quarterback. He deserved his benching after Cincinnati, earned it with being terribly careless with the football. It shouldn’t have been a 3-week benching. One week of watching Fitz play with your team, not because you got suspended, but because you sucked, should be enough to get the message across. Or maybe not. Winston did fumble at the goal line, only to be saved by Mike Evans, and had two balls that were terrible decisions that should have been intercepted, and of course, the 50/50 ball to a Desean Jackson who didn’t exactly fight for his quarterback. If Fitz was still Fitzmagic, then, of course, you continue to play him. He has been Fitztragic for weeks now, doing no better than Winston has been doing. So what really is the benefit of playing Fitz? There isn’t one. It was a stupid decision by Koetter and he’s paying for it.
2) As I mentioned, Winston, while pulling the reverse Fitz, wasn’t great, he had near misses on three turnovers and finally did get picked at the end of the game, but he did lead this team to 28 points and had them within striking distance before the defense, as it always does, rolled over like a playful puppy. It’s basically what Fitz did to steal the job from Winston and Jameis should get it back in the same fashion. If Winston is reinstated as the starter – it should be his job until the end of the season. I know some want to see Ryan Griffin – but honestly, I don’t see the value of that. Griffin is never going to be the guy in Tampa, it seems a waste of time to me.
3) We all know Desean Jackson is a hell of a football player. He’s a top threat in this league, as evidenced by his breaking a record held by Hall of Famer Jerry Rice for most touchdowns of 60 yds plus. We also know the coaching staff got hell for not utilizing Jackson enough last season. As a result, the mercurial wideout already has more yards and touchdowns than he did last season and is on pace to beat last years receptions and targets. In all, it’s been a pretty solid season for Jackson.
Unfortunately, it’s come at a cost. Bucs QBs have been intercepted 7 times trying to force balls into Jackson (including three times yesterday), which is the most when attempting a pass to any receiver in the NFL. Jackson has his skillset and if he’s not wide open (which is a rarity in this league), you’re not going to see him battle a DB for a ball. He’s not and never really has been a guy you want to throw 50/50 balls to. With a guy like Mike Evans, it’s more like 70/30. O.J. Howard, Chris Godwin also your odds are greater. When it comes to Jackson, its more of a 10/90 ball. It’s just not worth that risk.
So, the question begs to be asked: If the offense needs Desean Jackson to be involved more – how do you get him open so that it isn’t a 50/50 ball and he’s open soon enough so the quarterback hasn’t already moved on to his next read? The Bucs need to figure it out because the way they are using Jackson is too high of a risk for the rewards he’s providing.
BTW, thanks to Tom Bassinger of the Times for that stat!
Might feel that way because it happened three times yesterday. Over the course of the season, #Bucs quarterbacks have thrown seven interceptions when targeting DeSean Jackson. That is an NFL high. https://t.co/0WeNmqqoJB
— Thomas Bassinger (@tometrics) November 19, 2018
4) Another game, another 31 points surrendered by the defense on the road (remember 7 points came from Fitz’s pick-six). You can’t really blame the defense all that much this week. I mean, they’re playing with guys who were on practice squads and out of the league a few weeks ago. However, even scrubs should know you can’t leave Saquon Barkley open in the flat by the goal line. Even tomato cans should know that the OBJ guy? He’s pretty good. You may want to cover him. Sigh.
5) As we head into that part of the season that Bucs fans know all too well – we’re at that crossroads. Is it better to lose and get a better draft pick or win? Frankly, I’ve always been one to want my team to win. Getting mad at your team for doing what it’s supposed to do is a loser mentality. Now, that’s not to say I wouldn’t want to see a higher draft pick for the Bucs – so I’m at the point where I’m thrilled if they win and not quite as mad when they lose. It’s still frustrating to see a repeat of the same script over and over and over again but in the end, it is what it is. The Bucs are a bad football team. Poorly coached. Poorly assembled. Just poor. The fact that they have talent is the maddening thing. Heck, in many ways, this team has more talent than some of the teams competing for playoff spots. They just don’t mesh well together for some reason. Is it scheme? Is it Players? Probably a bit of both.
6) On the bright side, at least it appears Cairo Santos knows how to make an extra point. Obviously, the Bucs are losing a little bit on kickoffs as Santos doesn’t seem to have the ability to stick it deep in the back of the end zone like Catanzaro did, and I’m sure at some point it’s going to bite the Bucs in the ass. Still, I’d rather have a guy who kicks it through the wickets than a guy that kicks it through the back of the end zone every week. Of course, it would be great to have both – but as Bucs fans, we can’t have nice things.
7) On defense, I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s a bloodletting. I’m talking a complete purge of the defense. Gerald McCoy – Traded. Lavonte David, you too. Brent Grimes, not-resigned. Kwon Alexander – hit the bricks. In fact, the only guy on this defense that has earned his right to stay through the transition is Jason Pierre-Paul. He’s the only guy who actually earned his big price tag. Unfortunately, he’s one guy – with one hand. He can’t do it by himself. If the Bucs are doing the purge, they should consider a complete scheme change – maybe to the 3-4. It will take a little while to get there and frankly, it may put JPP at risk because that’s why the Giants got rid of him in New York, and yes, it will take a while to get the players needed to play in this defense – but let’s face it – it can’t possibly get much worse, right? A bevy of new draft picks, NFL veterans and undrafted free agents won’t do any worse than this bunch. You can’t, frankly, because it’s the worst in history. At least in a 3-4 and a purge of personnel, the Bucs could potentially get marginally better by just being more aggressive. At least maybe force a turnover once in a while.
8) As we await the expected regime change to happen, the question begs to be asked – whose out there? Well, there’s a ton of guys. The better question is – how should the Bucs go about doing this? I never have bought the nonsense that the Glazers don’t care and are terrible owners. They’re not. They want to win badly. It’s better for their business model and frankly, it feels better to be the talk of the community in a good way. They’ve given their GMs and coaches money, resources – whatever they’ve asked for. The problem has been, who they select and how they’ve selected them. Jason Licht came to Tampa Bay after being selected by Lovie Smith. Same for Dirk Koetter. Both led an insurrection of Lovie.
The Glazers thought they were doing the right thing by bringing in Lovie and turning over the keys. He won a lot in Chicago, he reminded folks of the good old Pewter Power days. They couldn’t have imagined that he would just go through the motions and things would turn out so poorly. Then, they tried to do right by Jameis by keeping the same offense intact under Dirk Koetter. It made sense at the time, even though it was risky. Plus, Jason Licht was onboard and he deserved his chance to pick players without Lovie telling him what to do.
It hasn’t been a Schiano-type complete disaster, as the Bucs do have one of the best (albeit flawed) offenses in the league, but it didn’t turn out as they hoped and here we are again.
This time, I think the Glazers, against their own will and judgment, need to turn the keys over to a Director of Football Operations, as the Jags did with Tom Coughlin. Let a Bill Polian or Jimmy Johnson or Tony Dungy type football guy pick your GM and your coach. Let that person be the one who makes the call on Jameis. Let that individual remake this football team into a winner. You’ve tried to go young (Raheem). You’ve tried college (Schiano). You tried to go back to your roots (Lovie). You tried an in-house stability approach (Koetter). Try this. Maybe, just maybe, it will be what you need to get out of this rut.