As I’m sure most Bucs fans are painfully aware of by now, the Buccaneers have decided to move on from 6-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Gerald McCoy after 9 seasons and replace him with his 2010 Draft classmate Ndamukong Suh. It’s been the biggest news out of One Buc this offseason and the topic of heated conversations and spirited debates over the past week. So since we’re all sick and tired of hearing and talking about it, I figured we should put it all out there and end this debate once and for all so we can just move on. Sound good? Ok, let’s do this!
WHY THEY RELEASED McCOY
Gerald McCoy was the third pick in the 2010 NFL Draft by the Buccaneers then general manager Mark Dominik and head coach Rahim Morris . Ndamukong Suh was the second pick of that draft by the Detroit Lions. Rumor has it that the Bucs originally wanted Suh, but they “settled” for McCoy since he was off the board. It’s also been said that the Bucs considered getting rid of McCoy and going after Suh in free agency in 2015, but Jason Licht decided the safer decision was to just bring Gerald back and he was re-signed to a 7yr/$92M contract extension. He has been a really good player for the Bucs during his time in Tampa totaling 296 tackles, 140 QB hits, 79 tackles for loss, 54.5 sacks and 22 passes batted down in 123 games while missing 21 games due to various injuries. He’s also been outstanding off the field as well giving back to the Tampa Bay community in numerous ways.
Sounds like a great guy, right? Maybe that was his downfall. Over his career, McCoy has earned the reputation of being a “nice guy” on the football field as well for doing things like apologizing to quarterbacks for hitting them too hard and helping opposing players off the ground. The problem with that is since he was the face of the defense, the rest of the guys followed suit and the entire defense became soft resulting in bad defensive teams for years.
McCoy has been a leader of the defense, a captain of the team, an upstanding citizen, a great family man and a pillar in the community for nearly a decade. Unfortunately for him, he has always been compared to Buccaneer great Warren Sapp by fans. That’s just not fair to Gerald. As good a player as he is, Sapp was great. Sapp was a Hall of Famer. Sapp was a Super Bowl champion. Sapp played on winning football teams. And Sapp played with dominant defenses here in Tampa. McCoy can’t say any of that. In fact, his career here in Tampa will always be synonymous with bad defenses and losing football teams with zero playoff appearances.
Now with Bruce Arians and Todd Bowles coming in and not only changing the defensive scheme but changing the “identity” as well, McCoy just wasn’t in their plans for the future of this franchise. Arians wanted a meaner, nastier attitude from his players and Bowles needed a better run defender up the middle of his defense. McCoy couldn’t provide either of those things AND he came with a $13 million pricetag. Therefore, McCoy is out.
WHY THEY SIGNED SUH
As I said before, Suh was the Bucs target in the first round of that 2010 NFL Draft and it didn’t happen. He was also on their radar in 2015 as a free agent and it didn’t happen. Instead, Suh went on to sign with Miami as a free agent to a 6yr/$114M deal. After a nine year career with three different teams, he’s finally found his way back to Tampa Bay on a one year deal worth $9.25 million. In those 9 seasons, he’s totaled 481 tackles, 166 QB hits, 107 tackles for loss, 56 sacks and 32 passes batted down in 142 games while missing just 2 games in 2011 due to suspension for stomping on Evan Smith’s arm in a game versus the Packers.
If you’re a stat person, then Suh has McCoy beat in every statistic listed. I’ve seen some fans say that’s because Suh has played in a lot more games than McCoy. My response to that is…EXACTLY! Any coach will tell you that the best ability a player can offer their team is AVAILABILITY. Other than the two games missed for disciplinary reasons, Suh has never missed a game due to injury. McCoy has missed 21 games because of injuries. Besides, the only statistic they’re even close in is sacks where Suh has a slim 1.5 sack lead. If you really want to get down to the nitty gritty, McCoy is averaging about .44 sacks per game over his career. That means in the 21 games that he missed, he potentially missed out on roughly 9 sacks which would give him a 7.5 sack advantage on Suh. That sounds like a big gap, right? What if I told you that Suh was averaging .39 sacks per game? That’s only .05 sacks less per game. Not such a big gap anymore is it? Now consider that Suh averages 3.4 tackles per game (McCoy averages just 2.4 tackles per game), 1.2 QB hits per game (McCoy averages 1.1 QB hit per game) and .75 tackles for loss per game (McCoy averages just .64 tackles for loss per game). The substantially better numbers as a run defender combined with the nearly identical sack numbers equals a more productive player than McCoy.
In addition to being a better overall player, Suh is also a much better fit for Todd Bowles defense and for the kind of attitude that Arians wants from this Buccaneers defense. Even though he has toned it down over the last few years, Suh has been fined 13 times totaling just over $660K in his 9 seasons. Ten of those incidents occurred during his five years with the Lions. One more was while he was with the Dolphins and his last two were with the Rams last year. Unnecessary roughness. Unsportsmanlike penalties. Roughing the passer. Excessive facemasks and horse collar tackles. Kicking and stomping. Even an illegal gesture against the Buccaneers. All things that he has been fined and/or suspended for over his career. And Arians loves it. He recently stated that he hopes Suh brings all of that attitude with him to Tampa and that it rubs off on the rest of the defense. THAT is what Suh brings to this team that McCoy just couldn’t offer. Well, that plus being a better overall player that cost them $3 million less this season. The funny thing is that in addition to being voted as one of the dirtiest players ON the field, he has also been named as one of the most charitable professional athletes OFF the field as well. He offers the best of both worlds to this Tampa Bay team. Therefore, Suh is in.
WHAT THIS DECISION MEANS FOR THE BUCS DEFENSE
With McCoy out and Suh in, the Bucs defensive line takes on a completely different identity. Suh will be returning to his natural position at the 3-tech DT after spending 2018 playing nose tackle with the Rams and instantly brings an “edge” to this front. Bowles defenses are typically aggressive and attacking. Suh is the NFL poster child for aggressive and attacking and should fit in nicely. Beau Allen has “bulked up” from about 315lbs to almost 340lbs, presumably to be the new starting nose tackle. And Vita Vea has “slimmed down” from about 345lbs to around 330lbs, which means he could potentially play anywhere on the Bucs d-line. Maybe the plan is for him to be the new starting 5-tech? Can you imagine opposing offenses trying to run up the middle against the three-man front of Suh, Allen and Vea? Not happening. Not just as a run defense, but what about that same group collapsing the pocket and forcing opposing QB’s outside to a waiting Carl Nassib, Anthony Nelson, Shaq Barrett or Noah Spence? Or maybe that group is taking up space and tying up blockers, so that Lavonte David or Devin White can blitz up the middle for sacks? Sure this defense still would’ve been good with McCoy in it instead of Suh, but it wouldn’t have been the same. Suh brings that “nasty” factor that McCoy just couldn’t bring. Regardless, McCoy is gone and Suh is here now. For those that are upset about it, get over it. It’s the ugly business side of being a professional athlete. And most fans will tell you it’s not the name on the back that matters, it’s the name on the front. If nothing else, it should be an exciting defense to watch and I can’t wait to see it all come together Week 1 against San Francisco.
Until then, as always…