Charting A New Course: Turnaround On The Turnovers

Before you start winning games, you’ve got to stop losing them.

Dirk Koetter, Former BUCS Head Coach August 2016

It’s the 2nd weekend of the 2019 NFL Playoffs and once again our Buccaneers are watching from home. Or in Carl Nassib’s case, from a dock. For the 12th consecutive season, our Pewter Pirates are forced to deal with the fact that they just weren’t good enough or, in some cases, lucky enough to make it to the tournament. Since their last playoff appearance, the BUCS have seen many changes and have had many reasons they’ve not been good enough to make it back to the postseason.

As of late though, the biggest culprit has been self-inflicted issues. The most egregious has been the turnovers. Since 2014, the BUCS have been at or near the bottom of the League’s turnover rankings. Whether it’s been bad luck, bad decisions or bad play, the BUCS have given away far too many opportunities to their opposition. And that’s just too BAD.

SEASONINTsFUMBLESNFL RANK
201420(31st)13(T-30th)31st
201515(25th)13(T-30th)22nd
201618(29th)9(T-15th)24th
201714(20th)13(T-31st)26th
201826(32nd)9(T-15th)32nd
201930(32nd)11(11th)32nd

Winning the turnover battle has been the biggest key to winning at every level and in any era of football played. While talent has always been a big component of a winning team, taking care of the ball has been paramount. At the lower levels of the game, the parity in talent level can often overcome mistakes like penalties and turnovers. But in the NFL, the margin in talent is far too thin to repeatedly allow the opposition a leg up the way the BUCS have over the last 6 seasons.

SEASON1-Score Losses0 Turnovers1 TurnoverMultiple Turnovers
20148044
20154112
20163102
20177124
20187025
20196123

It should be noted that this turnover issue has also come at the expense of the defensive side of the ball as well. Arguably, the defense has suffered the most from the residual effect of carelessness too often shown by the offense. The fatigue kept setting in. The yards kept piling up.

In 2017, the BUCS defense ranked 32nd in yards given up, but 22nd in points given up. The offense was ranked 26th in turnovers that season. It could probably speak to the resiliency of the defense that despite being put in tough positions and having given up so many yards, it wasn’t reflected in the points surrendered. Instead, yards were used to determined the defense had been the worst in the League according to many. And that notion took shape and took off without making mention of just how so many of those yards were aided by turnovers.

To combat being one of the League’s worst in giveaways, one would need a defense capable of being a Top 10 or Top 5 unit. That or be highly adept at takeaways. The team would have needed to be built for dominance. Unfortunately, it was not.

From 2014 thru 2017, the defensive side of the ball had been the least invested in when it comes to either drafting or signing high end talent. A total of 3 1st or 2nd Round draft picks went to the defense(Hargreaves/Spences 2016, Evans 2017). In free agency, the BUCS too often relied on rotational guys to become starter level and breakout stars. In addition, when injuries mounted, the talent simply wasn’t deep enough to consistently play at a high enough level . Even with a shortage of talent and the injuries, the defense still ranked highly in takeaways. But that’s easily overlooked due to the number of giveaways.

SEASONGIVEAWAYSTAKEAWAYS
(RANK)
DIFFERENTIAL*
20143325 (T-8th Most)-8
5 teams ranked lower
20152823 (T-10th Most)-5
7 teams ranked lower
20162729 (3rd Most)+2
17 teams ranked lower
20172726 (T-7th Most)-1
14 teams ranked lower
20183517 (T-14th Most)-18
1 team ranked lower
20194128 (5th Most)-13
4 teams ranked lower
Buccaneers DE Carl Nassib 1/5/2020

The BUCS have simply missed out on too many opportunities. They’ve, quite literally, given them away. All of the other imperfections this team has suffered over the past 6 years just don’t compare to what feels like the albatross that has been the turnover epidemic. Unfortunately, they’re now expected. The Team has been in games in which the offense has scored under 20 points. They’ve weathered the periodic storms of opposing offenses gaining ridiculous amounts of yards. It’s taken on defenses having gone to war without being armed with a dominating rushing attack. Yet, the only thing that has consistently beaten this Team has been itself. It’s repeatedly invited the opposition to outplay them and outright outlast them. More often than not, the opposition has obliged.

Just this past season, our BUCS lost to 5 Playoff team(49ers,Saints x2, Titans, Texans, Seahawks). The difference in 3 of those games were 13 turnovers. Opportunity given. Opportunity given away.

Embed from Getty Images Embed from Getty Images Embed from Getty Images

We will quit beating ourselves and then we’ll be hard to beat….”

-Head Coach, Bruce Arians December 2019