Observations of The Bucs' Auditioning Game To Qualify for C-USA 12/11/11

1) After all, the USF Bulls are looking to have a better season than the Buccaneers right now... and the Bulls SUCKED this year... So if Tampa Bay doesn't qualify for Big East status they might as well try for the mid-major like Conference USA. And with UCF switching to Big East, there's an opening...

2) If anyone's thinking Raheem Morris is going to survive being the Head Coach into 2012, you are most likely clinging to just this one argument: that the Glazers are too cheap to buy out Morris' remaining contract and will just endure him until the contract ends next season.

We need to perform an Exorcism: the Demon Culverhouse Has Possessed This Stadium. Bring me an old priest and a young priest... THE POWER OF ROONEY COMPELS YOU! THE POWER OF ROONEY COMPELS YOU...!

3) Best not to discuss the part of the game where the Bucs actually played well, which turns out was the First Quarter, the first time this season the Bucs opened so well. BECAUSE IT WAS FRICKIN DOWNHILL FROM THERE...

3a) At various stages of the season, there were arguments for why the Bucs weren't playing so well even when they won. But the most consistent argument, the one that stuck, was that our coaching especially on offense was terrible. It's just that the coaching woes are now systemic across the entire team: defense has gotten worse and now special teams is falling apart.

3b) How do we know this is a problem with coaching and not the players? Because for all the screw-ups the players pull, they still show flashes of talent we've seen before. They can make good plays when they can, but the play-calls themselves as well as the juggling of on-field talent just are not working out...

3c) The biggest, obvious problem that points to bad coaching have been the undisciplined penalties. The Bucs pulled 12 penalties this afternoon, some of them incredibly bone-headed (one penalty may have been a bone-headed Ref call, but it doesn't excuse the others). When your team is consistently getting double-digit penalty stats per game, you are obviously undisciplined. And discipline is the responsibility of the coaches.

3d) Personnel mismatches are another problem. I still don't comprehend why we need to put Lumpkin out there instead of Blount: teams pretty much know Lumpkin is NOT there to run and the defenses will shift to pass D. If Blount isn't that good a pass blocker or screen receiver (and there's no evidence that Lumpkin is better at blocking: receiving, maybe, but I don't hear a lot of praise for Lumpkin's blocking), then it ought to be up to the coaches to TEACH HIM BETTER or else devise a way of having both Blount and Lumpkin out there (or Blount and FB Lorig, who can receive as well as Lumpkin).

4) If there is any problem with our players, it's that whatever synch they had on offense last season isn't there this season. Freeman is not finding WRs down-field like last time. He's lost whatever trust he has that Re Benn or Mike Williams will make the catches (especially Williams, who excelled last year making unbelievable snags). And the receivers ARE doing a terrible job of catching this year: more drops than before, more failed drives, fewer Red Zone opportunities and even fewer Red Zone successes...

4a) With regards to defense, the poor play in stopping the run continues to haunt this team. We're now in the 4-year anniversary of The Great Collapse of 2008 when our defense fell apart and gave up more ground than Napoleon's forces retreating from Russia. All those efforts drafting defensive linemen to fill the gaps, all those efforts drafting linebackers with reputations for tackling... all for naught.

4b) We're currently looking at 19 sacks this season. At the current pace we should expect 22-23 sacks as season's total. Which is worse than last season's. Which was worse than the previous year... And this is with having drafted guys like McCoy, Price, Clayborn and Bowers. While McCoy has injury concerns, and while Clayborn has for the most part proved value in his First Round draft status, and while Bowers spent most of this season rehabbing that questionable knee... There was honest expectations that our defensive line, the pride of Tampa Bay, would be more dominant this season.

4c) And the Secondary has not helped at all. Tackling is worse, pass coverage haphazard with blown assignments and playing out of position... One of the bigger complaints I've read on these threads is how the defense isn't lining up quick enough and getting caught out of position, that the team seems disorganized out there even as the ball's getting snapped. This is not good. Either the guy on-field responsible for adjustments - is it still rookie Mason Foster? - isn't making decisions fast enough, or the coaching is not getting the players in the right spots and right coverages.

5) With this the ninth loss of the season, the Bucs are clearly in a losing season with 3 games to go. The best thing to think about now is the future. Can the Buccaneers find a new Head Coach for 2012?

5a) All apologies to Raheem Morris. He may be liked by the players, and he may have been an up-and-coming defensive coordinator just three years ago... but the impulsive push to make him Head Coach in hindsight looks like a bad move all around. He would have been better served taking a few years as DC and then seeing what the HC market was like... but who would turn down an offer to coach a whole team? In this regards, I blame the Glazers: they panicked when other teams made noises about making Rah a Head Coach and they jumped the gun.

5b) So who can replace Raheem Morris? The most likely candidates would be any of the ex-coaches floating on the market with a history of winning records. Jeff Fisher's been mentioned, Bill Cowher obviously... But the thing that worries me is can we bring in a coach who will take the talent we already have and work with it? The fans - and I'm pretty sure the ownership feel the same way - do not want to waste another 2-3 years rebuilding a team from scratch.

5c) Is Jeff Fisher the right guy for this job? Will he keep the 4-3 basic defensive scheme? Will he keep the core players already drafted? Can he impress on the owners the need for a few value FAs? Will he accept Freeman as the franchise QB (last thing we need is wasting ANOTHER First Round pick on a rookie QB, grrrrrr. I had a hard enough time eating crow when Freeman played well last year)?

5d) Is Bill Cowher the right guy? He prefers the 3-4 defense though, doesn't he?

5e) Who else is out there? Any assistant HCs on winning teams we can heist?

5f) Pat Y dropped an interesting suggestion over on his ESPN blog: that the Bucs would get the fans back, and get a disciplined head coach with experience, if they re-hired Tony Dungy. Interesting thought. It's not like re-hiring Jon Gruden, who will most likely blow up this team (again) and hire aging overpriced free agents who will be good for one year before tanking the next. Dungy's been in this boat before of getting a young team (when he took over from Wyche) with some talent and earning winning seasons with that core set of players. It was just that the Glazers and Dungy disagreed on who called the offense (which by the time Clyde Christensen took over was more one-dimensional than a straight line): hopefully Dungy's time with a real offense in Indy left an impression.

It's really a question if Dungy wants to come back: He's got his family still here, doesn't he? And he's gotta know the fans still respect him if not love him (we all know it was Dungy's team that won the Super Bowl, and that Gruden simply contributed to outfoxing the Raiders by knowing their playbook). Have the Glazers and Dungy repaired the bridges burned when the Glazers unceremoniously kicked him out of One Buc Place? Is Dungy interested in coaching again...?

6) In other NFL news: The TEBOW CANNOT BE STOPPED.

6a) Green Bay not only looks like they'll finish the season undefeated, they look like they're intent on playing through all 16 games at full throttle.

6b) Congratulations to the Houston Texans winning their division for the first time ever. Of course, having the Colts die a painful death without Manning had something to do with that. Having said that, Houston now holds the unenviable task of worrying about having the Steelers or Jets (maybe) in the First Round if they don't secure a Bye...

But here's the thing: the Texans are doing this with a third-stringer QB. They may have talent at other positions, true, but this IS where coaching matters: working with the talent you got and adjusting the team to get the wins as best they can.

6c) Did I mention that THE TEBOW ABIDES?

6d) If Denver's ownership decides on trading away their current starting QB, should the Bucs look to trade for THE TEBOW?

7) Next up for the Buccaneers: a rare (for the Raheem era) sold-out home game as Dallas comes for a visit. I have a feeling most of the stadium will be colored silver and blue (for the visiting team) and brown-paper (for the paper bags over the heads of the 20,000 Bucs fans who will dutifully trudge out for another soul-crunching disaster. To be honest, we're Bucs fans: we should be used to this kind of horror show by now... sigh...

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