Firing Sheridan won't change anything for Buccaneers

Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are nearly out of the playoff hunt, and that means the fans smell blood. Time to fire someone! Or is it?

Bill Sheridan was perhaps the least popular hire on the entire coaching staff this offseason. The veteran coach had one year's experience as a defensive coordinator for the New York Giants, leading them to their worst season as a defense in half a decade and unsurprisingly getting sacked after the season. Many Bucs fans would like to see the same thing happen to him once the season ends, or even now.

Certainly, this defense has been problematic. More specifically, the pass defense has been awful. The Bucs have given up more yards through the air than any other team in the NFL, while allowing the most net yards per attempt in the NFL. This has been compensated slightly by 17 interceptions, ranked fourth in the NFL, but the awful secondary has cost the Bucs multiple games.

The secondary has been one problem, but the other issue the Bucs have is their blitzing -- or rather, their lack of effective blitzing at opportune times. The Bucs have arguably lost three close games due to their blitzes being exploited late in games: against the Washington Redskins, the New York Giants and the Philadelphia Eagles, opposing quarterbacks led their teams to last-minute touchdown drives to win the game by hitting open holes against ineffective blitzes.

These blitzes have been so ineffective that the Bucs have managed just 24 sacks this season, while they've often looked better rushing four than they have blitzing. This has left fans screaming for Sheridan's head: how could he not see how horrible the gameplan is? How could he keep blitzing on final drives, and how often do the Bucs have to get burned for them to stop this suicidal

Here's your answer: the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will not stop blitzing until Greg Schiano is gone.

Bill Sheridan doesn't run this defense. He's just the defensive coordinator, but the defensive philosophy, the focus on blitzes and the design of the defense -- that's all on Greg Schiano. Sheridan noted as much in his introductory press conference when he was hired, saying "It's going to be Greg Schiano's defense because he's our head coach, and I'm coordinating for him. [..] It's Greg's defense for sure."

This is what we can see from his time in New York, too. Then, he was criticized for not blitzing enough, especially so against the New Orleans Saints. Sheridan called far fewer blitzes than his predecessor. In fact, he was seen as a "passive zone based defensive coordinator". Does any of that sound like the kind of defense the Bucs are running now.

Here's what will change if the Tampa Bay Buccaneers fire Bill Sheridan: nothing. They'll continue to blitz. They will continue to give up passing yards. The blitzes will continue to not get there consistently. The secondary will continue to lack the talent to play in the NFL. This is Greg Schiano's defense, and he needs to shoulder the blame. Replacing Sheridan would be nothing more than letting someone take the fall, and I don't think Schiano is the kind of head coach to do that.

That's not to say that this defense doesn't need to get better. There are many, many issues this defense needs to fix. First and foremost, they must improve their talent at the cornerback position. They must improve their blitz schemes, which are too easily blocked, and they need to get more pressure out of their front four -- something we've seen more frequently in recent weeks. But the solution to those problems does not need to involve firing Sheridan.

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