Ok I tried to stay out of the blame game because it isn't just one person or group that is to blame for the Bucs 7-9 record in 2012. I have voiced my opinions before about why we really ended up 7-9. To me it seems like there are two sides.... the one side that blames primarily Freeman and the side that primarily blames the secondary. To me that's not fair. Like JBen05 loves to say, it's a team game. He is right, and there was plenty of blame to go around. But we do need to really sit back and think who really is the most to blame. I'm going to try and break this down into a percentage of what person/group gets the blame.
5% Mark Dominik
I think the blame first should start with Mark Dominik who in my opinion gets 5% blame by help designing the team. I assume that he and Schiano had a conversation of what would be the makeup of this team. He must have known that Schiano wanted to play an aggressive style of defense and would need the pieces in the secondary to hold up for that type of play. I didn't mind the signing of Wright and we still had Talib but to me Talib isn't much of a bump and run type CB, he's more of a zone CB (but that's my opinion). Other than those two and the drafting of Mark Barron we really didn't address the depth needed to succeed. Add that to the experimentation of putting Barber at FS and the only really solid CB was Leonard Johnson. In the end we had to resort to off the street guys like Brandon McDonald, Danny Gorrer, and Lequan Lewis. I feel he could have done a better job addressing the depth of the secondary in FA and the draft to better fit what the Bucs wanted to do on defense. But you can't fix everything overnight and we did just have bad luck with suspensions and injuries that you cant really hold against Dominik.
5% The Defensive Line
I will give 5% blame to the defensive line. Too much invested in the line and still lackluster results. McCoy had a breakout year. Bennett was great too for the most part. But even before the injury I didn't see much from Clayborn. Bowers looked good when he was actually healthy but I expect more. I can't give too much blame to this group because of the injury to Clayborn, Bowers and the loss of Brian Price and us having to stick with Roy Miller, Daniel Te'o-Nesheim and Aaron Morgan. Add these facts to bad coaching, my expectations weren't so high for them.
The next participant in the blame game is the miscellaneous things that were out of overall teams control. I will assign 10% blame to this category. These things are injuries, suspensions, new coaching system and etc.... We had a lot of key injuries. Every team does. But lets just go down the list of a few. Davin Joseph, Carl Nicks, Adrian Clayborn, Daquan Bowers for the first 6 games, Eric Wright as well. Also the suspensions of Talib and Wright didn't help. Add the fact that we traded Brian Price and Kellen Winslow before the season started as well. Also the new coaching factors in as well as it takes time for that adjustment period to kick in. Although I think the players bought in to Schiano's system very quick.
20% The Secondary
20% percent of the blame goes to the secondary. Overall as a group they were just bad statistically. This group gave up a lot of yards. They did create a lot of turnovers too and didn't give up as many points as people think. But they still were bad, and after a season like last year a major overhaul was needed. As stated before the fact of Talib getting torched early in the season was an indication of what the future held for this group. But again what are you going to expect with a coach that leaves CB's on an island and we have a FS that just was playing CB and was new to the position and old and really didn't have the range to play single high safety a lot of the time. Add that we had a rookie SS that I knew would struggle because most rookie secondary players do. But Barron was still overall solid and will get better. Add the fact of Talib and Wright being suspended and Talib being traded mid season and Wright fighting through injuries all season and us ending up starting a undrafted rookie in Leonard Johnson (who for a rookie did pretty good) and another undrafted CB in Danny Gorrer and also the ineffectiveness of Myron Lewis and add Anthony Gaitor being out most of the year as well I cant comprehend how fans would really have much hope in that group anyways. But in all I still give them 20% blame.
25% Josh Freeman
Next up is my guy Josh Freeman. I'll give him 25% blame. Yes more than the secondary. Reason being is he is supposed to be the franchise QB. He ultimately has more responsibility than any member on the secondary. Yes he is in a new system. Yes there were communication issues with his receivers. Yes he had a banged up o-line that wore down at the end of the year. But still Freeman should have played better. He could have played better, and if he did we would have won more games than we did. Now a lot of people can also say well if the secondary played better we could have won too. That is correct. But whose expectations are higher to play better? Freeman a 1st round drafted franchise QB or the secondary tandem of Danny Gorrer and Leonard Johnson (both undrafted)? I'm sorry I'm going to look at freeman first because I don't expect much from that secondary group.
35% Schiano and Co.
Last and especially not least is Greg Schiano and Co. I say company because I cant specifically point the finger at any individual coach or coordinator because I don't know what responsibilities or roles they played in the schemes. I will exclude Bob Bostad and Bryan Cox. They did a hell of a job with what they had to work with. Especially Bostad. Now first things first I give Schiano tons of credit for changing the culture and motivating the players, and correcting the worst run defense to making them the best run defense. But as far as his schemes and in game adjustments? He failed miserably. As I have maintained from the beginning Schiano and Co. was to blame for most of what happened last year. I know its his first year but the complete stubbornness to not change things that weren't working were the main reason why we failed this season. Lets go down the list of a few things:
- Not using Josh Freeman's athletic ability and restricting him to being a strictly pocket passer. No I'm not talking running the read option but letting him extend the play like Big Ben does and if nothing is there allowing him to take of and pick up yards.
- Constantly running Doug Martin up the gut instead of using him on more outside runs.
- Bad clock management. (Dallas game).
- Bad blitz schemes/stunts with the defensive lineman and 3 down lineman formations.
- Failing to make in game adjustments. If something isn't working try something else. Don't just keep running it.
- Finally.... his failure to realize that he didn't have the personnel to run that aggressive style of defense that left CB's on an island, or the DE's to run stunts. Se the last ATL game. When he went away from the single high safety look and went more cover 2 it worked. Because his personnel would be more accustomed to the zone style instead of the bump and run single coverage style. So in my opinion Schiano and Co. get the majority of the blame which would tally up to 35%, and this group would be the winner of the blame game.
Going into 2013 alot of things seem to be corrected. Most importantly, the secondary. We have the personnel to run the scheme that Schiano wants to run. Still Schiano still cant be so stubborn with making changes. He has stated he will and I hope he does so. Offensive line will be back healthy, defensive line will be healthy and has to step up big time and get some pressure. I hope Martin is used more effectively with outside runs and more in the passing game as well. He should be Freeman's best used weapon. If nothing is open check it down. Jackson and Williams will be great as usual and hopefully better. Finally Freeman has to step up big time. No excuses.He was supposed to improve on the things he struggled with in 2011. He did not. He just showed us in 2012 what he was good at doing. Throwing the deep ball. But his accuracy and decision making must improve. If not, insert Mike Glennon.