The Sky is Not Falling

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

There is this French saying, "Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose."  It means the more things change, the more they remain the same.  With the abrupt, surprise trade of wide receiver Mike Williams from Tampa Bay to Buffalo, the fan base is at an uproar because of the immediate void that Mike Williams now leaves.  The factor for the trade was mounting bad press from many different infractions, though none seem as drastic as others.  The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have been through this before quite recently.  Instead of rolling our eyes and say here we go again, many think this move is quite absurd to the point it is cataclysmic.

Let us all take a step back into history, namely the 2011 season, the Youngry season.  We finished 4 - 12, losing 10 consecutive games.  The team gave up.  Then general manager Mark Dominik knew this well and eventually settled upon a college coach, Greg Schiano.  Schiano has a reputation of taking a little known Rugters team and made them competitive, a trait that spoke volumes to Dominik as well as the owners, the Glazers.

In order to change the culture a certain way, one needs to purge certain people that do not conform to the projected culture.  Here's a snippet from a 2012 season preview:

New sideline boss Greg Schiano is virtually Morris' complete antithesis, a stickler for rules and details who preaches unity and accountability. And the former Rutgers program architect wasted no time in weeding out members of the previous regime that didn't share his vision.

Tight end Kellen Winslow, a noted non-conformist, was traded to Seattle in May. Defensive tackle Brian Price was sent to Chicago at the outset of training camp following an altercation with rookie safety Mark Barron in a team meeting. Wide receiver Dezmon Briscoe was waived that same day after skipping a slew of voluntary offseason workouts and subsequently failing his conditioning test.

Make no mistake, Schiano is the captain of the Buccaneers' ship. And those who aren't on board with the new direction will be shipped out.

Kellen was the team's second rated receiving threat in 2011.  Apparently, jettisoning him did not hurt the team.  In fact, Mike Williams benefitted from the acquisition of a true number one receiver in Vincent Jackson in 2012.  Williams had his best production in yards while being a number two wideout.  People forgot a bit about those players as the 2012 season finished with three more wins than the previous season.

During the 2012 season, the team traded away their number one corner in Aqib Talib while he was suspended for four games due to a performance enhancing drug, PED, violation.  Talib only played for games with the Bucs in 2012.  We also lost our second cornerback in Eric Wright due to a PED  violation and injury for the final six games.  Still, our defense played admirable under those conditions.

In the 2013 offseason, Eric Wright was released due to infractions outside of football, arrested for suspicion of DUI.  The Bucs' had to release Eric Wright because he failed a trade physical with the San Francisco 49ers.  That was depth that hurt the Bucs in the secondary, but fortunately they had drafted CB Johnthan Banks in the second round.

Here is a snapshot between 2011 and 2012, losing TE Kellen Winslow Jr as well as between 2012 and 2013, losing both starting cornerbacks in Talib and Wright.

Addition by Subtraction TB Bucs Chart

Year

Pass offense

Pass Defense

Comment

2011

16th

2012

10th

32nd

Lost 2nd best reciver in Winslow Jr.

2013

17th

Lost #1 and #2 CB

Of course, there were additions made in between the subtractions.  Before the 2012 season, the Bucs acquired WR Vincent Jackson to be the #1 wideout.  For the 2013 offseason, the Bucs traded for CB Darrelle Revis to be their #1 corner.

The big purge also included then starting quarterback Josh Freeman after the third game of 2013.  Freeman's bad play combined with lackadaisical demeanor at One Buc Place and odd informational leaks made it easier for the organization to dump Freeman.  Again, the organization was fortunate to draft a quarterback in the third round - Mike Glennon.

Even though the 2013 season had the same record as the 2011 season, the biggest difference is that the culture did not give up.  For the past two seasons, Schiano has done a lot of trimming in order to placate the idea of "Buccaneer Men" within One Bucs Place.  Schiano was not all too heartless as long leashes were given to Eric Wright, Brian Price and Mike Williams, because most of the bad incidences occurred under Schiano, save the stabbing and the lawsuit.  Yet, Mike Williams was already on thin ice back then.

There is truth that the offense finished 32nd, or last in total offense as well as passing offense.  Here are two charts that reveal our top five receivers in both seasons:

2012 Bucs Top 5 Receivers (Yards)

Player

Pos

Rec

Target

Yds

TDs

Vincent Jackson

WR

72

147

1384

8

Mike Williams

WR

63

127

996

9

Doug Martin

RB

49

71

472

1

Dallas Clark

TE

47

76

435

4

Tiquan Underwood

WR

28

56

425

2

Totals

259

477

3712

24

Stats from ESPN.com

2013 Bucs Top 5 Receivers (Yards)

Player

Pos

Rec

Target

Yds

TDs

Vincent Jackson

WR

78

159

1224

7

Tim Wright

TE

54

76

571

5

Tiquan Underwood

WR

24

45

440

4

Mike Williams

WR

22

40

216

2

Brian Leonard

RB

29

39

179

0

Totals

207

359

2630

18

Stats from ESPN.com

Mike Williams and Doug Martin played very little due to injuries.  The charts reveal that.  Tim Wright was a very great surprise in 2013, an undrafted free agent.  Underwood had fewer opportunities to catch the ball, but produced more.  When the team losses two of its top three receivers it can be a very destructive result.  The yards lost between Martin and Williams between 2012 to 2013 (using 2012 stats as the control, or base setting) is a total of 1,252 yards.

Difference in Offense (yards) between 2012 and 2013

Year

Total offense

Rank

Off Rush

Rank

Off Pass

Rank

Top 5 Bucs Receivers

2012

5820

9

1837

15

3983

10

3712

2013

4432

32

1612

22

2820

32

2630

Difference

-1388

+23

-225

+7

-1163

+22

-1082

Stats from ESPN.com

With a healthy Doug Martin and a possible WR in the top two rounds, we may yet improve on offense from 2013.  The addition of Doug Martin alone will possibly net 400 yards or more if he plays for all 16 games.  Do not forget the acquisition of TE Myers as well to help with possible receiving threats, posing a possible two TE set with Tim Wright.

It is safe to say that there were more uncertainties back when Schiano first started his purging ways than there is today, two seasons later.  Lovie Smith just finished the job that Schiano started.  Even though the release of Mike Williams was reactionary as he was traded after the high profile players were signed, the organization is still in good shape to replace his position via the draft.  2014 FA WR Louis Murphy can replace Underwood's position and the team will try to put speedster RB Jeff Demps into the slot.

Losing Mike Williams' talent is bad, but the hyperbole that we made our offense worse with this one move with the draft still looming that boasts two top wide receivers in Sammy Watkins and Mike Evans, is just that - a hyperbole.  Now releasing CB Eric Wright for nothing after the draft and FA period, that is bad because most of the good options were gone and we were going to rely on rookie Johnthan Banks.  Huh... I suppose that situation is not all that different than the Williams one as they were both second in their positions, except the player we will be replacing with might be a high first round pick than a high second round pick as well as get a sixth round pick.  That sixth round pick could be as useful as say a Mike James?  (I hope we can use that sixth to pick up RB James Wilder Jr. to present a different type of back compared to the small running backs we have on our roster.)

So I close with a quote from brother Nicely Nicely Johnson, "Sit down.  Sit down.  Sit down.  Sit down, you're rocking the boat!"


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