I can't even really figure out how to start this post, so I guess I'll start it with an image summarizing the performance:
Ok. I feel better.
Over the past several days, fans have been calling for everyone's heads: Gruden, Bruce Allen, Jeff Garcia, Ronde Barber, Gaines Adams, Mickey Mouse, and Chris Simms. Ok, maybe not the last two, but with so many fingers being pointed, thought I might be able to sneak them in there.
So, who's really to blame for this epic collapse? There's plenty to go around. Many on here want to blame Jon Gruden. Does he deserve some of the blame for this? Yes he does. He has to take some, he's the head ball coach. He's the appointed recipient of the credit and blame for the team's successes and failures. I think the game planning and play calling was suspect at key times this year. The running game should have been a bigger part in the offense. He avoided the running game like a one-armed leper when it was unsuccessful for one series, opting to throw, throw, throw, which is what his west coast offense is unfortunately designed to do. Problem is you had one viable healthy receiving threat for much of this year and underutilized your other one, Jerramy Stevens (who should have gotten targeted like a No. 2 WR, but that bitchy rant of mine will wait for another day). Once healthy, there was no excuse for Joey Galloway to sit his ass on the sidelines as the team kept losing unless he was injured, but Gruden told us that it was because he played the same position as Antonio Bryant, so that was a crock. He should've been on the field with Bryant at the X and Z WR positions. Horrible decision in my mind. Moreover, instead of owning the debacle, Gruden put off the blame on injuries, which is what no one wants to hear. Injuries are a part of the game. Every team goes through them. You lost at home to San Diego and Oakland where one win puts you in the playoffs. What specific injury cost us that win?
If injury does have an effect, it's on a team that is piss poor in depth at key positions, which is the Bucs' case to some degree. As such, Bruce Allen should also go under the microscope. As Justin Polawski pointed out today on AM 620, most NFL teams will find key backups in the draft between the 3rd and 5th rounds. Thus, starters should be found in the 1st and 2nd rounds. You really can't afford to swing and miss on these picks too often. Not too get too specific, but Dexter Jackson was a whiff of a pick who was risky because he was raw as a prototypical WR. Missing out on Adrian Peterson might bite the team in the ass, but Gaines Adams should get one more year to show he can cut it in this league. Overall, the 2007 draft was pretty solid, but 2006 was a complete bust after the 2nd round. With the exception of Alex Smith, 2005 and 2004 picks past the first 2 rounds have mostly failed as well. Now, with approximately $20 million of room under the salary cap to play with and plenty of needs to address, this offseason might be Bruce Allen's last chance to right the ship and make quality draft picks and free agent signings that will allow the Bucs to stay competitive in the short term and fill the void of several aging vets likely to be gone in the relatively near future.
How about the defense? They just didn't execute down the stretch. 900 rushing yards allowed in the last 4 games is just inexcusable. Michael Bush ran for over 150 yards and a score in the most important game of the year where the Bucs knew that the Raiders would be pounding the ball. Derrick Brooks missed tackles. Barrett Ruud missed guys. Ronde Barber was beaten soundly. Phillip Buchanon was exposed, especially in the San Diego game. Adams, White, and Carter got NO pressure and Hovan and Haye were moved off the ball too much. Just an overall failure on the defensive side of the ball. Hard to believe after shutting down Adrian Peterson and the Carolina two-headed monster so effectively earlier this year.
Who do you think is to blame?