No really, were going to look at what is wrong with the Bucs, and believe it or not this is NOT going to be an "Everything is ok dont worry" post. It's NOT going to be ok any time soon. But it will eventually, so lets dig in shall we?
1)REBUILDING- Front office managment did not want to use this word, probably because they knew rebuilding would not equal ticket sales. The fact is, this team was torn down and it is starting a completely from scratch rebuilding process. Was it necessary? (Continued)
You could have gotten another year out of some players, but look at the ages of Brooks, Hilliard, Dunn, Galloway, etc. If they didnt go next year, they soon would have. And we would have been left with players who still lack playing experience and we have no idea what kind of players they are. Geno Hayes, Quincy Black, Sabby Piscitelli and Aqib Talib for example, are players that have shown some flashes of talent, and some errors too, which you would expect of young players. But it is entirely possible that all could be washes. They could all be inferior talents for the NFL, and we wont know until at least half the season if not all of the 2009 campaign is finished. The only way to find out is to start over and give these young guys the playing time, and let them make the mistakes they need to make to learn. Its nothing new, its happened before on many teams, and there is no guarantee that the rebuilding process is going to turn out to be 100% succesful. But you supplement the positions you need that dont pan out with free agency, and at that point, the Manchester United FC situation should have resolved itself.
Now were going with Josh Johnson, so the rebuilding plan has officially started.
2) OWNERSHIP; HAS IT FAILED US? - Just like most of the questions we have, this one will not be answered for some time, at least two years if not more. Rebuilding the right way, through the draft, usually takes 3 years. Gone are the days of the 5 year plans like original coach John McKay got. Heck, in some cases 3 is pushing it. But three should do it. One year of this mess we are seeing, another of some hope and sorrow, and finally a third where you start to see it all come together. Mark Dominick has a solid background and is an excellent candidate for GM. Look at the line of Bucs assistants who have built succesful programs elsewhere...
Jerry Angelo, Bucs director of player personnel 1987-2000, with the Chicago Bears since 2001. SuperBowl.
Tim Ruskell, Bucs director of player personnel 1987-2004, with Seattle Seahawks since 2005, SuperBowl RU. Ruston Webster also went to Seattle as the Director of Pro Player Personnel.
Dominik worked under and with all three of these men, as well as who may be considered the Buccaneers best GM ever, Rich McKay, and his replacement, Bruce Allen. Its entirely possible we have missed the boat with Dominick, but its also possible we have the next Jerry Angelo too. Only a few years will tell, and any "Dominik must go" chatter needs to be filed along with any "Raheem must go" nonsense too. Its by far so early to tell whether these gentlemen are the Bucs problem or savior, thats its actually comical. Tell me you know the scores of ever game the Bucs will play this year, exactly, and then you can tell me you know at this point if these guys are part of the problem or the solution.
They have a plan in place, and you have to give them the time it takes to impliment that plan. This takes a few years, and as fans we want a winning team right now, but we just cant build Rome in a day. Again, they may be totally wrong, and I will be the first to admit that if its true, just as I was first to admit to Gruden haters that they were right. A simple check of the lockeroom shows he had lost a majority of the team. Time to move on.
The only dark stain on Raheem so far is that the team is not playing the way he promised. This is NOT a physical team. In fact, it is pretty soft. I hope that changes, but Raheem Morris needs to get command of that locker room and get an iron grip on it. He has already gone wishy washy with offensive coordinators, telling us he will name the starting QB and then not name it, tell us at post game Giants press conference he wouldn't change QBs, and then he does. Don't get me wrong, the change had to be made, but it doesn't show like he is ready for this gig. Thats not to say I do not support him, because I do. I like the guy, I think he is stand up. Those kind of guys always win. But its not written in stone he will do it here, now.
3) OFFENSIVE and DEFENSIVE PHILOSOPHIES -
- DEFENSE- Its been said that execution of a play is far more important than all the scheming that goes into designing one. Sounds very true, but if you have a high school football team pefectly execute a play against a college defense, it is not going to gain yards. No, I dont think the Bucs are that out classed by other NFL teams, although clearly the Giants are in the upper class and we are not. But what is happening here in Tampa Bay is the same thing that happened to Jim Bates in Denver, he did not have the type of guys to run his system properly.
In 1999, the year before Bates took over the Dolphins, Miami already had the #5 ranked Defense. Last year, we were 9th but we all know the last 4 games is all were concerned with. In Green Bay Bates turned the Packers defense into a 7th ranked unit in 2005, up from 25 the year before. This is one unit I'm not entirely sold on, and though its still too early for final resolutions, Jim Bates could find himself removed at season's end if the defense continues to give up 400 yards per game.
Lets be fair however, we criticized Jon Gruden when he was harping on his defensive line to get more pressure back in 2006, because his own offense wasnt exactly setting the town on fire. But he was right, and it was a sign of the times for the last few years. We brought in stop gap measures like elder lineman Kevin Carter who performed admirably, and Arena Project turned Sci Fi Character Styles White. But Jim Bates' defense is predicated on two massive objects in the middle clogging up the running lanes, forcing runners to the outside, where pressure is coming from pass rushing specialists on the ends. Gains Adams specializes in nothing. I hope no one seriously congratulates him for chasing the QB finally after 3 games. A dog chases a frisbee, but doesnt get a bone until he gets it and brings it back. Gaines gets no Bone, and should in fact lose his job. The question is, do we give Bates the time he needs and the players he needs, or is something else the right answer?
You have to question the whole philosophy change to begin with. Raheem Morris was named the Defensive Coordinator. Being promoted to Head Coach I have no problem with. I believe Morris, if given the chance, will prove himself a more than capable Lead man. But why the Change? If it is a change. The Bucs still run Cover 2, maybe even Tampa Two, often. They got beat during the preseason deep running it, so is it not being run properly? Is there too much info for these young defenders to consume? I wrote recently that this year reminds me of 1996, and the young Bucs are going to have to learn a new system, and when they do it will turn into a winning streak at the end. But this is not a time machine. And its starting to look more like 1986, when the Bucs had a lot of young guys on defense and a poor philosophy to match their skills to boot. The Bucs were 28th in 1986: out of 28 teams.
- OFFENSE: - Now were forced to wonder which Bucs offense is the real one? The one that ran and passed all over Dallas, the one that had some success against Buffalo, or the disaster that occured Sunday in which surely is the worst Bucs Offensive performance EVER. Statistically, they gave up a few less yards against the Packers in 85 and Chargers in 76; But that was 1976, expansion year. And the 85 Packers game was in a snow storm/blizzard. You couldnt even see the Bucs in their white uniforms! There was no excuse for 86 yards against the Giants, especially when around 50 were on the last drive by Josh Johnson.
The move to Josh Johnson is a good one. I just hope he gets the starters reps in this week. It should be noted that JJ gets very few reps in practice if at all, because the #2 reps went to Josh Freeman to progress him in his soon to be starting NFL Career. Its looking more and more obvious that Josh Freeman will get his first start in an Orange Uniform against the weak defense of the Green Bay Packers, with center Jeff Faine fully recovered in front of him. There is a lot of pressure on Freeman to succeed, and its not all Bucs pressure either. Recent success of Flacco, Ryan, and now Sanchez and for the most part Stafford too of the Lions, will also apply some heat when his time comes. Hopefully Bucs fans will be level headed and judge him based on the WHOLE of NFL Rookie QBs, not the recent imports of "can't do wrongs" that have found their way into NFL cities! The 80s was the Decade of the Quarterback, and it looks like the Teens will be too. Hopefully we have one of them!
Freeman wont be devoid of weapons like former Bucs 1st round signal callers. Vinny Testeverde, and Trent Dilfer both had succesful college careers throwing the ball, but came to Tampa Bay to join a losing team with a very low skill set. Testeverde developed with Mark Carrier, one of the Bucs greatest WRs. Perhaps Sammy Stroughter is that guy. Of course there is nothing that says Josh Johnson is not 'the guy". He reportedly is very very smart. He picked up Gruden's offense in one year as a rookie, then picked up this offense quickly too. He is very mobile and dangerous on the run. He has almost a Marino like release, and is very very accurate, throwing 42 TDs his Senior year, and only ONE Interception. Thats right, 42 to 1.
Raheem Morris - This part will be of great debate. I was impressed with what he did with the Bucs Secondary in 2007 from 2006. I was equally so with what he did when he became the Defensive Coordinator at an Division IA school. People say he should have been made Coordinator first, well he does have some experience there. The fact is he is young. And most young Head Coaches just WONT have the numbers in experience that your looking for.
Has Raheem been perfect? No. He has made some mistakes, and he is going to make more. Call it a work in progress that should parallel the teams. Are the tackling problems coaching? They are when veterans dont tackle. When young guys dont tackle, its the young guys, and that has to be revisited at a later date, at least January. Are the blown assignments coaching? Yes, and No. Again, with veterans, its absolutely coaching. With these young Bucs, its bound to happen in a new system. We saw less blown assignments Sunday, but there is no indication yet that its something behind us. The Giants didnt need to go deep, the 6 yard runs were just fine enough.
The bottom line is Raheem Morris may go down as the worst head coach since Richard Williamson. But he also may be the next Tony Dungy or better. We dont know yet, and we wont know for at least until the end of the season, and even at that, probably not for another year or two. It takes time for a plan to be judged. Anyone who wants to fire Coach Morris right now could look as stupid as someone who at this point in 1996 saying " We need to Fire Tony Dungy, hes only a coordinator, we need a proven coach like Spurrier or Jimmy Johnson", or as smart as someone who at this very time and place in 1991 saying " Richard Williamson is a position coach. Hes not head coaching material, Fire him".
Going 0-16 - Yes the Lions did it last year. Yes it looks like we cant win another game, especially if we play like we did last week. But its a long season. Trust me, there is no way this team loses every game. That is a once in a generation happening, and it already happened. They may not win until week 9 or 13, but they will at LEAST win a couple. No one is going 0-16 again for some time. Its that....um, special.
ALL TEAMS REBUILD - Some of the best teams in modern history started out just as bleak. Its a part of life in the NFL. Nothing lasts forever, and after our SuperBowl team full of our heroes got old, we tried patching things up with bandaids. No More. Raheem Morris and Mark Dominik said enough is enough, and started over from scratch. Lets take a look at some really good teams and what they did the year before...
In 2000, New England went 5-11 in Belichick's first season. They won a Superbowl the next season.
1999 saw the greatest show on turn. Coach Dick Vermeil had the rams 4-12 in 1998.
We all know these Cowboys are pretty tough. Believe then that they were 5-11 in 2002?
Better yet, the team of the 90s in some regards, the Dallas Cowboys, were 1-15 in 1989.
Peyton Mannings rookie year with the Colts? 3-13.
What two teams have powerful QBs and Running backs? San Diego and NY Giants. Both 4-12 in 2003.