If you don’t like statistics, look away. I hear there’s a great article on draft failures posted below. If you’re a wishful thinker, go make a sandwich. This article is not for you. If you always look at the bright side and find the positives, skip to the special teams statistics and get on with your day.
Insert cliche here: The stats never lie. Enough with the postseason report cards. Let’s look at where the Buccaneers rank in the NFL in some major categories.
Total offense: 28th (287.5 ypg)
Turnover margin: 22nd (-5)
Points per game: 20th (15.5)
Passing: 24th (186 ypg)
Rushing: 23rd (102 ypg)
There’s not a lot to say about the offense in ’09. It was awful, and it’s difficult to win games scoring so few points, especially when you consider the defensive stats below. The running game didn’t get going until the end of the season, and rookie quarterback Josh Freeman struggled with interceptions, throwing 18 in just 10 games. Only the Lions threw more picks than the Bucs’ 29.
Total Defense: 27th (366 ypg)
Points per game: 6th (25)
Pass defense: 10th (207 ypg)
Rush defense: 32nd (158 ypg)
The defense improved dramatically toward the end of the season, allowing just 17 points per game after head coach Raheem Morris took over as coordinator. Had they averaged 17 per game throughout the season, they would have ranked 4th overall. The earlier cliche implied that stats don’t lie, and they don’t. However, they do masquerade at times, as our 10th-ranked pass defense does. It could be argued that our pass defense looks better on paper than it actually was because teams spent so much time plowing the league's worst run defense, which allowed nearly five yards per carry.
Only six teams allowed more passing plays of 40+ yards than the Bucs’ 11. Additionally, when teams are playing with the lead, as most teams who played the Bucs did in '09, their offensive balance favors the run, allowing less opportunities for the pass defense to shine, if it was capable of doing so.
Now, for all you glass-is-half-full optimists who skipped here from the first paragraph, here’s your bright spot.
Kickoffs: 1st (26.3 yards per return)
Longest return: 7th (97 yards)
Punts: 4th (11.6 yards per return)
Longest return: 4th (77 yards)
Never thought I’d see the day. And these stats are not a result of a playmaking returner like a Dante Hall or Devin Hester. It’s because of special teams coach Rich Bassachia leading an entire unit to succeed. When Pro Bowler Clifton Smith went down with injury, Sammie Stroughter stepped in. When Stroughter went down, the Bucs signed Michael Spurlock, who, if you remember, returned the first kickoff for a touchdown in franchise history. Spurlock succeeded immediately, returning a punt 77 yards for a game-tying touchdown in New Orleans, a game the Bucs eventually won in overtime.
With Bassachia likely on the move because of his success in ’09, it’s unclear how this unit will look next year.
What all these stats add up to is a 3-13 record, the third overall draft pick and countless headaches and ulcers scattered across the bay area. On the field, they were bad. On paper, they were worse. The most appealing number is 2010, where there’s practically nowhere to go but up. After all, the stats don’t lie.