The title says it all, there isn't much left to be said about the 2011 Tampa Bay Buccaneers. A season of optimism and hope for a playoff berth has turned into a race to see how many fans they can alienate in the last half of the season. The loss against Jacksonville was brutal. We were spotted 14 pointed and still couldnt hang with the Jags, who are at the bottom of the barrell. Their bottom of the league offense made it look like they were running 7 on 7 drills.
I've talked to a few people over the last few days (shameless plug: including Shaun King on Twitter last night) and there is some dispute as to who holds the blame here, Dom, Morris, players, or the Glazers. Let me be clear on this. Though I point the finger mainly at one person, everyone listed above is culpable for this train wreck of garbage. Each person has a stake in this team and they shouldn't escape blame just because we think one or two people are more at fault than others.
That being said, I look at the development of players from last year to this year and I can honestly say I don't think one player outside of Preston Parker has improved. There is a clear regression in terms of abilty or displayed talent and that falls on coaching. Its possible that those players all played above their head last year, but that's a lot of assumptions and coincidences.
The team is just flat out undisciplined. 10+ penalties (again) and 7 turnovers. Seven. Freaking. Turnovers. That's in excusable and we all know it. The broadcast kept flashing to Morris on the sidelines and he just stood there, no reaction, nothing. It makes me wonder if he knows he's 3 games away from being canned. The team avoided the personal foul penalties (not counting the BS call on Biggers towards the end) but still shot themselves in the foot.
It brings us back to the fact that these players are not being coached up. Our offense has regressed, though the playcalling has improved, at least in my opinion. The defense is just a cesspool of awfulness. The scheme doesn't seem to fit our players, the talent has regressed, we brought no new (good) blood in from free agency, it's awful. Our defense is 2009 levels of bad right now and no one seems to want to do anything.
The talent is another argument. Maybe Dom is restricted by the Glazers in spending. If he is, that's not his issue as he seems to evaluate talent well. He's not the premier talent evaluator, but he can hold his own. If the Glazers have allowed him to spend and he has not, this failure is also on him. Our team was good, not great last year. We were probably 2-3 players away from being a true contender, and we didn't bring anyone in. Inexcusable.
The players. What can you say about them? Some seem to be playing hard still, which is good, but others have outworn their welcome. Jeff Faine is one of them. You can call out your teammates for turnovers all you want, but until you block someone instead of playing tag with them, just zip it. I'm tired of watching you chase a defensive lineman as they crush Freeman or Blount. And he's not the only one to blame. The players are accountable also for the penalties, turnovers, missed blocks, etc.
Finally, the Glazers. Who knows what mandates are sent down from them to the team staff. It's obvious that their current thinking, spending, and overall direction is not working. They, like the rest of the organization, need to step back and re-evaluate the plan and decide if it's worth continuing forward with that plan, or adapting a new philosophy. As successful business people, I'm sure they are doing this, but it was worth mentioning.
So what do we do now? Well, I think we've all picked a side on the "Should Morris stay or go" bandwagon, and it seems most of us think he should go. It's worth noting he has one year left on his (cheap) deal. The options at this point appear to be fire Morris at the end of the year or offer him an "extension." When I say extension I mean guarantee his 2012 paycheck and inclue a 2013 team option. It's basically an evaluation technique. This way, no lame duck coach and the team can then cut their losses. And if he doesn't like the team only option, you fire him. (Note: I still think he's gone, just throwing that out there). Morris will last at least three more games as there is no one to fill his spot. I honestly think they should strip the defensive coordinator slot from him now and give it to a position coach. Use it as an audition for next year's DC.
Dominik is here for at least 2 more years, even though he has a 3 year deal. They won't let him go and obviously believe he has the ability to perform. The talent isn't 4-12 level, but it also isn't 13-3 level either. The Glazers are willing to give him a bit more time, at least, that's my take.
Gruden's $4-5MM comes off the books at the end of the year, freeing up that money to be used towards a new head coach and defensive coach. RookTakesYou article nicely sums up the available options, I'd suggest you check it out. At the end of the day, I wouldn't be surprised to see a big name defensive coach come onboard. We have a history of it and the offense is in need of refinement, not overhaul, while the defense has to be gutted.
The next few weeks will be difficult to watch and be more about evaluation and speculation than anything else. It's hard to believe it's come to this.