The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have arguably the worst defense in the NFL right now, a shocking development for an experienced defensive coach like Lovie Smith. And of course, this has led to some chanting that the Tampa 2 scheme is now outdated. That the Bucs can never again have a good defense under this scheme.
Bullocks. The Bucs defense sucks, welcome to everything since week 13, 2008.
The problem isn't the scheme. The Carolina Panthers have run the same scheme throughout Ron Rivera's tenure, while the Dallas Cowboys play the Tampa 2 philosophy about as straight as any team. The Panthers had the second-best defense in the NFL last year, while the Cowboys have one of the best this season. Even the vaunted Seattle Seahawks defense is based on those same principles.
That's because the Tampa 2 is a coverage, but it's also a philosophy. The Bucs run many, many different coverages in a game. Variants on Cover 2 are an important part of what they do, but so is Cover 3, as is man-free, as is quarters, as are a variety of blitzes. The Bucs have the same range of defensive play calls as basically every other NFL team.
The important thing isn't which specific coverage is called on every play, but the overall philosophy: eliminating the big play, forcing opposing quarterbacks to be perfect and patient, and capitalizing on the inevitable mistakes they make. It's a philosophy that works, but also one that relies not just on the offense's mistakes, but on the defense's ability to play disciplined, mistake-free football.
That's something the Bucs haven't been able to do this year. Linebackers don't get enough depth in coverage. Every level of the defense has made simple gap mistakes in run defense. Cornerbacks drop to the wrong spot, and safeties are late because attempts to disguise the actual coverage slow them down too much. It's a mess of an undisciplined group that doesn't trust the scheme.
It's the same thing we saw in Dallas last year -- and they solved it this season. It's the same thing we saw at the start of Tony Dungy's tenure, and it took them most of the 1996 season to fix those issues. And now we're seeing it in Tampa, again. Hopefully this time it won't take a full season to fix these issues.