Head Coach Lovie Smith said it best. It's a broken record at 1-8, they're making the same mistakes they made to get to this spot and none of it has gotten any better. That's really the disheartening thing, isn't it?
The Bucs continue to beat themselves against bad opponents, losing games they could win.
Well, let's see if we learned anything from this latest edition of suck.
1. First, let's address the tears of a McCown. Yes, he cried.
VIDEO: #Bucs' McCown cried after the game. He tries to explain his emotions here. https://t.co/V2getoXms2— Andrew Astleford (@aastleford) November 9, 2014
Do I think it's a bad thing? No. He cares a lot, apparently. I understand it, too. He's 35 years old and got a rare opportuniy at living his dream of being a starting QB in the NFL. Lovie put his trust and his career in Josh's hands and he's delivered an 0-4 record and a bevy of turnovers.
Up to the last two series of the game, I thought McCown actually played pretty well. His offense around him imploded with stupid penalties, terrible protection (I'm looking at you O'Neil Cousins and Kevin Pamphile) and little to no support from the running game. 27 of 43, 62% comp. pct, 301 yds and 2 touchdowns is a pretty decent day at QB.
Oh but those two fourth quarter interceptions. They hurt. Badly. Makes me want to cry just thinking about it. I know how you feel, Josh.
2. I'm sure you're like me, trying to understand how we got to this place. 1-8, I couldn't fanthom a Lovie Smith coached team falling this far. Raheem and Schiano? Sure. Both were in over their heads. But a Lovie team? The worst any Lovie coached team has ever been after nine games is 4-5. Heck, that would have the Bucs in first place in the NFC South.
This level of ineptitude is new to Lovie. He's never seen it before, even in his first year. I will say this, the team hasn't checked out yet. They're still fighting and scratching for that second win. For me, that says something.
But back to the point - how did we get here? I think its our fault. Yes, the fans and media. Let's roll back the clock to 2008. The season just ended. Jon Gruden had the Bucs at 9-3 before Monte Kiffin gutted the defense by announcing he was leaving for the University of Tennessee to coach with his son, Lane. Four straight losses later, Tampa Bay finished the season at 9-7. The fans, spoiled with a Super Bowl title and multiple playoff appearances were livid. They wanted Gruden's head on a platter. All Gruden wanted was a commitment from the Glazers that they would be more active in Free Agency.
But the boys had just made a big purchase - Manchester United and the Glazerbucks that had flowed so freely in the past was about to be tighter than ever. Build through the draft they told him. Gruden wanted another veteran journeyman to replace Jeff Garcia. The Glazers told him to draft them a franchise QB. Gruden was furious, then he was fired and Raheem Morris, who was tabbed to be the next defensive coordinator of the Bucs was suddenly elevated to Head Coach. A shock not only to him but the entire football world. The Glazers hoped they found the next Mike Tomlin.
Bruce Allen was always Gruden's guy, so he had to go too. The Glazers looked in house again, Mark Dominik had been with the Bucs for as long as they could remember. He was a Buccaneer Man. A Rich Mckay type.
Their directive, get rid of Gruden's geezers, clean up the cap and rebuild this team through the draft. Don't worry, they said, we know there will be a couple lean years. Get us our Franchise QB to sell the fans.
The team was gutted of its veterans, including Hall of Famer Derrick Brooks and the Bucs would draft Josh Freeman in the first round. Dominik gave the press the company line, "We build through the draft, we don't believe in free agency."
Morris went 3-13 his first year, 10-6 the next (missing the playoffs by a tie-breaker to the eventual Super Bowl Champion Green Bay Packers) and started the 2011 season at 4-2. The "Youngry" Bucs were back on the rise and the Glazer boys were smiling.
On their way to London, something drasticly changed. We don't know what happened on that trip, there are rumors of wild parties, confrontations between players and coaches and drug use. Whatever it was, they returned a different team. After losing in London, the Bucs would not win another game the rest of the season, including ugly blow out losses the likes the "new Bucs" fanbase had never seen.
Again, fans called for a head...the players had quit on Morris it was said. He allowed them too much leeway. He must go. And away he went.
The Glazers, who never spent a dime on free agency while Morris was head coach, knew it was time. First, they needed to get the Bucs' party house in order and looked for two things, an offensive mind and disciplinarian. They found him in Chip Kelly, who they believe agreed to the job.
But something gave Kelly cold feet. Was it Freeman? Was it Oregon willing to outspend the Glazers? Was it working with Dominik or seeing that roster? Kelly shocked the boys by pulling out before signing the contract. Panic ensued. He was the guy. Then Bill Belicheck called to recommend another college coach, Greg Schiano. Saved by the hoodie!
He wasn't the offensive guy they were looking for but shoot, he definitely was a disciplinarian and he raised Rutgers from the depths of irrelevancy to bowl games and success they had never seen at that program.
They hired him and allowed Dominik for the first time to go free agency shopping. Schiano was a tyrant, treating the players like five year olds, making them attack the victory formation and keep the temperature at meetings at a cool 68 degrees. But it seemed to be working, Tampa Bay started out 6-4 before finishing the season 7-9. Freeman had one of his best seasons and it looked like the Bucs were about to make the rise.
Rumors of Freeman's drug use were rampant, but he had never failed a drug test for cocaine or marijuana or meth. It worried Schiano though and he decided to get an insurance policy. He drafted Mike Glennon and then proceeded to play this weird mind game with his starting QB. Freeman's fragile psyche couldn't take it and he broke, playing without emotion and downright horrible.
He was benched for the rookie Glennon and we all know what happened there. Meanwhile, Carl Nicks was lost with MRSA, the team started 0-8 and the calls for Schiano's head were heated and vigorous.
Free agency had failed the Bucs as well. Dashon Goldson was a clone of Mark Barron and didn't fit the defense or the new kinder, gentler NFL. Carl Nicks was never healthy. Other free agents were just guys and not real contributors (with the exception of Vincent Jackson).
The draft was worse. After an amazing rookie season, Doug Martin was a shell of his former self and got injured early. He's never been the same. Barron was not the safety the Bucs were hoping for (and passed Luke Kuechly for). In fact, in the Dominik era, the only Pro Bowl caliber players he drafted were Gerald McCoy and Lavonte David. Few players remained from Dominik's initial drafts that he was using to "build the Bucs".
Both Dominik and Schiano were fired and the Glazer boys were determined to make it right. They went back to NFL coaching veteran, someone connected to the team's glory years. Someone the fanbase could believe in again. Lovie Smith. Smith helped choose Jason Licht as the GM. The duo churned over 50% of Schiano's roster, getting rid of most of the offensive line including former Pro Bowlers Donald Penn and Davin Joseph. They released Darrelle Revis. They made big splash siginings with Alterraun Verner, Michael Johnson and Anthony Collins, saying this is what we gave up Revis for. Oops.
So fans are already calling for Lovie's head after this horrible start. Have we really learned nothing? This is a transitional season. One that similar to Morris' first year, will take some time to wade through. As I started this point, this is uncharted territory for Lovie. It's tough because he's paying for the last two failed regimes. The fans' frustration is at a boiling point and every decision he's made thus far has been wrong.
This is where we are. Where do we go from here, who knows? I still believe in Lovie Smith. I believe he will turn this franchise around if we give him the time. I, like many, thought it would be plug and play. The Bucs have a real coach after the past two clowns to coach the talented (just under coached) Bucs and boom - playoff team. Now we know, the Bucs were really every bit of that 4-12 team, just as they are every bit of the 1-8 team they are right now.
Derrick Brooks tells the story of Tony Dungy's first season where he told the players, "Most of you in this room won't be here when we start winning. I'd get rid of you now but due to contractual obligations and cap reasons I can't."
Do you have a feeling that maybe this is where we are with the Bucs right now? Lovie has churned over 50% of the roster. There's still 50% left to go.
3. Why are the Bucs struggling to fill the stands at Raymond James Stadium? It's because they are downright pitiful there. There was a time, friends, when Raymond James was a feared place to go to if you were an opposing team. In the stadium's first five years of life, the Bucs amassed a 30-10 record, a 75% winning percentage. After slipping in 2003 to a 3-5 record, the Bucs would put 6-2 records at home three of the next four seasons. At the end of the 2008 season, the Bucs home record was 58-30 at Raymond James, still a respectable 66%.
Since then, the Bucs have not posted a winning record at Ray Jay. Indeed, since Gruden's departure, Tampa Bay is an abysmal 11-26 (29% winning percentage) at home. With 0-5 assuring their fourth home losing season in the last five years, Tampa Bay has now lost 10 of their last 13 home games.
Until the Bucs can restore Raymond James as a house of horrors for opposing teams, the Bucs will not be revelant.
4. Statistically, the Bucs defense for the third straight week put in a decent effort. They held the Falcons to just 322 yards and one of the deadliest passing attacks in the league to just 212 yards. But when it counted on third down, they couldn't get the job done. Atlanta converted 6 of 12 on third down (in the first half it was even worse as they were 4 of 6). Of course, they also surrendered 27 points which is way too many.
The defense also didn't take advantage of an Atlanta offensive line that has five players on IR managing just one sack, 3 QB hits and 5 tackles for loss. They allowed Atlanta to control the line of scrimmage and churn up 110 yards rushing.
Offensively, the Bucs generated 373 yards of offense but turned the ball over three times and only scored 17 points.
5. Charles Sims, I saw some of the things that made the Bucs excited about him. Great vision, superb hands and a bit of wiggle. The fumble tarnished a nice debut. No, he didn't explode for 200 yards rushing or receiving but you saw a bit of what has the coaching staff in a tizzy.
I look forward to seeing him incorporated into the game plan more and more.
6. I'm afraid I didn't see what has the coaches so excited about rookie Kevin Pamphile. The rookie looked overmatched and lost against a very pedestrian Atlanta pass rush. Oh and O'Neil Cousins demonstrated he is what we thought he was and that last week was a surprising fluke.
7. I gave interim head coach Marcus Arroyo kudos for a great call on the ASJ touchdown but I thought the rest of the game plan was a bit suspect. 47 of the Bucs' 70 plays on offese were passing plays. Only 23 running plays, only 18 of those by actual running backs is way too few to establish a running game.
Yes the Bucs had a decided advantage throwing the football but McCown was playing for the first time in six weeks and it's not like the Bucs have the best o-line in the league. McCown took a beating and barely survived the game. Again against a defense not known for their pass rush, McCown was sacked four times and hit 11 more times.
8. We've seen the arrival of the DUNKANEERS! Vincent Jackson, Mike Evans and Austin Sefarian-Jenkins combined for 20 receptions, 230 yds and 2 touchdowns on Sunday. Jackson, who we know loves the military, was a man possessed, perhaps having his best day in honor of Veteran's day. ASJ had one of his better games as a pro (although he did drop a pass and get an unneeded celebration penalty). Mike Evans is really emerging as an top notch receiver in the league.
9. I will say this until I'm blue in the face. Michael Koenen is not being coached to suck this badly. I don't care if they tell him to angle it high to help with the coverage team to get down the field, no one is asking him to punt it 31 yds. The guy is the worst punter in the league making one of the highest salaries in the league for his position. Cut him. Cut him today, sign a rookie and be done with it. It can't possibly be any worse than what we're seeing out there week in and week out..
10. I'm not a penalty whiner at all. I don't believe Refs are out to get the Bucs or favor one team over another. I do believe there is ineptitude among official teams and it was on full display on Sunday. Clete Blakeman may be one of the worst refs in the NFL. His crew definitely is. The Bucs had to burn two challenges in the second half on the most egregious of errors. The Falcons drew the Bucs offsides three times on their opening drive by false snapping, then you had the defensive holding calls. One on Johnthan Banks, completely away from the play gives the Falcons a drive sustaining first down. The other on Atlanta, which would have given the Bucs a first down, picked up because, "The pass was not sent in that direction." WHAT?
There was the illegal hands to the face call on Banks, even though his hands got no higher than the receiver's chest. Pass interference in the end zone on Leonard Johnson who got there just a split second early but no call on Falcons DB Desmond Trufant as he brutalized Vincent Jackson on a 3rd down pass? I think there was a missed fumble call on one of Atlanta's final two scoring drives as well (unfortunately I can't remember the situation or the ball carrier but I remember seeing the replay with the Atlanta player stopped, stripped and a clear recovery by the Bucs but no fumble was ruled. (Update: Sander reviewed the game feed, it was Julio Jones during their touchdown drive).
Even on the interception by Lowery that essentially salted away the game for Atlanta had an element of question to it. Former head of officials Mike Pereira working for Fox during the broadcast brought up that if Vincent Jackson had stepped out bounds (as it appeared he did) and was the first to touch the football (as it appears he was - UPDATE: After reviewing the game feed, Sander said Jackson didn't touch the ball first), the ball is essentially an incomplete dead ball right there and what happens after doesn't matter. But that's not what Blakeman reviewed. He reviewed whether Lowery had the catch and made no determination on Jackson's eligibility as a receiver.
Again, I don't think it was an unfair advantage in favor of Atlanta, I just think there was absolutely no consistency in the calls.
But hey, it is what it is. If it comes down to officials calls, you're not doing your job as a team. I'm sure there were plenty of gripes the Atlanta folks had as well. Officials suck for everyone.
On the bright side, the Bucs are one step closer to Mariotta.