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10 Things We Think We Learned - Bucs vs. Lions 2014

Another week, another loss.

Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

As the embers glow brightly on yet another dumpster fire of a game, we are left to sift through the ashes. Did we learn anything new from this game?

A few things...and they're not good.

1. Whomever decided it was a good idea to send out Gerald McCoy onto the football field with a dislocated kneecap should be fired. Immediately. Do not pass go, don't collect $200. Get the heck out - now. Its frightening to think what could have happened. McCoy could have gotten seriously injured with the stability of his knee compromised and for what? Win number three in a lost season?

McCoy wants to win badly. He wants to get to that double digit sack mark, too - something he's never achieved in his NFL career. Its the responsibility of the Bucs' doctors, trainers and coaches to make the right call here. Perhaps there is a fear of a one-and-done scenario. Perhaps there's desperation for victory. We all know the Bucs have no chance at being competitive if the defense cannot keep them in games. With McCoy out, the Bucs defense would be no match for Detroit.

McCoy was a shell of himself the rest of the ballgame, trying to gut it out. Admirable but incredibly stupid. If McCoy sustained ligament damage to that knee, he could be lost for twelve months, torpedoing another Bucs season.

The Bucs should do what's best for the franchise going forward and put Gerald McCoy in street clothes for the rest of the season.

UPDATE: The Bucs officially state that the injury to McCoy was just a bruise, not a knee dislocation as was previously reported. Obviously a bruise vs. a knee dislocation changes things quite a bit.

2. Same with Lavonte David, who left the game with concussion like symptoms. David has had a very rough year with injuries, something he's not had to deal with in his short NFL career. Danny Lansanah has shown to be capable of holding down the will linebacker spot, so shut down David until he's 100% ready to play football. There's absolutely no need to risk him.

3. Poor Josh McCown was fed to the Lions. What a beating Josh took on Sunday. It effected him, obviously. He was jittery, became afraid of shadows and simply didn't play with any kind of confidence. Of course, its hard to play with confidence when your offensive line caves in on you. Perhaps they do feel Glennon is the future and don't want to risk him behind this piece of excrement line. Of course, McCown shoulders some of the blame, holding the ball too long and being indecisive. His interceptions were again horrible decisions and he continuously ignored wide open check downs in favor of throwing up jump balls for Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson in double and triple coverage.

Any sustained offensive drive was at risk of being "McCowned". That's not a good thing.

4. I hope Michael Johnson is hurt. Otherwise, he is the 2014 version of Albert Haynesworth. It became crystal clear when Jacquies Smith ran from one side of the field to the other to sack Matthew Stafford while Michael Johnson flopped around on the turf and didn't even try to pursue the scrambling Lions QB. Another instance, Johnson didn't run after a ball carrier who somehow darted back his way. Did Johnson restart his motor to try to make a tackle? Of course not, that might require effort. He tried to clothesline the guy, who walked through his feeble attempt at an arm tackle for another 5 or 6 yds. But the coup de grace? Getting blocked a yard downfield by Matthew Stafford on a reverse. Yes, our multi-million dollar edge rusher got set on skates by a quarterback.

You're either a guy who loves football or a guy who loves being a football player. The former eats, lives and breathes football. Gets in the film room, studies his opponents and gives it every single thing he has on Sunday to win. The other guy loves the money, the lifestyle and the prestige that the football life brings. But he doesn't want to work, he doesn't care about getting ready for his opponent and on Sunday, he'll try to do enough to keep that contract and get to the next one.

Johnson is the epitome of that second guy, only he's even worse because he now that he's got those guaranteed benjamins, he doesn't care anymore.  How this guy can go into the defensive meetings and look his teammates in the face is beyond me.

His performance and effort is disgraceful and he was rightfully benched in the second half. Frankly, if I was Lovie, this dude wouldn't see the football field again for me.

Per, Johnson has $7,000,000 guaranteed next season. Releasing him before June 1st would incur dead money of that amount but free up another $2 million in salary cap space.

Bucs GM Jason Licht has said he has no problems moving on from his mistakes. Johnson should be on borrowed time and not allowed to waste any more of the Glazers' money than required.

5. As Sander mentioned in his snap count article, the Bucs from the same formation on offense for 90% of the ball game, 3 WR, 1 TE and 1 RB. You might get away with this type of nonsense at Southern Mississippi, but in the NFL, if you run the same formation for pretty much the entire ballgame you make it easy on the opposing defense. Just easy.

Then you have the imbalance in play calling. Only 10 rushing attempts by running backs. You read that correctly - 10. Doug Martin was actually running the ball fairly well, but only had five opportunities to do it.

People wearing tin foil hats say Lovie drove off Jeff Tedford because he wanted to meddle with the offense. Today's gameplan proves the fallacy of that conspiracy theory. No Lovie Smith influenced offense would ever attempt to run the ball just ten times. Nope, this is Arroyo's pile of chicken dung.

There is absolutely no possible justification for Lovie to keep Marcus Arroyo calling plays next year. There is no offense to learn here. There is no offensive plan - period.

6. Next off season, I want the Bucs to stay out of the big name free agency race. I don't want them to make any moves until the dust settles and those high priced free agents have moved on. Why? Because the fans were wrong (not surprisingly). For years the Glazers told us that free agency was the wrong way to build a football team but fans called them cheap and accused them of funneling money to Man U.  Quality coaches refused to come here because they thought the Bucs wouldn't spend on high priced free agents.

Look, I don't know if the Glazers were truly being cheapskates in those lean Raheem years but I do know that winning in March has hurt the Bucs badly during the football season. Thankfully Tampa Bay has structured their contracts to where they can get out of them with minimal damage to the cap.

That's not to say free agency can't be useful. This team is desperate for depth. I say focus on second and third stringers rather than ones. Let the draft bring you your new starters, build your depth from man 53 on up. And who knows? Maybe one of those guys can be a Jacquies Smith. We need more Smiths and less Michael Johnsons.

And for the love of the football gods, stay away from Cincinnati Bengals and New England Patriots castoffs.

7. I am still a fan of the spread offense. I  believe up tempo, fast paced put pressure on your opponent offense is the way to go. I was excited when it was said this was the type of offense we'd see with Jeff Tedford. Unfortunately, Tedford had his heart condition and we all know what happened from there.

Let me just say this about Tedford. I think its terrible that now that he's healthy he doesn't want to fulfill his obligation to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. And for the cynics who say he saw what the Bucs had on offense and decided not to come back - I call B.S. on that. What the Bucs have on offense is a direct result of his absence, leaving the team to scramble and elevate a guy clearly over his head. The Bucs hoped he'd make it back after a few weeks, only to see him take an extended leave. Presumably about 10 or 11 weeks into the season, he was healthy enough to return but decided he didn't want to.

Rather than coming in on a white horse and bringing his vision of the offense back into the fold, allowing Arroyo to return to coaching the QBs, he pretty much gave the middle finger to Lovie and company.

Its said he wants to return to college, possibly taking over at Oregon State. I hope he gets the gig and they get their clocks cleaned by Oregon every year he is there.

Tedford destroyed this season for Lovie and if Lovie is indeed one-and-done, maybe his coaching career.

Going forward, I think Lovie needs to find an experienced playcaller. We know there could be some firings going down. Atlanta's Mike Smith is in trouble, meaning their offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter could come available. Chud's of course still out there. If Jim Harbaugh is out in San Francisco, so may be Greg Roman, the offensive coordinator who was praised when Colin Kaepernick burst onto the scene but has since seen his start fall from head coaching candidate to potentially fired coordinator for the young QB's digression. It looks like Marc Trestman may survive this disastrous season, but if he comes available, the QB Whisperer should definitely be a target.

8. That's of course assuming Lovie survives this season. With the Bucs hurdling toward 2-14 and 0-8 at home, this isn't the relevancy the Glazers were hoping for when they fired Greg Schiano. If Lovie refuses to invest in a franchise QB or bring in a competent offensive coordinator - could he be in jeopardy? Common sense says no, that the Glazers want to give Lovie time to build this thing. No one could have foreseen 2-14, though. It was supposed to get better from Schiano, not worse. Schiano went 4-12 against one of the tougher schedules in the league last year. Its why Tampa Bay ended up with a lower pick with a record that typically gets you in the top 4.

Lovie's team is the worst in the worst division in football. It is the worst against the weakest of schedules. Tampa Bay has played 8 games against teams with losing records. They're 1-7 against them.

Add to that four other teams with new coaches -

  • Detroit (9-4)
  • Minnesota (6-7)
  • Cleveland (7-6)
  • Washington (3-10)

Have more wins this season. Only Tennessee has done as bad under their first year coach as Lovie has.

Raheem won more games his first season. Schiano won 7 games.

Lovie could conceivably get a pass due to the odd situation with Tedford but the decisions on Michael Johnson, Anthony Collins and the rest of the offensive line continue to baffle. The defense's slow turnaround hurt, especially with it talked about that the two cornerstones, McCoy and David, were already in place with Verner coming in to play the role of Ronde and Barron or Goldson the John Lynch. It didn't work at all for the first seven or so games. After the bye week, we saw steady improvement on the defensive side of the ball, that was until Sunday. With Mason Foster once again out, both Danny Lansanah and Dane Fletcher took turns at not getting proper depth on passing plays at the MLB position allowing the Bucs to be attacked down the middle by Detroit.

Injuries certainly took their toll, but that goes back to building team depth, which the Bucs had none of, despite a meatgrinder of roster changes on the back half of the roster.

2014 was an unquestioned failure on the field, off the field, in public relations. The Bucs are boring to watch, frustratingly inept in getting out of their own way and seemingly incapable of making the right play at the right time to win a ballgame.

But perhaps that's ultimately what saves Lovie this season. Despite the Tedford abandonment, the fiasco on offense, the injuries, the failed high priced free agents and the slow start to the defense, Tampa Bay held fourth quarter leads in 6 of their 11 losses this season. Win just half of those and you might be in first place in the inept NFC South.

They didn't and they're not. But Mike Evans' emergence shows they're not completely inept at evaluating talent.

Lovie will try to keep winning because let's face it, tomorrow isn't promised to anyone. Why should he lose for the next coach to draft Marcus Mariotta? He knows winning the last three games and finishing 5-11 looks a heck of a lot better than 2-14 for him. If winning is all that matters, the Glazers may face of tough choice. I believe Lovie is safe. Many of his assistants may be on borrowed time.

Lovie said it a lot in the off season, "We're a 4-12 football team." After one season of Lovieball, Tampa Bay must rally to get back to that level.

9. The Buccaneers now own the number one pick in the 2015 NFL draft. You guys know me, I'm momentum guy. I believe winning down the stretch is important. Not now. Not this year. Beating Carolina or upsetting Green Bay or New Orleans would serve no purpose other than to take the Bucs further away from their franchise quarterback.

Presumably without McCoy or David and facing a Panthers team on the road that believes it has a shot at the playoffs despite being terrible all season, the Bucs face long odds at beating Carolina. Then you might want to hide your children from the massacre that will occur at Lambeau South the next week.

Then there's New Orleans. One loss away from claiming the top pick in the draft and facing a helter skelter Saints team that should be better than they are. We expect the Bucs to lose this game...but who expected the Panthers, a team left for dead, to go into New Orleans and humiliate the Saints on their own turf? By then the Saints may not even care anymore. Hard to believe, this game could really be the threat to the Bucs securing the number one pick in the draft. In fact, if the Saints are out of it and smart, they do everything they can to give the Bucs a win just to prevent them from getting their QB.

I'll never root for the Bucs to lose - ever. I want them to win every game they play. But as the losses mount, they hurt just a little less. I want to see the Bucs play hard and compete every week. I don't want to see blowouts like Sunday. Those bother me. But if they fight and in the end they're just not talented enough or too stupid to get out of their own way and win, I'm okay with it...for this year.

If the Bucs win Sunday or any of the following Sundays left in 2014 I'll be happy for a few hours, then accept that having that franchise guy just wasn't meant to be in this Bucs' life. Maybe I'll get a little disappointed at that...or start rooting for the Jets, Titans, Jags and Raiders to bail us out again.

10. And if the Bucs stay the course and fall to 2-14, who do they take at number one overall? Some say offensive linemen. Certainly, the bust factor is lessened with a quality offensive lineman in the fold. Yet ask the Dolphins fans if they'd rather have Jake Long or Matt Ryan? Would the Vikings still prefer Matt Kalil over Ryan Tannehill or Russel Wilson? Would the Rams rather have Greg Robinson (who didn't start until the second half of this season and has struggled in pass pro) or Blake Bortles?

In my opinion, if you have a QB that may be a difference maker, you got to take that guy. You may not have an opportunity to do it again for quite some time (at least you hope that's the case).

Jake Long was solid in Miami but he's never played in a playoff game. So there you go, you got to take the franchise QB. If he fails, he fails. But you got to keep trying until you get one.

This year it appears there are two clear cut franchise level quarterbacks in Marcus Mariotta and Jameis Winston. If they come out (and indications seem to side that they will), either would excite and jumpstart a slumbering fanbase.

I had an opportunity to watch the entire games of both this past weekend and let me say, both are excellent football players. Winston I've seen more of because he's closer to home. I've seen the worst of Winston against Florida and the best which was Saturday night in the ACC Championship. Winston was outstanding with pin point accuracy and that Ben Rothlisberger elusiveness that makes you wonder how in the world he just pulled that off?

Winston plays in a more pro style offense with some spread elements. He's definitely not a system QB. He has an ability to quickly scan the field, look safeties off with his eyes and deliver strikes.

Mariotta has that something special that just makes you go wow. He reminds me of Kaepernick, but he's much more accurate, can read defenses and has an underrated pocket presence.

A bad game from Winston is 3 or 4 interceptions and having to rally his team at the end. A bad game for Mariotta is 5 touchdowns and some missed throws that he should have made.

Winston's penchant to turn the ball over and of course the off the field concerns have me leaning toward Mariotta. Some call him a system QB but Mariotta I think transcends the system. He would be a dual threat weapon for the Bucs that would make their offense something to be reckoned with. Team him with Mike Evans, V-Jax (if he returns), and Doug Martin or Charles Sims coming out of the backfield and Tampa Bay has the makings of a potent offense.

The Bucs and their fans will get to see Mariotta and Winston face off on New Years in the Rose Bowl, one of the National Championship semi-finals. It will be must see tv if the season continues to slide into the abyss.

Of course, the offensive line will need to be addressed. Good thing the Bucs have several more picks in the 2015 draft.