The Buccaneers are back to being a laughing stock. We have all witnessed a team that many believed to be talented lose to a backup, to a backup's backup, and to an Atlanta team in a game that we would all rather forget. Things can still change. This season can turn around. However, in that place called reality, we are probably ending up at somewhere around five wins. Things must be done to secure the future of this team.
First and foremost, Gerald McCoy has to be resigned immediately at whatever number he asks. I would advise the Bucs to do this much sooner than later. Best case scenario, Gerald comes back from injury and finishes the season strong with ten sacks. The Bucs rebound along with him and win close to eight games. He asks for a pretty penny and the Bucs pay it. Worst case scenario, Gerald comes back from injury and slouches with the rest of the team. He isn't being put in good situations and the humiliation of the Bucs continues. The season ends and Bucs enter contract negotiations. The incentive for McCoy to stay in Tampa starts to diminish. To keep an unhappy McCoy here, we might end up having to pay him even more than a happy McCoy would sign to stay.
In the worst case scenario, he just leaves. We would all like to believe the face of the franchise and all around leader would never do this, but think about it. He is one of the two best 3-technique defensive tackles in the league on a team that hasn't made the playoffs in a rather long time and doesn't show much promise of heading there soon. He is in the prime of his career and could go to almost any team of his choosing. With the salary cap rising, pretty much every team in the league could find a way to fit his salary.Even 3-4 teams looking to make a Superbowl run could use his talents with how little base defense is being played today.
Don't think for a second that he is required to stay. What reason have we given him to? The Bucs need to save themselves the possible embarrassment and sign him right now. We all saw how the defense looked without him verse Atlanta. Now imagine the next ten years without him. Sign him.
Second, Lovie and Licht need to do some real self-reflecting on the actual talent on this roster. More specifically, the defense needs major re-evaluating. The Cover 2 was supposed to be making its comeback in Tampa and we had the talent to run it--or so we thought. We are quickly finding out in these early games that our pass defense royally sucks. It's painful to break down the tape of these games and watch the defense get mercifully picked apart by backups.
I am starting to question the philosophy of these coaches. Are they adapting their scheme to their players or are they adapting their players to their scheme? There is a huge difference here. One way results in putting each of their players in the right position to succeed and the other results in bashing your head against a wall until new talent arrives.
Through the season, the defense will get better. Players will get more comfortable with the coverages and they will learn to make some adaptations. But where will that get us? Are we going to go from the 32nd ranked pass defense to the 25th? The answer to our problems sadly can't be time. So we need three new defensive linemen, a new linebacker, and a corner? Best case scenario you draft and sign that talent over two years and none of it busts.
However, now you are looking at Mark Barron's contract ending and the huge question mark he is. Dashon Goldson's contract will be in its final years when he has no dead money. The likelihood of him being kept around for that price tag is low. So now we also need one or two new safeties to go with this other new talent to make this scheme work. This is a vicious cycle that doesn't end. Well, it doesn't end before a coach gets fired.
The point being is that the coaches really need to realize the team they thought they had might not exist. Forcing a square peg into a round hole benefits no one. Maybe this team is best suited to play a ton of cover 4. Screw the cover 2 and your past. Have faith in the coaches you are and not the scheme that you came from. Adapt to the talent and trust that you truly are great coaches. I don't think I can sit through a whole season of "we're getting there" or that "we are a few pieces away." This is the pieces you have and make it work.
Note: I am not saying a Cover 2 based defense can't work. I just don't believe we have the pieces to make it work.
Third, the Bucs need a quarterback. We all knew McCown was just a short term stop-gap, but not many of us foresaw the turd he was going to lay on the field to start his career as a Buc. A weird series of events happened to him that I believe outlines his struggles. First, he started throwing really "bad decision" picks. These are the types of interceptions that don't have to do with mechanics or reads, but picks that are just flat out bad ideas. Josh came out of game one saying how he's trying to do too much and he needs to settle down.Come game two, he does the same thing over again.
Now there are some funky things going on inside of his head. He's thinking "don't throw a pick, don't throw a pick, don't throw a pick..." and then he throws a pick. Its the same thing that some people think happens to Romo in big games. He has this aura about him that he's going to throw that game-ending pick and that gets engraved in his head. A quarterback gets so scared of making the mistake that he ends up making it anyway.
Come game three against Atlanta, I saw a quarterback scared to make throws. There was extreme hesitation, pump fakes (not the good kind), and what I believe to be mental breakdowns. McCown lost one of the most important things as a quarterback: his confidence. He is so scared of making another bad decision that he doesn't feel comfortable making decisions at all. While he isn't in full meltdown mode, it is very difficult for a quarterback to rebound once he has lost the ability to get out of his own head. Mark Sanchez literally ran himself into the ground this way after a promising start to his NFL career.
These things sometimes happen to players and it usually takes a change in scenery or a change in coaching to really get them to "refresh" their minds and egos. For McCown, he isn't going to get that change of scenery in Tampa- especially if he goes immediately back to starting against Pittsburgh. Some injury time off might allow him to do some mental cleansing, but then what's the point if we already know he's not the future? The McCown experiment failed and its time to move on.
Just bringing up Mike Glennon's name sparks some nerves between fans around Bucs Nation. The whole back and forth about whether Glennon is an NFL quarterback has gone on long enough for us to fill something very large with dead horses. Instead, I am going to take a different route. One basic strategy in game theory is to start at the desired solution and work backwards. When you work all the way back to your current starting point, you know what moves you need to make in what order to achieve the goal.
Converting that strategy to the Bucs, the goal is to win the Superbowl. If you work backwards and think about what kind of offense, defense, and coaching we need to get there- does it include Glennon at quarterback? Personally, I answer that with a big no. I believe the rest of this season is his final chance to prove me, and probably the coaching staff, wrong.
What if the Bucs get a top five pick in the draft? We have the opportunity to take a highly touted quarterback that is worthy of our top five pick. You are the GM, do you take the quarterback or do you take another piece and move forward with Glennon? I can run a million scenarios in my head where we don't take a quarterback and we teeter-totter on this thin line of being average.
However, I can also run just as many where we get a top five quarterback and are still average. The difference? We are actually making real attempts at finding a quarterback. We get to play six games per season against Brees, Ryan, and Newton. Why can't we be the ones to march out a quality quarterback?
I feel the organization and fans are holding onto the one shining moment in the Bucs history- the Lombardi Trophy we once won. We won it with one of the best defenses the NFL has ever seen. There is this expectation that if we are ever to get back that it is going to be with a defense, but why? I could rant for ages about why holding onto this notion is only going to hurt the team, but I digress. We should all move on and understand the team of ten years ago is not the team of today, and the team of the future can be whatever the hell we want it to be.
In summary, can we please take a shot at a star quarterback. Since their inception, the Bucs have fielded the worst groups of quarterbacks in the NFL and it is depressing. You can't hit what you don't shoot.
Finally, can we please move on from Vincent Jackson. Leading up to the draft, I couldn't stand the idea of drafting Mike Evans. When my friends of other teams asked me about possibly drafting Evans, I wrote it off for a very specific reason: you don't load up on all of the same damn type of receiver. In a simple world, teams are built to have one possession receiver who is a great route runner, one deep threat receiver that can stretch a defense, and a slot receiver that is shifty as hell.
The Bucs currently have two very large receivers of the exact same mold who fit the exact same role. Honestly, I don't even know what their roles are anymore. We don't throw the ball more than 10 yards to call them deep threats and we don't run good enough routes for them to get a lot of catches. This doesn't even scratch how miserable our slot receiving options are.
Only one team really pulls off something close to our combination and that's the Bears. However, you are now talking about two killer pro-bowl/all-pro receivers. Even then, their combination works much like what I outlined before. Jeffery can stretch the hell out of a defense while Marshall can turn a five yard crossing route into twenty in the blink of an eye. The point is, the Bucs need to get more diversity in their receiving corps. They just drafted Evans so he is not going anywhere. Jackson has some dead money going into next season, but if I was the front office I would take a good look at possibly trading or replacing him with a receiver that can actually pair with Evans properly. I believe the offense will continue to struggle in the passing game until this changes.
In one big conclusion, this team is now in an awkward state of disarray. We were in "win now" mode, but we suddenly look like one of the worst teams in the NFL. Are we rebuilding? Are we just waiting for things to click? There is talent on this team, but there are also a few big issues that need to be addressed. However, by the end of the season none of this could matter. Glennon could come out and throw 4000 yards to the two receivers I just slammed while the defense plays the best cover two we have ever seen.... or we could just win three games.