The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have failed to do much with their special teams for years on end. It's odd, really. It's not exactly one third of the game, but it's certainly important, and Mark Dominik treated it as a core part of the game. That's why he paid Connor Barth and Michael Koenen ungodly amounts of money. With little result. With Jason Licht coming in two years ago, the Bucs mostly cut out the ungodly amounts of money thing, but the results have remained mediocre.
In his annual special teams rankings, Rick Gosselin of the Dallas Morning News ranks the Bucs' special teams 26th in the NFL. These aren't just any rankings: Gosselin is widely respected both among journalists, and among NFL employees. And those rankings roughly conform with what we've seen elsewhere, including in Football Outsiders' rankings where the Bucs rank 30th.
That's no surprise. Connor Barth had an NFL-average season, hitting 82% of his kicks and producing touchbacks on 50% of his kickoffs. But most everyone else was below-average. Bobby Rainey had a few decent returns, but had far too many problems holding on to punts. Jake Schum was more valuable than Michael Koenen only by virtue of his vastly lower salary. At least the Bucs were decent at limiting big returns.
Incredibly, the Bucs haven't had a decent kick or punt returner since Clifton Smith in 2008. The last Buc to return a kickoff for a touchdown was Sammie Stroughter in 2009, and the last punt returned for a touchdown came courtesy of Micheal Spurlock in that same year. Since then, the Bucs have conceded more touchdowns on muffed punts and fumbled kickoffs (two) than they've scored on punt or kick returns.
Not that the Bucs haven't tried to change that. Every offseason we seem to get a five-man competition for both returner jobs, and then you're likely to see some in-season changes as well. All to little effect.
Yet another thing the Bucs will have to address this offseason. They've replaced their special teams coach by hiring veteran coach Nick Kaczor, who ran the Titans special teams this past year. Here's the bad news: Gosselin has Tennessee ranked 28th.