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Why have the Tampa Bay Buccaneers been bad at tackling for years?

Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Missing tackles has been a bit of a pastime for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers ever since Monte Kiffin was fired. That's despite three different defensive-minded head coaches, each with his own defensive coordinator. We got to talk to Football Outsiders about their observations in their 2016 Almanac (buy it here!), and they ehm...yeah, they confirmed exactly what we knew already.

The Bucs had the fifth-most broken tackles on defense in 2010. Since then they have ranked first, 21st, 13th, 26th, and then first again last year. So, really, just one of the last six seasons have they been better than average at making tackles. This plays into their organizational philosophy a bit. Lavonte David is a great player, but he's small enough that his speed comes with a missed tackle trade-off. This team also just doesn't prioritize tackling enough in the secondary. Sean Jones. Tanard Jackson. Ronde Barber, another great player who couldn't tackle when he got older. Hell, Chris Conte is still on the roster. You know a team doesn't prioritize tackling when they talk up Chris Conte.

Whelp. Thanks, Rivers McCown.

It's true, though, and we talked about this before. For all Kwon Alexander's outstanding rookie plays, he also missed a whole lot of tackles. That's part of being a speedy, undersized linebacker -- but it's not exactly ideal. The weird thing is that it's been such a consistent issue throughout the Bucs' post-Kiffin history, even though the team has repeatedly changed philosophy -- from the big guys in year one of Raheem Morris' tenure, back to speedy guys, back to big guys under Schiano (plus Lavonte David), back to the Tampa 2 the past two years.

Now the team is pivoting again, to a Mike Smith defense. He generally prefers slightly bigger linebackers and defensive linemen, and we may see a slow move towards defenders like that over the next few years. But for now, he still has a bunch of players who, well, miss a few more tackles than a lot of other players. They'll just have to make up for it with some splash plays.