That’s all, folks! The 2018 season is officially over and it’s time to look forward to the off-season.
It’s time to talk coaching search, free agents, roster changes, and draft picks.
It’s time to build up off-season hopes and expectations while justifying sub-par play the year before.
The Buccaneers fell to the Falcons off the leg of Matt Bryant, 34-32 after Tampa Bay had squandered a 17-0 second quarter lead. The defense couldn’t maintain their high level of play and the Falcons crawled back in, eventually gaining an eleven point lead before allowing Jameis Winston to throw two touchdown passes in the fourth quarter to take a 32-31 lead.
For the last time following a game, let’s pick six.
Six Topics Suitable For Conversation
1.) So Long, Dirk. It’s not really a secret, but Dirk Koetter has coached his last game for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Jay Glazer said on the Fox pregame show that he head Koetter was out and that the Glazers would look to make a “splash hire” - even dropping the nugget that they had conversations with Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh last year before retaining Koetter. The speculation and rumor mill will be hot. Koetter just couldn’t seem to rekindle the success he had his rookie year when the Bucs rattled off five straight wins late in the season, finishing 9-7. Koetter will be hired somewhere as an offensive coordinator but he just couldn’t get things right with Jameis Winston. I guess it’s only fitting Mike Smith was fired after the first loss to the Falcons, followed by Koetter after the second loss to the Falcons.
UPDATE: Buccaneers made the firing official Sunday night
2.) Roster Changes, They Are A’Comin. DeSean Jackson has played his last game as a member of the Bucs, but what other changes are on their way? We could see Gerald McCoy, William Gholston, Brent Grimes, Demar Dotson, Donovan Smith, Jacquizz Rodgers, and more all be on the open market. The Bucs will have to clear up some cap space and depending on who the new head coach is, he may opt to rebuild the team to fit his vision, system, and what has worked for him previously. Wholesale changes are on the way, so just be prepared.
3.) Jameis Winston Is Staying - And He Should. Adam Schefter reported Sunday morning that the Bucs are sticking with Winston and his fifth year option. Winston, after coming back from his benching, was incredibly efficient and made very few mistakes. He finished with the highest completion percentage of his professional career and his chemistry with Mike Evans, Adam Humphries, and Chris Godwin can’t go unnoticed. Given that the draft class is also incredibly weak at the quarterback position, it’s a low risk move to give Winston one more season before he gets his extension. A change in coaching staff could also go a long way - just like what we saw with Matt Ryan after Dirk Koetter left Atlanta.
4.) Way To Go, Big Mike! Mike Evans continues to be one of the most under-the-radar receivers in the NFL if you can believe that. He’s rarely - if ever - mentioned among the league’s elite or placed in the top five. Still, he broke the Bucs’ franchise record for receiving yards in a season, had his fifth consecutive 1,000 yard seasons, became the youngest player in NFL history to reach 6,000 yards. Let him keep being overlooked. He’ll just keep dominating.
5.) Jason Licht Should Stay. Fans are often divided on this, but Jason Licht should get to stay for at least the final year of his contract, maybe longer. He was hired in by Lovie Smith and was basically forced to go out and get all of Lovie’s (useless) players. Then he conducted a “coaching search” that was decided before it began. He should get the chance to hire in a guy he knows he can work and succeed with. As for missed draft picks and free agents; it’s tough to put all the blame on Licht. We don’t know the working dynamic between Licht, Koetter, and the rest of the staff. Did he pick Vita Vea because Vea fit what Mike Smith wanted to do defensively? Did he draft Roberto Aguayo because Koetter was pounding the table for a kicker that can actually kick? Seems unlikely Licht would draft or sign players without the consultation or agreement of the staff that would be in charge of coaching - and trying to win - with these players. That doesn’t mean he’s absolved of all blame, but it certainly shouldn’t be placed squarely on him.
6.) Coaching Matters. That’s the bottom line. Coaching in the NFL can make or break a team. Anyone notice what the Colts are doing after ridding their franchise of the incompetence of Grigson and hiring a guy like Frank Reich? I mean, it’s essentially the same team and they are one of the hottest in all of football. On top of that, they have a ridiculous amount of cap space to improve. That’s what coaching does. That’s what getting the right people in your building does. The Glazer family doesn’t exactly have a great track record in terms of doing this. Raheem Morris, Greg Schiano, Lovie Smith, and Dirk Koetter. All those hires, fires, and short leashes have led to two winning seasons in nine seasons. Whoever the hire is, it has to be the right guy. Otherwise, we’re doing this all over again in 2022.
Six Numbers To Consider
25, 131: Mike Evans is the youngest player in NFL history to reach 6,000 yards at 25 years, 131 days.
1: Mike Evans’ rank in single season receiving yards in Buccaneers’ history
6: Times the Bucs put up 27+ points this season but still lost
5: Bucs’ draft position
2: Straight years finishing in the basement of the NFC South
1: Number of times in Bucs’ history they’ve had two receivers with 100+ yards and two touchdowns in the same game - Evans and Chris Godwin against the Falcons Sunday
Six Best Tweets (In No Particular Order)
Mike Evans just broke Mark Carrier’s franchise record for receiving yards in a single season @Bucs_Nation— Bailey Adams (@BaileyJAdams22) December 30, 2018
Gerald McCoy sure sounds like a guy that played his last game in Tampa. I asked him what it meant to wear this jersey: “Regardless of what people say, or whatever, I gave this organization everything I had, on the field and off the field. People don’t have the slightest idea.” pic.twitter.com/SYGzAoyhGs— Ryan Bass (@Ry_Bass) December 30, 2018
Koetter: “Bucs fans want to win....The the things #Bucs fans bitch about, I get it....Sometimes they think they want to win more than we do....Tampa is a sports town and when the Bucs get over that hump, Ray Jay will be rocking again.” #Buccaneers #nfl pic.twitter.com/kDiSijfh3T— Eduardo A. Encina (@EddieInTheYard) December 30, 2018
Winston rainbows that ball to Godwin for the TD. Bucs ⬆ 17! pic.twitter.com/Yh0Bx3F0v2— Tampa Bay Buccaneers (@Buccaneers) December 30, 2018
Bucs fall 34-32. Glazers on the phone with Dirk Koetter pic.twitter.com/YtbAwS7PIr— Bucs Nation (@Bucs_Nation) December 30, 2018
Six Things To Watch For Starting Today
1.) Coaching Search. Yes, this one is obvious, but it’s unquestionably at the top of the list. The right hire can catapult the team to postseason contention. The wrong one leads us right back to where we are now.
2.) Glazers Expanding Front Office? No concrete evidence of this one, but it seems that Koetter was another coaching failure picked by the Glazers, they may opt to bring in someone for that good ol’ President of Football Operations role. Some have been calling for it, others have declared it meaningless. At the end of the day, it may behoove the Glazer family to bring in someone with a strong football background to oversee the day to day operations. Someone that would be involved in personnel hires and hold Jason Licht accountable. I’m one that cringes at Bucs fans trying to rekindle the past (like those that think Warren Sapp should be defensive coordinator for God knows what reason other than he’s a franchise legend and recognizable name.) However, someone like Derrick Brooks may make sense here. Brooks already has the experience with the Tampa Bay Storm so he may be interested to translate that over to the NFL world. They need someone who has relationships throughout the league and understand the front office as well as the on field products. The head coach search can not fail this time.
3.) Player Activity. Keep an eye on your social medias. It appears Gerald McCoy may have already said his goodbyes in the tweet above. More players will begin to drop hints that they either believe they’re out or that they want out. I’m not kidding when I say I expect at least 25 players on the 2019 roster to be different than the 2018 - and some names will certainly be notable ones. Just has DJax has all year, players will let their true feelings bleed through on social media at times. Keep those eyes peeled.
4.) Current Staff Hires. Todd Monken will likely get scooped up quick to be an offensive coordinator somewhere in the NFL. Other assistants are likely to follow. Mark Duffner did a solid job trying to get this defense turned around and there will be people around the league that take notice. Please, just someone be crazy enough to hire George Warhop.
5.) Other Head Coach Vacancies. It’s important to follow the trends of the other teams around the league that are looking to fill the HC position. That will clue you in to potential staff construction around the league. For instance, wherever Bruce Arians goes, there’s a good chance Brentson Buckner follows. Not only that, but he could scoop up Chuck Pagano or Todd Bowels to be his defensive coordinator. The faster a team fills the head coach vacancy, the faster they can fill out the rest of their staff, giving them a leg up on the other teams.
6.) The NFL Playoffs. It’s painful when your team isn’t in it and a division rival is a favorite to win the whole thing, but some of these teams - including the Bucs - could have their futures shaped by players and coaches making runs in the postseason. There will be the inevitable one or two teams who hold out for a coach that can’t officially accept a job until their team is eliminated from the playoffs, but those are the guys that will have to build their staff from the leftovers of the already hired coaches. As for the players, you can bank big money in free agency if you make a splash in the postseason. Don’t let one good game fool you into thinking they’re going to save the team.
Six Super Bowl Bets
1.) Los Angeles Rams - I will head into the playoffs still believing they are the most talented team top to bottom - but Todd Gurley’s injury has me nervous
3.) Kansas City Chiefs - Amazing to watch, but Andy Reid in the playoffs...
4.) New England Patriots - Brady and Bill are solid bets in the tourney
5.) Chicago Bears - Terrifying defense that has the ability to stop any team in the NFL
6.) Indianapolis Colts - What a turnaround and high potential to shock the world
Six Final Words
With The Fifth Pick, Bucs Select...
Shout out to my dad, Al Yarcho, who threw this little diddy together to piggy back off the Christmas Carol parodies. For your New Year’s enjoyment;
Auld Bucs Syne
(Sung to the tune of Auld Lang Syne)
Another season down the tubes,
What started great went wrong.
Another season down the tubes,
The same ol’ dance and song.
For Bucs’ fans ‘round the world,
The pain’s not left.
We’ll drink a lot of New Years’ cheer,
And hope we can forget.
What will the new year bring to us?
How can this get on track?
Just what’s in store at Raymond James?
Can this team make it back?
For auld Bucs syne my dear,
They’ll press reset.
We’ll drink a lot of New Year’s cheer,
And hope we can forget.