The early-2000s Tampa Bay Buccaneers were a really good football team. But those days are long gone, as are the way the game was played then. The Tampa 2 is dead as a base defense, and is generally used as a conservative passing-downs call, especially in the red zone.
As this article on NFL.com from 2012 notes, it’s a passing league. NFL rules and rules enforcement, plus scheme evolutions, have made football dominated by quarterbacks and the pass. Football Outsiders’ Scott Kacsmar had this to say:
For the fourth time in the last decade, the NFL’s single-season record for completion percentage was broken. For the third time it was Drew Brees setting a new benchmark, after he already did so in 2009 (70.62 percent) and 2011 (71.23 percent) for the Saints. Sam Bradford’s record of 71.56 percent for the 2016 Vikings lasted just one season as Brees finished 2017 with a mark of 72.01 percent. For comparison, it has taken much longer for other single-season passing records to reset four times despite this last decade being such a pass-happy climate. The last four resets for passer rating span from 1989 (Joe Montana) to 2011 (Aaron Rodgers). Touchdown pass records span from 1984 (Dan Marino) to 2013 (Peyton Manning), while yardage marks span from 1981 (Dan Fouts) to 2013 (Peyton Manning).
League-wide completion percentage had been consistently improving to record rates. The previous four seasons (2013-2016) each set a new record, but 2017 was a step backwards, with the average rate declining from 63.0 percent to 62.1 percent. There were a lot of significant quarterback injuries in 2017. Still, 2017 was the fourth-highest season on record, so it does bring into question just how impressive the record that Brees keeps breaking really is in this era.
So I found these recent quotes by Tampa Bay head coach Dirk Koetter and defensive coordinator Mike Smith troublesome:
Dirk Koetter says the goal for the running game is 125 yards per game, which is 2,000 on the season. Six teams hit 2,000 last year, five made the playoffs.— Scott Smith (@ScottSBucs) July 28, 2018
"The number one tenet in the game of football is stopping the run." -- #Bucs defensive coordinator Mike Smith: https://t.co/NkFE2465ew— Evan Silva (@evansilva) July 30, 2018
Those five teams that made the playoffs also all had top ten defenses, right? And the most important factors in today’s game of football is indisputably passing, and stopping the pass. In fact, the pass is over twice as efficient as running. Koetter calls passes pretty much as often as everyone else, except inexplicably on first downs, which is hurting the team in games. Smith’s quote was widely ridiculed. So what gives? What’s with the obsession about a facet of the game that has largely lost importance?
Before Koetter the head coach was Lovie Smith, a hire also made in a ill-fated attempt to recapture old glory. The Bucs even reportedly flirted with re-hiring Jon Gruden as recently as this off-season, and Gruden had not coached in ten years. What is the Bucs’ obsession with the past, and what does it mean for the franchise going forward?