Each and every Friday, managing editor Gil Arcia and deputy editor James Yarcho will discuss topics from the week pertaining to the Buccaneers and the rest of the NFL. Some things may have a positive spin while others may get under their skin.
This column is broken up into different parts with brief takes: a hot button topic, a team headline, a wild card topic, and a point-counterpoint. We will also include the weekly Bucs Nation staff pick for Tampa Bay’s game.
The Hot Button - Playcalling Duties
Gil: A lot of folks are up in arms about playcalling-gate. Will head coach Dirk Koetter call the plays this season? Will offensive coordinator Todd Monken continue on from preseason? My thing with that is, it was preseason. So what the Bucs offense did against players playing for jobs or no longer employed has to be taken into account.
Now I will say this. Monken deserves credit. His preseason playcalling was much better than Koetter’s preseason playcalling — hence why they averaged more points per game. But I still take it back to what it was, preseason. I’m fine with Koetter calling plays. My issues have always been in the red zone when he wants to run four verts from inside the 20-yard line. Like, seriously?
Just do better in that area, coach.
James: This isn’t the first time I’ve commented on this, nor will it be the last. All signs point to Koetter retaining call playing duties as soon as 1:00 p.m. hits and the Bucs and Saints kick off. That’s what he’s told us, that’s what we have to go on.
However, with a smoothly as things went in preseason with Monken making the calls, Koetter may realize that the offense is every bit as productive - maybe even more so - with Monken steering the ship.
Koetter touched on how Monken calling plays allows him to focus on other aspects of game management and he may realize that he needs to trust Monken to do that job if he is going to keep his own. Either way, no matter who is calling the plays, the offense needs to execute. There were far too many red zone issues last season, too many blown opportunities for it to be all on the play calling.
So, to Gil’s point and to add my own; Everybody, just do better in that area.
Bucs Headliners: Koetter’s Secrets
Gil: I love Dirk Koetter press conferences. They are the greatest things in the world next to yellow rice and chicken. OK, maybe not that great. But they are at times spectacular.
The Buccaneers head coach is in mid-season form with keeping things out of the media. When asked about the kick returner, he responded sarcastically. When asked about the starting running back position, he responded sarcastically. When asked about changing the offense for Ryan Fitzpatrick, he responded sarcastically.
While I enjoy he’s sarcasm and find his way of throwing things in the face of media members with certain questions to be very entertaining, I just don’t understand the secrecy. I get the attempts at gaining a competitive advantage, but the only thing I can truly understand is not releasing information on whether or not the offense was altered for Fitzpatrick.
James: Really, Gil? Yellow rice and chicken is the best comparison you’ve got? You could’ve gone Reese’s Cups, a perfectly cooked filet, or an ice cold beer but you went yellow rice and chicken? *Sigh* Anyway, here’s the thing about the Koetter pressers - I get it. He isn’t a fan of the media, he doesn’t want to give anything away, he isn’t the transparent and fun loving guy he was when he was the Offensive Coordinator.
That’s all well and good, but here’s my issue: if you’re going to take a page out of Bill Belichick’s “How To Treat The Media During Press Conferences” memoir, you better have the skills to back it up.
The reason guys like Belichick and Nick Saban (mostly) get away with the answers and attitude that they do is because they win. When you win all the time, you can say whatever you want however you want (within reason - not like the Saban/ESPN fiasco over the weekend) when you speak to the media.
I get the “competitive advantage” but how much of an advantage is it really when you’re talking about the guy who is returning kicks when he might return two or three at the most? Koetter should probably ease up a tad.
Week 1 Wild Card
Gil: For me, I think the biggest NFL-related story has to be the partnership between former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick and Nike. The kneeling movement created by Kaepernick and the reasoning behind it all gets lost in the thoughts and opinions of many. And people seem to forget that it was a military veteran who gave him the suggestion of kneeling and has spoken publicly about it.
Bucs Nation’s David Harrison touched on this same topic in his Hard Count column Thursday as I was already formulating my take on the matter. He brings up excellent points about the ad campaign, especially about the improper use of the term “sacrifice” by Nike.
However, in a sense Kaepernick did sacrifice everything. He sacrificed his ability to play football and despite to constant warnings of kneeling, he continued to stand for what he believed in. In my opinion, you have to look at the bigger picture here and that is this campaign was a good move for both sides — despite the fact that this was already in the works.
James: Good heavens. What a dumpster fire this is. Oh, Gil’s take on Kaepernick? No no no...I’m talking about Jon Gruden and the Oakland Raiders. How many Bucs fans that were screaming for this guy to return are eating a big, steaming pile of crow right now? He trades one of the best defensive players in the league, trades away a third round pick for a player that he cut (and took a shot at his GM’s drafting skills in the process), and has turned the roster into the oldest one in the NFL.
This is the same guy that had a constant rotation of geriatric quarterbacks at the helm in Tampa Bay, gave deals to nursing home residents like Charlie Garner and Tim Brown, while running Warren Sapp and John Lynch out of town.
And people thought this was going to work?
He wants to take the game back to 1896, refuses to integrate technology, and is being paid $100-Million dollars in the process. I literally cry laughing every time his name pops up in my Twitter feed because I know he’s done or said something else completely asinine and all I can think of is how great it is that the Bucs dodged that bullet.
No, Koetter may not be the best coach we’ve ever seen, but if Gruden had come to town we may have seen portions of the young core shipped out of town in favor of guys that were still playing during Gruden’s last tenure.
Point-Counterpoint: Bucs DL against the Saints
Gil: The Buccaneers defensive line will make or break the team this weekend. There was so much emphasis on the trenches this offseason that all the time and money spent on piecing together a stellar defensive front, there should be no reason why the line does not “wreak havoc” like this year’s team slogan states.
Granted, I get that there may be another reason for the team to be successful this weekend, as you alluded to, James. But, if games are truly won in the trenches then Week 1 is the perfect time for the defensive line to show up. Not next week. Not later in the season. This Sunday.
James: I’m certainly the last one to discount the importance of the defensive line - especially in a divisional game with a first ballot Hall of Famer under center. It’s going to be crucial that the revamped defensive line get pressure after Brees and blow Kamara up in the backfield if they’re going to stay in it.
But it can’t all be on the defense. Another key factor to the Bucs staying in it is production on offense.
Chris Godwin, to me, is the key to victory. Yes, Mike Evans is one of the best receivers in the league. One could make the case he’s top ten. That’s exactly why the Saints will do everything they can to eliminate him from the game. Between Marshon Lattimore and the safety help he will receive, Evans will be covered like a pig in “slop” all game long. That means the go to guy in the passing game will be Godwin.
With his big body and phenomenal hands, he will be the most reliable receiver outside of Evans to help move the ball up and down the field. Yes, DeSean Jackson will still be the big, explosive play guy, but if the Bucs are facing 3rd-and-9 from the 32 or it’s 3rd-and-Goal from the 8, Fitzpatrick will be looking for Godwin to expose the one-on-one opportunities he will face.
Gil: Well, damn. You had a lot to say...
Week 1 Game Predictions
Latest line: - Saints by 9.5, over/under: 49.5
Gil: Bucs 23, Saints 20
James: Saints 31, Bucs 23
Evan: Bucs 23, Saints 22
Alex: Saints 28, Bucs 24
Jon: Saints 34, Bucs 13
Kyle: Bucs 24, Saints 20
David: Bucs 31, Saints 24
Bailey: Bucs 28, Saints 24
Dustin: Saints 31, Bucs 20