When Bruce Arians and his coaching staff came into the Tampa Bay Buccaneers franchise it felt like a new day. Like a fresh layer of good football was discovered once the latest rancid layer of dissapointment had been removed and ejected.
It was a new day. But was it?
The starting quarterback is the same starting quarterback. The running backs are the same. The wide receivers are essentially the same considering newcomers to the depth chart have combined for six catches and less than 100-yards of offense through six games. The offensive line has one new starter, but even he (Alex Cappa) was on the team last season.
Defensively, the team certainly looks different coming out in more 3-4 than 4-3 base looks, but on the line, there’s one newcomer in Ndamukong Suh. Two of the four linebackers are different now that Devin White is back, but for much of the year with him injured, Shaquil Barrett has been the only newcomer to the middle part of the defense. The secondary is completely remodeled.....if you consider a new free-safety as remodeling.
Of course, depth is where a lot of the reloading happened for this team. But really, the bones of this roster is mostly the same as it was before. So maybe the earth shaking excitement we all thought was the remaking of the Buccaneers foundation was actually that foundation digging deeper than before except with new tenants camping in the same storm of inadequacy.
But then there was Gerald McCoy. There was your shake up. The, “nobody is safe and anybody is replaceable”, moment. But was it? McCoy had already lost his teammates. He didn’t get in trouble, wasn’t reported as a cancer in the locker room. Didn’t outwardly criticize his teammates or coaches. None of the things that usually knock a star player off his pedestal. Yet, there he was. Mid-season on a losing team without a Captain’s patch sewn onto his jersey.
If you saw the movie “New Guy” the you’ve seen the theory in theatrical practice that when a new kid arrives, he’s got to take down the biggest guy on campus to gain the respect of everyone else. But was McCoy the big guy on campus at One Buc? I’d argue, no.
So, is it a surprise then, that we stand here today mid-way through the bye week with a team that has all the markings of being the same team it was in 2018? And it’s not just the losing record.
Currently, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are scoring 28.8 points per game (24.8 in 2018) while averaging 367.7 yards per game (415.5 in 2018) and converting 36% of their third downs (46% in 2018).
On defense, the Bucs are surrendering 372.5 yards per game (383.4 in 2018) while opponents average 30.8 points per game against the team (29 in 2018) and are on pace to sack the opposing quarterback fewer than 39 times this year (38 in 2018).
Those aren’t every statistical measurement of course, but they’re pretty significant ones. Oh, and turnovers? Tampa Bay is on pace to net a turnover differential somewhere around -6. Last year they were -18, so I guess there’s your big improvement.
Now, I don’t blame the new staff necessarily for not making bigger moves. We all said the team was more talented than their play showed us, and it was a coaching problem more than it was a player problem. Well, now, a lot of us aren’t so sure.
But if the problem is the roster, all the team can do is, change it. Really change it. Not by expelling a guy nobody really wanted around anymore anyway. By making a statement. That neither status nor cap hit nor draft position will keep you safe if the team isn’t winning. By actually shaking things up.
Now I’m not here to call for anyone’s job per se. So I can’t say that trading ‘Player-X’ will wake up the rest of the team and get them on the straight and narrow. But when a team with new coaches and mostly the same 22 faces playing on the field for most of the snaps as it was under the old coaches is still doing the same things as a team that they were when the old coaches were there, then it’s time to start evaluating which of those 22 faces need to stick around and which need to leave.
Bobo Wilson isn’t going to shake anyone up. Devante Bond isn’t going to shake anyone up.
Of course, there have also been discussions about the fact that Carson Palmer and the Arizona Cardinals started off rough under Arians and his staff when they took over there, too. Eventually, they got it together and rebounded quite nicely. So maybe that’s the answer: Patience.
Easier said than done for this fan base who has been patient for much longer than most fan bases are required to in order to witness a consistent stretch of winning.
What’s the answer? We can all say what we ‘would’ do. But only the guys inside One Buc can do the thing. Jason Licht, Bruce Arians, Todd Bowles, and Byron Leftwich. It’s their jobs to figure out what hasn’t already been figured out. But I want to know what Bucs fans think.