As we enter the 2019 NFL season, there is already a common thread being discussed amongst Bucs fans, some media, and others.
“Don’t worry about ENTER PLAYER NAME HERE, I’m sure the new coaching staff will make a big difference in terms of production.”
“Bruce Arians will get this team back on track.”
“Tampa Bay is set to take off now that they have a coach who knows what he’s doing.”
It’s pretty easy to see the central theme here.
Sure, Arians is a proven winner in this league. The staff that he has brought in is full of coaches who have won in this league and who were able to get the best out of their players.
But that doesn’t mean it’s going to happen in Tampa Bay.
One of the biggest issues with Dirk Koetter was his lack of accountability amongst the players. Rarely did he hold his players accountable and when he did, the course of direction was not clear (see Jameis Winston vs. Ryan Fitzpatrick in 2018).
It seems rather hypocritical to have this train of thought - a lack of accountability amongst the players - when it was heavily criticized and used as justification to fire someone. It’s rather self-defeating to hang your hat on one talking point, then immediately remove said hat for the purpose of promoting a talking point.
There is definitely one side of this that will rise to the surface in 2019: we will find out if it was really the coaches that held this team back or if it was the fact that this roster just isn’t as great as it looks on paper.
The thought of a talentless Bucs squad hurts the heart, mind, and soul - but it’s certainly a possibility. All of the high draft picks and big free agent acquisitions could turn out to be average-at-best players.
Don’t get me wrong, there is supposed to be a new sense of excitement with a new staff. That’s perfectly reasonable.
But it wasn’t Dirk Koetter that made Jameis Winston throw four interceptions against the Cincinnati Bengals or tie for the second-most interceptions in the NFL since 2015. It wasn’t George Warhop that made Donovan Smith take plays off during games, nor did he make Ryan Jensen get called for more penalties in his one season with Tampa Bay than his entire career. It wasn’t Tim Spencer’s fault that Ronald Jones II had problems fumbling the ball and learning the playbook.
Caleb Benenoch was just bad. Brent Grimes gave up. Cameron Brate dropped passes on a consistent basis.
Please don’t think I’m defending Koetter and his staff, because I am certainly not. There were definitely issues within the scheme and coaching philosophies. Koetter’s inability to lead a group of men was a major key in back to back 5-11 seasons as well.
So how much responsibility is on the former staff and how much is on the roster? As with most things in life, only time will tell - but that time is now in 2019.
There’s no doubt that practically the entire Tampa Bay fan base is hanging its hopes on what Arians’ can do for a franchise that has had just two winning seasons since 2010. Whether it’s fair or not, it’s something that he will have to deal with.
The fans and the franchise need some kind of an awakening and it appears that many of the right pieces are in place for that moment, but if it doesn’t happen in 2019, it won’t be the end of the world.
Or at least I think.