Well, that just about does it. There’s a hole in the ship, it’s taking on water, and soon everyone is going to bail. The question is will they get tossed over the ledge or will they find a lifeboat - because there aren’t enough lifeboats for everyone.
After falling 27-20 to the Indianapolis Colt, the Bucs face a situation where they have to win five of their next six - including all four divisional games - if they’re going to have a chance to make the playoffs. Let’s be honest - there isn’t a lot of faith that can happen after the Bucs have lost six of their last seven.
Let’s Pick Six.
Six Topics Suitable For Conversation
1.) Dead Man Walking. While the season isn’t completely over, there doesn’t seem to be a very high likelihood that Todd Bowles is the head coach of the Buccaneers next season. As history has a way of repeating itself, Bowles couldn’t seem to ge the best out of his players as a head coach in New York. Now, with many of the same defensive players that had been a dominant unit under his direction as Tampa Bay’s defensive coordinator, the Bucs can’t seem to stop a nosebleed when they need to. Now, if the Bucs do rattle off four division wins and get a win over either the Packers or Jaguars, you’re looking at 9-8 and the winner of the division - but why would anyone have faith that Bowles and the Bucs can accomplish such a feat? They’ve given no reason to believe they can so fans are turning their attention to coaching candidates, the NFL Draft, free agency, and the quarterback - which shouldn’t actually be very high on the list of things wrong with this team.
2.) So Let’s Talk About It. Let’s talk about the quarterback situation. Going into Week 12, Baker Mayfield had the same touchdown passes and fewer interceptions as MVP front runner Jalen Hurts. Don’t hear what I’m not saying - no, Baker Mayfield is not as good or better than Hurts, but he isn’t the problem. He’s not even sniffing the top five on the list of problems with this team. Injuries, coaching, under-performing stars, offensive line, pass rush, secondary - all of these are much larger, glaring issues than that of the quarterback. But, as always, the people that hate Mayfield are going to continue to hate him regardless and the Kyle Trask fan club is going to continue to pound the table for him to come in and somehow be the savior. Because, y’know, Trask is going to make sure a tight end isn’t left uncovered for a 30-yard gain on 4th and 1 or he’s going to make sure a linebacker isn’t put on skates when the opposing quarterback runs in for a touchdown. Those are obviously issues that should be placed on the shoulders of Baker Mayfield and can be fixed by changing quarterbacks,
3.) It’s Groundhog Day, Again. In a constant deja vu, the Bucs seem to love making the same mistakes over and over and over again. Costly penalties that negate positive plays, blown coverages, missed assignments. Mayfield talked about it with us after the game, saying “It hurts to not win these games and to keep hurting ourselves. It’s very frustrating to have the same story over and over again. Until everybody gets pissed off enough to get it fixed, there will be no changes. So, I know I’m gonna head this week and what I need to get fixed and try to drag as many people along as well.” Shaq Barrett had similar feelings, telling us they’re one drive away in each game from being 7-4 or 8-3. Yet, nothing gets fixed, nothing changes, and then it repeats. Is it the players? Is it coaching? Honestly, it’s probably a combination of the two - but this is something that’s going to reflect on Bowles more than anyone else.
4.) Bright Spots. Calijah Kancey seems to be the real deal - and he keeps getting better every week. He is what the defense has been missing since the loss of Ndamukong Suh - that player that can be a game wrecker alongside Vita Vea. Had he not missed the beginning of the season, he might have worked his way into the conversation for defensive rookie of the year. Probably not win it, but he would have his name included in those conversations.
5.) Mike Evans Continues To Do Mike Evans Things. Two more touchdown catches and another solid game, Evans is clipping along to have one of the better seasons in his career. In fact, there were talks among Colts media in the press box after the game that Evans is a sure-fire Hall of Famer - which is something that’s been discussed among Bucs media and fans while it seemed like those on the outside didn’t appreciate him the way Tampa did. Yet, he continues to do things no one else has done and is closing in on yet another record. Though, that one might be secured with a new team. More on that later.
6.) Injuries Becoming Too Much. This team was already without Lavonte David and Jamel Dean coming in. With injuries to SirVocea Dennis and YaYa Diaby during the game didn’t help, but the ankle injury suffered by Baker Mayfield on the opening drive seemed to set the tone for the day. The Bucs were clicking on an opening drive for the first time this season. Three straight passes, a few runs, a few more passes and boom - it’s first and goal from the 1-yard line. Baker keeps it and then lays on the field with an injury. He limps to the sideline and in comes Trask. False start, two yard run, incomplete pass. It seemed like the Bucs were marching their way to a 7-0 lead and instead they settle for a field goal and the entire team deflated. Interception, two three-and-outs, and the Bucs are trailing 17-3. It was a hole they couldn’t seem to dig out of, but not for lack of effort. They battled injuries early on and are now getting ravaged by the injury bug again. Combine that with mental mistakes and the coaching and it’s a perfect blend of disappointment.
Six Numbers To Consider
91 - Total touchdowns scored by Mike Evans - tied with Davante Adams, Isaac Bruce, Tony Dorsett, Edgerrin James, Bobby Mitchell, and Ricky Waters for 32nd all-time
8 - Tackles for loss by Calijah Kancey - tied for most among rookies this season
7 - Games this season Rachaad White has gone for 75 or more total yards, second only to Christian McCaffrey among running backs
7 - Games this season Baker Mayfield has had a passer rating of 90.0 or above
19 - Multi-touchdown games by Mike Evans, second among active NFL players (Davante Adams - 22)
15 - Mike Evans’ rank all-time in touchdown receptions
Six Best Tweets
Baker Mayfield makes that kind of throw on 4th and 10 and I gotta hear week after week from the peanut gallery how this guy is the problem. He ain’t perfect, but man he’s not high on my list as the problem.— Evan Closky (@ECloskyWTSP) November 26, 2023
Since he entered the NFL in 2014, Mike Evans is— Jon Ledyard (@LedyardNFLDraft) November 25, 2023
• 1st in receiving yards: 11,205 yards (just ahead of D-Hop)
• 2nd in TD catches: 88 (Davante has 91, 3rd place is distant 74)
• 7th in catches (which kinda makes the first 2 ranks even more impressive)
What if after firing their coach Frank Reich, the #Panthers beat the #Bucs this week and then the Bucs fire Todd Bowles because of it?— Matt Matera (@matty4_matera) November 27, 2023
And then next week with their own interim coach, the Bucs beat the #Falcons and they fire Arthur Smith as a result of it? pic.twitter.com/9Qg6teZJjR
The Domino Effect
This is a little different for Pick Six, but indulge me for a moment. Let’s talk about the domino effect if Todd Bowles is fired.
Todd Bowles gets fired, that means the entire staff is gone as well - including first year offensive coordinator Dave Canales. With a new coaching staff comes different philosophies and different personnel to execute those philosophies. That means a new quarterback.
Some of you are happy and cheering at the thought, but let’s talk about that domino toppling over. Baker Mayfield leaves, the Bucs use high draft capital or most of their available cap on said quarterback. Now you have a team that needs at least one, maybe two inside linebackers. On top of that they need pass rush, a cornerback, a safety, a center, a guard, a running back or two, at least one wide receiver - and you’re looking at losing Mike Evans, so make it two wide receivers.
Why are you looking at losing Mike Evans? Well, look at it from Evans’ perspective. Is he going to want to stick around for a fifth head coach? Not to mention, prioritizing quarterback over other positions of more significant need means one thing and one thing only - you’re blowing it up for a full rebuild. Evans is too old to deal with that again. He’ll get his bag from a team that feels they’re a Mike Evans away from a Lombardi Trophy. Kansas City, Detroit, Cincinnati if they lose Higgins, Baltimore, Dallas - or even an up-and-coming team with a stud young quarterback and head coach close to home like Houston. Somewhere that there’s a path to get to a Super Bowl in the next three to four years. Not a team that is starting from scratch.
And what about Lavonte David? He came back this year, but he’s older than Evans and if he wants to keep playing, surely he’s going to want to go somewhere where he gets a chance at another ring as well.
So now you’re looking at a team that has a new coach, new staff, new quarterback, and likely loses Evans and David, lets Devin White walk, cuts ties with current players to gain even more cap space. And have we forgotten the stellar track record the Bucs have with drafting quarterbacks? Just over the recent years you’re looking at Jameis Winston, Mike Glennon, Chris Simms, Bruce Gradkowski on top of starters like Brian Griese, Jeff Garcia, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Josh McCown, and Baker Mayfield. Out of that bunch, Mayfield is the best. And maybe he doesn’t get you to a Super Bowl, but he’s good enough to win games and get to the postseason while all these other issues are addressed.
So, while Todd Bowles isn’t safe and I’m not sitting here pounding the table for him to stay, there are long lasting ramifications to that decision that most people aren’t considering. The Panthers went all-in on a quarterback that was going to save their team while the rest of their team was trash and what happened? Their coach was fired twelve weeks into the season. A rookie quarterback isn’t a sure thing and he isn’t going to magically manifest wins if the team around him is bad. Just keep that in mind heading into an off-season if the Bucs don’t - or can’t - bring back two of the most beloved players in franchise history and sell their souls for a shot at a rookie quarterback that could be more Zach Wilson, Bryce Young, or Kenny Pickett than Joe Burrow, Jalen Hurts, or C.J. Stroud.
Six Super Bowl Bets
1.) Philadelphia Eagles - All they do is win
2.) Kansas City Chiefs - Still the best team in the AFC without a wide receiver on the roster
3.) Baltimore Ravens - Lamar looks healthy and the Gus Bus is cruising
4.) San Francisco 49ers - The only real threat to Philly and they face off this week
5.) Detroit Lions - Disappointing loss on Thanksgiving, but still a legitimate threat
19.) Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Sinking faster by the week