I said it in my prediction for the game and I am sticking by it. This season is done for the 2023-24 Buccaneers.
Yeah yeah, I know... the division is still wide open. Doesn’t matter. Stick a fork in them, they’re finished.
I wish I could write something different, I really do but if they can’t win a ball game like the one in Houston, how can anyone expect them to win many more games this season? The Texans were missing multiple offensive lineman, their starting running back, as well as starting defensive lineman and even lost a few members of their secondary during the game. Didn’t matter.
46 seconds against a rookie QB needing a touchdown to win the game? For the past three years that was basically an automatic W for the Bucs. Not anymore. The tides are turning for Tampa Bay and not in a good way.
Todd Bowles is now 11-14 in the regular season as the Bucs head coach and 0-1 in the playoffs with an embarrassing defeat against the Cowboys last season. That brings his career coaching record in the regular season to 37-55 (.402). His defense, which he is in charge of just got shredded by a rookie QB who broke the rookie record for most passing yards in a game. This is who Todd Bowles is, just another really good coordinator who unfortunately can’t find that same success as a head coach. If the fans and media can recognize that, hopefully the Buccaneers can too before it's too late. Bowles isn’t going to be fired during the season. The Glazers have never fired a head coach mid-season so don’t hold your breath for that to happen, but at this point it would take quite the turnaround for Bowles to keep his job come January.
Baker Mayfield? We are starting to find out who he is as well. A decent quarterback who certainly has a place in the NFL. He can beat the bad and mediocre teams but when it comes to the big matchup against the top opponents, can a team have any faith that he can win? I always look at it like this: can that quarterback win you a playoff game? If the answer is no, then find someone who can. The evidence on Baker has shown just that. He’s good enough to win you some games, but not good enough to take you to the next level. It’s a pretty good QB class coming up in the 2024 draft and the Bucs would be wise to select one.
Right now, the Buccaneers are 3-5 and very well could be 2-6 instead. If the Vikings had not beaten themselves repeatedly in Week 1, the Bucs probably would have lost that game and then this conversation would be a whole lot bleaker.
Week in and week out, this team looks unprepared and lacks a ton of energy on both sides of the ball. Thats on the coaching staff, but they also lack the talent in key areas. The pass rush isn’t good enough, the secondary isn’t good enough. Units that Tampa Bay assumed were going to be strengths have turned out to be duds so far.
Coming into this season, there were a lot of questions about young players like Rachaad White, Cade Otton, Luke Goedeke, Joe Tryon-Shoyinka and Logan Hall and unfortunately for the Bucs, they are starting to find their answers the hard way on some of those players. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying they aren’t NFL players, but perhaps Cade Otton is more of a TE2 than a TE1, maybe Rachaad White is best served in a committee rather than a bell cow role. The developments of Joe Tryon-Shoyinka and Logan Hall have certainly been disappointments for Tampa Bay.
Jason Licht isn’t off the hook for this either. Those players I just mentioned were all drafted by him. He signed Ryan Neal, who has struggled mightily and Russell Gage who has had a lot of injuries and was disappointing when on the field. I would be very surprised if Jason Licht were to be fired though. He is a good general manager, but it is time for him to look in the mirror and perhaps face some hard truths about his football team.
A lot of fans are going to look to the draft now and want a shiny new quarterback in the first round, which is fine but there is just one problem. This Bucs team needs a whole lot more than just a quarterback.
Is the team as talented as they have been the past three seasons? Of course not but that is okay. What is not okay is losses like Houston and Atlanta, two games that the Buccaneers needed to win and almost had but let slip through their fingers. What we witnessed on Sunday was shades of the 2009-2019 Bucs. That is the type of game those teams would have. Is that the standard now all of the sudden since Tom Brady is no longer in town? Losses like Sunday in Houston should never, ever happen and there should be and likely will be repercussions for that later this year if that continues.
Their next three games are in Tampa against the 3-5 Titans, who have suddenly been playing well since Will Levis took over for the injured Ryan Tannehill, then they travel to San Francisco for a date with the 49ers who while they have struggled, will still be a very tough matchup and then stay on the road in Indy against the Colts who have played well. The Bucs could realistically lose all of those games which would drop their record to 3-8 and make seven straight losses. What then? Could they win a few of those games? Sure, but if they can’t beat the Falcons or Texans, how is anyone supposed to have faith they can beat those teams?
This football team has been getting punched in the mouth for the last four weeks and instead of fighting back, they just get knocked down again. Of course, there are more games to be played and anything can happen, but each game they play now feels like delaying the inevitable.
An interesting and important offseason is on the horizon in Tampa Bay but as far this season goes, it’s time to move on.