Our three-part Buccaneers preview wraps up with a prediction
To say the least, the Buccaneers’ reception throughout the NFL and even with their own fans coming into the 2018 season has been underwhelming. For years the darling of talking heads eager to jump on the Next Big Thing had been talking up the Bucs and their potential. Last year they were a trendy team to pencil into the playoffs coming into the season. This year, not so much.
A disappointing 5-11 season in 2017 exposed flaws in the defense and raised questions about both offensive blocking and strategy. An offseason dominated by an off-field incident from 2016 for which Jameis Winston will be suspended for most of September gave people even less reason to believe in Tampa Bay. That eventual suspension made people take a look at a schedule that could potentially be a gauntlet and subtract the Buccaneers’ centerpiece quarterback from the first three games. It has become hard to see a road to a winning season for the Buccaneers.
In the preseason, a team that looked serviceable at times also saw their kicker miss his very first extra point attempt at a position that has become a sore spot. First round draft pick Vita Vea was unable to play or practice from day two of camp on through. Second round running back Ronald Jones II looked a bit lost in the preseason games.
There is little hype in the Tampa Bay area this year. “If” has turned to “maybe,” and only for the optimist. The Bucs have plenty of positive qualities, but football is a team sport, and putting it all together makes the picture a bit bleak.
The following things are narratives, and might be true, but at the moment are just narratives
There are a lot of common statements around the Tampa Bay Buccaneers that are based on things that haven’t actually happened yet. All of them are plausible depending on what you believe, but at the moment they are just words and ideas. Some of them are based on mind-reading, others based on pattern. You may choose to believe some of these things. Just know that they are narratives:
This is Jameis Winston’s last chance with the Buccaneers.
This one is stated a lot, and usually backed up by an explanation that Winston’s career is hanging by a thread. Yes, in the off-field sense, he cannot get in major trouble again or he could be out of the league entirely. On the field, however, it’s a tough case to make to say Winston has worn out his welcome.
Statistics tell a different tale. The numbers say that Winston’s completion percentage has gone up every year he has been in the league, as have his yards per game. In 2017, his 2.5% interception rate might be a bit high for a lot of people’s liking, but it was also the lowest percentage of his career.
Yes, when Winston errs he errs in spectacular fashion. Some of his interceptions and fumbles deserve cartoon sound effects. Jameis Winston still has trouble with his decision-making on the field, throwing balls up for grabs that he should not be throwing, but it could also be argued that inconsistent blocking and a defense that put the team behind by large numbers from time to time put Winston in a bad position.
At any rate, based on his actual play at the toughest position to fill in the NFL, the problem is absolutely not on the field. The narrative around Winston is predicting an on-field decline from a healthy athlete with a chip on his shoulder and numbers that have improved marginally every season.
The Glazer family has a short fuse with coaches
The last time the Tampa Bay Buccaneers fired a head coach during a football season, the elder George Bush was president and Hugh Culverhouse owned the Buccaneers. Since December of 1990, the Buccaneers have not fired a coach during the season.
The Glazer family has lacked patience with the Buccaneers’ head coaching position since Jon Gruden, or so the narrative would tell you. Raheem Morris was fired after three seasons, the second of which was a pleasantly surprising 10-6 year. Greg Schiano went two seasons and was not welcomed back for a third. Lovie Smith went two seasons and that’s it. Dirk Koetter is now in his third year as head coach and his fourth year with the team. Thus, he’s one of Las Vegas’ favorite picks to be the first head coach fired.
Let’s take a second and add context. Raheem Morris was fired after his team quit on him somewhere over the Atlantic. Greg Schiano was fired after he all but begged his team to quit on him throughout 2013. Lovie Smith was fired because in his second season he looked pretty much absent, not to mention a fear that Dirk Koetter would get a head coaching job elsewhere if the Buccaneers did not promote him.
Of the three, the only coach the Buccaneers feasibly could have brought back given how their final seasons ended was Smith, and he had the worst record of the three. Dirk Koetter has had one winning season and one losing season. With a disastrous season, Koetter could lose his job, but much like the talk of the team potentially moving…