Bucco Bruce?

As most of you by now, ex-Cardinals coach Bruce Arians was tabbed last week to be the new coach of our local NFL team, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

I have to admit I’m very skeptical of this particular hire – for the simple reason that Arians, while gifted at what he does, is 66 years old and has had a few health matters in his coaching career and life. CBS thought enough of him to put him on their second best commentary team covering their NFL games along with Greg Gumbel and Trent Green, but then Arians made the U-turn back to the sidelines with Tampa in this coming 2019-2020 season.

More concerning to me is that the move indicates that the Bucs ownership also wants to keep Jameis Winston around as their long-term quarterback. Based on how Winston has played lately, I’d like to have whatever the Bucs ownership is smoking. As productive as the Bucs were offensively in 2018, Jameis was just a tad better than Ryan Fitzpatrick was – so other parts of the offense were the difference makers and not the signal-caller.

It’s been over a decade since the Bucs made the playoffs – hopefully, that changes with Bruce’s hire, but right now I’m not seeing how it can happen.

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Another Rebuild In Bucs Land

Amidst the celebration that is the ending of one year, the start of the next, and the wall-to-wall football that brings – I was a bit sad to hear that the Bucs fired their latest head coach, Dirk Koetter. After commencing hot in winning their first two games, the Tampa Bay NFL team fell back to Earth, losing 11 of their next 14 games for a 5-11 mark in 2018.

The big question hovering in my head is: where do the Bucs go next for a head coach? They’ve tried four head coaches this past decade of seasons – all of whom winded up being fired for poor achievements on the grid. Only Raheem Morris produced a winning season in 2010, and Koetter doing likewise in 2016 – with back-to-back 5-11 marks the cause to give him the ax.

I would have much rather have seen the Bucs get rid of Jameis Winston and find a good reserve QB in the league or a collegiate prospect. Winston looks more and more like an also-ran QB in the NFL as opposed to anyone who will be amongst the elite passers in the game. Ryan Fitzpatrick ran the offense with almost similar success, and many consider “Fitz” a journeyman signal-caller at best. Plus, the off-field shenanigans Winston seems to find – sorry, he’s not worth the trouble to my worldview.

Hopefully, there’s a defensive genius out there who can move into being a head coach with ease. That seems to need what the Bucs could use most at this juncture.

Audio Slice #10: A Brief History Of The Bucs

Music track used was: “All That” from Bensound.com.

EDIT, 12:20 pm ET, 12/17/2018: I erroneously say in this entry that the Bucs-Eagles 1979 playoff game was played on December 30th. I was off one day – it was played Saturday, December 29th.

EDIT, 4:46 pm ET, 12/17/2018: I also goofed giving out the URL to this blog, but hey – you’re here, right? Audio was fixed to reflect the correct address a bit later.

Yet Another New Day In Tampa Bay?

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Perhaps it was an aberration of some kind. During the course of the NFL season, such aberrations happen – because it’s a very rare event for an NFL team to go undefeated. But alas, my hometown Tampa Bay Buccaneers surprised the defending champion Philadelphia Eagles 27-21 to go 2-0 in this young 2018-2019 NFL season.

If you asked even the most die-hard of Tampa Bay fans before the game yesterday if the Buccaneers had a chance at winning, and if they were honest in their assessments – I’d think very few of them would have picked against the Eagles, even though they were only three-point favorites in the views of the oddsmakers.

The difference so far this 2018 season seems to have been the play of Ryan Fitzpatrick, helming at quarterback while Jameis Winston is off serving a three-game suspension for some questionable conduct in a recent off-season involving an Uber driver in Arizona. With Winston gone, the passing game is flourishing for the journeyman quarterback from Harvard – as has the offense, scoring 75 points in the first two games, adding the record-tying 48 they tallied in New Orleans the week prior.

Will it last? Can it last? Who knows. But not a bad idea to drink this moment in if you’re a Bucs fan. They haven’t been to the playoffs since the 2007-2008 campaign, so maybe this could be the year that wait may finally end.

The Return Of Chucky?

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At the start, it looked like it was going to be a good season for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, as they won two of their first three games. Then, as it often does in recent years, the roof of reality caved in, with the Bucs losing to the Saints 30-10 for their fifth straight loss.

(Foot note: Yes, I actually watched the NFL yesterday. I went six weeks without over the whole kneeling controversy, plus week one here in Tampa Bay got wiped out by Hurricane Irma. I think it’s impossible the league didn’t notice, so it’s time to declare victory and move on with baseball season now over and done with.)

When a team underachieves, the sports punditry begins to speculate. Will this lead to the current head coach, Dirk Koetter, being forced out? If so, who will the Bucs hire next?

Since Jon Gruden was fired after the 2008 season, the Bucs have hired four head coaches. They tried the “capable assistant coach” approach with both Koetter and Raheem Morris. They tried the “proven college head coach” approach with Greg Schiano. They tried the “former Super Bowl coach” approach with Lovie Smith, all of which failed. (Six head coaches have taken two teams to the Super Bowl, but none have won the big game with two different teams.)

With the coaching carousel never ending here in Tampa, some got to wondering if Jon Gruden, the only Bucs head coach to make and win the Super Bowl fifteen seasons ago, would take the job in 2018. Gruden’s been in the booth for ESPN calling Monday Night Football games, with the hot rumor being he’d take the job if offered.

As good as the idea sounds and looks on paper, I think it’s a terrible idea. I’ve always argued that the Bucs winning it all in 2002-2003 was with a team Tony Dungy and Rich McKay had built, not Gruden, as he was just there to close the deal. It was a stroke of luck that they played Oakland in the Super Bowl that season, the team Gruden formerly coached. For whatever reason, the Bucs couldn’t parlay that success into a dynasty, as the Patriots have the last couple of decades.

Finally, it was my observations in the 2000’s that Gruden doesn’t mesh with his quarterbacks sometimes, seeming to micromanage them. Putting him back in as head coach with Jameis Winston as his quarterback could wind up being an absolute disaster. Winston is a capable hand who puts up good stats, but it seems to me he gets lost out there in key moments and winds up making bonehead plays. A taskmaster type coach like Gruden sounds like a good fit, but I think it’s more likely there could be a clash of personalities.

Hopefully, the Bucs get off the Gruden bandwagon, but knowing how the Glazers think, it’s possible the wagon has already left the station.

The Bursting Bucs Bubble

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As many of you know by now, Tampa Bay’s winning streak ended last night, with the Dallas Cowboys beating them, 26-20. While moral victories are often ignored, it’s important to point out that the Bucs came within six points of defeating one of the best teams in the NFL right now.

Sometimes the development of an elite NFL team is not about wins or losses, but the experience gained in the process. I think they’ll learn from this and apply what they learned to use in the weeks ahead.

Playoff wise, Tampa Bay does not control its own destiny now. Winning their last two games (in New Orleans this Saturday afternoon, then at home against Carolina on New Year’s Day) gets them to 10-6. The Redskins can go to 10-5-1 (10.5 wins to Tampa’s 10) and make the playoffs should they win out. If the Bucs and Packers each win out tie at 10-6, the Packers currently own that tiebreaker, which likely would be the “strength of victory” criteria, combining the records of the teams the Bucs and Packers each defeated.

However, the Redskins have to play the Giants in two weeks, and the Packers have to beat the Vikings and Lions. So, there’s still hope. Even if the Bucs don’t make the “Super Bowl Tournament” this year, they are a team on the move, which is all local fans can hope for.

8-Dash-5!

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Did I mention I’m enjoying this little hot streak the local NFL team has been on?

Yesterday, the streak went to five in a row as the Bucs beat the New Orleans Saints 16-11. Yep, another odd score, only the second such score in NFL history. But as long as the Buccaneers keep winning, I wouldn’t mind if they won 4-2.

Next Sunday night is a big game, as Tampa Bay will be playing in prime time against the Dallas Cowboys. This was originally going to be a Sunday afternoon game, but NBC has a contract that allows them to ditch their scheduled game and bump a Sunday FOX or CBS game to their 8:15pm slot.

The way Tampa Bay has been playing, I think they’d have a chance against the Cowboys, who already know they are going to the playoffs. The only trouble is after losing to the New York Giants 10-7 last night to end an 11-game win streak, they will be playing with renewed focus.

Good. I want Dallas to bring their A-game. That way if the Bucs win, no one can complain.