The Buccaneers offense has always been the weak point of the franchise, even in the Buccaneers most successful seasons. There have only been 2 quarterbacks in the history of the Buccaneers to top 23 passing touchdowns in a season, a feat that has been accomplished by no fewer than 6 quarterbacks every year since at least 2002. Similarly, only two players have bested 1300 rushing yards in franchise history, a feat accomplished by at least four runners per year in the same time frame. The Buccaneers had a player accomplish both of these milestones in 2012, as Josh Freeman‘s 27 touchdowns and 4065 yards were both franchise records, and Doug Martin‘s rushing yards and total yards from scrimmage were second only to James Wilder in 1984.
So why did I find myself second guessing the offense so much this season?
Mike Sullivan came to Tampa to coach the offense, and did not get started on the right foot. The game against the Dallas Cowboys early in the season was as frustrating as any game I have ever watched, and the play calling was absolutely baffling. But Sullivan got to know his cast of characters, and the players grew in the offense as the season went on, and the results were tremendous. Even with the many injuries on the offensive line, and the inconsistencies of Josh Freeman, the Buccaneers posted an incredible year of offensive production, and were able to win 7 games with a woeful pass defense. So despite my initial frustrations and lack of perspective, I can look back at the season and be glad that Sullivan is in Tampa.
It’s also clear why the Chicago Bears sought after Sullivan for their vacant head coaching position. He was one of the candidates who interviewed for the job Lovie Smith used to hold, as Chicago sought an offensive minded coach to build their identity on that side of the ball. Chicago will still be looking for such a coach, but according to the Tampa Bay Times, all indications from other outlets are that the group of finalists for the job does not include Sullivan.
As Stephen Holder points out in the Times article, this is going to be a big year for Josh Freeman, and a new offensive coordinator would further muddy the waters as to Josh’s ability and future with the team. Freeman will already have a new quarterbacks’ coach, who will hopefully help guide him in Sullivan’s offense, so we can evaluate Josh and the offense fairly in their second year in the new system. Sullivan has ushered in a new style of offense, and while I certainly had my doubts, I am excited to see him have another year in Tampa and continue to develop his game plan. This is going to be a critical year for the Buccaneers’ future, and stability and chemistry will be important to maximize the massive amount of talent on offense. However, the reality is that 2014 will likely mean a new offensive coordinator or a new quarterback, as the success of the Buccaneers in the upcoming season will either lead to a change of quarterbacks due to a disappointing season, or the departure of Sullivan to a head coaching job because of his masterful work with the offense. Be prepared, Buccaneers fans, as this won’t be the last of the rumors surrounding Mr. Sullivan.
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