Last season, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers got career years from three of their wide receivers, as Vincent Jackson, Mike Williams, and Tiquan Underwood all set career highs in some area or another. This year it’s been a different story, as Kevin Ogletree has been signed and released, and the performances from Jackson and Williams have declined.
So what’s the big difference? The Tampa Bay Buccaneers no longer have P.J. Fleck on the sideline.
Fleck was hired by Schiano when he was named head coach of the Buccaneers after being Schiano’s WR coach at Rutgers. He’s a former NFL wide receiver, and had previously coached at Northern Illinois before joining Schiano in New Jersey.
Fleck did an apparently excellent job getting the most out of his receivers, with a veteran like Jackson, an inconsistent but talented performer like Williams, and a relative unknown like Underwood all posting very impressive seasons. But what proves his worth more than those numbers are how the team is hurting without him here.
Think back to Sunday’s game against the Cardinals, and the play on which Mike Glennon threw his first career interception. If you don’t remember, or if you want a very good breakdown of it, check out this article from The Score’s Alen Dumonjic.
Here’s an excerpt that may reveal one of many changes or tweaks that have hurt the Tampa Bay defense in Fleck’s absence.
The route is sometimes coached with a sharp cut to the inside while other times with a rounded cut. It all depends on the coaching staff…
[Referring to the throw] It’s chest-high and inside, thrown for a flattened dig route by Jackson. Instead, it’s run by Peterson. Predictably, it’s caught by him, too.
In other words, Peterson ran a better route than Jackson, and because Glennon’s ball placement wasn’t perfect, it meant Peterson was in perfect position.
Is this specific incident something that wouldn’t have happened if P.J. Fleck was still in Tampa? It’s impossible to say.
But considering that new WR coach John Garrett brought along his own guy from Dallas in Kevin Ogletree, only to see him cut a month after the season starts, I’d say the level of coaching at the position has certainly declined.
With wide receivers dropping passes and fumbling footballs during the preseason and regular season, it’s clear that there’s been a negative impact from losing a talented receivers coach. So this is one Rutgers guy that the Buccaneers actually do miss.
And it might explain why Underwood was brought back, to attempt to rekindle some of Fleck’s magic.