The Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ State of the Franchise Report: Coaching
By Nick John
Oct 12, 2014; Tampa, FL, USA; Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh and Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Lovie Smith shake hands after the game at Raymond James Stadium. The Ravens won 48-17. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
The bye week couldn’t have come at a better time.
Tampa Bay is fresh on the heels of their blowout loss at the hands of the Baltimore Ravens, and currently have a 1-5 record on the season. The Buccaneers have either been in each game until the very end (four contests decided by only one score) or received a butt-whipping of a lifetime (two losses decided by 31 points or more). It’s that “hot and cold” demeanor that have made the Bucs what they are at this point in time: a bad football team, but one that has hope for the future. They will show signs of life late in the year, but they are not consistent enough schematically and fundamentally to pose a threat to the league’s top teams.
First up on this series, we’ll take a look at coaching.
I don’t believe this is what Lovie Smith had in mind when he spent all of 2013 at home watching film with Jeff Tedford. Smith only has one win as the head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and did not come the way anyone would have expected it to. Smith’s Tampa 2 defense is struggling, evidenced by the five first half touchdowns allowed to Joe Flacco last week.
Defense is what Smith has built his entire reputation on, but things aren’t going his way in that department. Through six weeks, the Buccaneers are dead last in yards allowed, yielding 422.8 per game. Opponents are also averaging 34 points in contests against the Bucs, which ranks last in the NFL as well.
A big reason for these struggles is a lack of a pass rush, which has been the Buccaneers’ achilles heel for years now. Michael Johnson was supposed to be the playmaking defensive end that would change all that, but he’s been battling injuries off the field, and an inability to shed blocks on it. Gerald McCoy, like always, has been the team’s heart and soul up front. But even when he can split two defenders on a double team, because there is no pressure coming from the outside, opposing quarterbacks still find the time they need to make a play against the zone defense.
And that’s my biggest concern for the coaching of this football team going forward: the “beloved” Tampa 2.
Through six games, we can obviously see that it is not working. It has helped the Buccaneers secure only one victory on the year, and Ben Roethlisberger still carved the zone up to the tune of 314 yards and three touchdowns in that game. Lovie Smith says that the team will be sticking with their scheme through the end of 2014, so this bye week is vital in making sure everyone knows the fundamentals of it. Because at this point, I’m not sure that they do.
Doing the same thing and expecting different results each time is the definition of insanity, so lets hope Lovie and defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier aren’t losing their minds.
As for the offense, we all know that Jeff Tedford hasn’t called plays once because of his recovery from a heart procedure. That meant that Marcus Arroyo would be thrust into playcalling duties for the first time at the NFL level. In the very early stages of the season, that showed, as Josh McCown and company couldn’t seem to do anything right. But then Mike Glennon started Week Four against the Steelers, and the offense suddenly had life.
We saw it again in the heartbreaking loss to the Saints in the following week, but that life was crushed at the hands of the Ravens. Arroyo still struggles to find the perfect mix of run and pass plays, as the Buccaneers’ running game is non existent at this point. It’s putting a lot on Glennon’s shoulders, as most plays seem to have him looking downfield instead for short routes underneath. The Buccaneers need to mix in some screens on first and long situations (which they have been in often due to penalties) to help give Glennon an easier third down to work with.
To open up the running game, however, Arroyo needs to make sure Mike is confident enough to take his shots deep. The only way to ensure that the defense won’t cheat up and look for the run is to throw it over their heads a few time, and the Buccaneers have the weapons to do that. The Bucs want to be a “run first” team, but that is impossible when they are performing so poorly in that aspect of the game. Doug Martin has not looked like himself at all this year, and it might be time to start wondering if he has any trade value. Bobby Rainey has looked like more of a complete back thus far, and the coaching staff might want to give him the majority of carries.
Getting away from the X’s and O’s, the Buccaneers are not a disciplined team either. Tampa Bay has given their opponent an average of 60 yards per game due to penalties, which puts them right around the middle of the league in that category. Still, they always seem to come back to haunt the team. The New Orleans game is a perfect example, as penalties backed them up to their own goal line which led to a Saints safety that made it a three-point game, and Johnthan Banks’ illegal hands to the face penalty late on a key third down in overtime, which would have stalled the Saints’ game-winning drive.
Overall, the coaching staff needs to take a long and hard look at themselves in the mirror when considering what is going wrong with this team. We thought the sloppy play would be over as soon as Greg Schiano left the building, but it has just spilled into this season, making games like last week’s unwatchable.
Lovie Smith and Leslie Frazier have to fine tune their defensive scheme. The Buccaneers allow the most points and yards in the NFL, which is a shame considering that Gerald McCoy and Lavonte David are there. Offensively, unless the Bucs can mix in some sort of running game, they’ll be putting too much on Mike Glennon’s shoulders to overcome. We’re lucky that he’s a very quick and decisive thrower, because these third-and-longs require deep routes, and by the time they are completed, Mike has to be ready to chuck it down the field. Speaking of which, if it wasn’t for McCown’s thumb injury, would the switch to Glennon have been made? Or would Smith have stuck with “his guy”? It’s questions like that that have me worried for the future of this franchise. I believe the talent is there, I just don’t know if Smith is capable of adjusting his gameplans to fit his roster. Through six games, I haven’t seen it.
I really hope we will.