GIVING MIKE SMITH A NEW CONTRACT TO STAY AND KEEPING HIM AFTER THIS SEASON
During the Buccaneers five game win streak in 2016 that vaulted them from a 3-5 team to an 8- 5 team and on the cusp of the playoffs Mike Smith’s defense was a major factor as they held teams to 299 yards per game, 12.8 points per game, and caused 14 turnovers while beating the playoff bound 12-4 Chiefs and the 11-5-1 Seahawks during that streak.
In 2016 the games the Buccaneers won they allowed 321.2 total yards per game and forced 21 turnovers and in games that they lost they allowed 428 total yards per game only forced five turnovers, but the nine teams they beat had a combined record of 63-81-1 (.437) while the seven teams they lost to had a combined record of 63-52-1 (.547) and four of them were playoff teams.
Fearing that Mike Smith would leave to become a Head Coach somewhere the Buccaneers redid his contract so that he would stay for at least the next two season, but was the 2016 season dominated by his defense or was it all just a pipe dream against an easier schedule? Let’s fast forward to the 2017 season now.
With additions of Chris Baker through free agency and Kendell Beckwith and Justin Evans through the draft Mike Smith’s defense seemed primed to be even better than it was in the 2016 season … but instead the defense was much worse in several statistical categories and of course the all-important wins and losses.
Defensive stats that were worse in 2017 compared to 2016 include passing yards per game went from 21st ranked 250.8 yards/game to 32nd ranked and 260.6 yards/game, opposing completion percentage went from 17th ranked 63.3% to 28th ranked 67.6%, total yards allowed per game went from 22nd ranked 367.9 yards/game to 32nd ranked and 378.1 yards/game, third down conversion went from 1st ranked 34% to 32nd ranked 48%, sacks went from 38 to an NFL low 22 in 2017, and thus a 5-11 record.
Now granted when you are 9-7 last season the next season you play better teams as they did except for the teams they beat who had a combined 30-50 (.375) record, but in their eleven loses they lost to teams with a combined record of 123-64 (.668) including six playoff teams with the Patriots and Vikings currently playing in conference title games. Their road and divisional records were down considerably from 2016 as well finishing 1-7 on the road and 1-5 in the division (5-3 and 4-2 in 2016).
Granted the defense is not all to blame for the record but in games against the Bills, Packers, Lions, and Panthers the Buccaneers had leads or were tied in the fourth quarter and the defense could not hold on and they ended up losing all four of those games. Also this season there were four blowout games that were pretty much over in the third quarter against the Vikings (28-3 in 3rd), Cardinals (31-6 in 3rd almost came back but too big of hole), Saints (30-3 in 3rd), and Falcons (37-6 in 3rd) on National TV again.
Injuries to the defense could have played a slight factor but to have that big of a drop off in one season when you actually brought in three defensive players through free agency and the draft and did not really lose anyone in the off season, so maybe it was a “Mistake” for the Buccaneers to throw money at Mike Smith after the 2016 season to keep him instead of letting him go be hired as a head coach somewhere.
Most Buccaneers fans think that it was definitely a “Mistake” to not make some defensive coaching changes after this horrible 2017 season.