By Brian Willwerth
I’ve been following the Tampa Bay Buccaneers since the late 1980’s. That’s not an easy task, given that I live in the heart of Patriots’ country. I’ve seen the Bucs win a Super Bowl. I’ve also seen them when [4-12] was considered a “good” year.
With regard to that second statement, that may very well be where this year’s team is headed.
Let’s flash back to October 26. Tampa Bay defeated New Orleans at Raymond James Stadium, 26-20. The Bucs were [4-2] and in first place in the NFC South. They also had a victory over Atlanta earlier in the year.
That was the last time they tasted victory.
Seriously, what happened to this team? It all started the next week in London with a loss to the Bears. The bye week did little to ease the pain, as they lost the rematch against the Saints two weeks later. They’ve gone on to lose six more games in a row, eight in all, and what started as a promising year has turned into a disaster.
But it’s how they’ve been losing that has caught my attention. They’re not just dropping games; they’re dropping them badly.
During the current eight-game slide, they’ve given up 30 points or more five times. Twice they’ve given up over 40, including to Jacksonville, a team that finds the end zone as often as Kellen Winslow does.
So change is needed – big-time.
Let’s start with the head coach, Raheem Morris. The guy looks lost on the sideline. He gets out-coached in every game: that is, every game that his team is actually close in. Tampa Bay is also the third-most penalized team in the NFL. Penalties equal lack of discipline, while discipline equals coaching.
While we’re at it, let’s get rid of the defensive coordinator as well. You may have heard of him; his name is Raheem Morris. The Bucs are giving up 28.6 points per game – second-worst in the league. They are third worst in rushing yards allowed and total yards allowed. The pass defense is ranked 26th. For that, we should throw a party. They make the opposing running back look like a star. They can’t tackle. They don’t get nearly enough pressure on the quarterback. Only the Buffalo Bills have fewer sacks. Morris’ record in three seasons is [17-29]. And that includes last year’s surprising [10-6] campaign, which makes me wonder how they were able to pull that off.
The offensive coordinator is Greg Olson. He needs to walk the plank, too.
Let’s dissect some numbers, shall we?
The offense is 27th in points scored, 20th in total yards, 27th in total yards, etc. Quarterback Josh Freeman, after an outstanding 2010 season, has thrown 13 touchdowns and 18 interceptions. He’s lost three fumbles, including one Saturday night against Dallas. Remember Mike Williams? Yeah, he was great last year, too. Where’s he been? Not in the end zone, that’s for sure. He’s only found pay dirt three times in 2011. Freeman said the other day that Williams needs to do a better job of beating coverage down the field, but I say – it would also help if Freeman wasn’t running for his life all the time because he’s been sacked 24 times this season.
So the defense is awful. The offense is inconsistent. That begs the next question: who on this team scares you? Yes, I hear crickets.
Remember back when Tampa Bay had one of the most feared defenses in the NFL, with the likes of Warren Sapp, Ronde Barber, Derrick Brooks and John Lynch to name a few? Yes, Barber is still there, but he’s on the verge of hanging up his cleats.
There is a severe lack of talent in Tampa, which brings me to the owners of the franchise: the Glazers. For those who don’t know, they also control Manchester United. There is a perception out there that the Glazers care more about the soccer team than they do about the Pewter Pirates. Being $40 million under the salary cap will do that. Until last year, the Buccaneers had sold out every single game at Raymond James Stadium. They didn’t sell out any last year, and only two this year – against Indianapolis and Dallas – and there was plenty of visiting blue in the crowd for both of those games. My message to the Glazers is simple: start spending some money on impact players that will put some butts in the seats. If you don’t, then sell the franchise to someone who will. Period. End of story.
The Buccaneers have two games remaining: at Carolina and at Atlanta. Nothing leads me to believe they’re going to win either of those games, but maybe they’ll surprise me.
Living in New England, the Tampa newspapers are one of my few ways of keeping up on the daily comings and goings of my favorite team. I get the sense from reading them online that the Glazers may not even make a move, which is unbelievable.
Dear Glazers: I have gone to at least one game at Raymond James Stadium each of the last four years. You’d better give me a reason to do the same in 2012.