In a move completely expected, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers fired defensive coordinator Mike Smith after the team’s latest dismal performance on defense in Sunday’s 34 – 29 loss to the Atlanta Falcons.
Five games into his third season, Smith had been embattled for the last year and a half with a defense that was consistently unable to pressure the quarterback and constantly giving up tons of yardage and points.
The Buccaneers announced Smiths firing in a press release Monday afternoon and then Coach Dirk Koetter addressed the media about an hour later:
Tune in to Dirk Koetter's day-after-game press conference. https://t.co/BurkxVrqov
— Tampa Bay Buccaneers (@Buccaneers) October 15, 2018
“We thank coach Smith for the effort, passion-everything he brought to the Bucs…..This is a production business, and we have to play better on defense.” Koetter was asked whether it was his decision alone to make the move and quickly and tersely answered “Yes.”
Koetter later described the move to fire Smith, as “the second toughest thing that I’ve ever had to do in coaching.”
He hand-picked Smith to come to Tampa Bay, when Koetter was elevated as the Buccaneers head coach in 2016. He had previously worked as Smith’s offensive coordinator with the Atlanta Falcons.
While Koetter was adamant that the decision was his and his alone, there’s been a firestorm of criticism on the airwaves, the internet and elsewhere around Smith and the lack of defensive success this season.
Sunday was the 17th time that Smith’s defense had given up at least 300 yards passing during his 2+ years tenure with the Buccaneers. It also came on the heels of Bears QB Mitchell Trubisky lighting them up for six TD passes in a 48-10 win two weeks ago before the bye.
Sunday was also the fourth consecutive loss to Smiths old team, the Falcons.
During Smith’s first season as defensive coordinator, the Buccaneers were struggling in the first half of the year. However that was being blamed on the new defense taking time to learn and adjust to. And to the credit of Smith, his staff and the players, the Bucs defense was significantly better the second half of that season creating turnovers and getting sacks, as the team won five straight games. The Bucs finished 9 and 7 and just missed the playoffs.
Smith coached the Falcons for seven seasons from 2008 – 14 and had winning seasons in each of his first five years with four playoff appearances. Koetter was his offensive coordinator for the last two seasons in Atlanta before Smith was fired.
Smith had previously been the defensive coordinator of the Jacksonville Jaguars for five years from 2003 to 2007.
The Buccaneers have named linebackers coach Mark Duffner, as their defensive coordinator on an interim basis. Dufner is a longtime NFL assistant, who was also the Bengals defensive coordinator earlier in the 2000s.
Bucs coach Arians wouldn’t endorse Winston future Wednesday
With four games to go, the Buccaneers have been improved the last two weeks and Come Away with victories. However the largest question still looming for them is what is the future of quarterback Jameis Winston be on this season?
And on Wednesday afternoon, first-year coach Bruce Arians created buzz when he refused to endorse Winston coming back for his second season.
Arians met with the media after Tampa Bay’s practice preparing for the Colts and was asked whether Winston had done enough to earn at least a contract for 2020?
“I’ve been in it where you have to win four, we won all four… and we won the Super Bowl. JPP’s been in the same situation. So it’s happened. It’s been done.”
➡️: HC Bruce Arians pic.twitter.com/7Lld1JYfDh
— Tampa Bay Buccaneers (@Buccaneers) December 5, 2019
“I’m gonna pass on that one. I’m gonna wait until the end of December. There’s been really, really good. And there’s been some really, really bad…. I’m just going to pass until it’s over. And then, we’ll make a decision.”
Winston is currently in the 5th year option of his rookie deal that is paying him $20 million for this season. If the Buccaneers choose to place the franchise tag on Winston, he would likely be making around $25 million for next year.
Winston has been a mixed bag of some success but still way too many turnovers. Heading into this weekend’s play, he currently is 2nd in the NFL in passing yards and tied for 6th with 22 touchdown passes. Winston also had a six-game stretch with 300 yards or more in each one of them, which was the first time in Buccaneers history the quarterback had done that.
However, he has been unable to shake the biggest flaw that has dogged him since his Florida State days, and that’s interceptions and turnovers. Winston still leads the NFL with 25 turnovers through 12 games.
And, this includes three games this season where Winston has had four or more turnovers (all losses), including four interceptions three weeks ago in a crushing home loss to the Saints.
Arians decided to soften his stance a bit during his weekly appearance on SiriusXM NFL radio channel Wednesday night:
.@Buccaneers Head Coach Bruce Arians on his evaluation of Jameis Winston to this point….
"Right now there's a lot of good things on tape" #GoBucs
— SiriusXM NFL Radio (@SiriusXMNFL) December 5, 2019
However, he still repeated that the decision will be made after the season.
And, it’s obvious that if Winston plays well and the Bucs win at least a couple of more games, then he’s got a great shot to be brought back. However, if Winston continues the turnover problem and the Bucs aren’t winning. that may seal his fate.
Tampa Bay has only one winning season and has never made the playoffs with Winston at the helm. And, the interceptions, turnovers and losing may be too much to overcome.
Bucs bash Jacksonville- Jaguars to turn back to QB Minshew?
The Bucs put together a third win in four games primarily with their defense stuffing the Jaguars on their way to a 28 – 11 victory Sunday. Meanwhile, there’s a larger question looming for the Jags. Will they turn back to rookie QB Gardner Minshew?
More on that in moment.
First, Tampa Bay forced four turnovers and turned the first three of them into touchdowns building a 22-0 lead and never looked back.
The first one was by rookie first-round pick linebacker Devin White, who jumped in front of a Nick Foles pass and the Bucs promptly marched 69 yards in eight plays for their first points, as Peyton Barber capped the drive with a 15-yard touchdown run and 7 – 0 lead.
The Buccaneers wasted no time in getting their second turnover and immediately, got back in the end zone. This as, just 10 seconds later Shaq Barrett blindsided Foles for a sack/fumble that was picked up by White.
Shaq Barrett gets the sack fumble on Nick Foles, Devin White scoops it up and returns it for a TD. Barrett is now up to 13.5 sacks and 6 forced fumbles on the season.
— NFL Update (@MySportsUpdate) December 1, 2019
He ran it in for his first NFL score, and Barber added a two-point conversion on a run and the lead grew to 15-0.
Foles, making his third start since returning from a broken collarbone in week one, and the Jaguars were actually moving the ball later in the second quarter. They got into the Red Zone, but he was sacked, again, this time by Carl Nassib and fumbled again. That was recovered by Ndamukong Suh, and Tampa Bay proceeded to drive 85 yards with Barber scoring again on a 1-yard run for the three touchdown cushion.
Down 25 – 0 starting the second half, Jaguars coach Doug Marrone went back to his starter earlier in the year- rookie sixth round pick Gardner Minshew. Minshew, who won four games in Foles’ absence, led Jacksonville on two scoring drives, including throwing a three yard TD to Dede Westbrook early in the fourth quarter. Minshew also scrambled and found Westbrook for the two-point conversion to trim the lead to 25 – 11.
It looked as though “Minshew Mania” was going to bite the Buccaneers, as the Jags drove inside the Tampa Bay 10-yard line with plenty of time remaining, but on a third-down and goal play, Minshew was intercepted by Buccaneers rookie defensive back Sean Murphy-Bunting which basically ended their comeback.
The Bucs added a Matt Gay field goal late in the fourth quarter for the final margin of 17 points.
Tampa Bay won back-to-back games for the first time this season and now will get three of the final four games of the year at home.
Meanwhile for Jaguars brass and Marrone, they definitely have a controversy on their hands, as the Jags have dropped four straight games. And, Foles has played poorly in his two-and-a-half game since being reinstated as the starter.
The crowd was booing and chanting “Minshew, Minshew” loudly from the middle of the second quarter on.
But, it’s also not an easy decision from a financial standpoint, as Foles is still owed more is $30 million over the next couple of years in guaranteed money.
For his part, Marrone said that he would make the decision and inform the QBs about who will start against the Chargers at home this Sunday. And that could come, as soon as Monday.