The Buccaneers, like 19 fellow franchises, will watch the playoff starting this weekend. However, it wasn’t supposed to be this way in 2017 for them. No, not with HBO’s “Hard Knocks” giving football fans everywhere “24/7” training camp access all August long and headed into a what was supposed to be a next level season to the playoffs and more.
Well, that didn’t happen.
Even though the Bucs won their finale’ Sunday night with the Saints, that snapped a five game losing streak and they still finished a floundering 5-11.
Now, unlike the last two head coaches, Lovie Smith and Greg Schiano, who were fired after failing to take the next steps in their second year, the Glazer family brought back head coach Dirk Koetter for a third season.
But unlike his predecessors, Koetter’s work with QB Jameis Winston for three seasons (the first as offensive coordinator in 2015) has shown promise and improvement. Also, in his first season as head coach last year, the team won five straight games in the second half of the year to get to 8-5 and in playoff contention. So, you understand the “mulligan” for Koetter on the 5-11 season this year.
However, the Buccaneers defense, which excelled in the second half of 2016 and contributed to the five game win streak also, clearly regressed this season.
Mike Smith, the second year defensive coordinator (photo above) and former Falcons head coach, was “dealt a bad hand” with virtually no pass rushing defensive ends to help in 2017. Still, the Bucs suffered everywhere, including tackling, on third down, etc. They ended up being dead last in the NFL in yards allowed, worst in opponent’s 3rd down conversions (48.5%), worst in sacks (only 22) and 24th in points allowed (23.9).
As our Roy Cummings wrote Monday, at his end of the year news conference, Koetter said publicly he intends to keep his coordinators, including Smith. However, Clearly, there has to be some kind of change on defense, and maybe, eventually, Smith will be gone.
Then, there’s GM Jason Licht. Again, the Bucs were improved in 2016 and players like Winston, WR Mike Evans, OL Ali Marpet, and a few others he’s selected in the draft have helped/contributed.
However, names like TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins (released at the beginning of last season), K Roberto Aguayo (released after one preseason game this year), LT Donovan Smith who’s struggled the last two years and DB Vernon Hargreaves, who was picked in the first round in 2016 but has struggled and was demoted to slot corner this year, are all premium picks of his that have failed to live up to it, thus far. Or, in two of their cases were gone almost immediately.
Licht has also missed repeatedly on draft picks in rounds 5-7 over the last four years he’s been in Tampa Bay, most of whom either haven’t made the team or had no impact.
And, Licht is the guy who did not draft or sign a single free agent pass rusher this year, which contributed to those woeful defensive stats above.
The Glazers did pick up Licht’s 2018 contract option this past off season, but that doesn’t preclude them from making a change.
Which brings us back to the current situation. A situation where the Buccaneers have not been in the playoffs in 10 years, have had six 10-loss seasons in the last nine, and have all but stamped out the optimism for fans with this year’s failure to get anything going.
It doesn’t seem to us that you can stand pat with Koetter as head coach, Smith as defensive coordinator and Licht, as GM and say to your fans (who you want to buy tickets) “nothing needs to change.”
Something has to change. And it’s not going to be the head coach.
Let’s see what it will be, ….or not.
Buccaneers cornerstone player in 2018?
(This is the first look at all three state NFL teams’ roster and identifying a player that we at F.F.I. believe is the foundation starter for their potential success in 2018)
It’s still a couple of weeks before the Buccaneers gather for training camp at One Buc Place and there’s already uncertainty everywhere. Off a disappointing showing down the stretch with a 5-11 finish in 2017, both head coach Dirk Koetter and GM Jason Licht were already feeling warmth under their seats.
Now, the perceived team leader, QB Jameis Winston, is suspended for the first three games of the season for violation of the NFL personal conduct policy. And, this has called into question whether he Winston is going to be on borrowed time himself, once he comes back.
So, who is the player that the Bucs will look to for leadership, stability and to help them get through tough times this year? Well, it’s not clear cut in Tampa Bay, but we have a strong guess.
If we are talking cornerstone player for 2018, we are talking yearly Pro Bowl DT Gerald McCoy.
The reasons are apparent.
McCoy has tenure in the Bucs locker room and has played at the high level for the past six seasons (under three different head coaches) and made the Pro Bowl in each one.
Most importantly, he provides a veteran presence to what is an uncertain situation.
And with the additions of former Eagles DE Vinny Curry in free agency, a trade for Giants Pro Bowler and Superbowl champion Jason Pierre Paul and the drafting of Washington All American DT Vita Vea in the first round, McCoy has more help than at any point in his career.
This means the former #1 pick out of Oklahoma will have a chance to excel, especially right away, this season.
Sure, the Bucs have a “franchise receiver” in Mike Evans, and gave him a huge extension in March. And they have one of the top star defenders in the NFL that few on the national level talk much about in LB LaVonte David.
However, with Winston’s future with the Buccaneers uncertain, Gerald McCoy is the guy to count on for this and the next few seasons.
Hall of Fame WR Randy mentoring Bucs QB Jameis Winston in Tampa
Controversy has followed Jameis Winston throughout his college and NFL careers and now, former controversial NFL star receiver turned ESPN analyst Randy Moss, is trying to help.
As you probably know by now, the Bucs QB is suspended for the first three games this season by the NFL for violation of the personal conduct policy after he inappropriately touched a female Uber driver in Arizona in 2016. It’s the latest in a long line of personal missteps and problems that have dogged Winston off the field, since his days at Florida State.
Meanwhile, Moss, who will be enshrined at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, OH, later this month, has been in Tampa recently working with and apparently trying to help mentor Winston.
Tampa TV station, Fox 13 and reporter Kevin O’Donnell, got exclusive comments from Moss on helping Winston on Tuesday:
— Kevin ODonnell Fox13 (@ODonnellFox13) July 10, 2018
“He’s doing things right,” Moss told the station. “It’s a bump in the road…Man, just continue to fight. It happens…. What he did was wrong. You know. I’m not saying right or wrong. There was a woman involved. So, I’m not going to get into all of that. What he did was wrong. He know (sic) it was wrong. So, I think it’s up to him as a man to understand what he did wrong….to live and learn from it and let it go.”
Moss had early controversies and arrests in his own college career, as he was denied entry at Notre Dame and later kicked off the FSU football team while red-shirting for arrests and probation violations that led him to being back behind bars.
He later thrived at Marshall University, was a Heisman Trophy Finalist, a first round pick by the Vikings and had a 14 year career as one of the most explosive NFL receivers of all time. Moss, who caught for 1,000 or more yards in 10 NFL seasons and is second all time with 156 TD receptions, was voted into the Hall of Fame (above) in his first time on the ballot back in January.
Winston was shown by the station running sprints and making throws to some other prospective NFL receivers at the workout Tuesday, but refused to talk on camera. He has not spoken publicly, since the NFL suspended him two weeks ago. He told the station he will talk at Bucs training camp later in July.
As for Moss, he further said Tuesday that he’s trying to give Winston and other young players advice from his own experiences and failures off the field.
“One of the things that I always told my people: ‘Don’t be scared or shy to tell me no, because I check my pride in at the door….I’ll thank you later, you know, when I’m not behind bars, or when I’m still on a football team.” Moss continued, “A lot of these guys don’t realize that they’re being watched under a microscope and they don’t realize it until it happens to them and they’re out of job.”
At this point, the fourth year Bucs QB Winston, has to realize that he is on the verge of being out of a job in Tampa. That’s if he doesn’t respond well from the suspension by staying out of trouble and performing well on the field.
New Bucs DE Jason Pierre Paul still great reminder of July 4th safety
The Buccaneers are excited to see what former USF and New York Giants star Jason Pierre-Paul can do on the field in Tampa Bay this fall. After being acquired in a trade with the G-men in March, Pierre Paul hopes to energize an almost non-existent Bucs pass rush from last year.
One thing is for sure, as much as he’s known for being a star on the field, Pierre Paul has become a reminder of “what not to do” and specifically fireworks safety on July 4th.
It was three years ago Wednesday night that Pierre Paul’s decision to celebrate and ignite amateur hand-held fireworks in South Florida led to a horrific and potentially, career threatening right hand injury.
But, out of what could have been football tragedy involving his hand, Pierre-Paul has made a comeback and is now a national PSA symbol for firework safety.
The beginning of Pierre Paul’s football story is the Deerfield Beach, as a native of Hatian immigrant parents playing as a Juco star in both California and Kansas. Then, he was brought back to Florida, by coach Jim Leavitt and staff, as USF’s dominant pass rusher in 2009. That year he attained All Big East honors with 6.5 sacks and 16.5 tackles for loss for the Bulls.
This fast tracked Pierre Paul to the NFL after only one season in Tampa and he was drafted 15th overall by the Giants in the 2010 NFL Draft.
After a rookie year with 4.5 sacks, he burst on the pro scene in season two with 16.5 sacks for the G-men leading to a Pro Bowl selection and was part of the New York Superbowl victory over the Patriots that February.
Pierre-Paul continued to be regarded as the Giants most consistent pass rushing threat and had another double digit sack season with 12.5 in 2014.
Then came the off season of 2015, where he chose not to sign his one year Franchise Player free agent tender (the Giants still had his exclusive rights) seeking a longer term deal. And, he remained unsigned as of July 4th that year.
That night in 2015 he loaded up a van with handheld amateur fireworks and with friends and neighbors began shooting them off until one obviously malfunctioned and mangled his right hand. Pierre-Paul was hospitalized and eventually had multiple surgeries on the hand and his right index finger amputated.
The Giants stood by him, when they could have dumped him for non-football injury, and he eventually made his way back onto the field in November of 2015. Signing a “pro rated” week to week one year deal, his debut came as New York traveled to Raymond James Stadium (Pierre-Paul’s USF home for a season) and he played with a padded “club” protecting his right hand against the Bucs.
He would play in eight total games that season with one sack and then, as further proof of the Giants being in his corner, they re-signed him on a one year $10 million deal for 2016. Pierre-Paul then worked a year ago with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission on a July 4th fireworks safety video:
The gnarly image and video of Pierre-Pauls right hand is obviously the deterrent the agency is looking for with the PSA campaign about safety. He played 2016 with a special padded glove to protect the hand/fingers registering another seven sacks before being placed on I.R. with a sports hernia.
Finally, and happiest of all financial endings after the fireworks disaster, Pierre-Paul inked a four year $62 million deal with $40 million guaranteed in March of last year to stay, so he thought, in New York.
So, while it all worked out in the end, obviously, the Jason Pierre-Paul July 4th fireworks mess could have had a much different ending all the way around for he, the Giants and now, the Bucs.
It’s a reminder to stay safe Wednesday night. Leave the handheld fireworks to someone else.
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