Reasons For The Slide
November 16, 2011 at 10:19am by Scott • 7 Comments »
Stephen Holder tried to make sense of the problems the Bucs are having by breaking it down into three separate reasons. Here’s a preview: One of them isn’t overabundance of awesomeness.
Reason No. 1: When the Bucs made their talent evaluations during the offseason, they needed to take into account that the first- and second-year players who succeeded last season had not done so over a sustained period of time. You know why NFL people say you need three years to judge a draft? Because you don’t know what you have until then.
And that all seems valid. But then Holder goes on to say:
Right now, it is hard not to think the front office overestimated the talent level of this team.
But it takes three years — you just said. At the end of this season, it will have been three years since drafting Josh Freeman, Roy Miller, E.J. Biggers and Sammie Stroughter, and none of them have played three years worth of games yet. I’m going to guess that Freeman is as talented as we all think he is and that he’s just having a slump. Everyone else is still kind of debatable.
As for the rest of the team, if the Bucs overestimated their talent, than they did so with good cause. The team went 10-6 last year and had some pretty good rankings in some areas. Maybe they overachieved a little bit, but isn’t that what you want when you grab undrafted free agents and castoffs? For the price they paid (both money and draft picks) for the players they have, I don’t think they overestimated them. Now… whether that level of talent is capable of competing in the NFC South, that’s a different story.
Reason No. 2: This is closely related to my last point. One of the problems with starting so many young players at critical positions is the fact that few of them had to fight for their jobs. There were precious few position battles in training camp, and one of the reasons for that was that most incumbent starters were unchallenged.
Young players have the tendency to get complacent when they have immediate success. I suppose the team could have made some more effort to spur competition for certain positions, but really, was the depth ever there to do that? You saw the camp bodies they brought in. Those guys were never going to really push the incumbents. The only competition that was really hot was the one between Mason Foster and Tyrone McKenzie, and the Bucs basically handed the job to Foster. You can debate whether or not that was the right decision, but McKenzie is currently sitting on Minnesota’s practice squad, so no one else saw him as even a part-time player, either.
Some of the poor depth surely has to do with the lack of an offseason and the delay in being able to sign undrafted free agents. They kind of did the best with what they had.
Reason No. 3: Leadership often is an overrated quality in sports. The overwhelming majority of outcomes are decided by talent, pure and simple. But when a team is at a crisis point, as the Bucs are now, leadership is essential.
I covered this the other day so I won’t rehash it. But I do think there is a lack of veteran leadership on the team and as a result, no one is there to impose a standard of excellence in the way that only a player who has had his share of battles can.
The trouble with these three reasons is that there’s no an immediate solution for any of them. You can’t will your team to get more talented. They either are or they aren’t. There are no good free agents out there, unless you want to bring in Terrell Owens to help catch balls, and I don’t think that really does much. And the kind of veteran leadership this team needs isn’t the kind you can get with a street free agent (despite the story about Albert Haynesworth trying to rally everyone at the end of the Houston game). They either have to grow up in the team or they have to be signed early so they can be seen as a true part of the team and not some hired gun. If these truly are the reasons for the Bucs’ slide, it’s not going to get better this season.