Controlling Your Own Destiny Is Overrated, Anyway
December 22, 2008 at 03:14am by Scott • 7 Comments »
I’ll probably be a little late with the game summary Monday morning. Most of that time will be used to find synonyms for the words “fuck” and “fail”. Go ahead and start in with the comments on this thread and I’ll add to this post in the afternoon.
UPDATE: Okay, I think I needed to wander the streets of Atlanta and sell some fake crack to desperate whores to get my spirits up. Man, there’s nothing like the toothless smile on a ragged-out crackwhore’s face when she buys a $10 piece of rock salt to get you in the Christmas spirit. There was even this one with a limp that I started calling Tiny Tim. Hoo boy, that was classic. Well, I guess you had to be there.
Anyway, let’s start with Jeff Garcia. I think it’s pretty obvious by now that Garcia is the best quarterback the Bucs have, which is really kind of sad. He’s tough, yes. He’s elusive, no doubt. And he made some plays when there were no plays to be made initially. But come on… missing a WIDE OPEN Antonio Bryant — twice!?! Throwing to a blanketed Ike Hilliard when Bryant was running free down the right sideline? I’m not even so mad about the interception off the deflection as I am that he missed the open receiver yet again. Are you kidding me?
Let me calm down a little. Garcia also took that shot to Bryant which, though underthrown, wound up being a 71-yard touchdown to put the Bucs ahead. He also hit a couple really nice passes in the first half as well as making some key scrambles to keep drives alive. But then he does something stupid like throwing behind Michael Clayton or taking an intentional grounding penalty when getting the ball to Jerramy Stevens was not only possible, but very doable. At the least he could have overthrown him intentionally just to avoid the penalty.
I can’t put this loss on Garcia. I can’t even say that he didn’t put the team on his back and try to lead them to victory. He did — bloody face and all. But where great quarterbacks do that and win, he did that and lost. Is that an indictment of him? Probably a little, yeah. It means that the Bucs don’t have an elite quarterback that can take over a game. Peyton Manning is one of those guys. Hell, Phillip Rivers might even be one of those guys. Jeff Garcia is not.
Now that I think of it, it was kind of the same with the offensive line. They tried, you could see it. But the year has taken its toll on them and they’ve just gotten weaker over the course of the season. The running lanes aren’t there very much. The first drive of the second half had a couple holes for the running backs to run through. They also created just enough daylight for Garcia to squirt through a few times. And the pass-protection was pretty good for the most part. The team did get 342 yards of offense. But this is not an offensive line that can dominate a good (or even decent) defensive line. Not at this point in the season. Even a mountain of a man like Davin Joseph got blown up a couple times.
The running backs were nearly worthless yesterday. The best run of the day was a one-yarder that Cadillac Williams took for a first down after being stopped initially. Again, great players make something out of nothing. The offensive line didn’t open up many holes, but the running backs didn’t make many of their own. Without Earnest Graham, the team doesn’t have a bruising running back that can plow through the defensive line and punish linebackers. Warrick Dunn can make guys miss, but he didn’t do it yesterday. The Charger defenders were still fresh after three quarters because no one really took the game to them.
Did anyone else notice that the Bucs started the game in a run-and-shoot formation with no tight end and no fullback? So, I guess it is possible to get Bryant and Joey Galloway on the field at the same time? Who knew?!? Oh, right. We all did. Galloway had one catch that didn’t mean much, but the time he was on the field, he took more than one defender with him. That won’t work forever if Garcia doesn’t ever try to get the ball to him on the deep routes, but it worked yesterday.
Bryant’s day started with a couple drops, but he made up for it later and actually ended the say stronger than he started it. To me, that’s a key quality of a great player. If 2009 is going to be a rebuilding season with a new quarterback, he’s going to need a reliable #1 target to go to. Bruce Allen, do not let Bryant test free agency.
The good news for the defensive line is that they held LaDainian Tomlinson to 90 yards. The bad news is that Tomlinson isn’t half the running back he was last year. Jovan Haye helped out a lot in that area, though, and his presence evidently really does make a difference.
But the pass rush was pretty awful. The only guys to really make Rivers uncomfortable were Jimmy Wilkerson (who had the only sack of the say) and Kevin Carter. Neither Gaines Adams nor Greg White got any measurable pressure on Rivers and, like most of the rest of the team, have faded down the stretch of the season. Isn’t this about the time in a high draft pick’s career that he really starts taking shit over? His first year you can forgive. Training camp and the first part of the season were awesome for Adams. Then a few weeks ago, POW! It’s like the fuse blew and now he’s powerless. Is he hurt? Is he sad that Monte Kiffin is going away? Did he drop his low fat diet and now he’s all lethargic? Why are you sucking, Gaines?
Barrett Ruud continues to be the best player on the defense. I understand why the other MLBs on the Pro Bowl roster were chosen, but Ruud is better than Jon Beason.
So when there’s no pressure on the quarterback from the defensive line, it’s up to the secondary to pick up the slack, right? They have to maintain their coverage longer and keep up with their responsibilities. Pfffft.
They all got torched, but none more so than Phillip Buchanon. Vincent Jackson and Antonio Gates picked on Buchanon all day and it always paid off. Rivers even told the announcers that they were going to pick on him. Sabby Piscitelli got burned pretty good a couple times, too. I’m glad Piscitelli is getting some starting experience and he’s going to be a better player next year for it. I just wish it wasn’t coming during a must-win stretch.
And who the hell is Legedu Naane? And why was he allowed to get any catches at all? Two first downs in the second quarter, one over Ronde Barber and one in front of Tanard Jackson. Are you kidding me?
I guess I’ll cover special teams, which was okay. Clifton Smith had a great return, Donte Nicholson had a great open field tackle, Matt Bryant actually had a touchback on a kickoff. But then there was the Darren Sproles returns (average 22.5 per punt and 31.8 per kickoff) and the Josh Bidwell shank for 25 yards. The Chargers kept getting good field position, but I have a feeling that it wouldn’t have mattered. The way Rivers was playing against the Buccaneer secondary, it would have been only a matter of time before they got into position anyway.
I know some of you are calling for Jon Gruden‘s head. This loss wasn’t on him — it was the execution of the defense that really lost it. But eventually the head coach has to take some responsibility for the team’s overall performance. If one area gets sloppy for a game or two, you can forgive it. But over the course of the last several seasons, you’d hope to see some kind of forward progression. Some kind of indication that this team is built for the long haul. They’re going to lose their starting quarterback next season, a wide receiver, a safety, maybe a linebacker or two… they’ll be halfway rebuilding. Not a full-on rebuild; the offensive line will stay intact and probably all the running backs will stick around for another year. But if a good chunk of this team is going to fall away in the offseason, you would have liked to have gotten something out of it. The Bucs got a NFC South championship last year which led to a one-and-done against the Giants. And this year, at best, they get to back into the playoffs in order to get slaughtered, probably by Minnesota. That’s not a lot of return on a head coach that has been treading water for a number of years now.
Is it him? Is it because he sticks with the same offensive line coach that only gets him marginal improvements before taking steps backwards? Is his playcalling getting stale? Does he need an offensive coordinator to give him some fresh ideas? This is all stuff we’ll talk about in the offseason. He’s not going anywhere at the end of this season. All you Gruden haters can save your breath for another year. Even if he loses next week, he’s the coach in 2009. Believe it. But something has to change. Just about everything around him has changed — players, general manager, assistant coaches (mostly). If he continues to be unsuccessful with a stagnant offensive and a defense that can no longer bail him out, what’s left?