Josh Freeman

None And Done

December 29, 2008 at 02:20am by Scott   •  7 Comments »

Worth a thousand words.
I’ve been thinking for a few hours about what is really wrong with this Buccaneers team. What is it that makes a 9-3 team drop its last four games in a row and lose a playoff spot that they had really only had to have ten wins to clinch? I’ve gone back and looked at the game summaries for the season and came to the conclusion that this was never a playoff team. Instead of being a team that got screwed out of a couple games like Dallas and Denver, they actually were the beneficiaries of victories against Chicago and Kansas City that they probably should have dropped. And then as the season wore on, injuries mounted and linemen started getting sore, the team’s true colors came out and they shit themselves. This team was never good enough to get to the playoffs.

And I don’t care what any analyst says about Monte Kiffin announcing his intentions last month. That was not what caused the defense to meltdown. Any player that allows something like that to affect his play doesn’t deserve to be on the team. This is professional football. Really, were their minds so distracted by the idea of playing without Kiffin next year that they couldn’t concentrate on the last month of the season? Were they depressed and couldn’t muster the energy to tackle properly? These aren’t teenage goth girls. Give these players at least the credit that they can accept a change in coaching personnel and not forget how to play the game. I believe the timing of the announcement and the breakdown is coincidental.

Okay, onto the game. I predicted earlier today that Antonio Bryant would have a big day. I kind of assumed that Jeff Garcia would play better than he has been. I was wrong. Bryant was wide open several times during the game and Garcia either overthrew him or didn’t see him or did see him but chose to throw elsewhere. When Jon Gruden goes back to review this tape, he’s going to tell Bruce Allen to go out and find him a new veteran quarterback. A taller one; one that can see the entire fucking field.

I already noted my disappointment for Cadillac Williams and the knee injury he suffered as he was having one of the best games of his career. If anything caused the Bucs to lose focus, it was Williams’s injury. Williams was rushing for 6.5 YPC and was the game’s leading receiver, something you never would have thought last year. I don’t know if he spent part of his rehab time in front of a JUGS machine, but he caught everything thrown his way. That’s one of the most tragic aspects of this — he was actually on his way to being better than he was as a rookie.

Warrick Dunn has had a fine season and has been much more involved than he signed up for. But if Dunn comes back next season, it’s going to be as a very specific role player. His age plus the beatings he has taken throughout his career have added up and he’s simply not effective enough late in the season. After Williams went down, Gruden should have put Clifton Smith in behind center. He’s a playmaker and a rookie and can take some pounding from the defensive line. If Smith has his fumbling under control, he should be paired with Earnest Graham for that power/speed mix that is a staple of the most successful teams lately.

B.J. Askew‘s stuffing on third-and-one was all on Davin Joseph. He missed his block, plain and simple. I’m not really a fan of those up-back quick handoffs anyway because you’re basically playing 9-on-11 by taking your halfback and quarterback out of the play when the defense knows it can sell out to stop the run. But it’s even worse when it’s 8-on-11.

Hey, at least the offensive line had its best game in a long time. It started off kind of slow with the run-blocking, but picked up nicely in the second and third quarters. And Garcia’s protection was really very good for most of the day. Rich Gannon hit it right on the head when he said that Garcia scrambles around too much and he needs to trust his protection. Haven’t we been saying that for months now?

Specifically, Jeff Faine had an exemplary day. For a big dude, he gets downfield in a hurry. He knows when to take his protection to the next level and is really aggressive in making those later blocks.

So, how do you rate Michael Clayton‘s last game as a Buccaneer? A huge catch and run for a touchdown, but also a couple of catchable (but tough) balls dropped. It was pretty much more of the same thing that we’ve seen for years now. I really thought in 2005 that he would be the guy to build the new offense around. “Simms to Clayton — TOUCHDOWN! That’s their 100th connection for a score.” is what Al Michaels was going to say sometime in 2012. Oh well. It’s been nice, Michael. Whaddya think? Cincinnati?

Again, this game was not Antonio Bryant’s fault. Sign Antonio Bryant tomorrow, please. And consult him when interviewing quarterbacks. Seriously. He has to be frustrated with getting consistent separation and not getting thrown to. He needs to have chemistry off the bat with the new guy. I’m not saying to sign whoever he says, but you have to at least make sure he’s seen tape and feels good about the guy.

I also think Ike Hilliard spends another year in pewter.

Despite dropping another catchable ball, Jerramy Stevens needs to be re-signed and coached up. He had a pretty quiet day, but he’s a big, physical presence that can be a killer in the endzone. Alex Smith should be relegated to backup duty and rotate John Gilmore and Stevens depending on the situation.

The defensive line was abysmal. They started off stuffing the run pretty nicely, but that didn’t last long. Michael Bush had 177 yards rushing and everybody knew the Raiders were going to run the ball. I certainly did. Inability to stop the run plus no pass run equals a loss. Add in poor tackling in the fourth quarter and it turns into an embarrassment.

I really thought that the defensive line rotation with Jimmy Wilkerson and Ryan Sims and Greg White along with the starters would keep the line fresh and tackling well. But everyone just looked… tired. Listless. Is it possible that all these guys have small tanks and they’re all getting gassed by the fourth quarter? Or is it the scheme that’s keeping them from getting adequate pressure and penetration and they’re frustrated and sloppy by the end of the game? I’ve got to go with the latter. We’ve seen all these guys make plays at one time or another. Raheem Morris may want to consider making the defensive line his priority for the offseason — specifically, the coaching.

Would Derrick Brooks come back in 2009 as a part-time linebacker to help in the transition between defensive regimes? Because if not, this may need to be his last season. He’s had a decent year, but has been hurt and slow in the latter part and completely whiffed on a couple plays. Like, for instance, the long Michael Bush run. He didn’t come back after that play, but I’m not sure if it was because he was hurt or because he was benched.

This was Cato June‘s best game this year. That’s a sadder statement than you think.

You may think I’m going to start sucking Sabby Piscitelli‘s dick after his interception and long (and impressive) return. But the fact is that it was a very poorly thrown ball by JaMarcus Russell and Piscitelli was expected to make that pick. Still, good job, Sabby.

I never thought that Gruden was going to kick the 50-yard field goal on fourth-and-four. Matt Bryant is not reliable from that distance and he certainly shouldn’t have punted. He showed faith in his offense and was let down. The actual play call could have been better, but I don’t know if that should be pinned on Gruden or Garcia. Whatever. But the decision to go for it was the right one.

You know what else hurt the Bucs? Field position. Who knew Shane Lechler was going to be such a weapon? Oh, right, Gruden did. He’s the one who drafted him in Oakland. Between Lechler and Johnnie Lee Higgins, the Bucs were put in awful field position for most of the day.

Look, this team had a ten point lead in the fourth quarter. And in every game this month, they’ve either had a lead or been tied in the fourth. The Bucs have had offensive issues, but this entire month has been about the defense giving up big plays in the running game in the fourth quarter. It’s not a lack of effort and it’s not that Gruden has somehow just now lost the locker room. This is being physically overpowered.

Still, it is at least partially the head coach’s responsibility to get his team “up” for big games or to put the assistant coaches in place to do it. Gruden won’t be fired, but he’ll be in the hot seat yet again going into 2009.

Philadelphia bent over and gang-raped Dallas 44-6. You can argue that the Eagles might not have played that hard if they knew they were out of the playoffs, but that wouldn’t have made Dallas any better. Even if Philadelphia only gave 25% effort had the Bucs won, they still could have beaten the Cowboys. The playoffs were there for the Bucs to take. As I said, I don’t think the Bucs would have gone anywhere in the playoffs because this was not a team built for the long haul. In some ways, maybe it’s better that they lost out and avoided the embarrassment of (another) nationally televised pantsing.

We’ll have plenty of time to discuss what to do and who to get in the offseason. But the problems are evident and the solutions seem obvious. But for now, Go Titans.

7 Comments to “None And Done”

bigchet

bigchet (December 29, 2008 at 08:30am:

As big as the Clayton touchdown was, it was too little too late for me to want him back on this team. Let him go as a UFA and he’ll be cut by another team in preseason or by the middle of next season.

As for the line coaches (both OL and DL), they need to go. We say it every year with Muir, but with this much talent, they shouldn’t be pushed around on run blocking as much as they’ve been the last 4 weeks. Coyer’s DL faded much like his defense in Denver did his last year as DC with the Broncos. We need to go for the “run stuffer” on the DL, enough with the quick linemen that cannot put pressure on the QB because they are man handled by the opposing OL.

I haven’t looked at the draft sites yet, but I would bet we need to look for a RB in the early rounds. I like Graham, but with all the RB’s we went into the season with, we were down to the last one by the end of the last game and we need a young set of legs. If this can be an upgraded position through a free agent, then we need to explore it.

Bidwell’s leg looks dead. It’s been dead for most of this season, he’s put the Bucs in more trouble with his punting then I can remember getting a punter leaving this team in poor positions with each kick.

The Bucs are plenty under the salary cap, I’m sure it’s not going to expand much this year from last, but they need to spend that money on some quality starters and decent backups at key positions. They need to have a good draft and it’s not like they’ll have a great position in the early picks.

After watching the Jets get beaten by Miami, I could only think how dismal this year would have been if Favre was the QB and how much we would have had to give up to get him. That’s one of the few bright spots I can pull from this seasons last week. I look at the needs of this team and I see:

1. DL that can stuff the run
2. LB’s that can drop back into coverage as well as tackle (June was nonexistent the full year and Brooks was running on fumes for most of it).
3. Secondary help, this team needs another CB to take over for Buchanon (Talib to take over Barber’s spot) and use one of the current CB’s as the nickel. They also need to resign Flip as Saby’s better as the backup and special teams guy, I’m not sold that he can tackle from what he’s displayed.
4. QB. They need to make this a priority (along with signing Bryant) in the offseason. Get someone that can lead this team and play consistently.
5. WR. Signing Bryant is major, but they need to bring in someone who can spread the field and open up the running game.

Matt Price

Matt Price (December 29, 2008 at 01:18pm:

Strangely, I’m not too disappointed. I think you’re right Scott that this was never a playoff team. I think this team is designed to squeak by and pray for an easy schedule. Problem is, that doesn’t work once teams start to get serious, and it will never work in the playoffs. Maybe this collapse will get management thinking about changes that need to be made:

1. Fire Muir and Coyer
2. Hire an O-coordinator (or fire Gruden)
3. Learn to throw the fucking ball downfield
4. Get a fast wide receiver (and sign Bryant now)
5. Get a long term quarterback with better vision
6. Make the older D-guys back ups (Barber, Brooks)
7. Put one or two fat guys in the middle of the D-line to stop the run
8. Change the uniforms back to orange.
9. Shoot one of the backups to motivate the team.

jarldg

jarldg (December 29, 2008 at 01:51pm:

The comments above essentially wrap up what I’d have to say and then some. Certainly Matt’s prospect number 9- especially if that backups name is dexter jackson. The draft is going to be very crucial this year. With the first round pick, I’m not sure what position is most realistically going to be picked, or what should be picked. I’m sure of one thing, and that this team is going to get worse before it improves- considering the recent surge in the other teams ability within its division.

wes

wes (December 29, 2008 at 03:34pm:

wow…did you watch jeff garcia’s press conference after the game? to see him almost cry when talking about playing for the Bucs makes me think we should keep him around, maybe even as a backup(he thought about it when asked the question). what do you think?

Fizzy Womak

Fizzy Womak (December 29, 2008 at 03:36pm:

The Bucs can fix these problems in a year. Free agency and the draft is the way to do it.
The Dolphins and Falcons were the worst teams in the NFL last year. They made the right moves in free agency. Chad Pennington, Joey Porter, Micheal Turner, and John Abraham were good F.A. pick ups. In the draft the Falcons got Matt Ryan and Dolphins picked up a solid offensive takle in Jake Long.Solid draft and free agent pick ups.
The Bucs had a poor draft and poor free agency(besides Dunn and Bryant).
The Dolphins and Falcons also happen to be operating under new coaching staffs.

dbettura

dbettura (December 29, 2008 at 07:49pm:

I can’t believe no one has suggested firing Bruce Allen. I’m sick of watching this guy shit the bed on every draft pick and free agent he signs. Calvin Johnson should be in pewter!!!!

Scott

Scott (December 29, 2008 at 09:13pm:

@dbettura: I think you’re being a little harsh. Allen has gotten about one pre-fifth round pick bust per year. Jackson, Zemaitis, Colmer, Cooper… those are the only ones I can think of off the top of my head. Most anything after the fourth round is a crap shoot anyway. And if you’re going to hit Allen for missing on some high picks, you have to give him credit for finding some hidden gems. Geno Hayes, Clifton Smith, Byron Storer, Donald Penn, just to name the ones that are on the team now. High picks and big free agent money don’t always add up to Super Bowls. Ask Jerry Jones and Dan Snyder. Allen solved the cap crisis and has been able to put together decent teams. Decent teams that have underperformed, to be sure. But now they have a young offensive line that has started a lot of games together, a good pair of young safeties, and a couple other pieces to build on.

As for Calvin Johnson, yeah, he’s good. But they got Antonio Bryant for relatively nothing and didn’t have to give up any draft picks for him. Bryant was good for at least one more victory for the Bucs than they would have gotten. Johnson, despite all the hype, couldn’t put the Lions on his back and produce a single victory. I’ll take Bryant.

Comment on this post:

You must be logged in to post a comment.