Even Geena Davis Couldn’t Have Been This Bad: How to Fix the Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Have you seen “Cutthroat Island”?  If you haven’t, please don’t.

You see, “Cutthroat Island” was supposed to be an adventurous romp through the high seas with a badass female pirate.  Problem was that badass pirate was played by Geena Davis.  Yes, that’s the same Geena Davis from “Thelma & Louise” and “A League of Their Own”.  Nothing against Geena Davis, but frankly, she made an incredibly unbelievable pirate captain.  And she didn’t even try to sound like a pirate.  Not that I think all pirates were like “Ahoy Matey” every second of every day, but Geena Davis basically sounded like…well…she sounded like Geena Davis with a pirate outfit.

OK, so it wasn’t all terrible, in a shlocky goofy “it’s so bad it’s good” sort of way.  Unfortunately for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, there isn’t an “it’s so bad it’s good” way to run a football team.  So what can they do to turns things around?  Let’s take a look.

The Problem

Tampa Bay Bucs-sadThe Tampa Bay Buccaneers ended an incredibly disappointing season with only 2 wins, neither of which were in the NFC South.  Clearly, there’s a lot of work to be done.

Vincent Jackson, previously seen as the Buc’s premiere receiving option, had a down year, but rookie Mike Evans really broke out with 1051 yards and 12 TDs during the regular season, even after missing a game due to injury.  And this even with the comical QB combination of Josh McCown and Mike Glennon.

Tampa did the right thing and released McCown last week.  They evidently saw what everyone else in the league saw — that McCown wasn’t the answer.  Unfortunately, according to ESPN, McCown had the dubious distinction of having the largest drop in QBR between 2013 and 2014.  Just check it out below:

In case you’re wondering, McCown will potentially end up in Buffalo, but doesn’t have a contract with them yet.  Crazy to think that a 35-year old journeyman quarterback could be a hot commodity.  Says a lot about the dearth at the QB position this year in free agency.

Getty Images

Getty Images

Regardless, McCown and Glennon led the Bucs to being the 3rd worst in the NFL in total yards on offense (4672).  But it wasn’t all a quarterback problem, the ground game was also to blame.  Both passing and rushing offenses were terrible at 25th and 29th respectively.  Ultimately, the Bucs were outgained by their opponents on average almost 77 yards per game.

Which leads us to the Bucs defense, if you could call it that.  Seeing as how Lovie Smith is known more as a defensive guy, it sure was surprising to see the Bucs end up 25th in overall defensive effectiveness with respect to total yards allowed (5903) with a disturbing -8 differential on takeaways to giveaways, good for 6th worst in the NFL.

The Fix

Free Agency

Most of the Bucs free agents are on defense, but as noted above, there really isn’t any reason to keep this group together.  At this point, better to let most of them walk and seek help in free agency and the draft.

Getty Images

Getty Images

Since Tampa will basically be starting over, and seeing as how Tampa is unlikely to re-sign free agents Dane Fletcher or Mason Foster, specifically building some potential at linebacker would be helpful.  And what better target than Rolando McClain?  McClain actually put up a good year in Dallas starting 12 games and finishing the season with 81 tackles, 1 sack and 2 INTs.  He doesn’t have much history, as his first three years with Oakland weren’t notable, so there certainly is some risk.  And he’s going to cost a little more now, but he could pay off if the Bucs can get him to agree to an incentive laden short-term contract.  A repeat season, minus the concussions, could be a nice building block for the Bucs defense.

The Draft

Ah, the big question.  Who will the Bucs take with the first pick in the 2015 NFL Draft?  Clearly, without McCown and with a complete absence of better options in free agency, the Bucs will take one of the two top QBs in the draft, either Jameis Winston or Marcus Mariota.

AP Photo

AP Photo

Although the current popular wisdom is that Jameis Winston is better prepared for the NFL, I actually like Marcus Mariota better.  Let me explain why.

After ditching Jeff Tedford, and thus clearly indicating that the spread offense wasn’t the route that they wanted to take (or at least not the route that Lovie Smith wanted to take), there’s a big question mark as to what new offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter will try to implement.  Versatility will be important in this situation, and seeing as how McCown was released, there’s no bridge in Tampa.  This is looking more and more like a sink or swim situation.

Getty Images

Getty Images

At a high level, Mariota simply had better numbers than Winston last year during the regular season.  Mariota had 3798 yards for 2 TDs and only 2 INTs with a completion percentage of 67.2%.  Winston had 3557 yards for 24 TDs and a whopping 17 INTs with a similar completion percentage of 64.5%.  Seeing as how Mariota excelled at intermediate and deep passes, while Winston relied more on higher percentage attempts like out routes, hitches and crossing routes, it appears that Mariota would be better at taking advantage of Evans’ downfield speed, not to mention just better at taking care of the ball.  Additionally, Mariota was better with play action and scrambling, demonstrating better flexibility, which will be necessary if Tampa intends to throw their rookie to the wolves at the beginning of the season.

At the end of the day, we won’t know who the right pick is until, at least, one year from now.  But remember that Winston has had significant off field issues in college, something that Mariota does not have.  Although past behavior doesn’t dictate future behavior, it’s sure something that the Bucs will have to carefully consider.

So there you go, Tampa Bay.  Can’t wait to see what you end up with.  But whatever you do, please don’t make it a sequel.  The world doesn’t need Cutthroat Island 2.


By Ha Kung Wong

Twitter: @Rhihan


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