In Bruce we trust: Tampa’s winningest coach

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Bucs fans everywhere rejoiced when the team acquired Bruce Arians as its new head coach. I’ve never seen optimism this high in my ten years as a fan. I’ve never felt this much optimism myself. However, there’s still a healthy amount of skepticism amongst the fanbase. I can’t say I blame them; we’ve all been burned before. But I’m here to tell you, Bucs fans, we’ve never seen a head coach like Bruce Arians.

The charisma. The style. The foul mouth. What’s not to love? But none of that compares to BA’s sexiest attribute: he’s a winner.

That’s right. We have never seen a winner like Bruce Arians. In 25 seasons in the league, as both head coach and coordinator with various teams, he’s seen his team go to the playoffs 15 times. BA’s teams earned a .576 win-loss ratio over those 25 seasons. As a head coach, he had a .619 win-loss ratio and his teams went to the playoffs three of six years.

Amongst current NFL head coaches, he’s got the third highest win-loss ratio, beaten only by Bill Belichick and Mike Tomlin.

BA’s credited with a win-loss ratio of .691. This total only includes his win-loss from his five years at Arizona. The 12 games where he clocked a .75 win-loss as interim head coach at the Colts was credited to Chuck Pagano. When you add those games, his win-loss ratio goes up to .636.

Notice the coaches he beats: Sean Payton. Ron Rivera. John Harbaugh. Pete Carroll. Needless to say, I like our odds in the NFC South.

He stacks up even better compared to former Buccaneers coaches in the modern era (Tony Dungy forward). [Note: the coaches before Dungy aren’t even close so don’t think I’m manipulating the stats to prove my point.]

The only two head coaches that had prior coaching experience before coming to the Buccaneers were Jon Gruden and Lovie Smith. Their win-loss ratio before coming to the Bucs were .525 and .563, respectively. I’ll note that both men’s win-loss went down after being fired from Tampa, but both still have a positive win-loss in the NFL nonetheless.

Tony Dungy’s career win-loss is .668. He began his head coaching career in Tampa, earning a .563 win-loss ratio during his six years with the team. By the end of his career, his win-loss went all the way up to .668. (Seven years coaching Peyton Manning didn’t hurt – he earned a .759 win-loss during that time.)

The rest of the coaches post-Dungy didn’t even break .4 – a large reason they’re not still here – so I won’t put you (or myself) through a recap of those regimes.

A dose of skepticism may still be warranted – after all, Gruden and Lovie’s win-loss ratio did go down after coaching here. But there’s reason for optimism: We’ve never had a coach of this caliber in Tampa. If anyone can pull us out of this dip, it’s BA.

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[109] Week 2 (Not so) Instant Reaction: Victory against the Carolina Panthers

Bucs get a road win against division opponent Carolina Panthers, breaking Jameis’ 12-game lose streak on the road. The defense looks stellar. We discuss rising stars Shaq Barrett, Jordan Whitehead, Vita Vea and Kevin Minter. The offense is yet to fire on all cylinders, but Jameis played a smart game, turning the ball over zero times, making good decisions, and taking sacks when necessary. The offensive line plays nasty. Plus, He Who Shall Not Be Named gets angry for the first time in his career.

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Bucs v. Panthers: Week 2 Preview

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Bucs fans have had his game circled on their calendars since around about May, when He Who Shall Not Be Named was cut and subsequently signed with our division rival. Division games are always tough. Add in a player switching sides and, like a relationship gone wrong, it gets ugly. Compound the anticipation with the sour taste many fans feel after our ugly loss to the 49ers, and this is a game that has a lot riding on it.

I don’t think we’re going to have a hard time with our former defensive tackle. As we’ve stated many times, he’s a one-trick pony that’s easy to beat. With our offensive line’s markedly improved run blocking and his ability to create holes in the defensive line by getting completely pushed out of the way, I have no doubt we’ll be successful in the run game. Carolina allowed the Rams to clock 166 yards rushing with a 5.2 yard/carry average. While you could argue the Bucs don’t have a running back like Todd Gurley, the fact is the Rams spread it around to five different rushers and Malcolm Brown’s 11 carries nearly matched Gurley’s 14.

Conversely, I am 100% worried about Carolina’s run game. Specifically, Christian McCaffrey, who put up 128 yards rushing against the Rams, and another 81 yards receiving. It appears they’re limiting the amount Cam runs as he only rushed three times for a total of -2 yards. Mark Duffner, as interim defensive coordinator last year, figured out that if you contain Cam and force him to throw you have a chance at beating them. It was exactly how the Rams game shook out. Whether that was the game plan by the Rams or the Panthers, I don’t know.

Our run defense can certainly handle the challenge of this running heavy offense. The linebackers, however, will need to emphasize their tackling, as McCaffrey is known to require more than one defender to bring him down. Lavonte David appears to have returned to form, as on his five tackles against rushers in Week 1, San Francisco gained: 0, -2, 1, 4, 1 yards. A good day against McCaffrey is holding him to 80 yards and a touchdown, which we’re confident the defense can handle. Neutralize him and we have a good chance to win the game.

The bigger question here for Bucs fans is Jameis Winston. How is he going to perform after losing us the game last week? Bruce Arians has publicly stated the interceptions weren’t Jameis’ fault, but as Ralph discusses in our game review podcast, that’s not necessarily the case. While Jameis’ intended targets may have made mistakes in their routes that led to the interceptions, two for touchdowns, Jameis had open receivers elsewhere. This is a flaw in Jameis: he does not read the field. It may be the flaw that ends his career (with the Buccaneers, anyhow). But if anyone can fix it, it’s Bruce Arians.

The fan reaction to Jameis this week has been an emotional one. Ralph and I are always on the Bucs hype train, but were disappointed in the Week 1 showing. Jameis has to make better decisions. Plain and simple. This loss hurt more than years past because there’s a lot riding on this season. We had a lot of hope. Expectations are high. If Bruce Arians can’t do it, can anyone? We should have beat a team like San Francisco. It’s one of our few gimmes in the first part of the season, before we go on a five-game away streak that spans the globe.

This Carolina game offers redemption. A win would earn Jameis forgiveness from the fans he hasn’t yet lost completely. It would restore some hope, while at the same time perhaps tempering the expectations of those that had the highest of hopes. There’s nothing wrong with that – I’d rather have low expectations and be pleasantly surprised than have high expectations and be disappointed. Perhaps that’s what we needed Week 1 – reminder that anything can happen on any given Sunday (or Thursday).

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[108] It’s a two-for-one: SF 49ers coaches film review plus bonus Panthers preview

Ralph’s watched the film, now find out the verdict. Was Jameis as bad as he looked? We’ll explore public comments on Jameis’ gametime foibles. What were the bright spots of the game? Bucs make roster moves as they waive Caleb Benenoch, put Justin Evans on IR, and add T Josh Wells, S Andrew Adams aka Triple A. He Who Shall Not Be Named is in the media this week (SHOCKER!) and has the Bucs name in his mouth. The game injury report is out – see how the Bucs are shaping up. We delve into BA’s record against the Panthers.

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[107] Instant reaction: 49ers v. Bucs

Bucs start Week 1 0-1 against a beatable San Francisco 49ers team. What went wrong? We discuss Jameis’ struggles, garbage refs, and more. Are we in for another year of hurt? We don’t think so! Plus, the Buccaneers defensive performance remains a bright spot.

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Bucs v. 49ers: Week 1 Preview

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The season is finally here, and what better opponent to face off in the season opener than the San Francisco 49ers. A team in rebuild mode with something to prove, the 49ers want a rematch after the Bucs toppled them last season in a 27-9 victory.

The team we’re facing this year has a few upgrades. Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo will lead the offense as he returns from an ACL injury that sidelined him in Week 3 of 2018. The Bucs matched up against Nick Mullens, San Francisco’s third string quarterback. Garoppolo is a significant upgrade to Mullens with a pocket presence about him. Fortunately for the Bucs, his receiving corps leaves something to be desired.

In doing my research for the preview podcast, I found 49ers fans consider their offensive guards a weakness on the offensive line. We watched the third preseason game and were surprised at how well the offensive line performed. Was that due to the quality of the opponent (the Kansas City Chiefs defensive line)? Is it simply a matter of the fans not appreciating what they have? Admittedly, one preseason game is not a great sample size for us to determine how good the offensive line is.

However, the Bucs faced this offensive line last year. The Buccaneers 27th ranked defense racked up: four sacks, seven tackles for loss, six passes defended and 10 quarterback hits. Our defensive line has seen significant upgrades this offseason with the addition of Ndamukong Suh, and the shift to a 3-4 defense that utilizes fast outside linebackers like Shaq Barrett and Carl Nassib.

With these upgrades and scheme shift, the defense has showed marked improvement in our run defense. We will see how they do against runningback Matt Breida, who is an underrated, pass catching runningback that averaged 9.6 yards per catch in 2018.

The main threat we’ll see from the 49ers offense is tight end George Kittle. An elite tight end, Kittle saw 136 targets last year. No other player on the offense had more than 66 targets in 2018. His 6 foot 4 inch, 250 pound frame presents a matchup problem for our linebacker corps. We can only hope Todd Bowles has game planned around Kittle.

The Buccaneers offense performed on-par with our defense last year, with Jameis Winston recording a 117.4 passer rating. The 49ers upgraded their defensive line, with the additions of DE Dee Ford and DT Sheldon Day. They also spent some resources on their linebacker corps, signing former Buccaneer Kwon Alexander and drafting Dre Greenlaw in the fifth round.

The secondary, however, was a weak point for the 49ers defense last year and saw little to no upgrades over the offseason. Granted, the team did replace their defensive backs coach, but the on-field personnel is the same. It’s somewhat surprising that a unit that gave up a 112 passer rating on throws over 20 yards, the worst in the league, has remained in tact, but who am I to question another team’s incompetence?

The Buccaneers put up 312 yards against this secondary, along with an additional 108 yards on the ground. I expect a more balanced approach this year, particularly with the offensive line’s improved run blocking.

In all, I think this matchup favors the Buccaneers. I’m predicting the Buccaneers start the season off with a victory.

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[106] It’s here. Bucs face the 49ers in 2 days!

We’ll delve more deeply into our upcoming matchup against the 49ers. Bucs elect captains. The weekly injury reports have been released. Who’s practicing, who isn’t, and players we’ll see Week 1. Antonio Brown drama continues. Plus, our wedding, the honeymoon, and our approach to fandom.

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[105] Week 1 Preview: San Francisco 49ers

The 49ers come to town in Week 1’s matchup. The Buccaneers have the edge defensively. The Garappolo-run offense, however, may give us some trouble if they’re on early. The team lacks elite receiving talent, like a Mike Evans. Jameis Winston and the Bucs’ receiving corps should have a field day against the 49ers weak secondary. The 49ers defensive line could cause trouble for the Bucs offensive line. Kwon Alexander returns to Tampa.

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[104] Bucs make roster cuts after 4th preseason game

We discuss the Bucs win over the Dallas Cowboys: who shined, who fizzled out, and the terrible announcers. The Bucs cut the roster this weekend as teams around the league get down to 53. Listen for the surprising (and not so surprising) cuts. The practice squad roster fills up, and the Bucs make a trade for offensive line depth.

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Preseason matters

As the owners of the NFL lobby for an 18-game season, thereby
eliminating two preseason games, the question has once again emerged: Does
preseason really matter?
Detractors say no; preseason games are ugly,
sloppy, increase the risk of injury, don’t mean a thing and should be
eliminated from the game forever. I would agree with half of that sentiment.
The games are ugly and sloppy, and injuries do happen. But the games are
meaningful in a variety of ways.

Several years ago, we wanted to determine, once and for all,
whether preseason records were indicative of regular season records. If you did
well during the preseason, were you more likely to do well during the regular
season?

We started the data set at 1995 when the Glazers purchased
the team. What we found was a moderate correlation between the Bucs preseason
performance and regular season performance.

Now, the data shows a moderate correlation
(correlation coefficient of .51 for you stat nerds), meaning it’s not the end
all, be all. Going 1-3 in the preseason doesn’t automatically doom your season.
But, it’s not meaningless either – the preseason carries more weight than often
suggested.

As fans, we can learn a lot about the team based on the
preseason. As we’ve discovered with the offensive line this year, the preseason
reveals where the team is deficient. This can be a double-edged sword because
as fans we start to panic before the regular season even kicks off. But at the
very least, you’re not surprised when the regular season rolls around.

You also get a gauge for the coaching staff. Do they want to
win above anything else? How hard are they trying? How do they interact with
the players? How do they react in a game? With as much coaching turnover as the
Bucs have had over the years, this can be valuable when a new coaching regime
takes over.

Likewise, the preseason also gives you a feel for the
players, old and new. Almost every preseason, we find a diamond in the rough who
may not get the fanfare of a franchise player like Mike Evans, but make an
impact nonetheless. Rakeem Nuñez-Roches and Jordan Whitehead in particular have
made a splash this preseason. On the other hand, the rookies who garnered a lot
of attention in training camp have yet to show up during the games.

This is another benefit of the preseason – every year, a few
training camp warriors emerge who outshine everyone else. But once they
actually hit the field and play against a non-Buccaneer opponent, they fail to
show up. The speed of the NFL is unlike anything these guys have ever
experienced, so it’s no wonder some easily get lost. Without the preseason, however,
we wouldn’t be able to weed these players out until they were already on the
roster.

On top of all of that, the most valuable part of preseason is
what it does to the fanbases around the league. We’re all on a level playing
field. It’s any given Sunday, and fans around the league have yet to be let
down by their team. Everyone’s excited for real, actual football. The coaching
staffs, while keeping most of their playbooks close to the chest, give us
little morsels of what’s to come. This preseason, we’ve gotten a little taste
of what a Todd Bowles defense can do and It. Is. Exciting. I cannot wait to see
that defense in full effect Week 1 against the 49ers. But until then, I’ll
settle for preseason.

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Bucs at Dallas: Preseason Week 4 preview

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The regular season is just around the corner. The only thing
standing in the way of real, actual football is the Bucs Week 4 matchup against
Dallas. The Buccaneers travel to Dallas, where contract disputes and position
battles abound.

Two offensive starters are very publicly unhappy with their
current contracts – Ezekiel Elliott and Dak Prescott. The players have taken polar
opposite approaches to voice their displeasure. Whereas Elliott has yet to
appear at any Cowboys functions, including preseason games, Prescott has shown
up and participated despite being grossly underpaid this season (Prescott is set
to make a measly $2 million this year).

Both players expect to be paid at the top of their position.
Elliott wants a deal in excess of Todd Gurley’s $60 million, $45 million
guaranteed contract. Cowboys, however, are reportedly squeamish about the
guaranteed portion of that equation. Prescott has reportedly turned down an
offer for $30 million a year, with his target being $40 million a year. For
perspective, Russell Wilson just signed a $35 million a year deal. The team
could franchise tag Prescott in 2020, but would still have to pay him $34
million for that year.

Lucky for the Cowboys, the contract disputes remain on the offensive
side of the ball. Cowboys fans are witnessing a position battle on the other
side of the ball this offseason, and they’ve got a problem every NFL team wants:
too many good players. The defensive line is stacked with talent, so much so
that they’re going to end up letting good players go simply because they don’t
have room for them. The Bucs benefitted from the Browns’ abundance of talent
when they acquired Carl Nassib on waivers prior to the 2018 season.

According to Jess Haynie of Inside the Star, locks to make
the roster include: DE DeMarcus Lawrence, who just signed a huge contact this
offseason; DT Maliek Collins and DT Antwaun Woods, who both played well last
year and based on their utilization this preseason are safe; and DE Trysten
Hill, the Cowboys first pick in the 2019 draft (2nd round).

The next tier are probably making the roster, but this
is the NFL and you never really know. DE Kerry Hyder was a free agent acquisition
this offseason and has been the best performer since his arrival. DE Dorance
Armstrong was the Cowboys’ 2018 4th round pick who specializes in
pass rush and has been a standout this preseason. He may be the stand-in for
Robert Quinn while Quinn serves his two-game suspension for testing positive
for a masking agent. DT Christian Covington was another free agent acquisition
who offers the team versatility.

After these guys, it gets dicey. DT Tyrone Crawford might be
safe but for his $7 million cap hit that becomes guaranteed at Week 1. He’s on
the last year of his contact with the team. The plethora of depth at the position
does not work in his favor. DE Taco Charlton was the team’s 2017 1st
round pick who has underperformed and wasn’t expected to survive final cuts
until his improved performance this preseason. DE Joe Jackson, 5th
round pick, offers a motor and power.

Defensive ends Daniel Ross, Daniel Wise and Ricky Walker and
defensive tackle Jalen Jelks will likely not survive roster cuts.

We don’t expect to see the roster locks in Thursday’s
matchup. Our backup offensive line will get a taste for how deep this Cowboys
defensive line depth runs.

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