If you would have told me three weeks ago that I would be writing this, I would have laughed straight in your face.
There was no way I would have thought the Tampa Bay Buccaneers would be going to Atlanta as one of the seven winless teams in the NFL. No way they would be finding themselves in a ‘must win’ situation. No way their offense would stink. No way they would be as busted up as they are. And no way their fan base would be teetering on the edge of not caring about the 2014 season anymore.
After watching them in the preseason, I didn’t think the Bucs really had a shot at making the playoffs this year. 7-9 or 8-8 tops. If someone offered me a .500 season right now, I’d take it. After home losses to the Carolina Panthers and St. Louis Rams, the Bucs look like a team closer to the offseason than the postseason.
If it was just one thing that plagued the Bucs, I wouldn’t be panicking. But you don’t lose to a back-up quarterback in Week One and third-stringer in Week Two and only have one thing wrong. This team has a laundry list of things wrong …
Quarterback … Josh McCown’s NFL resume is one that includes a lot of stops. And pretty much all in a backup role. Sure he sparkled in Chicago in relief of Jay Cutler at the end of last season, but was it realistic to expect for him to do that in Tampa Bay? His history tells us no. He’s made some poor throws that have led to crippling interceptions. His decision-making in the pocket has been questionable and his willingness to attack defenses down the field has been laughable.
Offensive line … the addition of Logan Mankins via trade from New England has been a stabilizing presence to a group up front that looked like it might be on pace to be the worst in the league. With free agent additions Anthony Collins at tackle and Evan Dietrich-Smith at center, these guys will need time to gel.
Defensive line … a season-ending injury to Adrian Clayborn has turned an average unit into below-average. Michael Johnson hasn’t lived up to his $43.75-million free agent contract at all. Lovie Smith’s Tampa 2 defense depends on the front-four getting pressure on the quarterback and so far getting just three in the first two games is not good enough.
Play-calling … it’s not like we didn’t see this coming, right? In the preseason, when the Buccaneers went completely vanilla on offense, we were assured that things would change in the regular season. The Bucs weren’t going to show their entire playbook in meaningless exhibition games. Well, the games are now meaningful and the offense is unimaginative, conservative, slow and the words “speed and space” are a pipedream. To be frank, its been brutal.
Injuries … in addition to the injury to Clayborn, the defense suffered a big blow when corner Mike Jenkins was shelved for the season. Doug Martin, Michael Johnson and Austin Seferian-Jenkins all missed this past week, Mason Foster left with a shoulder injury and Gerald McCoy (the most important piece to the Buccaneers defensive puzzle) has a broken hand. That’s seven starters in eight quarters. The Buccaneers simply don’t have enough depth to survive any more significant injuries.
Teams that open the season 0-2 have a 12% chance of making the playoffs. Only five teams in the history of the NFL have started 0-3 and made the postseason – the 1998 Buffalo Bills were the last to do so.
See what I’m getting at here? Bucs fans need a win just to believe in Lovie Smith. The fans need a win so that they don’t give up on the season three weeks in. But maybe more importantly, the Buccaneers have a chance on national television, to prove to everyone that laughing in their face this early would be a big mistake.