When you look back at the 2018 season and try to find a particular game that brought us to where we are, you won’t find just one.
It was all of them, and it’s not just me being facetious. For most of the season, the Bucs’ defense has been a festering cancer that has dragged the team down. The Bucs’ offense started out on fire against the New Orleans Saints and Philadelphia Eagles at the start of the season. Things fizzled out as expected because the problems on defense weren’t big enough to fix.
You can say the game against the Pittsburgh Steelers exposed the Bucs as what they really are in 2018, the same old garbage they were every other season the team didn’t make the post-season. At times, this garbage team became exciting to watch, maintaining their #1 offense status for most of the year. The result is more because, despite their 416.6 yards per game on offense, they were dead last in defense for much of the season. Something had to give, and it was the offense that buckled under the pressure. As soon as the defense figured out how to stop the long ball, everything on the offense crumbled against the Steelers and later the Bears in a very humbling fashion.
Mark Duffer took over Mike Smith’s duties as defensive coordinator, but the offense’s issues, thought to be fixed since 2017, remained as head coach Dirk Koetter kept alternating between the once toast of the NFL (for three weeks) Ryan Fitzpatrick and franchise quarterback (coming off a three week suspension) Jameis Winston. The QB controversy was as eventful and exciting as the Buffalo controversy between Rob Johnson and Doug Flutie all those years ago. Regardless of the rampant player-ism (a play of homerism) from day one, Winston fans decided he was as worthy of his praise as LeBron James. At least James has won his championships at the pro level.
Before I get on another tangent, here’s ultimately what doomed the Bucs:
- Lack of imaginative playcalling
- Punchless pass rush (outside of Jason Pierre-Paul)
- Lack of discipline from secondary
- Offensive line coach George Warhop overstaying his welcome by 2-3 seasons
- Mike Smith overstaying his welcome beyond 2017
- Vanilla running game. There’s no reason why quarterbacks should be #2 and 3 in leading rushers. As of 12/21, Ryan Fitzpatrick, who’s only been in 8 games, has outrushed Jacquizz Rodgers, who’s been in 14 games. Fitz has 152 yards out of 36 carries, while Rodgers has 101 yards out of 28 carries.
When anyone asks why the 2018 Bucs were so bad, it’s the same reason why they’re bad every year, Pinky.