Many things have to go wrong for a team to have back to back 5-11 seasons. Season after season, Bucs fans were promised an improved record and in 2017 and 2018, the Bucs did not move the needle at all. What happened? How did the Bucs manage to stay mired in losses in back to back years? How is a team that went 5-11 in back too back years stuck in cap hell? What decisions have held the Bucs down?
At the beginning of 2017, the Bucs resigned William Gholston to a five year deal worth 27 million dollars with 13.5 million dollars guaranteed. The deal itself came after a Gholston posted his second best year of his career in which he finished with three sacks and 49 combined tackles. At the time, the move was supposed to bring the Bucs a quality starter who was getting better. The Bucs headed in to week one with Gerald McCoy, Chris Baker, Robert Ayers and William Gholston as the starting defensive line group. By the end of the season, the entire Bucs defense finished with 22 sacks. Of those 22 sacks, William Gholston accounted for exactly zero in his 14 games played. In 2018, Gholston finished with one sack.
Notable Free Agent Signing
Boy oh boy, this one sure didn’t work out very well. Baker’s most notable moment was pretending to dance with a tree on HBO’s Hard Knocks. The former Hampton Pirate finished the season with .5 of a sack. What was the problem? Baker was coming off the second best season of his career at the time. It’s a good thing that GM Jason Licht and Mike Greenburg gave the team an out after one year. The Bucs moved on quickly from the mistake they made when they allowed Baker to sign on the dotted line.
The Biggest Mistake
Look hindsight is 20/20, but the Bucs biggest mistake was resigning Mike Smith as defensive coordinator at the beginning of 2017. The Bucs defense had quite a run at the end of 2016 in which the defense looked, dare I say, competent? The defense laid a complete egg in 2017. In my opinion, the coaching wasn’t there for them to be any good at all. They were in prime position for failure right off the bat. HC Dirk Koetter was losing the locker room fast and his decision to keep his friend as leader of the defense, when it was clear the defense couldn’t stop a runny nose, was the beginning of the end for Koetter. The Bucs also expected some sort of impact from both Jacquies Smith and Noah Spence. Smith didn’t play a snap and Spence turned in one sack in a year where he struggled with injuries. At the end of the year, one thing was clear, the Bucs needed help rushing the passer, well that and they weren’t any closer to being a winning football team. Simple fix for the first one, right? Go find pass rushers. Spoiler alert: back to back 5-11 seasons means they didn’t find the answer.