I had the chance to catch up with Patrik Nohe from FanSided’s The Pewter Plank to discuss the Tampa Bay Buccanears off-season and some of their needs moving forward. Tampa had a disastrous end to the 2011 season but with new coach Greg Schiano now in the mix there is plenty to discuss.
Blogging Dirty – To say the Bucs finished the season disappointingly would be a massive understatement. What exactly went wrong?
The Pewter Plank – There was a combination of factors starting back with the lack of a formal off-season, issues with injuries, with coaching, with discipline and then a complete culture problem that developed in the locker-room by the end of the year. This team quit on its head coach. That’s about as much of an indictment as you can make on a team. Raheem Morris is probably going to be a very good coach some day but I think he needed to learn a lot of things and he definitely got a practical education in 2011. It was pretty rough and I don’t think anyone felt it more than he did.
BD – The Falcons saw the Bucs demise first hand in week 17, when Atlanta jumped out to an early 42 point lead. Was it really all Raheem Morris’ fault or the players fault?
TPP – It was more the players. Remember the Bucs beat the Falcons at the beginning of the year. They beat the Saints. Both teams saw the difference first-hand. Early in the year Tampa actually looked like a very good team. They started 4-2 and had a lot going for them. Somewhere the wheels fell off and unfortunately you only get so much information if you’re not actually on the team. I don’t know what the impetus behind the decline was, but I do know two things. Raheem Morris enabled a lot of bad behavior by taking the concept of the player’s coach to sometimes absurd levels. Stuff you can do as a positional coach, the leaping and chest bumping, the unbridled brashness, those need to be downplayed as the head guy. You have to stay above that or you can undermine your own authority. I think Morris deserves blame for creating the culture that existed. But it was mostly the players. They were the ones out there committing penalties and turnovers, making mental errors, missing assignments, etc… And then when it got hard they quit. This is a team with talent, but some attitude issues.
BD – Coming into last year, the Bucs looked like they had a talented core to grow with. Two player were particular disappointments QB Josh Freeman and WR Mike Williams. How do you see each of them doing next year after a full offseason.
TPP – I say this a lot, neither regressed they just didn’t improve much over the off-season and the odds caught up to them. Mike Williams may have had a once in a lifetime year in 2010. For as good as he was, he still only caught about half of his targets, still dropped a lot of balls and had some issues with fumbling. This year he was the same guy, it just caught up to him. The ratio of catches to targets is the same, he drops about as many. The biggest difference is he just hasn’t been as lucky. He’s immensely talented but if he doesn’t work on some fundamental things that may be a once-in-a-lifetime year.Freeman is similar. In 2010 he made a lot of bad decisions, that’s right there on film, but he got lucky a lot and connected on passes through double and triple coverage, he had a receiver make a big play on the spot or he would get bailed out on a penalty. That’s just the game-film, he frankly got away with a lot. The football gods were not so forgiving this season and as a result of getting away with a lot of mistakes last year and not having an off-season with his coaches, he didn’t learn from it. Freeman will be fine, there’s a lot he can learn from 2011.
BD – The new sheriff in town is Greg Schiano. What do you think of the hire?
TPP – He’s good from a discipline standpoint but he needs to have a good staff in place. He has grown on me, at first I was not a fan. But his lack of NFL experience (three years as an assistant in the 90’s) is still worrisome. I think he’ll probably do a good job of trying to build a coaching staff. Butch Davis’ name has been tossed out there and it’s reported despite being blocked initially the Bucs are negotiating for Cardinals coordinator John McNulty. Time will tell, but if the Glazers support him well he could be good.
BD – What are your expectations for next year, now your new coaching staff is assembled. Can the Bucs come back to be competitive in a extremely tough division?
TPP – The new staff is far from assembled, right now all the Bucs have is a head coach. I think the Bucs have talent, they can certainly play with anyone in the division when their heads are right. They gave the Falcons two of their best games in 2010 and split the series last year. I don’t think they are a playoff team, but I think 7-9 or 8-8 is fair to expect. They have a lot of needs, a lot of holes but some of those things are more cultural and approach-oriented than anything else.
BD – As an NFC South rival, what was your take on Atlanta this past year? Where do you think they stack up going forward?
TPP – Atlanta is poised to be the class of the division for the foreseeable future. I think the Saints are on their way down, they will continue to be competitive but I think their best football is behind them at this point. The Falcons have one of the most balanced and potent offenses in football. I love their receivers, Turner is a world-class back, there’s a Hall of Fame tight end and one of the best lines in football and a highly intelligent quarterback. It’s a great formula, you can win a shootout or grind the clock. I think going forward Atlanta is the team to beat.
BD – I kinda forgot the Superbowl is on Sunday! Who would you put your money on?
TPP – My head says the Patriots my heart says the Giants. I can’t stand the Pats, but I’m going to pick them. 27-21.