Despite the nonsense about Tampa Bay still being mathematically alive for clinching the NFC South division title, the 2-9 Buccaneers are guaranteed a losing season due to their 21-13 loss at Chicago. The best Tampa Bay can finish is 7-9, but that would mean the Bucs would have to win their remaining five games of the 2014 season to do so. Considering that Tampa Bay has yet to win back-to-back games this year, that seems very unlikely.
The Bucs have now posted losing seasons in each of the last four years dating back to 2010 when Tampa Bay had a 10-6 record in Raheem Morris’ second year as the team’s head coach. The Bucs were 4-12 in the final year of the Greg Schiano era, and 7-9 the prior. In 2011, which was the last year with Morris as the head coach, Tampa Bay went 4-12.
If the Bucs don’t make the playoffs by failing the hapless NFC South division, it will mark seven straight seasons that Tampa Bay hasn’t qualified for the postseason.
Sunday’s loss to the Bears also means that Lovie Smith joins every other head coach in Buccaneers history – except Jon Gruden – to post a losing record in his first season as head coach. Gruden went 12-4 in his first season in Tampa Bay in leading the Bucs to their first and only Super Bowl appearance and championship.
Not only did Tampa Bay’s 27-7 win at Washington improve the team’s record to 2-8 and move the Buccaneers to within two games of the NFC South division lead, it also kept the team in the running for a top-4 draft pick. By virtue of the fact that the New York Jets won last week against Pittsburgh, the Bucs are now tied with the Jets with a 2-8 mark, but have won more games than Jacksonville (1-9) and Oakland (0-10).
The winless Raiders would have the first overall pick, followed by the Jaguars, the Jets and the Buccaneers in terms of draft order for 2015. The Titans, who had a bye week, is 2-7, and would pick fifth if the NFL Draft were held today.
Tennessee hosts Pittsburgh this week, New York plays at Buffalo on Sunday, while Jacksonville plays at Indianapolis. Look for the top three picks to remain unchanged.
The Raiders seem to be a lock for the first overall pick. Oakland hosts Kansas City next week, and then plays at St. Louis, followed by a home game against San Francisco, a road trip to Kansas City, a home game versus Buffalo and a season-ending contest at Denver. The Raiders could very well go 0-16 this year.
Tampa Bay travels to Chicago on Sunday to face the Bears at Solider Field.
Buccaneers defensive tackle Gerald McCoy missed practice on Wednesday with a groin injury, and he is expected to miss practice or be limited later this week in order to rest up for Sunday’s game at Washington. McCoy was injured in last Sunday’s 27-17 loss against Atlanta, which dropped Tampa Bay to 1-8 on the season, and finished the game with just one tackle.
“It definitely affected his play,” Buccaneers defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier said. “When you can’t burst, twist and turn like he has to, and he’s still facing double teams all the time, it definitely takes away from your play. To his credit he played through it. We’re trying to get him rest to hopefully have him for Sunday, but it made it more difficult for our team not having him at full strength.”
When asked whether or not resting McCoy would help get him to 100 percent by Sunday’s game against the Redskins, Frazier was unsure.
“Well, I don’t know how much better he’ll get in this short span with that type of injury,” Frazier said. “It’s a leg injury – muscle pull – but we’ll see. Even a 60 or 70 percent Gerald is better than no Gerald. I’m hoping he’ll be able to go.”
McCoy, who leads the team in sacks with five, in addition to recording 10 tackles for loss as the Bucs’ all-important three-technique defensive tackle, said he would be able to play against the Redskins on Sunday.
“Gerald’s not 60 (percent),” McCoy said. “I’m fine. I don’t have to put a number on it, I’m fine.”
Following Tampa Bay’s 27-17 loss to Atlanta, Buccaneers right tackle Demar Dotson picked up where defensive tackle Gerald McCoy left off last Sunday, questioning whether or not the team has enough talented players or enough players that care about winning.
“Losing is getting old,” Dotson said. “We’ve lost too many games in a row and we’re 1-8. You would think that you would get tired of losing. But week after week, we find a way to lose football games. I guess we’re not tired of losing enough. When you’re tired of losing, you do something about it. I guess we’re really not tired. Either we’re not good enough or guys aren’t tired of losing. It’s one of the two.”
Sunday’s loss to Atlanta is Tampa Bay’s fifth straight loss, and the third-straight defeat in which the Bucs blew a fourth quarter lead. No wonder this team is 1-8.
Dotson said that stupid penalties on offense that kill drives and on defense that extend drives for Tampa Bay’s opponents have hurt the Bucs the most. When asked if the Bucs play smart football, Dotson shook his head and said no and questioned the talent level in Tampa Bay.
“Not all the time,” Dotson said. “I think we do a lot of stuff to shoot ourselves in the foot. Too many penalties – that hurt us. I don’t think we’re good enough to overcome shooting ourselves in the foot. We’re a team that has to play smart, hard and physical. The things that we do to hurt ourselves – we’re not good enough to overcome them.”
Dotson hurt his neck in the waning minutes of the fourth quarter and was replaced by rookie offensive tackle Kevin Pamphile. He suffered a stinger, but said he would be okay for next week.
The Buccaneers have reinstated fullback Jorvorskie Lane and defensive end Da’Quan Bowers on Monday. Both players were eligible for reinstatement on Monday, November 3 after being suspended two games for the use of performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs).
Lane is the team’s lone fullback, while Bowers is a reserve defensive end and three-technique defensive tackle. Lane has two carries for 56 yards and one catch for three yards this year. Bowers, who is in the last year of his rookie deal, has six tackles, one sack and one fumble recovery.
Buccaneers head coach Lovie Smith was very upset with his special teams play following Tampa Bay’s 22-17 loss at Cleveland. The defeat drops the Bucs to 1-7 on the season.
“We had a lot of opportunities, especially in the first half, to put more points on the board,” Smith said. “All three phases contributed to it. Special teams really hurt us today. You can’t have a punt block, a field goal block and jump offside [on a field goal] and let them continue a drive to score a touchdown. All those plays really hurt us.”
Patrick Murray had a 31-yard field goal blocked when Billy Winn jumped over Logan Mankins, and missed a 55-harder before connecting on a 40-yard field goal in the second quarter. Mike James missed a block that led to a blocked Michael Koenen punt that actually traveled one yard in the third quarter. Defensive lineman Will Gholston jumped offside to allow a Browns possession in the third quarter to continue and turn into a touchdown drive with a 2-yard pass from Brian Hoyer to rookie running back Terrance West.
“One jumped over us – you’ve got to be able to get that,” Smith said. “Coming up the middle, we should have him blocked. And then you move on the snap of the ball where we jumped offside and let them keep a drive going. Those were all blunders that really cost us in the end.”
The Buccaneers released kick and punt returner Trindon Holliday, who was suffering from a hamstring injury. Tampa Bay signed returner and wide receiver Marcus Thigpen from the practice squad. Thigpen will handle the kick and punt return duties against the Browns in Cleveland this week.
The Bucs also activated rookie RB Charles Sims from the injured reserve-designated return list and promoted defensive tackle Matthew Masifilo from the practice squad to the active roster.
Former Buccaneers strong safety Mark Barron had some parting shots at Lovie Smith’s Tampa 2 scheme, which is run by defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier. Speaking with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Barron called the Bucs defense, which ranks dead last in the league, “passive.”
“Yeah, it is passive,” Barron said. “That’s kind of the only thing I didn’t like about it a lot of times. I had to sit back and I couldn’t really be as aggressive as I wanted to in that system. So yeah, I would most definitely say that.”
Barron, the seventh-overall selection in the 2012 NFL Draft, was traded to St. Louis on Tuesday for fourth- and sixth-round picks in the 2015 NFL Draft. Barron struggled in pass coverage this year, evidenced by just three pass breakups and no interceptions to go along with 49 tackles. Barron hasn’t made the impact plays the team expected when it spent such a high draft pick on the Alabama product. In two and half seasons in the NFL, Barron has just three interceptions, two fumble recoveries and one forced fumble.
Buccaneers cornerback Johnthan Banks had the chance to be a hero with Tampa Bay leading Minnesota 13-10 with 46 seconds left in regulation. Vikings rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater underthrew Cordarrelle Patterson and Banks jumped in front of the pass, nearly picking it off.
Had Banks come down with that interception it would have sealed Tampa Bay’s second win of the season and capped off a Bucs rally that saw the team respond with 13 points in the fourth quarter after trailing 10-0 through three quarters. After the game he was distraught over his missed opportunity.
“It’s one of those plays – it’s what Coach [Gil] Byrd and Lovie [Smith] talk about all the time,” Banks said. “It’s making a play when it’s your turn. I made a great jump on the ball. It’s just unfortunate that I missed it. It’s one of those plays I wish I could get back. It’s tough.”
Instead, Bridgewater would complete three more passes for 32 yards to get the Vikings in position to kick a game-tying field goal and win the game in overtime, 19-13.
“It’s just a huge play,” Smith said. “In a game like that when it’s tight, every play, every conversion on third down – of course when you get a chance like that to take the ball away and end the game, really, you have to make that play. It’s about making plays when you are in position. Of course we did a lot of things before that, but late in the game we needed someone to step up.”
Bucs defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, who signed a seven-year, $98-million contract extension on Saturday, lamented over Banks’ dropped interception.
“Yeah, we have to get that,” McCoy said. “We got Teddy off the spot. We had him on the move and we were pressuring him and making him throw the ball up. They just made more plays than we did.
“I did, I thought for sure we were going to put that away. You have to. We have to. We have to get on the tape to see why it didn’t happen, but I’ll take that situation again. I’ll take it every game if that’s what it has to be. I love those situations. We just have to capitalize on it.”
Although the Buccaneers are in their bye week, the team is still suffering losses and some embarrassment.
On Thursday morning, Isaiah Harris, the team’s director of player development, was arrested on a misdemeanor charge of DUI and is accused of rear-ending a vehicle in a Taco Bell drive-thru.
As a result of his arrest, Harris, 35, was fired by the Buccaneers.
“Every member of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers is held to a high standard,” Bucs general manager Jason Licht said in a statement. “This type of incident, particularly for someone whose primary responsibilities are to mentor and develop our players off the field, cannot be tolerated. Due to the nature of his position and the expectations placed on our staff, we made the organizational decision to part ways with Isaiah.”
Harris declined to have a blood sample taken by police to test for the level of alcohol consumption after being investigated by the Tampa police at 2:06 a.m. After being booked at 4:35 a.m., Harris was released at 11:06 a.m. on a $500 bond.
According to the police report there was “a distinct odor of an alchoholic beverage” from Harris, whose “speech was slurred.” A field sobriety test “displayed several clues of impairment,” as reported by the Tampa Bay Times.
According to Buccaneers.com, Harris’ role with the team as director of player development “focuses on the personal and professional growth of football players through guidance and support.” Harris occupied the same position under Lovie Smith in Chicago with the Bears from 2008-13.