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The Pewter Report Bucs Monday Mailbag is where Mark Cook answers your questions from our @PewterReport Twitter account. You can submit your question to the Mailbag each week via Twitter using the hashtag #PRMailbag. Here are the questions we chose for this week’s edition of the Pewter Report’s Bucs Monday Mailbag.
The PR Bucs Monday Mailbag is where PewterReport.com’s Mark Cook answers your questions from our Pewter Report Twitter account, but this week Taylor Jenkins will be taking over. You can submit your question each week via Twitter using the hashtag #PRMailbag.
Below are the questions we chose for this week’s edition of the PR Bucs Monday Mailbag.
Question: Why are there zero mentions of Bruce Arians for Hall of Fame – and Andy Reid became a ‘lock’ after his Super Bowl win? B.A. has as many Super Bowls as a head coach/assistant +1 more Coach of the Year … and his win percentage (.617) is higher than Chuck Noll, Mark Levy, Tom Landry and tied with Bill Walsh. Then add in his staff full of diversity.
Answer: I think that the Bruce Arians – Hall of Fame conversation is an interesting one, but I also think that the real reason why we don’t hear much talk about it is simply because it’s not a very common topic for coaches in general. Part of that is because of how rare it is to get into the Hall of Fame as a coach. When you look at it, there are 346 players that have been enshrined in Canton as part of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, including eight new inductees this year – congratulations once again to former Bucs safety John Lynch. For coaches, however, that number drops significantly to just 22.
Bucs QB Tom Brady and HC Bruce Arians – Photo by: USA Today
So with a number so small, and numerous deserving coaches that are still active right now, it begs the question of just how many will Canton select to be inducted with such high standards for coaches. And while Arians now has his Super Bowl victory as a head coach, his two Super Bowl victories as an assistant coach, his two AP NFL Coach of the Year Awards and a winning percentage over .600, longevity and competition around him may be the deciding factor if I had to pick something that would keep him out.
Here is some of Arians’ competition solely among active coaches:
Bruce Arians: 112 games, 67 wins (71st all-time), 44 losses, .603 W-L%, 5-2 playoff record, one Super Bowl win, two AP NFL Coach of the Year awards.
Bill Belichick: 416 games, 280 wins (third all-time), 148 losses, .673 W-L%, 31-12 playoff record, six Super Bowl wins, three AP NFL Coach of the Year awards.
Andy Reid: 352 games, 221 wins (sixth all-time), 130 losses, .629 W-L%, 17-15 playoff record, one Super Bowl win, one AP NFL Coach of the Year award.
Pete Carroll: 240 games, 145 wins (T-21st all-time), 94 losses, .606 W-L%, 11-10 playoff record, one Super Bowl win.
Mike Tomlin: 224 games, 145 wins (T-21st all-time), 78 losses, .650 W-L%, 8-8 playoff record, one Super Bowl win.
Sean Payton: 224 games, 143 wins (24th all-time), 81 losses, .638 W-L%, 9-8 playoff record, one Super Bowl win, one AP NFL Coach of the Year award.
Jon Gruden: 224 games, 114 wins (37th all-time), 110 losses, .509 W-L%, 5-4 playoff record, one Super Bowl win.
Now in Arians’ defense, he didn’t get his first crack at being a head coach until he took over as interim coach of the Indianapolis Colts in 2012 at age 60, and has ultimately accomplished as much as many of these coaches in a fraction of the time with just eight years of NFL head coaching experience under his belt. On top of that, his two Super Bowl victories as an assistant and his work as the offensive mind behind Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Carson Palmer, Andrew Luck and Ben Roethlisberger is heralded. But with that many active coaches who could all make their own claim for why they belong in Canton, and only 22 who have actually made it there, it just makes me wonder how many coaches the Hall of Fame will honor from the same era and whether Arians ranks high enough on the list to get the nod.
Question: Are the Bucs in a position to go best player available in every round of the draft?
Answer: The Bucs are in an exceptionally unique position heading into this year’s draft. Even last year when Tom Brady joined the Bucs and we knew what a talented roster Jason Licht and Co. had put together, there were still some glaring holes. The Bucs needed a running back prior to adding Leonard Fournette shortly before the start of the regular season, the Bucs needed a new right tackle as long-time veteran Demar Dotson had departed, the Bucs could use help at free safety with Mike Edwards not necessarily blowing the coaching staff away as a rookie.
Florida WR Kadarius Toney – Photo by: USA Today
Tampa Bay subsequently filled starting spots at tackle and safety with huge picks in Tristan Wirfs and Antoine Winfield, Jr. before plugging in some extra insurance around the roster in Fournette and wide receiver Antonio Brown. And with that roster, along with their additions made, the Bucs achieved the ultimate goal of winning the Super Bowl. Arguably more impressive than their work to just assemble this group last season though, they’ve all but kept it together this year. The Bucs have now become the first team in the salary cap era top return all 22 starters from a Super Bowl-winning roster for the following year.
So with the Bucs picking at No. 32 and with eight selections in this year’s draft and no real glaring needs, they have a ton of options. They could trade up in the draft if they find a willing partners and feel that an impact player has fallen to a reasonable landing spot. They could trade down from pick No. 32 for future draft capital, giving a team their final first-round pick that comes with a coveted fifth-year option. Or, as you mentioned, they could move right down the draft and pluck crucial depth pieces that sit at the top of their draft board. We’re in uncharted waters as the Bucs are set to pick at the bottom of each round, an extremely foreign concept to where we’ve typically been tasked with mocking Tampa Bay in previous years.
Question: Two years ago the 49ers were in the Super Bowl. Last year they missed the playoffs. This year they are in panic mode, trading three No. 1 picks to move up in the draft. What can the Bucs learn from their mistakes to avoid that kind of free fall?
Answer: I don’t necessarily think that the 49ers are in panic mode quite yet. After falling to the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LIV, San Francisco returned a really talented roster that looked prepared to once again put up a fight for dominance in the NFC. Injuries however changed that narrative completely. By the 49ers’ Week 9 match-up with the Green Bay Packers, they looked down their injured reserve list and saw quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, edge rushers Nick Bosa, Dee Ford and Ezekial Ansah, cornerback Richard Sherman, defensive lineman Solomon Thomas, tight ends George Kittle and Jordan Reid and center Ben Garland all staring back at them – among others. While not all of these players on the injured reserve suffered season-ending injuries, the story was already written, as San Francisco sat at 4-4, soon-to-be 4-6 heading into their Week 11 bye week.
Ohio State QB Justin Fields – Photo by: USA Today
And with a healthy roster heading into 2021 I still believe that the 49ers are in position to be right there in the heat of the NFC’s battle for supremacy. What the trade up to No. 3 in the 2021 draft does tell me is that they’re essentially admitting to the world that Garoppolo isn’t their guy of the future at quarterback barring a shocking pick when the draft comes. A smart decision. But regardless of whether that selection comes in the form of Justin Fields or Trey Lance, and whether Garoppolo remains the starter for this upcoming season or not, even with a Top 3 selection invested in the quarterback position, I don’t see the 49ers’ competitive window closed yet.
As for what the Bucs can learn from the 49ers’ misfortune, I think they’ve learned it. The far and away most important takeaway, as Bucs fans are oh so aware of, is that Super Bowl windows don’t come around often for most teams. And when they do, a few injuries or a few departures can close that window in the blink of an eye. Jason Licht, Bruce Arians and the Bucs’ front office know this and that’s why they did everything in their power to bring back every single impact player from their Super Bowl-winning roster back, maximizing their chance of “going for two” and possibly even making that three while that window is open.
Question: If O.J. Howard comes back healthy and is able to play the whole year, do you see the Bucs re-signing him?
Answer: O.J. Howard has so much ability, so much natural talent and so much athleticism. Despite heading into his fifth-year option after being selected in the first round of the 2017 draft, he has yet to put it all together.
Sure, Howard had a good season as a rookie in 2017, hauling in 432 yards and six touchdowns in 14 games. And he had another good season in 2018 with 565 yards and five touchdowns in 10 games. And he had yet another good season in 2019 with 459 yards and one touchdown in 14 games. But what Howard hasn’t quite had, that we’ve been expecting since he was drafted so highly, is a great season. He started off 2020 looking as though that could finally be the year but it was ultimately cut short with a torn Achilles tendon after just four games.
Bucs TE O.J. Howard – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
But with an extremely talented roster around him, Tom Brady at quarterback and a new season on the horizon, this could truly be the moment where we see Howard reach his potential and break out for a stellar season. Granted, he will have to stay healthy for that to happen, but the cards couldn’t fall better for his final year under contract with the Bucs. If he does have that breakout year then he’s absolutely a guy that I could see Tampa Bay bringing back but it will likely rely on a few different things.
First, what will he cost? This offseason we watched Jonnu Smith sign a four-year contract with an annual average value of $12.5 million. Hunter Henry signed a three-year contract with an annual average value of $12.5 million. Rob Gronkowski re-signed with a one-year deal worth $8 million. Heck, even 32-year-old tight ends Kyle Rudolph and Jared Cook will be making $6 million per year on their new contracts.
With a healthy season and solid production in 2021, I could absolutely see Howard’s asking price fall somewhere in the $8-$12 million range as the salary caps bounce back. That brings us to my next point.
What will the position group look like next season? If Gronkowski returns on another relatively expensive, one-year deal for the 2022 season while the Bucs still have a player like Cam Brate on the books for $6.8 million it could make Howard a tough player to re-sign with greener pastures and potentially substantial paydays elsewhere. Especially with a number of other impending free agents that will also need new contracts next offseason. Now if Gronkowski hangs it up or the Bucs release Brate? That could absolutely open the door for Howard and his all-around ability at the tight end position to return.
But again, this is all relying on Howard staying healthy and having a breakout year in 2021. I hope it happens for him, but that’s a big question mark with huge ramifications for Howard’s future.