The PR Bucs Monday Mailbag is where PewterReport.com’s Mark Cook answers your questions from our Twitter account. 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. Read them over and offer up your thoughts in the comment section.

Question: Plain and simple. WTF was that? No fire, no passion. This team looked like it took the bye week off early.

Answer: A disaster. A travesty. An embarrassment. And something that should have never happened from a professional organization. And while the Bucs defensive players bear some of the responsibility in surrendering 48 points, I really think much of the blame goes to this coaching staff.

Bucs CB MJ Stewart - Photo by: Getty Images
Bucs CB MJ Stewart – Photo by: Getty Images

The fact is the players talent level is what it is. Cornerback Carlton Davis can only be as good as a rookie who is playing in his fourth game. Same for M.J. Stewart. Can they get better? Of course. And they will, Experience is the best teacher. But that is also where coaching comes in. Is this staff putting them in the best position to succeed? You can’t tell me this defense isn’t more talented on paper than it was last year. Yet they are performing far worse.

That has to fall on coaching. All we have heard since Mike Smith joined the team as the defensive coordinator three years ago, is that are issues with communication. Why? Why after three years are veteran linebackers Lavonte David and Kwon Alexander still looking at each other exasperated after a coverage bust? Why are veteran defensive linemen visibly angry on the sidelines trying to get the defense to rally? There is just zero confidence exuding from this unit. None. The Bucs are allowing opposing quarterbacks to complete 75 percent of their passes and are allowing an average of 33 points per game to be scored against them. They look confused at times and look like they are playing to not screw up. You can’t and won’t win many football games playing like that.

Simplify things. Make it easier. Especially when you have at times up to four rookies on the field at the same time. And one more thing. Why is veteran safety Keith Tandy not still on this football team? Yes, it is easy to second guess personnel moves, but this one is a head-scratcher, especially now with the injuries in the secondary and the lack of veteran experience.

Is Isiah Johnson more physically talented than Tandy? Is Justin Evans? Certainly. But they probably were more physically talented than John Lynch, Ronde Barber and even going back to the days of Mark Cotney. But as some point, experience and leadership have to factor in as much or even more than sheer athleticism. This staff and front office have made some bad personnel moves, plain and simple. In hindsight, drafting strong safety Derwin James over Vita Vea would probably be helping the 2018 Buccaneers more right now.

Potential and ceilings are nice when it comes to player evaluation, but practical, disciplined and smart football players trump maybe-so’s if you ask me. For the record I am not advocating that Tandy would or should start over Evans. That is crazy. But how can you make the case Jordan Whitehead or Johnson are better players than a veteran like Tandy if he were still on this roster?

Question: With Dirk Koetter’s coaching for his job, does Mike Smith get the boot mid-season? We all have seen the stats on the games with 400+ yards the D has given up, and I’m sure the Bucs have also. We also doubt Dirk will fire his friend. Do you think Jason Licht or the Glazers will give Mike Smith the pink slip?

Answer: That is a great question and one I can’t answer definitively. But if it means survival, then all bets should be off and loyalty and friendship have to be cast aside. It is a crappy part of the business but general managers and head coaches are paid rather well in the NFL and the tough decision sometimes have to be made.

Bucs defensive coordinator Mike Smith - Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Bucs defensive coordinator Mike Smith – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

No one will erect a statue of Dirk Koetter outside of One Buc Place proclaiming he was a loyal friend and went down with the ship. But they will hang your name on the walls of Raymond James Stadium if you win football games – especially in the postseason. Somewhere along the way the defensive message and/or scheme has gotten lost. The players either aren’t buying in to the message or don’t believe in it. They certainly haven’t been put in position to succeed in Mike Smith’s defensive scheme.

That wasn’t Tom Brady dropping six TD passes and 350 yards on this Bucs defense. It was mediocre Mitchell Trubisky. And that should have never happened on Sunday. And that was the 19th time out of the last 36 games that Smith’s defense has allowed 400 yards of total offense or more. That’s unacceptable.

Question: Who’s starting now on the defense that won’t be starting for the Falcons game?

Answer: I think you will see a handful of changes, but some due to injury. Vita Vea could be plugged in next to Gerald McCoy, especially if Beau Allen’s foot injury is still lingering. Vea did okay on Sunday. Not great, but okay. And I won’t even get into the Derwin James thing any more. The draft is over, Vea is a Buc, so now where does he go from here and how can he help this defense get better?

Rookie cornerback Carlton Davis left with a groin injury and didn’t return in the second half. Depending on the severity, it could be a lingering thing that keeps him out of the Falcons game opening the door for someone else to start. Interestingly, Brent Grimes was replaced by Ryan Smith in the second half as well and I am not sure if that was a performance issue, or with the game being out of hand, the Bucs wanted to see what Smith could do.

And lastly, I think M.J. Stewart could give way to someone else, even as Scott Reynolds suggested, Javien Elliott, who is in his third year.

Question: Do you think we will sign/trade for some help for the secondary?

Answer: I think the Bucs will be looking, and will have their ears open to possible trades, but I don’t now anything will actually happen. Trades are pretty rare, and Jason Licht has shown he values his draft picks and it would take a special deal to make a deal.

Seattle Pro Bowl safety Earl Thomas suffered a broken leg yesterday and is out for the year, so that potential option is now gone.

Depending on the severity of Davis’ groin injury they may have to find a free agent cornerback, but the pickings are slim to find anyone that could actually contribute more than depth at this point. Looking over the available cornerback list, Byron Maxwell and Dave Amerson are really the only two names that would be very familiar to most fans. But both of those guys had injury issues.

 

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Mark Cook currently is the director of editorial content and Bucs beat writer and has written for PewterReport.com since 2011. Cook has followed the Buccaneers since 1977 when he first began watching football with his Dad and is fond of the 1979 Bucs team that came within 10 points of going to a Super Bowl. His favorite Bucs game is still the 1979 divisional playoff win 24-17 over the Eagles. In his spare time Cook enjoys playing guitar, fishing, surfing and family time at the beach. In addition, Cook can be found in front of a television or in Doak Campbell any time the FSU Seminoles are playing. Cook is a native of Pinecrest in Eastern Hillsborough County and has written for numerous publications including the Tampa Tribune, In the Field and Ya'll Magazine. Cook can be reached at [email protected]

50 COMMENTS

  1. Great points, Mark. Especially your point about communication. It’s one less obstacle of communication to hurdle if the defensive coordinator wasn’t in the press box every Sunday. And with a bunch of young players on the team, I think it’s best the defensive coach for these young guys needs to have a more hands-on approach. Koetter said yesterday that everybody on the field deserved to be fired for yesterday. What he should’ve said was that the one guy NOT ON THE FIELD (but should be) needs to be fired! Mike Smith.

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  2. Mike Smith MUST BE FIRED!!!

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    • I agree the D is playing awful, but how will firing Smith make the D better this season? Please be specific.

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      • Sometines you just have to make a change when it gets to the point that any kind of movement is better than not.
        Mike Smith, Grimes, Spence; any replacement would be an improvement. Time to swap some players with other teams. Here’s a couple suggestions: Brate and or Humphries; this is the only position that we have some flexibility.

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        • Brate’s out of the trade picture since OJ will be out for a few weeks.

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      • presumably, another coordinator would make different choices with the same pieces. better choices? we can’t know until after the trigger is pulled, but we know exactly where this choice is taking the team. dirk owes it to the many other coaches and players whose jobs depend on the record and defensive success to not remain committed to certain failure

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        • Change for the sake of change is not a good choice in my view. Where do we get an available DC who is any good? We could go from the frying pan into the fire. I say we resist the urge to panic. Things could easily get worse, much worse.

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          • Doing things the same way every Sunday on Defense and expecting different results is the definition of insanity. If Smith would have made a move to make things simpler for his players and let them play to their strengths instead of forcing concepts on them with which they’re uncomfortable executing on the field, I would agree with you.

            I would agree, however, that the players have to execute better on the field. They obviously did that against the Eagles and last Monday during the 2nd half. They have to play like they did against the Eagles every game, and they’re going backwards instead.

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  3. The performance yesterday was an utter embarrassment. All of the defensive players should be pissed with themselves but also question the defensive scheme they’ve been instructed to run. I barely counted any blitzes yesterday, no aggressiveness, no adjustments, no nothing. This is Mike Smith’s 3rd season with the Bucs as the D-coordinator and he’s still having “communication” issues? I argued with BucWild02 on September 12th about us beating the Saints but I expressed my concerns about the defense and that I did not want this issue to continue throughout the season and now HERE WE ARE!!!! He needs to go the moment they get back to One Buc Place. I am through with Mike Smiths scheme if you can even call it that! I like Koetter but if he doesn’t fire Mike Smith then things could turn ugly.

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    • Appreciate the shout out!

      Firing Smith makes everyone happy for a couple of weeks until the defense loses a game with the new DC. Then the chorus of the same armchair experts(especially me!) will be spouting off about what plays and players should have been implemented.

      Koetter said it best in his Monday presser…Smith didn’t miss an assignment, a tackle, or make a miscommunication. He is coaching and calling plays. The breakdowns are execution errors and play calls.

      What has been missing from this defense since (the dreaded and hated)Schiano left is accountability, tenacity, and fire on defense. I will gladly take a heat seeking missile at Safety making crossers pay a heavy price, even if it cost 15 yards. I will gladly take a defensive lineman that wants to beat the shit out of the guy across from him, then leave his ass on the ground after he puts him there. No apologies for the play. Line up and whip that ass again.

      I hate watching this defensive line. I never feel like they have an advantage over anyone. They get mauled over and over and over. That isn’t scheme. That isn’t playcalling. That is the players playing.

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      • Agreed.

        So far JPP seems to the lone exception on the DL. A sack per game, and we saw him on the sideline exhorting his teammates. Getting Beau Allen back and Vea more involved could really help after the bye week.

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      • It appears, to me at least, that Smith has lost the respect of his players. If I’m correct, there won’t be any way I can see that Smith can recover from that.

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      • JPP, Curry have played in Super Bowls.

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  4. The Bucs aren’t trying very hard to add talent to the secondary. They didn’t even try to add former pro bowler Eric Reid who signed with the Panthers for a mere 1mil on a 1 year contract. The guy had publicly stated – no more protests and the Bucs had just launched a Social Justice Initiative to address player concerns. I don’t know if Reid would have been a sure remedy, but it would have sent the signal that the Bucs are trying everything to get better!

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  5. Worried about the future of this team, I was pretty optimistic about the D this year with the rebuilt line. But the way its built 3 of our 4 starters will all be over 30 next year and their play could fall off quick like Ayers. It’s going to be years until this team has a playoff caliber defense

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  6. Dirk Koetter, needs to put his friendship with Mike Smith aside. Mike Smith needs to get fired, or it will cost Koetter his job at the end of the season if we do not make the playoffs. But this is the 3rd year and Mike Smith is still running an awful scheme. We have the talent on our D-Line but we have a young secondary, so we need to blitz to get extra pressure on the quarterback. We have a corner in Carlton Davis who specializes in press coverage yet we are making him play soft coverage. The reason Monte Kiffin could get away with the defense that he did is because he had 4 HOF players and Simeon Rice a borderline HOF player on his defense. This Bucs team does not have that. Look at what teams with bad secondaries, what does their defensive coordinator do to cover that stuff up, they design exotic blitzes to get after the quaterback, so the quaterback does not have time to pick apart the defense. Bottom line Mike Smith and his soft defense approach needs to go. We need a defensive coordinator with the aggressive Greg Williams type mentality to coach this defense.

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    • Great points, Andy! A more outspoken defensive coordinator would really help this defense. Gerald McCoy and Lavonte David are not outspoken leaders. With the addition of all our young guys and free agents, a more outspoken leader is needed, especially when it needs to be somewhat confrontational. That can’t happen when the defensive coordinator is up in the press box Sunday after Sunday. Winston called this out the first year he was here… he said Kwon and Clinton McDonald were the only ones who would speak up consistently. Communication is a necessity for a defense that has had as much turnover as they’ve had and we really need a coach that can compliment our defensive captains better than Mike Smith does!

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      • Yes! We need someone to compliment the mentality of Buckner. It is almost like Mike Smith is only there to collect a pay check. I also called, like many others did, bringing back Brent Grimes would be an awful idea. Low and behold he was benched yesterday. Our secondary has been awful for years, so what is our front offices solution. Bring back the same guys, Conte and Grimes. That have been part of the reason why it has been awful. Why do the same thing over and over again and expect a different result, that is the true definition of insanity. I still believe we have a playoff team, but Mike Smith needs to be shown the door.

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    • I absolutely agree. It’s not as if every other team in the NFL has more talent on defense than we do. In fact, I would say we’re right about where New Orleans is talent-wise on defense, and look how well they did last year. If the players can’t execute your scheme, than the scheme has to change. It appears Mike Smith refuses to change the scheme.

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  7. And we have been hammering the defense when our offensive line didn’t have it’s finest hour either. Our guards – both left and right were consistently beat last night. Last time I saw Demar Dotson, he was holding on to the leg of Kahlil Mack after being beat off the edge (didn’t get called). Bucs QBs never had time to set and make accurate throws. Not even going to mention the running game. As Koetter said “we were bad in all phases of the game”. Film don’t lie!

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    • Just my opinion, but and one of the Articles before the game I had mentioned about putting a guard back in the backfield and remove either one of the tight ends or one of the wide receivers.
      I believe it would have helped.

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  8. I don’t care what’s going on, as long as mike smith is still here..WHAT ARE THEY WAITING FOR?! FIRE HIM!!!

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  9. Mike Smith won’t get fired. The whole staff including G.M. won’t survive another 5-11 season either though. Koetter will go with it’s the players we got to it’s the coaches we got. Nothing will happen till after the season. Licht was given an extra year contract that isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on. You can point to some good draft picks, and F.A. signings in a case for Licht, but there are more failures. We’ve been raving about Kwon since his rookie year, but is he really that good? Wasn’t on Sunday. Licht will be judged on his record, spoiler alert, it’s a losing one littered with failed draft picks, and failed F.A. signings. We weren’t talking about the draft, or if Koetter will be fired the whole month of September, let’s hope we’re not after this month.

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  10. I agree that Dirk Koetter probably needs to put Mike Smth out, but it is going to be very difficult for him to do that if you remember their history in Atlanta. When the offense was not performing as well in Atlanta Smith held on to Koetter when he was head coach. I am afraid that those two are locked at the hip. Koetter has done a good job with the offense for the most part and even plugged in his offensive coordinator to play calling when he did not want to give that up – to initial good results. So if Koetter is willing to get rid of Smith because the defense is too complicated he may have a chance of surviving. Staying with Smith and Smith unable to simplify his defense for all the rookies may just mean another disaster year in the making when there was hope for more.

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    • That is why Licht and ownership need to step in and make that move for him.

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      • Bingo

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    • Your memory is wrong in ATL the offense was fine just like it is here but they could not win ball games because they had no defense. The exact same show as we have here. The is why ATL hired a defensive coach as a new head coach, Mike Smith has not had a good defensive team for at least a decade that is a fact.

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  11. For those who criticize Jason Licht, here is a statistical analysis of what he has done over his career in Tampa. When you break it down compared to other GMs you find out (surprisingly) he is one of the better GMs. Just look at this story from the St. Pete Times:

    https://www.tampabay.com/data/2018/04/24/the-bucs-are-22-42-under-jason-licht-does-he-deserve-another-draft/

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    • He’s not just responsible for players, he’s responsible for the coaching staff as well. Now maybe the Glazer’s have him on short leash we don’t really know. It’s not Koetter call to keep Mike Smith, it the GM’s and owners.

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    • Licht is responsible for every single thing about the team. That’s what a GM is and does. He has indisputably created the worst five year stretch of horrible defenses since the expansion year teams of the 70s. He killed off what made the great Bucs great – great defense.

      And for all those who say offense is that matters in the NFL – Sunday’s game was one in a hundred thousand games that say otherwise. Great defenses easily stifle great offenses. Bad defenses lose games.

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  12. What are we going to do about our run game? We have none of that either and Rojo is looking like a bust so far, don’t give me he’s a rookie crap either, rookie running backs always comes into the league and does fine, so far it’s looking like another 2nd round flop pick like Noah spence.

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    • The running game is a minor issue compared to the entire defense and its utter failure to stop opposing offenses.

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  13. What’s sad is that we could have forgone giving 35 year old washed up Brent Grimes 8-9 Mil and used that to sign Morris Claiborne, or maybe could have used it towards signing Trumaine Johnson who’s a legit #1 corner in this league. Nope bring back the 35 year old.

    What’s also sad is that Eric Reid and Bashaud Breeland were free to be signed for months before our DB depth was in shambles, and they were actually still available when we knew our DB depth was in shambles, yet we don’t sign either and instead choose to sign a literally who in Marcus Williams.

    What’s the most sad is that I have a strong inkling that even if we had signed Johnson and Reid and Breeland, they would still be struggling in this foul, stinking, wretch of a scheme.

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    • Schwifty, you’re ruining my day with these cold hard facts man…all those things you say is true! Even if we brought these players in, I doubt mike smith would even know what to do with them. He’s trash and I will not be satisfied until he’s gone.

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  14. IS this the end for Mike Smith? I most certainly hope so. The Glazers have got to give us fans a glimmer of hope. Something..anything. Show us you got a pair Glazers. Its time. Its been time. FIRE MIKE SMITH IMMEDIATELY! Tell Koetter and Licht they to are on short leashes. Even my 10 yr nephew said during the game yesterday, Look Uncle Mike, the Bears are just walking thru our Defense!! 10 yrs old people. Smitty does not even have the impetus to come down out of his pressbox to exhort his troops on the sidelines. He should have been fired after last year. His time has come and gone in the NFL. Koetter won’t fire him. The Glazers are gonna have to do it. Simply put..We buc fans cannot take more of this.

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  15. Ok Mark, Lets say Smith is fired..(well deserved); Who do you replace him with this far into the season? Promote from within…Buckner?? Is he ready? What other options are there? Inquiring minds want to know.

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    • Yes Brenston Buckner is ready, he has 8 years of coaching experience, and he played for 11 years. If Mike Smith gets fired, then Jon Hoke and Brett Maxie have to be fired as well. Because those two are also responsible for this secondary.

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  16. Licht has to look at what comes next. On both defense AND offense.

    How do our LB’s look lost when we have two pro bowl caliber guys out there. How do veteran D lineman struggle to get pressure. How can Noah Spence, after a productive and Iron Man type rookie year be at the bottom of the roster. If we release Smith – which I endorse – what do we replace him with in both coaching and scheme. I read people advocating for Buckner, but what has he done with the line – not much from I can see.

    Our offense is single threaded and the right side of the line is a disaster. How do we revitalize a running game. Other than WR and TE, the offense struggles. Being one dimensional, Pitt figured out they can ignore the run, pressure the QB and force turnovers. The Bears followed the new script. I don’t think it matters whether its Fitz or Jamies behind center, both will be running for their lives the rest of the way.

    Licht is going to have a tough week. Decisions, changes need to be made in the next couple days to implement next week. If he decides to stand pat, gonna be a long season and expect complete overhaul come December.

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  17. Mark, love your passion about Keith Tandy, but Tandy was signed by Atlanta several weeks back. He’s not been available to be picked back up.

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  18. Does anyone else remember that one of the big stories over the offseason was how Mike Smith wanted to break down his defense and coaching style and find new ways to TEACH his defense to the players? Obviously that worked out well!

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  19. I’m just sick of koetter being soft and not being able to part ways with mike smith because they’re buddies.

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  20. Take a deep breath, everybody.
    We should keep Mike Smith.
    Yep, I’m the guy who voted to keep Smith on today’s poll.
    If we fire him halfway through the season, things will get worse. Trust me.

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  21. Here’s something to ponder. As bad as things are here, they are worse under Gruden with the Raiders.
    I am very glad he isn’t coaching the Bucs.

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    • Yeah that would suck. We’d have spent our high draft picks on OL & DL instead of never doing that once in Licht’s failed tenure. And Gruden has the opportunity to do that again having loaded up next yr’s draft by trading Mack instead of blowing the salary cap paying Mack & Carr ~$50 mill/yr. Boy that would be so much worse than the dumpster fire we’ve got today.

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  22. Firing Mike Smith fixes nothing. That is entirely dumb, superficial thinking to blame this mess on one guy who is in charge of very little.

    Far beyond time to fire our lousy GM who singlehandedly destroyed Bucs defense with his horrible coaching and player selections over his entire 5 years with the team.

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  23. I said cutting Tandy was stupid. He’s a beater an and ballhawk. Idiots on here talk about he’s not good we want youth. We’ll be careful what you wish for. This secondary is lost and Tandy was a solid safety.

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  24. After seeing his press conference today. Unfortunately if Koetter does not make any changes to his coaching staff, aka Mike Smith. Then this will be Koetter’s last year in Tampa

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  25. Today’s press conference was not what I had hoped to hear however maybe it is the best thing to happen for us fans? Tough to get four or five more wins this season based on what Koetter said today.

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  26. Well the plan for Koetter is to focus on all the mistakes by players and coaches and fix it; the only problem with that thinking is you really don’t have the time to fix this defensive mess, but I would try.
    I would dump at least 3-4 Defensive players and a Defensive Coach to send a message. I would tell Mike to get his ass down here on the playing field and send another spotter to the Box. If I’m the Head Coach I would want both my OC & DC on the field and if necessary getting the players attention if need be.
    How many more bad seasons do we have to endure? We were always Defense First from the beginning and it worked; at least we were in most games. This is plain nuts to watch this defensive scheme ; if the players on the team can’t do it then move on; sooner or later something will stick! I really don’t know how ticket holders can put up with this over the last 10 years and my hat is off to you because you sure aren’t getting much out of all this. The time is now to make changes or we will have another 5-11 season and another new GM & Head Coach.

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  27. Okay I am going to say something that is going to insult some coaches, Players, and Fans. When I hear a Coach basically say there’s not much else they can do, but work to get better, that tells me a lot. He’s not the sharpest tool in the shed and neither is what he has around him. I would hope the Glazer’s have someone else other than a not so bright GM to intervene because the NFL Buc fans base is shrinking, not expanding.
    I understand the Coach doesn’t think us fans understand the game, but we do. Just like life most times, one has to adapt and adjust, and sometimes go out of your comfort zone in order to get results.

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