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The Pewter Report Bucs Monday Mailbag is where Mark Cook answers your questions from our Pewter Report 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.
Question: Two years after back to back 5-11 records we win the Super Bowl. Without being simplistic, is it that easy to be a winner with decent coaching and a QB? How does a franchise blow it for so long?
Answer: While the easy answer would be to say that Bruce Arians and Tom Brady were the keys to winning Super Bowl LV. The fact is that the organization has been building to this point for years. Even their failures helped produce the Super Bowl win last season.
Bucs QB Tom Brady and HC Bruce Arians – Photo by: USA Today
Certainly we can’t discount the difference that Arians and Brady made. The loose, but firm-when-needed style of Arians really resounded with this football team. Nearly every player I have spoken to off the record tends to say the same thing – Arians lets the players be themselves but also has a natural way of leading them and making them believe in the message. Add in the greatest quarterback to ever lace up cleats and the duo of Arians and Brady was certainly a bid factor helping push the 2020 team to the second Super Bowl in franchise history.
But failures of the past helped as well. The NFL is designed for bad teams to get good and we saw the Buccaneers drafting in the Top 15 more often than not over the past 10 years. Hitting on more of those picks than missing is another reason the Buccaneers achieved the ultimate prize earlier this year. Players like Mike Evans, Vita Vea, Devin White and this past season with offensive tackle Tristan Wirfs were all key contributors. The earlier picks in the early rounds of the draft were also a big help. Ali Marpet, Donovan Smith, Chris Godwin, Ronald Jones II, Carlton Davis III, Antoine Winfield, Jr. and others were the foundation of this team that was then supplemented with free agents. Solid scouting and drafting, combined with good coaching and quarterbacks play created the perfect synergy for the Buccaneers to be the last team standing in 2020 and makes them the favorites to do it again this year.
Question: How does Kyle Trask compare to Mac Jones? Why was Jones a first-rounder and we saw Trask fall all the way at the end of the second?
Answer: The proof was in the draft pudding. Clearly teams had a lower grade on Trask than Jones. Likely the arm strength concern was the biggest factor, as Trask checked most of the other boxes teams want in a first-rounder. The Buccaneers actually considered Trask with their first round pick but felt fairly comfortable he would fall well into the second round and took outside linebacker Joe Tryon instead.
Of the quarterbacks in this year’s draft there were the top tier guys like Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson, Trey Lance and so on. Then the second tier quarterbacks were next with players like Mac Jones, Trask, Kellen Mond and so on. And once the quarterback-needy teams had their guys, players in the second group group began to fall somewhat.
Quarterback is a bit of an odd draft position. If you are one of the top four or five players, you’ll go early as teams are always on the lookout for the next Patrick Mahomes. But once those players are off the board, then teams have to evaluate the worth of the next group and if they are an upgrade over their current starters. Only one quarterback is on the field, so it isn’t like you draft a lot of them to be depth guys or rotational players as you do at other positions. You can’t have enough pass rushers or cornerbacks for instance, but quarterback is a different.
When teams get out of the first 10-20 or so picks, the quarterbacks left aren’t thought of as immediate impact starters, so their draft value suffers somewhat. Teams shy away from drafting a player at position they really hope won’t see the field in the upcoming season. Unless you are a team like the Buccaneers, which just didn’t have any glaring needs. Then you have the luxury of drafting a quarterback who can sit and learn and be the possible successor for the current starter. In the Bucs’ case that being Tom Brady.
Question: We have had a lot of information on the rush ends through the draft. We didn’t see a lot of activity with interior line. Is the coaching staff seeing good development in Khalil Davis, Jeremiah Ledbetter, etc.?
Answer: I think they like the future of the young guys mentioned, but the lack of drafting one had more to do with the fact this just wasn’t a very strong class at all. Also the fact that they have the best defensive nose tackle in the game with Vita Vea, who proved his value with his return to action late in the playoffs didn’t make it a high pressing need.
Bucs DT Ndamukong Suh – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Early indications are that next year’s class isn’t going to be stellar either, at least at this point. So developing some in-house talent will be a big challenge and goal moving forward. Ndamukong Suh won’t play forever. Same with Steve McLendon, who most feel is playing his last season. Can Rakeem Nunez-Roches get better or have we seen his ceiling? And what is the future of Will Gholston?
The good news is, if the Bucs win another Super Bowl, or at least make another deep run, even if the draft class next season isn’t great, the agents for 2022 free agents will be keeping Jason Licht’s number on speed dial. With a salary cap boost already announced for next season, and the attractiveness of Tampa Bay as a destination, the Buccaneers likely can delve into the free agent market to replace the aging veterans.
Question; Will the Bucs’ preseason opener be bigger with excitement than almost any game during the decade of the 2010s when fans get back in?
Answer: You may be on to something there. Sellouts have been few and far between over the past decade and sellouts in the preseason are unheard of. We would probably have to go back to the early to mid-2000s to have an actual preseason game that was sold out.
Bucs fans at Raymond James Stadium – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
There were a handful of big regular season home games over the last 10 years, but not really any with playoff implications. So while we saw a few sellouts, that was as much a product of the opponent as anything else. This year, with an anticipated full capacity Raymond James Stadium, combined with the success of 2020 and the fans starving to see their team in person after a year of a pandemic, I can’t imagine that every game – preseason included won’t be sold out.
It is still preseason, but fans who missed the Bucs in 2020 will finally get to see Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski and others play in person for the first time. I expect that first preseason game to be a wild affair, maybe unlike any preseason game in Bucs history.
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, the beach and family time.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@example.com
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