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.
Question: Is there any confidence in the play-calling on both sides of the ball? There’s no way you should have only four runs in a game, and playing zone/prevent against Drew Brees? I was always taught scared men can’t win. Man up – and if you lose you lose!
Answer: In my 40-plus years of watching Bucs football, Tampa Bay’s 38-3 loss to New Orleans on Sunday Night Football was the most frustrating, puzzling and just inexcusable.
Sure, the 6-2 Saints are a better football team. That was evident last night. But as you pointed out in your question, the sheer amount of just mind-boggling decisions by this coaching staff is like nothing I have seen since I watched my first Bucs game with my dad late in 1977.
The Bucs have had worse losses. They’ve been outscored by a lot more points, given up way more yards and gained a lot less over the years But this Bucs team, with this much talent, found a way to look worse than any of those previous teams. It was almost as if the coaches chose the most difficult path to try to win this game.
Here I am the next day and still almost speechless. While I picked the Bucs to win a close game, I didn’t have any expectations or feel comfortable one way or the other. But I most certainly didn’t see a completely embarrassing blowout loss where this staff and football team were slapped continuously and did absolutely nothing to fight back while falling behind 28-0 in a hurry and 31-0 by halftime.
Question: So … how do this team bounce back from this “game?”
Answer: Burn the tape.
Sunday night’s 38-3 loss to the Saints belongs in the same fire pit as the first 26 games of the 1976-77 seasons, several during the mid-1980s under Leeman Bennett and Ray Perkins, and the last 10 games of 2011, as Raheem Morris waved the white flag while his team of “youngry Bucs” quit on him.
As I watched this game I had flashbacks to a 45-0 loss to the Raiders in 1999, the same season the Bucs played in the NFC Championship game against the Rams. The difference in that game and this game was, it was on the road, on the West Coast, and a 4:00 p.m. regional game and not against a divisional rival that had won the four previous match-ups.
The Bucs had everything in the world to play for – a chance to knock off the NFC South bullies, a national television audience where they could make a statement, and a path to a home playoff game. And not only did they lose, they looked dreadful in doing so. The Saints punched the Buccaneers in the mouth over and over again and Tampa Bay just took it.
This might be the most pivotal week of coaching that Bruce Arians and his staff have ever had in their careers. A blow like this could be devastating long-term unless the staff gets the Bucs’ heads straightened out. The 3-6 Panthers are no joke and will absolutely beat Tampa Bay next week in Charlotte if there is any hangover from the loss to the Saints.
Question: Why doesn’t Tom Brady target Mike Evans more?
Answer: That is one of the mysteries of this season. Say what you want about former Bucs quarterback Josh McCown, Mike Glennon and Jameis Winston, but they knew where their bread was buttered – sometimes to the point of forcing the ball to Evans in an ill-advised manner. Of course in the early years since he was drafted in 2014, Evans was the only legitimate receiving threat this team had at times.
But when things aren’t going well offensively, teams should go to its best players.
Ronald Jones and Leonard Fournette are not the Bucs’ best players. Scotty Miller and Rob Gronkowski are not the Bucs’ best players. Jaydon Mickens and Tyler Johnson are not the Bucs’ best players.
Evans and Chris Godwin, who both made the Pro Bowl with over 1,000 yards last year, are the Bucs’ best players and not relying on them more in the first half on Sunday night, and really for a good part of this season is inexcusable by offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich.
Question: Why do the coaches continue to be implement strategies that everyone outside of the building can see are away from the Bucs’ strengths and will end in disaster? Soft zone, running into stacked boxes, not prioritizing Mike Evans, etc.
Answer: While I am not letting the coaching staff off the hook one single bit for the loss to the Saints, the Buccaneers were a Top 5 offense and defense coming into the game on Sunday night. The Bucs’ success – statistically and record-wise – isn’t despite of the coaches. The coaching staff has been a big part of the success at times this year.
It was just a month ago we were all singing the praises of defensive coordinator Todd Bowles for his masterful game plan in wins at Denver and against Green Bay. We were all thinking offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich was in a groove when Tampa Bay dropped 45 points on the Raiders in Las Vegas a couple weeks back.
It was a bad game plan on both sides of the ball – check that – it was an awful game plan. But we’ve seen this staff at its best and last night we saw it at its worst. Let’s hope everyone in the building learns something from the 38-3 loss to New Orleans.