It’s halfway through the 2017 season and the PewterReport.com staff offers up its midseason awards for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. From the MVPs on offense, defense and special teams to the most improved players on offense and defense to Tampa Bay’s top rookie, here is a look at the Midseason Awards.

The Buccaneers are one of the most disappointing and underachieving teams in the NFL thanks to a dismal 2-6 start that has seen the Bucs lose their last five games – and star quarterback Jameis Winston sidelined with a shoulder injury. Poor play and poor coaching have shown up on the road especially, where Tampa Bay is 0-4 and allowing over 30 points per game. PewterReport.com reviews the individual efforts from the first eight games and analyzes the Buccaneers’ performances in its 2017 Midseason Awards.

BUCS 2017 MIDSEASON OFFENSIVE MVP – TE Cameron Brate

Touchdowns have been hard to come by for Tampa Bay’s offense, especially over the last two games where the Bucs have scored just 13 points. Brate has four touchdowns on the year and is tied for the team lead with wide receiver Mike Evans. Brate has the second-most catches on the team with 32 for 414 yards, which ranks third on the team behind Evans (40 receptions for 532 yards) and wide receiver DeSean Jackson (27 catches for 422 yards). Brate is on pace to record 64 catches for 828 yards and eight touchdowns. The Harvard graduate set new career highs when he recorded 57 receptions for 660 yards and eight touchdowns last year.

Brate hasn’t been perfect and has had more drops this year than expected, including three against New England in a 19-14 loss, but he’s been the most reliable weapon on offense. Despite the fact that the Bucs spent a first-round pick on tight end O.J. Howard, Brate has improved enough to remain the starter and is thriving. One of Brate’s touchdown receptions came from backup quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, a fellow Harvard alum, so don’t be surprised to see Fitzpatrick continue to look Brate’s way, especially in the red zone.

BUCS 2017 MIDSEASON DEFENSIVE MVP – LB Lavonte David

Imagine what David’s numbers would be if he hadn’t missed the games against the New York Giants and New England with an ankle injury. He’s third on the team in tackles with 43, behind only Kendell Beckwith (48) and safety Chris Conte (43), and should eventually wind up as the season leader for tackles on the team when it’s all said and done if he remains healthy. David is playing the best football of any Buccaneer on the team, and is the only defender making regular splash plays.

LavonteDavidCardinals
Bucs LB Lavonte David – Photo by: Getty Images

David already has four forced fumbles on the season and three fumble recoveries, including one that he returned for a touchdown against Arizona in the team’s 38-33 loss. The four fumble recoveries ties David’s career high that he set in 2014 and matched last season, while the three fumble recoveries sets a new personal best. Tampa Bay’s defense has had its share of struggles this season, and David hasn’t been perfect, but who knows how bad this defense would be without him in the lineup. David is having a Pro Bowl-caliber season.

BUCS 2017 MIDSEASON SPECIAL TEAMS MVP – P Bryan Anger

Anger had a tremendous season for the Bucs last year with a 45.9-yard average, a career-best 42.7-yard net, a career-high 37 punts downed inside the 20-yard line and just five touchbacks. While he’s not at that level thus far in 2017, Anger is close. He’s averaging 43.5 yards per punt with a 39-yard average, 15 punts downed inside the 20-yard line and just two touchbacks. Anger was in Pro Bowl contention last year, and he’s in the conversation for that distinction again this season.

Anger had his first punt blocked as a Buccaneer last week in New Orleans, which led to a scoop-and-score touchdown, but it wasn’t his fault. Second-year linebacker Devante Bond did a poor job blocking upfront to allow that to happen. When Anger gets the ball away he does a great job of working with Tampa Bay’s coverage units to limit return yards. Last year, the Bucs allowed just 128 yards on 24 punts (5.3 avg.). This season, Anger is close to those numbers with 78 yards allowed on 12 returns (6.5 avg.).

MOST IMPROVED OFFENSIVE PLAYER – G Evan Smith

It was a surprise to see Smith split time with Kevin Pamphile, who is in a contract year, at left guard from the start of the season, but that’s because Smith has played well enough to deserve some playing time. According to Pro Football Focus, Smith has a 76.4 grade this year with a 77.1 grade in pass protection and a 76.5 grade in run blocking. Pamphile, who has six more snaps, has a 50.3 grade with a 69.1 grade in pass protection and a 44.2 grade in run blocking.

The Bucs have split the reps nearly 50-50 for the first half of the year between Smith and Pamphile, but the if the grades from PFF are to be believed, Smith should be the sole starter at left guard based on those numbers. There may be some politics at play as the Bucs want to keep Pamphile happy so that the free agent-to-be can be signed long term, but Tampa Bay needs to get its five best linemen on the field. If Pamphile plays left tackle to replace the injured Donovan Smith this week, Smith will get the start at left guard regardless.

MOST IMPROVED DEFENSIVE PLAYER – CB Ryan Smith

Smith was relegated to special teams duty during his rookie season and became one of the best gunners not only in Tampa Bay, but also the league last year. After making a position switch from safety to cornerback he finally got his chance to see some defensive action in 2017 when he started at cornerback in Week 3 at Minnesota for the injured Brent Grimes. Smith really struggled in the 34-17 loss to the Vikings, but rebounded nicely in his second opportunity, which came against Carolina, finishing with two pass breakups in that game.

Bucs CB Ryan Smith – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

The jury is still out as to whether Smith could be a potential starter down the road, or if he’s strictly a reserve cornerback and a special teams ace, but there has been some dramatic improvement in his game – not just from last year to this season, but from Week 3 to Week 8. The Bucs are eager to see how he progresses as the season rolls on to determine whether or not they will have to address cornerback in the 2018 NFL Draft, or if they have a couple of solid, young corners in Smith and Vernon Hargreaves III.

MOST DISAPPOINTING OFFENSIVE PLAYER – LT Donovan Smith

Smith has shown virtually no improvement since last year in pass protection or in run blocking. This is a big season for Smith in terms of showing that he can do to become the long-term answer at left tackle in Tampa Bay. His strength has been his availability, as he hasn’t missed a start since the first game of his rookie season, but a knee injury he suffered at New Orleans could take that away as he may miss Sunday’s game.

Smith has a 43.9 overall grade, according to Pro Football Focus and he ranks as the 59th best offensive tackle in football out of 64 starting tackles. His 49.9 pass blocker rating is marred by the fact that he has allowed 25 QB pressures this season thus far. Smith fares even worse as a run blocker, earning a 36.1 grade. It may be time for Tampa Bay to look for a new left tackle in 2018 if this keeps up.

MOST DISAPPOINTING DEFENSIVE PLAYER – DE Robert Ayers

Noah Spence gets consideration here because the team was relying on him to be the team’s speed rusher off the edge. However, the second-year player suffered another dislocated shoulder in Tampa Bay’s second game and was placed on injured reserve after just six games, finishing 2017 with just one sack and one forced fumble. You can’t blame a player for being injured, so the dubious award goes to Ayers instead.

Ayers signed a three-year deal worth $19.5 million last year and produced 6.5 sacks, one forced fumble and one safety despite missing for games due to injury. Ayers has been healthy this year, but has only generated two sacks, which has been a huge disappointment. Without Spence in the lineup, the Bucs need Ayers more than ever to get to the quarterback and he’s failing to produce and certainly has been worth $6 million this season.

BEST ROOKIE – LB Kendell Beckwith

The Bucs got a first-round steal in tight end O.J. Howard, who was a top 10 talent that slipped to the No. 19 draft spot. Howard has been a bit under-utilized as a receiving weapon on offense, but does have three touchdowns on the year, including two against Buffalo. But the surprise pick for Best Rookie midway through the 2017 campaign is linebacker Kendell Beckwith, the team’s third-round pick.

Bucs LB Kendell Beckwith – Photo by: Mark Lomoglio/PR

Beckwith didn’t participate in any of the team’s mini-camps or OTAs as he recovered from a torn ACL he suffered last November at LSU. That makes his NFL rookie season even more surprising. Not only is Beckwith leading all rookies in tackles with 48, he’s also leading the Bucs, too. Beckwith has started games at SAM (strongside) linebacker as well as MIKE (middle linebacker) and posted a career-high 14 stops in the team’s 19-14 loss to New England.

BEST FREE AGENT ACQUISITION – K Pat Murray

Tampa Bay’s desperate search to find a kicker may have come to an end with Murray, who replaced veteran Nick Folk last month and has missed just one field goal, a 56-yard attempt last week at New Orleans. Murray had gone 4-of-4 on his previous attempts, including two from 50 yards, and has made all five of his extra points. Murray is on a short leash as the Bucs continue to monitor the health of former Kansas City kicker Cairo Santos as he recovers from a groin injury. Santos is a more accomplished and more talented kicker, so it’s imperative for Murray to continue to be accurate and not miss from inside 50 yards if he wants to remain in Tampa Bay.

Murray beats out wide receiver DeSean Jackson, defensive tackle Chris Baker and safety T.J. Ward for this distinction. Jackson is the team’s second-leading receiver with 27 catches for 422 yards and two touchdowns. Not bad numbers, but they could have been even better if Jameis Winston could have hit him in stride on a few shots down the field. Baker and Ward are both part-time players on defense and have yet to create a takeaway or get a sack.

WORST FREE AGENT ACQUISITION – K Nick Folk

Folk was signed to compete with Roberto Aguayo, the team’s second-round pick from a year ago, and quickly won the job in training camp after the first preseason game when Aguayo was released. Folk had been released from the New York Jets after connecting on 87.1 percent of his field goals.

Folk missed five field goals and was 6-of-11 (54.5 percent) before the Bucs moved on, which was actually worse than Aguayo was as a rookie. Folk also missed two extra point attempts, finishing with a 7-of-9 mark in Tampa Bay before he was placed on injured reserve. The 33-year old kicker missed three field goals in a 19-14 loss against New England that proved to be the difference in the game and his undoing in Tampa Bay.

BEST PLAY OF THE YEAR (SO FAR) – Howard’s TD vs. the Giants

There have been few highlights for the 2-6 Buccaneers thus far in the 2017 season, but the one that sticks out the most to the PewterReport.com staff is O.J. Howard’s 58-yard touchdown catch-and-run against the New York Giants. The Bucs schemed the play perfectly and snuck Howard, who was lined up on the right side of the offensive line, across the formation where he ran wide open down the left sideline. Jameis Winston’s pass was on the money and the rookie got his first NFL touchdown on what happened to be the longest pass play of the season in Tampa Bay thus far.

Bucs TEs O.J. Howard & Luke Stocker - Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Bucs TEs O.J. Howard & Luke Stocker – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

Howard scored on a similar play three weeks later on Buffalo, that one going for 33 yards in a game in which he established career highs in catches (six), yards (98) and touchdowns (two). Howard’s 16.2 yards per catch average currently leads the team.

BUCS’ RECORD DOWN THE STRETCH – 2-6 to finish 4-12

With expectations sky-high this year in Tampa Bay, no one saw the Bucs’ dismal 2-6 start or a five-game losing streak coming. Without wide receiver Mike Evans, who is serving a suspension for the Jets game, or quarterback Jameis Winston, who is nursing his injured shoulder for a few weeks, the Bucs’ hopes of rebounding during the second half of the season look bleak as neither the offense nor the defense are playing competent football right now.

If the losses continue to pile up, as we suspect they will, look for the effort level to dip as the season progresses. If the Bucs could only get two wins during the first half of the season when the team was healthier and still in contention, it’s hard to rationalize the team winning more games down the stretch. Our initial projection was a 5-11 record with wins at Miami, at Green Bay and at home against Atlanta on Monday Night Football, but we backed it down to 4-12 because this Bucs team has a way of underachieving. This season is not going to end well for Dirk Koetter and his coaching staff.

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Scott Reynolds is in his 24th year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds spent six years giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his son's Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: [email protected]

22 COMMENTS

  1. I think Light should be shown the door yesterday !

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    • Licht has filled our roster with a lot of talent. Aside from the Aguayo fiasco I can’t recall any major mistakes he’s made. Sure, he’s swung and missed on a few FA pickups but I’ll take that over a gun shy GM passing on talent. The problem seems to fall more on coaching and playcalling than on talent acquisition.

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  2. Depressing isn’t it? I feel like we’re two years away getting out of this mess. We have a lot of needs more than I ever realized. Meathead what the hell were you thinking?

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  3. C’mon… Meathead hasn’t been perfect, but far better than any GM the Bucs have ever seen. Yes, he’s screwed the pooch on a fair amount of FA pickups, but he has started to put some talent back on this roster. If he follows the Steelers-Green Bay mantra of building from the draft and staying away from high-profile FAs, this team has a chance to succeed. My biggest fear is that the Glazers are going to fumble away a great opportunity with our first franchise QB. I honestly don’t know if Gruden is the answer, but it appears that Koetter has thrown in the towel. Every year or so, there is an experienced, quality coach that is let go… I hope that it all pans out after this shockingly sad season.

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  4. There should be no midseason awards for a team sitting at 2-6.

    And it is crazy to name Smith most disappointing member of the offense. That award HAS to go on Winston, by leaps and bounds. This was supposed to be his breakout third season – instead his performance has been bad, he’s clearly regressed. The expectation of a no. 1 overall pick quarterback in his third season is to being playing at a high level, and exhibiting true leadership which definitely includes great sportsmanship, instead of embarrassing his teammates, his coaches, and his fans with stupid pre-game antics (“eating Ws” .. WTF?????) and then going off with a hugely embarrassing dick act of assaulting an opponent on the field from the sideline after being removed from the game, an act that his own coach said should have resulted in an ejection.

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    • naplesfan, you previously in comments wrote about the hater’s and here you are as a Winston hater! Ever notice the where and why Winston is being pounded to the ground most times? His blindside protection is compromised and it’s usually that side which is compromised first with this OL. Smith is awful and I defended him up until Winston pounding from his blindside protector in the Arizonza game. I then started watching his feet work and realized how bad they were; he should be a Guard and would do fine. First priority in the draft has to be a Left Tackle even though we need 2 DE’s. I was slow to come on board about Smith because the need for years has been DE’s, but we all can change our minds and that’s what I’ve done. Winston is far from the top problem. His issues can be corrected by remembering he not a top tier QB and plays called utilizing his strengths sure would help.

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      • I don’t hate Winston, I don’t hate anybody.

        What I wrote here is that Winston can no longer be the sacred cow of the Buccaneers, protected above everybody else, and freed of accountability for his disappointing performance and personal behavior.

        It is time for the new regime to look elsewhere and bring in competition at the quarterback position.

        But given the way you and others are reacting, you are knee-jerk calling my position “hate” which is ridiculous.

        It is not “hate” to say there might be a better choice than Winston, who has been the biggest disappointment of all the players on the Bucs this season, bar none.

        When I talk about Gruden hater, they actually hate Gruden, can find nothing good to say about him, never acknowledge the superior performance he provided over seven years as the Bucs head coach, they literally blame him for every single shortcoming of the Bucs during a period when his teams outperformed every other era of the Bucs. When it is all or nothing, he’s all bad then that is ridiculous hate.

        I am not blaming Jameis Winston for everything wrong with the Bucs. I am blaming Jameis Winston for what he specifically does (behaves in an unsporsmanlike manner, as his own head coach declared to the media) and does not do (coming remotely close to performing like a no. 1 overall pick quarterback in his third successive season as the designated starter).

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        • Two 4000+ yard seasons and bringing legitimacy to a Team makes Winston a worthy pick. You fail to look at the totality because you are picking and choosing who YOU think personifies a “hater” of which you are doing the same thing. Look at it outside of your own view and you will see that. If we had a coach who put him in the correct positions to succeed his youth/maturity would not show so vividly. You are correct that he showed immense immaturity with his actions here lately but these people are human as well. They want to win!

          Jon Gruden made significant mistakes with his handling of players and influences with the draft but I agree he would be a perfect mentor to Winston. Be careful of selectively choosing what quantifies a hater when you are not taking the totality of it in to your judgement.

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          • Again, this thread isn’t about “hate”. I don’t “hate” Jameis or anybody.

            Passing for 4,000 yards and losing too many game, because the offense isn’t very good at scoring points, does not make a winner, and does not justify the no. 1 overall pick.

            I am not calling for Jameis to be cut, or to be arrested, or hung at sunrise. I am calling for the Bucanneers new leadership to remove the “sacred cow” label from Jameis and make him compete for the job, and to make that meaningful, go out and sign a quality veteran or draft a quality rookie.

            Nobody in the Bucs organization should feel safe when the entire team is a dumpster fire. Being the leader of a dumpter fire offense makes one a prime “non-sacred cow”.

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        • So you are now also an expert on Gruden hater’s; how do you know this? We don’t know much of anything about any of the fans who post on this site. I know you’re not a hater, I was just trying to show you how it feels to be called a Hater; that is one ugly word. Winston hasn’t played well at all because most times his back is already against the wall because we are behind very quickly. This is a team and I think Winston has done plenty to help his teamates; D. Smoth is a perfect example. Look what it has gotten Winston, injured. The Coach calls the game and short quick passes like most of the NFL does sure is called for, but Winston isn’t getting his share being called. Instead he has to take a few steps back instead of a couple while the play called can unfold. Problem is the OL is already breaking down led by D. Smith side so Jameis has to drift to his right and the RDE is past D. Smith, and bam!

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          • I’m not an expert on anythihg football, but I was greatly put off by their caterwauling, which began with his hiring, and continued noisily throughout Gruden’s 7 year tenure … and they still won’t shut up about it today, 9 years after his firing. They never shut up, and they keep repeating the same old, same old stupid lines today.

            Apparently you are one of them Horse, as you wont’ give up on it now. Being as how you are so extremely exercised and offended at the very notion of Gruden hate, I have to assume that you were/are one of them.

            I don’t have Gruden love. I believe his firing, however, was the single stupidest, bone-headed move by a Bucs owner since the franchise was founded in 1976.

            Just compare the results – Gruden years vs. what came after. I won’t repeat all the data again, but if someone cannot see that he was by far the best head coach this franchise ever had, then one must be consumed with Gruden hatred.

            The hatred began, as I said, with Tony Dungy’s firing. Gruden was blamed for that, and he was never forgiven. All the BS about “Gruden only won the Super Bowl with Tony’s team” is and always was balderdash of the worst sort. Dungy was never the GM … the players were Rich McKay’s not Tony’s. Tony was an OK coach as long as he only had to be responsible for the defense, but he was horrible at offense. Gruden was a better coach than Tony.

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  5. I think Desean is being penalized for Jameis’ inability to connect with him down the field. He doesn’t have any big drops that stand out, has made plays underneath since we can’t connect deep and has not quit. He’s been exactly what we thought when he was acquired the passes just have not connected when the big plays are there to be made. Pat has been fine the perfect few games but we will see how he holds up.

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    • stlbucfan, how many deep threats does Brady, Brees, Rothenburg have; the focus for most QB’s is short passes, comeback routes and then run.

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    • Horse I agree but Desean has proven that he’s more than a deep threat. He could easily have 5 or 6 TDs on the season if Jameis gave him some catchable passes on the deep throws. He has gone underneath to get most of his work done this season but has been in position to make the big plays. Pat has kicked for 2 games and is not the best FA. He simply fixed another terrible decision made by Licht on another kicker.

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      • Thank you; I got it.

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  6. I am not really into mid-season awards. They often make us focus on one player and I don’t believe that presents a fair assessment. I read an article not long ago that pointed out several enlightening aspects of a play. We tend to focus on where the cameraman takes us and who the announcer addresses. Fact is multiple things are happening during a play that are never discussed. Things that have a major impact on the success or failure of the play. Coaches see these things on film after the fact but ordinary fans never have the opportunity. That brings me to Koetter and why I feel he should be given another year or two to develop this team. I believe the toughest job in coaching is correcting the things that only coaches see, the one minor mistake that changes a play from a 51 yard run to a 2 yard loss. Let’s evaluate the talent we have on board during the next 8 games, make a few changes in FA and focus on real needs (i.e PASS RUSH & RB) in the draft. We have a lot of talent and we need time to learn how to use it effectively. Sometimes you just have to trust a coach for longer than 2 yrs, and let him completely rebuild his team.

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  7. P.S. We all have heard to the great Jim Brown and his achievements, but many tend to forget the other RB on Cleveland during those glory years who was very instrumental in Brown’s success. Bobby Mitchell. Oh and did you ever watch a guy name Scottie Pippen play defense, Michael Jordon sure did.

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  8. I would rather be wrong and Bucs win that right with this losing
    I remember back in April Bucs with the 19Th pick of draft picked OJ Howard
    Bucs fans and people at this site screaming Juice new weapon for “Jamies Winston”!!
    all excited, I came on said coach management out of there minds well turns out the Broncos were also screaming and yelling because they were sure the Bucs would take the best OT in college football Garett Bolles, after I was told I was stupid had no credibility I ask maybe had they had fixed the line maybe Jamies sholder would not be screwed.
    OJ Howard 17 catches 277 yards, not for a game but the season!

    Even if Jamies comes back the DB in this division will just drill his shoulder into the ground again.
    By the way, Bolles started all 8 games and has been praised for his job even with the Bronco meltdown with a new coach.

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    • Good points.

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  9. forget about being a local fav school…Has Winston been worthy of the #1 pick in the draft?

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    • I’d still say yes. He’s had a rough season, but the guy still has all the potential to be THE cornerstone of a franchise. Who from that draft would have a bigger impact for this team over the next decade?

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  10. I have gone back and forth about Winston. Before this season, I loved him- especially his leadership. I will say that I think it is hard for me to truly blame him. No matter what he says, a shoulder injury on his throwing arm affects his throwing motion. Jameis has been good, but not great up until this season. This year, the o line is awful, and Jamies has been hurt as a result. I think I can still see more potential in him. I think that Trevor’s Cover 3 was spot on- the oline and the d line have been the problem. I put that on Licht. He has to know that the d line was iffy coming in, and to me, the decision to pass on Campbell and get Baker was a major fumble. Campbell has made Jacksonville a top 5 defense, Baker is a part time player. Also, Licht’s drafting of linemen on both sides has not been good. Outside of Marpet, he has not drafted any reliable o or d linemen. D Smith is turning out to be below average, Spence is probably done with that shoulder problem and Benonoch is still a reserve. To Licht’s credit he has made mistakes and seems to move on quickly (in other words learns from them) and he has assembled more talent then when he took over, but there are still glaring spots on the roster with talent deficits. I would give him a C+/B- and I am not sure that is good enough to survive. The coaches are another story- maybe they get a D.

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