Gary Shelton, former Tampa Bay Times sports columnist and long-time friend to PewterReport.com, will be a contributing game day columnist for PewterReport.com as the 2014 Buccaneers campaign draws to a close. Bucs fans can read this column and several others daily on GarySheltonSports.com, and are encouraged to do so.
“Okay, guys. Here is how we score. I call it “Omaha.”
“First, we get a first and goal. Don’t snicker. Hey, it could happen. Then, to take the Lions by complete surprise, we’re going to lob the ball into coverage across the middle in the end zone. Naturally, it will be intercepted. But that’s just the start of the plan.
“So James Ihedigbo intercepts the ball, and he has no idea what to do with it. So, ninny that he is, he decides to run the ball out of the end zone. That’s the beauty of this plan. And because of his silliness he fumbles when he’s tackled! And we recover.
“Now, because we’re the Bucs, we don’t do much with the ball. In fact, it’s third-and-14 when Josh McCown is flushed out of the pocket for a three-yard run. But what’s that? Yep, the Lions are called for a facemask. It’s an automatic first down.
“So we throw to Mike Evans, and makes the catch in the end zone. I don’t know about you, but I think it’s an unstoppable play. Detroit won’t know what hit them. Maybe we should run it 8, 9 times. What do you think?”
Does anyone else think that make-believe offensive coordinator Marcus Arroyo started his meetings this way at One Buc Place? Certainly, he should have, because just like that, the Bucs happened upon their most creative burst of offense of the season. Maybe of several seasons. Call it Air Arroyo. Also, Err Arroyo.
And with that single burst of creativity, the Bucs were able to get all the way up to 17 points for a single weekend of work.
Yep, that offensive juggernaut known as the Bucs was at it again Sunday against the Lions, sometimes gaining entire inches when their offense was on the field. It was over when the Lions scored their 20th point of the day, but then, isn’t it always? With the Bucs, the field is always uphill, and there are chunks of broken glass, and every now and again, they happen upon quicksand.
“We never got anything going on offense,” said head coach Lovie Smith, pretty much summing up the last decade in seven short words.
There is a constant desperation to the Bucs when they are on offense. They never seem in control. They never seem to be dictating play. They are forever holding on, and forever backing up, and every first down they make feels like an upset. The most overworked guy on that side of the ball is the punter.
This is an NFL attack?
The Bucs gave themselves no chance in Sunday’s 34-17 loss, again. Once again, they were too weak to fight. Once again, their popgun offense lacked the weaponry to compete. Blame Arroyo. Blame former offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford, the disappearing mastermind. Heck, blame Jeff Jagodzinski, the guy who invented this hidden coach trick.
Either way, the Bucs never score enough points to win. As far as Tampa Bay is concerned, there might as well be a moat around the end zone. This one was over in the second quarter, when the Lions scored their 17th point, because if the world stopped and Roger Goodell suspended opposing defensive players by the score, there was no way the Bucs were going to score more than that.
Have you heard this before? Of course you have. For the Bucs, it is always the case. They lack skill, and they lack creativity, and they lack any semblance of an NFL offense. Heck, they lack an AAC offense, Someone ought to be embarrassed at the price of tickets.
In 13 games, this was the 10th time the Bucs have been held to 20 points or fewer. Remember when the cry of the Bucs’ defense was to just give it 17 points? With this offense, 17 would be asking for the world.
For crying out loud, what does this offense do well? Second-string quarterback Josh McCown, who continues to hold off third-stringer Mike Glennon, threw two interceptions and was sacked six times. The running attack got all of 26 yards for a nifty 1.9 average. The team piled up another nine penalties, which gives the team a league-leading 111 for the season.
Yeah, that’ll keep opposing defensive coordinators up at night.
The sad part of this, the part that will make you weep is this: This has been going on, pretty much, since the Bucs concluded their victory in the Super Bowl all of those years ago. Since 2009, this was the 49th game in which the Bucs have scored fewer than 20. It hasn’t mattered who the coach has been who has tried to make this offense coordinated, or who the quarterback has been, or who the forgettable members of all of those forgettable lines have been. There are cobwebs on the scoreboard. There is rust on the cannons.
Not coincidentally, these Bucs are now almost assured of their fifth last-place finish in six seasons. The sad thing is that they can’t mount a drive to get out.
It is all encompassing, this malaise. Oh, you can argue that it’s time to go back to Glennon if you want.
After all, Glennon’s offense scored 58 points over a two-game stretch. In seven starts, McCown has broken 20 only once.
If you are suggesting that the Bucs should go to Glennon because he’s the future, however, there is this response: Let’s hope not.
Of course, it is easy to feel badly for Arroyo, who didn’t sign up to be the leader of this sad orchestra. But, no, he isn’t ready. There are too many times when it seems he forget about this part of the offense or that part. Given how few parts the Bucs have, that’s a tragedy.
Before next season, coach Lovie Smith needs to go out and hire a professional offensive coordinator, someone who can set up an opposing defense. And, just in case a Tedford situation happens again, perhaps he should hire another offensive assistant who has called a play or two.
The NFL is a different place these days. Every rule change for 20 years has been made to help the offense. Because of it, a team cannot win without scoring points.
That’s true for this one, too. If Tampa Bay is going to get better, there have to be some bang to these Bucs. They have to do something on offense.
You know, besides hold.
Award-winning sports columnist Gary Shelton covered the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and other local Florida sports teams for decades with the St. Petersburg/Tampa Bay Times. PewterReport.com invites you to read Shelton’s wit and wisdom on the Bucs on a daily basis at his new website – GarySheltonSports.com.
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