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.
They got three.
In the upset of upsets, in the staggering performance of staggering performances, the Tampa Bay Bucs went out and got themselves a field goal Sunday afternoon. That’ll teach the doubters, all right. They zigged, they zagged, and they got three whole points for Christmas. Just like the French hens.
Spread it among yourselves, boys.
But, um, you might want to spread it thin.
The ever-devolving Tampa Bay Bucs, going backward all the time, lost a thoroughly uninspired game to the thoroughly bored Green Bay Packers Sunday afternoon, 20-3. It was painful to watch, like one of those predator documentaries where large mammals pick small ones out of their teeth. It was the kind of game to make you think “I spent a day of my life watching that?”
Playing against a less-than-average defense, one that ranked 23rd in the NFL and 27th against the run, the Bucs were overwhelmed. They never had a chance. Their offensive line was playing in traffic, and the running backs were buried by an avalanche. And you didn’t know whether to boo Josh McCown or give him Last Rites.
All in all, it was one of the worst offensive performances you could imagine. It was Trent Dilfer bad, and Lars Tate bad, and Josh Freeman bad. It was Alvin Harper bad, and Charles McRae bad, and Jack Thompson bad. No wonder Jeff Tedford, the departed offensive coordinator, beat it out of town. This offense could not be less coordinated.
For crying out loud, the Bucs would have been better off to just take the snap and fall forward on every down. This was pathetic. After five offensive series, the Bucs had run all of 15 plays, and they had exactly zero yards. Say what you want, but five three-and-outs is not exactly a reason to fire the cannons.
“It’s hard to win games when you put up that kind of offensive production, which is very little,” said a clearly frustrated Bucs’ coach Lovie Smith.
And why wouldn’t he be. If you look at the Bucs defense, you can find reasons for hope. It has been a much better unit the second half of the year.
But where is that improvement on offense? This offense line would be dreadful’s backups. It’s like five guys picked out of the stands and thrown onto the field in ill-fitting pads.
“I think it’s a combination,” Smith said. “We’re not playing good enough football up front pass-blocking or running. It’s tough when you have less than 20 yards rushing. And when you pass, you can’t really protect. Quarterback-wise, there were some decisions we would like to have back. It’s a combination of all of it now.
“We need help on the offensive side. We’ve needed help for a while.”
Talk about your well-oiled machines. For the day, Tampa Bay ran well enough to gain all of 16 yards on 14 attempts, which is a nifty 1.1 yard average. And throwing the ball was even more hopeless. Josh McCown was sacked seven times, and he completed only 12 passes. The running backs don’t make anyone miss. The line opens no holes. The quarterback scares no one but his teamates.
In a year of running in place, this offense has never been worse. The Bucs have scored fewer than 20 points in 12 of their 13 losses this year, but they have never been this weak, this impotent. It was as if the Bucs had not practiced all year. It was as if their coaches had no idea how many players they should line up, or what they should require that their players do.
Give the Bucs credit, though. It was the most amazing thing imaginable that they managed to score. In years to come, it might be known as the Christmas Miracle of St. Lovie.
Consider this: Mike Evans takes a short pass on second-and-21, and he makes a guy miss, and he goes for 22 yards on a first down. Three plays later, on third-and-11, McCown lobs a ball downfield that Vincent Jackson makes a 40-yard catch on. After a penalty, Charles Sims takes a screen pass for 18 yards. Two plays after that, the Bucs barely convert a fourth-and-one.
All of that leads to a field goal.
And points for the holidays!
Of course, you can blame a lot of this on the departure of wanna-be offensive coordinator Tedford, who somehow got the job as coach of the British Columbia Lions last week. Tedford tap-danced through his press conference, saying that he had been healthy for months. On the other hand, he wasn’t exactly scratching at Lovie Smith’s door, was he? He was a bust of a hiring on a bust of an offense on a bust of a team.
“There are no excuses, but there is a reason why 31 teams have an offensive coordinator,” said McCown. “If you say it doesn’t matter, people say, ‘let’s wing it and don’t go with an offensive coordinator.’ It does matter.”
Maybe it was Tedford’s fault, and maybe the problems were just too big for him. But all season, the Bucs have lacked direction, and identity, and sizzle, and creativity, and command on that side of the ball.
When you consider all the money spent on this team, and all of the free agents signed, and all of the draft picks spent, you can suggest that this is the most disappointing offense in Bucs’ history. Yes, I realize the enormity of that statement.
One more week, and the eyesore is over.
Just wondering, but do you think the offense can get all the way to the finish line?
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.
With unique insight and analysis, fans are encouraged to subscribe to GarySheltonSports.com for as little as $4 per month to read about the Bucs, Tampa Bay’s other local pro teams, and columns on the various Florida college teams. Click here for more information.
Be sure to follow Shelton on Twitter at @Gary_Shelton
Legendary sports columnist Gary Shelton returns to PewterReport.com for his second season of providing post-game commentary on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers like no one else can. No one has won more sports writing awards than Shelton, who has covered Tampa Bay area sports for decades with his unique brand of humor and insight. Bucs fans can Shelton daily on GarySheltonSports.com and follow him on Twitter at @Gary_Shelton
This is the most disappointing TEAM in Buccaneers history. Don’t forget, the defense gave up 23 first downs, 471 yards of offense and almost forty minutes in time of possession. It wasn’t a massacre only because the Packers were trying to work the kinks out of their short-yardage passing offense.
I stand corrected. 431.
The problem is when your offense goes 5 straight drives with a 3 and out, your defense is put in a bad position constantly.
They are on the field constantly. That and they are playing Green bay who averages 32 points a game.
Today certainly qualified as the most pathetic offensive performance…..but you see, we’re going with the QB that gives us the BEST chance to win, says St. Lovie. Gee when we get a top rated QB in the draft he’ll probably still go with his wonderful (never been anything but a backup) QB. Stubbornly!!!
Enjoy Gary’s writing and dead on view of the Buccaneers today and all year. This is as pathetic a team the Bucs have ever presented to the fans. Horrible, the joke of the NFL and at HOME? Even worse.
St. Lovie came here, mocked last year’s team and turned it into a team as bad as we’ve seen here since Richard Williamson was HC. Of course Richard Willianson was only a HC here for one year……HINT! HINT!
Let’s hope that the Aints don’t pull a fast one and “rest” Drew Brees…wouldn’t surprise me at all – they would hurt us much more by losing than winning next week. Our offense will show up alright, and Sean Peyton will have 12 high school freshmen waiting for them…epic battle to come!
Whine, whine, whine with your leader Gary Shelton to follow. Yes the day stunk. I get it.
The Bucs lack talent, this is clear! We need help everywhere! Hopefully, they will draft a franchise QB having #1 pick in Draft. Having said that, Lovie Smith is terrible. I know, he didn’t have a whole lot to work with. I realize this. But, this IS the team HE assembled. His failure to go out and sign an experienced OC after Tedford went down is downright stupid and a derelict of duty as HC! What about those players who only have a limited amount of time in their careers left? They can’t afford to next year attitude. An experienced OC could have been signed for minimal cost for the year! To turn over an NFL Offense to someone who has no experience and was in way over his head, is unexcusable! Lovie should be fired for that move alone. His FA talent evaluations sucked as well! Lastly, his insistence on playing McCown when he is clearly not the future/old is just stupid! Let Big Bird play to get some more experience and to evaluate him as a potential back-up for next year. It serves NO purpose in playing McCown when he probably will be cut due to his salary/skills and wont even be on the team next year! I am EXTREMELY nervous about giving Lovie the power to pick our next QB and to again sign another batch of FA to replace the ones he screwed up on this year! He is clearly incompetent. We should be Clearly/Seriously worried Buc fans if he remains HC next year! Who knows when you are going to have such a horrible year again that warrants getting the top QB in the country and perhaps our first FRANCHISE QB in years, if ever! Lovie is incompetent as a HC. Good man, and even better Defensive Coordinator!
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Yes the offense as a whole is as bad as can be. Accountability is pointing at Lovie Smith. It is not the offensive coaches fault, it is not the offensive players fault. None of them hired themselves. It is Lovie’s responsibility. Now that the blame has been placed, let’s see what Lovie does about it.
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