SR’s Fab 5 is exclusively sponsored by Edmonson Electric • AC • Security –
the official smart home and security company of PewterReport.com.
For the past 40 years, Edmonson Electric • AC • Security has proudly served central Florida with electric services and now proud to add state-of-the-art “Smart Home” technology, security systems and air conditioning to its roster. Whether it’s surveillance cameras, home theaters, or smart lighting, Edmonson Electric • AC • Security is automating your dream home.
Visit EdmonsonElectric.com to find out more about controlling, monitoring and securing your home or call 813.910.3403 for additional information.
Control. Monitor. Secure.
And now on to the first SR’s Fab 5 of 2020. It’s going to be a very good year, Bucs fans!
FAB 1. Arians’ First Year Was A Success
Make no mistake. Bruce Arians is not happy with Tampa Bay’s 7-9 record in 2019, which was his first season as the Bucs head coach.
It was his worst record as a head coach, as he previous worst finish was in Arizona in 2016 when the Cardinals finished 7-8-1.
Yet, Arians’ first year in Tampa Bay was a success in many ways. First, let’s look at the tangible, measurable ways Arians and his coaching staff improved the Bucs on offense and defense.
Offensively, the Bucs achieved many statistical milestones, starting with quarterback Jameis Winston. The prolific young passer gets knocked for his career-high and league-leading 30 interceptions, but his 33 passing touchdowns were the most in franchise history and were the second most scoring strikes in the NFL this year behind Lamar Jackson’s 36.
While Winston became the first 30-30 passer in league history, he also became the first 5,000-yard passer in Tampa Bay, and just the eighth quarterback to reach that lofty mark in NFL history. Winston’s 5,109 yards were the most in the league this year, and naturally the Bucs finished first in passing offense, averaging 302.8 yards per game.
Arians and Leftwich also saw wide receivers Chris Godwin and Mike Evans both reach 1,000 yards and make the Pro Bowl in 2019, which was the first time that honor has gone to a pair of Bucs receivers in the same season.
Arians and first-year offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich took the offense to new heights as the Bucs averaged 28.6 points per game, which ranked third in the league and was the highest-scoring average in team history. That’s because Tampa Bay eclipsed the 400-point mark for the first time ever, finishing the season with 458 points.
“The things we did offensively were historic – some were historic in the wrong way and some were historic in the right way,” Arians said.
Defensively, the Bucs were the best at stopping the run, leading the league by allowing just 73.8 yards per game. The next closest team was the New York Jets, which had an 86.9 average – allowing 13 more yards per game. Outside of the strike-shortened 1982 season, the 1,181 rushing yards allowed in 2019 were the fewest in franchise history.
Not only was Tampa Bay’s run defense the best in team history, it was actually the 11th-best run defensive performance since the league went to a 16-game schedule in 1978, according to Buccaneers.com.
Spearheading that effort was inside linebacker Lavonte David, who was named to the NFL’s All-Decade Team, and once again led the Bucs in tackling with 123 stops in 2019. David surpassed the 1,000-tackle mark in his career, passing Bucs legends John Lynch, Shelton Quarles and Lee Roy Selmon on the way. David, who now has 1,005 tackles will move past Hardy Nickerson (1,028) next season and into third place behind Ronde Barber (1,428) and Derrick Brooks (2,198) in franchise history. David and Hall of Famer Ray Lewis are the only NFL players to record 1,000 tackles, 20 sacks and 10 interceptions in their first eight years in the league.
David wasn’t the only headliner on defense. Outside linebacker Shaq Barrett sent shockwaves throughout the league with an early barrage of sacks that turned into a league-leading 19.5 sacks by season’s end. Barrett’s previous career-high was 5.5 during his rookie season in Denver in 2015. In fact, Barrett had only accumulated 14 sacks during his four years with the Broncos.
Barrett’s 19.5 sacks broke Warren Sapp’s single season sack record of 16.5 set in 2000 and paved the way for the Bucs to record 47 sacks, which was the second-most in Tampa Bay history.
Bucs’ Most Sacks In A Season
1. 55 sacks in 2000
2. 47 sacks in 2019
3. 45 sacks in 2004
4. 44 sacks in 1997
5T. 43 sacks in 2002
5T. 43 sacks in 1999
The Bucs also drafted a playmaking force in middle linebacker Devin White, who was the fifth overall pick in 2019. White finished second on the team with 91 tackles, four fumble recoveries, three forced fumbles, three pass breakups, 2.5 sacks, two defensive scores and one interception – all despite missing two and half games due to a knee injury.
White lived up to his draft billing and closed out his rookie year with back-to-back NFC Defensive Rookie of the Month honors for November and December. Since the league began recognizing Rookie of the Month awards since 1996, White is just the fifth defensive player to achieve that feat, joining joining Jevon Kearse (1999), Kendrell Bell (2001), Dwight Freeney (2002) and Brian Cushing (2009), according to The Athletic’s Greg Auman.
Did the Bucs win enough games for anyone’s liking? No.
The Glazers, front office, coaches, players and fans all would have loved to seen less interceptions, fewer touchdowns surrendered and more made field goals en route to a 10-win or 11-win season. The Bucs were actually close to accomplishing that feat.
“We will quit beating ourselves and then we’ll be hard to beat,” Arians said. “The penalties, the turnovers – there were very, very few missed assignments anymore. The accountability is there. They play extremely hard and we’ll be a tough out [in 2020].”
Aside from the notable offensive and defensive superlatives, the biggest reason why Arians’ first season in Tampa Bay was the way the Bucs finished the year. After a dismal 2-6 start that seemed to ensure a third-straight 5-11 record, the Bucs rallied down the stretch and finished 5-3, including four straight wins at one point. With a 7-9 record, the team improved by two wins over last year.
Tampa Bay’s 5-3 finish over the second half of the season was tied for the second-best in team history. One has to think that with a healthy Chris Godwin and/or Mike Evans down the stretch the Bucs win at least one of their last two close losses to either Houston or Atlanta to finish or 8-8 – or perhaps even 9-7.
Best Second-Half Finishes In Tampa Bay History
*indicates a winning season **indicates a playoff season
Only twice has a Bucs team finished 5-3 and not had a winning record or made the playoffs. The first was in Tony Dungy’s first year in 1996 when Tampa Bay started 2-6, but finished 6-10. That strong finish set up a hot 5-0 start in 1997 that resulted in a 10-6 playoff team the next year.
The second was last season in Arians’ first year in Tampa Bay. Could that hot finish be the catalyst a hot start in 2020?
“I think we turned it around,” Arians said. “The last month or so we were very competitive. Still should have won those last two ball games – learn from those mistakes and build on it. Add new players like we always do. Try to keep the best we have and move on.”
There wasn’t a winning record in Tampa Bay, nor was there a playoff berth. But a very good Bucs offense got even better under Arians, and defensive coordinator Todd Bowles fixed a defense that was in desperate need of fixing.
More importantly, Arians did what he was hired to do. He changed the culture in Tampa Bay. Instead of hoping to win, now the Bucs take the field expecting to win.
“I’d give up about a few hundred thousand dollars to be practicing this week,” Arians said in his post-season press conference. “Because I just know if we got in the tournament, we could do some damage.”
Just wait until 2020.