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SR’s Fab 5 is a collection of inside scoop, analysis and insight from yours truly, PewterReport.com publisher and Bucs beat writer Scott Reynolds. Here are a few things that caught my attention this week at One Buc Place and around the NFL.

FAB 1. The Best-Case Scenario For The 2019 Bucs 

It’s time.

It’s time for the Buccaneers to rise up and stop underachieving.

It’s time for Tampa Bay’s players to be held accountable and play up to their potential.

It’s time for this franchise to end the decade-long playoff drought in 2019.

What has to take place for all this to happen this year in Tampa Bay? Let’s take a look at the best-case scenario and all of the elements that would need to take place for the Bucs to reach the postseason and become a perennial playoff team under new head coach Bruce Arians.

Arians’ Coaching Staff Makes A Difference

Bucs general manager Jason Licht helped lure Arians, the former Cardinals head coach, out of retirement to help end a decade-long playoff drought in Tampa Bay and get the team back to the postseason. Aiding Licht’s sales pitch was the fact that Arians’ entire coaching staff from his days in Arizona was available to join him in Tampa. Arians has a track record of winning in Pittsburgh, Indianapolis and Arizona and the best-case scenario is that he changes the fortunes of the Bucs in 2019 and makes an instant impact. With Licht only making a few tweaks to the roster in terms of personnel, the implication on back-to-back 5-11 seasons was that the lack of success in the win column was due to poor coaching. Arians’ arrival validates Licht’s judgment that Dirk Koetter and his staff didn’t use the talent properly and the Bucs begin to have success immediately.

Winston Becomes A Franchise QB

Arians is known as the “Quarterback Whisperer” for his development of Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck in Indianapolis, Ben Roethlisberger in Pittsburgh, and Carson Palmer in Arizona, and Licht and the Bucs are hoping – rather expecting – Arians to do the same thing for Jameis Winston by taking his game to the next level. Arians has the help of quarterbacks coach Clyde Christensen and offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich to help in this endeavor. The early word is that Winston loves the rapport he has with all three, especially Leftwich, who is like a big brother to him and relatable because he’s played quarterback in Arians’ system before. How Winston goes, so go the Buccaneers. If he can have a career year and cut down on turnovers Tampa Bay will have a chance to make some noise in the NFC and in the division.

Bucs’ Ground Game Surprises

Bucs RBs Ronald Jones II and Peyton Barber
Bucs RBs Ronald Jones II and Peyton Barber – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

There aren’t too many believers in Tampa Bay’s ground game outside of the running backs themselves and Arians and his staff. But imagine if Peyton Barber is motivated by a contract year to rush for 1,000 yards and Ronald Jones II has a bounce-back year and rushes for 600 yards. The Bucs averaged 95.2 rushing yards per game last year, but if Tampa Bay rushed for just 20 yards more per game to 115 yards per game in 2019 the team would move up from No. 29 to No. 16 in the league’s rushing rankings. Of course improved blocking up front from the offensive line would have to occur as well, and that’s what the organization is counting on with better coaching from coaches Harold Goodwin and Joe Gilbert.

Defense Rebounds Under Bowles

The Bucs are expecting Todd Bowles’ knack for using personnel and his aggressive 3-4 blitzing scheme to make better use of the talent on defense. Tampa Bay’s new acquisitions, including veteran linebackers Deone Bucannon and Shaq Barrett and veteran safety Kentrell Brice should help, in addition to rookie linebackers Devin White and Anthony Nelson and rookie defensive backs Sean Murphy-Bunting, Jamel Dean and Mike Edwards. There’s nowhere to go but up for defense that ranked 27th in total defense, 26th in passing defense and 31st in scoring defense, surrendering 29 points per game. If Bowles’ scheme works as expected, the newcomers rise up, and the Bucs give up one less touchdown per game this year, Tampa Bay will rank in the middle of the pack in terms of defense. A 16th-ranked defense coupled with a Top 10 offense should be enough to make the Bucs winners in 2019.

Tampa Bay’s Kicking Woes Are Over

The best-case scenario for Licht is that the biggest recurring problem on the Bucs’ roster – the kicking duties – is finally solved in 2019. Whether it’s the accurate leg of Cairo Santos or the booming leg of rookie Matt Gay, if either can become a steady consistent force when it comes to field goals and extra points, the end result should be a few more wins in Tampa Bay. And for Licht it would not only bring a sigh of relief and some piece of mind, but also aid in his efforts to remain with the Bucs in his capacity as general manager.

Group Effort Makes Up For The Loss Of JPP

Replacing Jason Pierre-Paul’s 12.5 sacks and pass rushing ability will be a challenge to a team that has just one defensive player that has achieved double-digit sacks – defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, and that was with 10 sacks as a rookie in 2010. But the best-case scenario is that Carl Nassib, who had a career-high 6.5 sacks last year, rises up in a contract year and reaches 10 sacks or comes pretty close. Nassib and Suh leading a collaborative effort that includes production from blitzing inside linebackers White and Lavonte David that leads to 40-plus sacks is among the best-case scenarios for Tampa Bay this year. The Bucs had 38 sacks with JPP last year in a defense that wasn’t nearly as aggressive as what Bowles brings to Tampa Bay. Anything less than 40 sacks this year and Pierre-Paul’s loss will really be felt.

Bucs Rookies Rise Up

Bucs SS Mike Edwards
Bucs SS Mike Edwards – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

Tampa Bay’s 2019 draft class was met with skepticism from draft analysts, media members and fans alike, but the early reviews from OTAs were rather glowing. If rookie defensive backs Murphy-Bunting, Dean and Edwards can carve out roles early and either push Carlton Davis, Vernon Hargreaves III and M.J. Stewart towards greatness or push them to the bench it will be a big step for the Bucs secondary, which has lacked playmakers over the last couple of years under Mike Smith. If White is as good as advertised as the fifth overall pick, and challenge others for the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year, while the Bucs get some pass rushing contributions from outside linebacker Anthony Nelson, the defense stands a chance to really make a turnaround under Bowles. Speed receiver Scotty Miller making the team and contributing helps the Bucs offense, but the real coup de grace for the rookie class would be Gay winning the kicker job and having a great rookie year.

Bucs Make The Playoffs

Finally, the ultimate best-case scenario for Tampa Bay is to end the team’s playoff drought that began in 2008, which was Jon Gruden’s last year with the Bucs. Since then, the team has gone through four different head coaches over the last decade and is on its fifth with Arians, who keeps saying talent isn’t the issue. If his coaching staff and schemes can truly make a difference, Winston improves, the Bucs’ ground game comes through, the kicker situation is resolved, the rookies rise up and the loss of JPP is overcome, there’s no reason why the Bucs can’t challenge for a wild card spot in the NFC in 2019. Only two head coaches have produced winning records in their first season in Tampa Bay – Gruden with a 12-4 mark and a Super Bowl in 2002 and Dirk Koetter in 2016, just missing the playoffs with a 9-7 record. Arians leading the Bucs to a long-awaited postseason berth – and perhaps beyond – would truly be a best-case scenario in 2019.

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Scott Reynolds is in his 25th 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 sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: [email protected]
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Buc stops here

I fully agree with the best and worse cases with one exception – OJ Howard. When Howard got hurt last year there was a slight fall-off when they went to Cameron Brate. People seem to forget this undrafted player in five years has caught 159 passes for 1845 yards, 11.6 yards a catch, for 23 touchdowns. Even more impressive, most of those stats come from his last three years of play where he started 17 of the 22 games he started in his career (particularly three years ago when he started 10 games). Even backing OJ Howard up he has… Read more »

Horse

It’s amazing what 30 days does when you are away from this area and there is no news about the Bucs; you get some clarity as to where the Bucs stand as of right now. Some will agree and some will disagree. We are who we are? Talent wise not much better if any; coaching wise we are better. I just can’t buy into how players who have under performed for years are now going to do good because of the coaching change. If I’m Arians I’m going to keep rookies /free agents over under performing Veterans every time. I… Read more »

MizzouBucs24

Sorry Scott I skipped the worst case scenario,don’t need those negative thoughts this time of year. Lol. I’m as excited as I’ve been for awhile going in to this season. We have so much talent on offense and with a new and better scheme this offense could be top 5. Then there’s the defense, I was worried about the secondary and the dline but as we get closer to real football those worries are fading. Suh, Vea, and Gholston make for a pretty stout dline. They should allow David and White to run wild. With that much power up front… Read more »

BUC 727

I skipped Fab2 also. After all, right now we’re in 1st place.

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seat26

Great Article. I believe BA will add somewhere between 3 to 4 wins based on his skills alone as a Coach. However, the losses we have suffered in free agency and offseason injuries are going to hurt. To lose as many starters as we have, in my opinion, will cost us 2 to 3 wins. I think realistically we can expect to win between 6 and 7 games. I was not a big fan of this latest draft. Because for me, it seemed that the management was making a statement and the statement was, last year’s defensive backs didn’t pan… Read more »

geno711

Just an FYI
New England Offensive Line 2018:
Tackles 7th and 5th round
Guards 3rd and 4th round
Center undrafted

Personally, I would not agree with you on the offensive line. Need to develop the offensive line more than draft them this year. Drafted Cappa in the 3rd round this year and he is supposed to be the starter. According to this PR article he is looking fine.

P.S. Pittsburgh with 3 undrafted offensive lineman starting last year.

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geno711

Edit. Cappa drafted 3rd round last year.

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plopes808

I would argue that we didn’t lose much in free agency. Our biggest loss was Kwon, but we gained arguably a better and more talented player in White with our “wasted” 5th pick. While he lacks the experience of Kwon, White has far better coverage skills and similar sideline to sideline ability. Training alongside LVD, White will gain experience and catch up to Kwon quickly. Not to mention the fact that Kwon is making $13.5 million now and there is no way we should have or could have offered that. Then there was GMC, a great player and a great… Read more »

Buc76

It will be somewhere in the middle of best case and worst case. The kicking game will continue to be bad. Drafting another kicker was a dumb move. These college kickers don’t kick 33 yard extra points. Its too much pressure for them to handle and coming here with our recent failed history, as soon as this guy misses 1 time the fans will be all over him and it will get in his head and go downhill from there. You need to find people who have kicked some in the NFL then sign them. Especially here. You can’t erase… Read more »

TBChucky

So Spence is penciled in as starter across from Nassib? I thought for sure that Barrett would be in the lead, with Spence coming in to sub for them.. That being said, I look forward to watching them all this season!

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Captain Sly

A defense is called “Aggressive” when the scheme works and all other times it’s called “gambling”. There’s a lot of Ifs and Hopes in your fab 1 and at this point Scott all anybody can do is hope that the coaching pans out or that the players step up, and the kicking issue corrects itself. There’s no turning back now we’ve got nearly all of our eggs in the DB basket and at some a high draft pick will be benched for another high draft pick which to me somebody needs to be held accountable for. We are thin at… Read more »

Jim Horan

Free agents in 2020. Let New England be the model. New England is not afraid to let Free Agents walk and values compensatory picks. Aside from Winston and possibly Nassib. The others can be gone without too much gnashing of teeth. Keeping the team young and hungry by stockpiling draft picks. It is all about coaching and the development of depth. Teams fall in love with their reserves and often overpay to retain them. The depth made the roster for a reason. It is not a crime to let them step up to bigger role. Older players are more susceptible… Read more »

BUC-ASS-BOB

Pewter Report did a good job of laying out best and worst case scenarios I understand the Pewter Report in order to continue to have access to the team must have a positive spin on just about everything. The same with the other media the problem is sheep read all the positive spin spin it around in their heads and post about it. However I as the sole and only realist watch a team cut 9 of the highest price starters hire a coach in five years whose only won one playoff game but they talked like he has multiple… Read more »

Pick6

“23 free agents” sounds scary but when you can the list there only a couple look headed for big contracts and probably a third of them will miss the bucs’ 53 man roster THIS year. many others will either come back for similar money. Even with strong 2019 seasons, many of these defensive players were available at the bucs price because they’re coming off a down year or two, and the league won’t scramble to pay them like they did Humphries or Kwon. Some guys such as Suh were always meant to be one and done while the team turns… Read more »

macabee

I posted this opinion earlier, but seems appropriate to say it again before training camp. First let me make an all-encompassing statement by saying that I like what the Bucs have done and I like where they are going. I like the new coaching staff, I like the new defensive scheme, I like the secondary improvements and I love the offensive skills positions. We have the makings of a competitive football team. But we are not there yet and we will not get there (playoffs and beyond) until we have the offensive line that allows us to be the offensive… Read more »

EastEndBoy

I’d say you have two ends of a spectrum there: 1) “challenge for a wild card spot in the NFC in 2019″…that sounds like 9-ish wins. 2) at the other end is disaster….call that 2 or 3 wins. Given the aspects you have examined – BA, Winston, RoJo, the Defense, etc. – to arrive at that spectrum, I’d say reality is we’ll get some from your first scenario (maybe Winston clicks), some from your second (maybe RG is still a black hole), and some in between (maybe the running game improves…a little). Therefore, sounds like you’re predicting a 5 or… Read more »

Captain Sly

Well said Macabee. I have been calling this year a soft rebuild, because you can’t keep ignoring the trenches and expect to win. Yes anythings possible but I began tempering my expectations once I saw the direction this offseason.

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owlykat

Great analysis as usual Scott. Good to hear how well Gholston is doing this year—our front three will be a load and our LBs are ready and the backfield has real fast talent now as well as length so I expect great things on Defense. On Offense if BA can develop Cappa to play an excellent RG I think we will be OK using the Power Blocking Offense BA will use to ignite our running game and we will start winning games consistently again. As far as bad scenario with too many injuries any NFL team will drop. I think… Read more »

drdneast

I beg to differ with a few of your observations here. First and most importantly, it is not how Winston goes so goes the Bucs. It is more how the defense plays so goes the Bucs. Winston has provided enough firepower and leadership over the years to give the Buca a winning record. Look at his second year when the Bucs finished 9-7. The Bucs defense managed to get its act together for the final 8 games of the season that year for the team to post a winning record. After that the defense went south, so did the team.… Read more »

Horse

Macabee, well said.

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SenileSenior

If our team can get to 8-8 or 9-7 we will be on our way. No playoffs this year but something to build on for our next super bowl run. We will have achieved respectability and a sense of self worth. A winning culture will have been established. I think Bruce Arians came out of retirement because he saw a golden opportunity here. Here is where the only chance he will ever have to win a super bowl outright as a head coach exists. Here is the only chance he will have to go out on top. Realistically I don’t… Read more »

SenileSenior

Gholston is already at 306 pounds.

Did Gholston say “Vita, man” or did he refer to Vea as “Vita-man”?

“Cappa has gotten better every day.”

“Nassib and Spence have had a good offseason and appear to enter training camp as starting outside linebackers from left and right, respectively.”

All of this is music to my ears. Thanks, Scott.
___________
Go Bucs!!!

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What the Buc

We make the play off if Winston is worth keeping this year. If he plays like he has up to this point maybe 6 wins.

Show me some thumbs down love from all the Winston fanboys this year it’s all on him.

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plopes808

I fail to see how it is “all on Winston” when the guy is setting records while the defense gives up 29 points a game…but that’s just my opinion

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FLBoy84

“When the marquee guy plays like that it rubs off on everyone else.”

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Spitfire

Ass, what would the Glaziers hidden agenda be? You like to bad mouth them and the team but don’t offer any actual answers. You think the Glaziers have hired and fired coaches they are still paying for while hiring another and spend to the Cap because what? They don’t wanna win? You are the Bearded schizophrenic wearing a hoodie making “Packages” in the woods. Get over yourself…

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bucianco

I’m having trouble accepting the following statement: “But imagine if Peyton Barber is motivated by a contract year to rush for 1,000 yards…” Are you saying he didn’t play his hardest last year? Why would you even suggest that? “Pay me more money and I’ll rush for 1000 yards!” I call BS. The article makes it seem like every player that is a free agent next year will play even harder this year to ensure they get a lucrative contract. If that’s the case then only play the guys with one year left because they’re the only ones giving it… Read more »

Buc-Up

“If rookie defensive backs Murphy-Bunting, Dean and Edwards can carve out roles early and either push Carlton Davis, Vernon Hargreaves III and M.J. Stewart towards greatness or push them to the bench it will be a big step for the Bucs secondary, which has lacked playmakers over the last couple of years under Mike Smith. ” If it was bad coaching and not the talent, then shouldn’t the prior drafted trio of Hargreaves (11), Stewart (53), & Davis (63) be better as group than Murphy-Bunting (39), Dean (94), & Edwards (99)? Based on draft position (because it’s all being blamed… Read more »

Buc-Up

PR needs to stop with the Compensatory Picks talk! The Bucs will never see a decent Compensatory Pick until they stop signing players during Free Agency that cancel out the players we lose! I’m still waiting for that 3rd Round Comp Pick the Bucs were gonna get for Glennon that PR spouted off about that whole year.

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Buc-Up

Other than my two rants above, I enjoyed the article..LOL

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Dman

Scott, good stuff here as we head into a quiet period before training camp. Gonna be interesting.

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Macabee for GM @ one Buc. Well put Sir.

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drdneast

Gholston has become a millionaire how many times over for playing mediocre his entire career.
It also must be hard to fault McCoy for not being disruptive enough when Gholston has only generated one sack over the last two years. One sack?
As far as the superlatives being thrown around by the players about their teammates, that is all well and good but I will wait until the preseason starts until I bite down on any of this.

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Spitfire

Buc-Up, you answered your own question. In the quotes he said that the rookies will push the Vets to greatness, or be benched. Everyone agrees it has been the coaching more than the talent but no one is guaranteeing that all the Vets were pro bowl sleepers. The whole point is now that the coaching should be better, we will find out what kind of talent we truly have and are truly lacking. And Bunting, Dean and Edwards are 2nd and 3rd rounders which should not take anything away from their ability to play better than a 1st and 2nd.… Read more »

bucballer

In my opinion the Bucs have a more talented team this year with the athletic draft picks we got and the Suh signing. Teams had to account for McCoy but I think teams have a little fear of a boy named Suh! With LB White in the Defensive Rookie of Year conversation and the top 3 DBs we drafted, this feels like a more talented team. I still believe that the good teams have solid play at QB. It’s the most important position on team. So yes… this team will only be as good as the play of Jameis. I… Read more »

76Buc

Trying to get comp draft picks a is a losers mentality.

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76Buc

‘“Guys are just making plays all over the field in this defense – the whole time this spring,” Gholston said. “Up front we’re staying in our gap and penetrating.”‘
What?!! Dude, they are in their underwear!!!

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76Buc

I agree MizzouBucs24. We see the worst case scenario for real every year. Let’s skip that!

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BigSombrero

It’s interesting to read what the best and worst case scenarios are to SR (and us fans who have chimed in), but I think there is a glaring omission in the quest to approximate the Bucs destiny for 2019: The opponents. It may seem obvious to fans here because we love football, but the won/loss record comes from the games one at a time, not the statistics. Winning by one point 42-41 or 14-13 is still winning. Most often statistics are driven by game situations with a domino effect. For example: The Bucs had a top 3 offense but a… Read more »

BUC 727

The bottom line is that we now have the talent. Now, we have the coaching. Injuries and depth well dictate how far we go.

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scubog

Scott should have consulted Bob for input on the Worst Case Scenario. He then could have added a Fab 6 called Doomsday Scenario. I always chuckle when the folks, who look to put a negative spin on everything, call themselves “realists”. Yet those of us that see “the future is so bright we have to wear shades” are called Kool Aid drinkers, sheep and other such derogatory names like……….fans. I’ll never apologize for being hopeful of the season ahead. I do think the main thing that I thought needed an adjustment, ATTITUDE” and needed a boost, CONFIDENCE” are the two… Read more »

fredster

Yeah agree Scubog just saying everyone sucks and nothing will work (Bob) makes him a realist? Makes him a troll douche bag loser to me. Lol. I will not acknowledge him anymore just feeds his stupidity. He’s one sad ass person all has to do is troll and cry like a bitch 24/7. Anyways, enough on Suck-Ass-Boob. He’s not worth conversing worth! Yes a lot of different things can happen. Nobody has crystal ball. What I do know. I know we have a real proven head coach for first time since Gruden left. Bunch of failed head coach experiments, failed… Read more »

Buc2dafuture

We will have great schemes for the first month of the season, hopefully that will translate into wins. The momentum from the first quarter of the season will have to carry us for the horrible 7 week stretch and that will define our season.

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twspin

Sure I want Winston to become our franchise QB. But he still has a lot of work to do. Lets pray Arians is the lasting and final motivator. Of all the scenarios listed here, I’m really hoping our defense rebounds considerably under Bowles. Its one of this yrs biggest keys if we are to win 8 to 10 games. Accomplish
this and we do..make the playoffs. One things for certain, Our Defense has nowhere to go but UP.

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matador

The truly stunning thing about the list of next year’s free agents on offense and defense is that there’s only one player who has shown enough on the playing field for more than one season that you’d definitely want them back. That’s right, one. And it’s Barber who on some teams would be a RB2. Sure there are players you’d hope to want back. Obviously Winston most importantly but the cold hard fact is that if he had we’d have already extended him. Hopefully Nassib proves that last year wasn’t a fluke with defenses not having to worry about JPP.… Read more »

seat26

White is there to replace Alexander. I get it. But if we had taken Josh Allen we get an outside linebacker and a Defensive End in the same pick. We could have gone middle linebacker in the 2nd round and Corner and safety in 3rd. The current lineup assumes that Spence can play outside linebacker. It also assumes that White will have lots of sacks. And I think it is way too early to say that White is better than Alexander.

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Jeffbuc

Macabee I thought you were on to something until you talked about are offensive line. You think coaching can fix everything but offensive line. Jensen was the highest graded center before he came to the bucs in his last year with the ravens. Coaching affects the offensive line also. Where dirk ran his offensive no matter if you for it or not. Are real new coaching staff is going to run the offense to best fit the players. You can’t say that winston and skill offensive players and the defensive will be better with new coaching while saying the offensive… Read more »

Naplesfan

The Bucs fans (or “homers”) have fully convinced themselves that player quality is not the reason we’ve been losing most of our games since the Baby Glazers fired our last winning/playoffs coach at the end of the 2008 season (a winning season, by the way). And that Bruce Arians is the second coming of Football Jesus and he is precisely what has been lacking the last 10 seasons, and therefore better coaching is the answer to all Buc fans’ dreams. The Las Vegas oddsmakers certainly do not agree with that assessment – they’ve settled on the Bucs being a 100-1… Read more »