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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 Cold, Hard Truth About The Bucs

As an objective reporter who has faithfully covered your Tampa Bay Buccaneers for 24 years, I am not without my faults. I do my best to provide absolute objectivity with my reporting – even when it’s the cold, hard truth that long-suffering Bucs fans like you don’t necessarily want to read.

A prime example of this was my story a few weeks ago after the team’s 38-33 loss to Arizona, With Gruden Lurking, Koetter Needs To Turn Bucs Around Quickly.

To be clear once again, I’m not calling for Koetter to be fired, nor do I want that. I’d like to see this Bucs organization have some continuity and stability, but it’s my duty to you to report what I see and what I know. I’m seeing a season that is quickly spiraling out of control, as there has been plenty of inconsistency on offense, defense and at the kicker position already this year.

I got a very bad sense after that loss at Arizona – the same type of feeling that I had when I wrote that Lovie Smith should be fired and for Koetter to replace him after the Bucs blew a 24-0 lead at Washington in 2015. I called for Smith’s firing because he was coming off a 2-14 season.

It’s different with Koetter coming off a 9-7 season. He’s deserving of a longer leash. We’ll see how the rest of the 2017 season plays out.

While there is some inside information that I simply can’t report due to confidentially, I try my best to report everything I see. Having said that, I and my staff have let you, the PewterReport.com reader, down a bit this season by not reporting all that we’ve observed.

Like you, and plenty within the Bucs organization from the top down to the locker room, I too thought if you take last year’s 9-7 team and add the likes of wide receiver DeSean Jackson, defensive tackle Chris Baker, tight end O.J. Howard, the team’s first-round draft pick, and others, that this year’s Tampa Bay team would automatically be 10-6 or better and playoff bound.

I should have known better. There’s nothing automatic about winning seasons, just ask the 1998 Bucs coming off the franchise’s first playoff appearance in 13 years, or the 2003 team fresh off a Super Bowl championship. Or better yet, look at the 10-6 Buccaneers from 2010 under Raheem Morris and a fatal 4-11 record that followed in 2011.

Even though the coaching staff and the core players might stay the same from a previously successful season, the personality, the identity and the mental make-up of each team is different each year. The fact that the Bucs are eight weeks into the 2017 season and are still trying to find their identity isn’t good at all.

“It’s tough – I mean obviously when you’re 2-5, it’s not the identity you want,” Koetter said. “Every team has its own identity and it changes from year to year. Right now, our team is not where we want to be, so of course everybody is searching for the reasons why. The reasons why that we keep saying every day is that we’re not playing consistent enough football across the board. When we do play consistent football across the board and we don’t beat ourselves, we will have an excellent chance to win games.”

Bucs head coach Dirk Koetter - Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Bucs head coach Dirk Koetter – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

Instead of thinking and writing the Bucs would make the playoffs, I should have said they should make the playoffs.

Let’s face it. This was a hype-filled offseason. We too at PewterReport.com bought into it, helped manufacture it and perpetuated it.

Defensive coordinator Mike Smith had been given a pay raise to stick around. Cornerback Vernon Hargreaves and defensive end Noah Spence would naturally be better in their second NFL seasons. There were plenty of weapons for Jameis Winston, who should progress in his third season in the league.

All signs pointed to success in 2017, and that’s why NFL Films and HBO couldn’t wait to get the Bucs on the national scene with Hard Knocks training camp mini-series. That’s why several national writers and NFL Network’s Good Morning Football were quick to jump on the Bucs’ bandwagon as the breakthrough team this year.

It’s time for me to own it, admit it and learn from it.

PewterReport.com was the first – and perhaps the only – media outlet to decry the lack of physicality during training camp. I’ve said it plenty of times – this year’s training camp was the softest I’ve covered in my 24 years on the Bucs beat.

One prominent veteran on the team even said it was the easiest training camp he’s ever been a part of in his NFL career.

When he sat next to me in the press box of last week’s 17-3 loss to Carolina I told Hall of Fame defensive tackle Warren Sapp that there wasn’t a single live hitting or tackling period and no goal line period in camp he shook his head in disbelief.

There’s a reason why the Bucs are struggling to run the ball, struggling to stop the run and struggling to rush the passer. They weren’t as physical as they needed to be in practice and it’s showing. You can only get to a certain level with “thud tempo.”

Head coach Dirk Koetter
Head coach Dirk Koetter – Photo by: Mark Lomoglio/PR

But what I – and PewterReport.com – neglected to point out and emphasize back in August was that the Bucs struggled to run the ball, score points and rush the passer in a very lackluster preseason. All of those issues have reared their ugly heads since September and have continued to plague the Bucs all season.

Now preseason is a tricky thing for a reporter to cover because the starters only get a quarter or two in each of the first two games and most game plans are vanilla as the emphasis is on player evaluation rather than schemes. Sometimes you can read too much into the preseason if you’re not careful.

I’m sure no one in Jacksonville was expecting the Jaguars to lead the league with 33 sacks halfway through the season after getting only eight in the preseason, which was the fourth fewest in the league.

But there were some serious, consistent indicators in August that we missed, and our enthusiasm for the Bucs winning at least 10 games should have definitely been tempered.

The PewterReport.com staff wanted to give the Bucs the benefit of the doubt because of their playoff-ready personnel and missed the fact that the execution wasn’t there as consistently as it needed to be.

Not that we aren’t afraid of criticism from the organization or Bucs fans, but perhaps we at PewterReport.com didn’t want to disappoint the fan base with lower expectations similar to those in Las Vegas where oddsmakers had Tampa Bay winning eight games in 2017. We’re human, and know how much this team, its fans and the Tampa Bay area have longed for a return to the playoffs.

We figured this would be the year. A 10-6 prediction wasn’t far fetched. They had the talent, they showed improvement and they were due, right? We were wrong.

I’ve always prided myself in calling it like I see it and demand the same from PewterReport.com’s other writers, Mark Cook and Trevor Sikkema. That won’t change, but what will change is I’ll make sure that I – and PewterReport.com – have an even more critical eye moving forward.

Here it comes, and I’ll start with this: Tampa Bay is a soft team because of its soft training camp.

Being soft is the furthest thing away from a “bad ass” football team as you can get.

Bucs DE Robert Ayers, Jr. and DT Chris Baker - Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Bucs DE Robert Ayers, Jr. and DT Chris Baker – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

I have seen far more physical Bucs teams in my two decades of covering this franchise, haven’t you? I’ve also seen far more mentally tough Bucs teams, too. I think you’d agree with me on that.

This team has nine weeks to prove me wrong, and for the sake of the franchise and you, the die-hard Buccaneers fans, I certainly hope they do.

This team needs to find that big mother#*@%ing stick that Koetter talked about last year – and in a hurry – because it’s been missing this season.

Now, the Bucs can’t go back and redo training camp and become more physical and more hardened. That time has since passed and that won’t help fix the problems in the present. You can’t have full contact practices during the season on Wednesdays with game days just four days away. But what happened in camp does explain why Tampa Bay is off to a slow start for those of you wondering.

What I’ve also come to learn in my 24 years of covering the Bucs is that teams often take on the identity of their head coach.

Outside of the 5-0 start to spark the 1997 team, the Bucs, under the soft-spoken Tony Dungy, faced slow starts in each of the next three playoff seasons with 3-4 records in 1999, 2000 and in 2001 before waking up in November and having to furiously rally in December to reach the postseason.

Under the mercurial Jon Gruden, the Bucs were hot and cold – 5-11 one year and then 11-5 the next, winning the NFC South. Then the Bucs would go 4-12, followed by 9-7, and another division title.

Raheem Morris and his “youngry Bucs” had a lot of swagger, but it was really false bravado after Tampa Bay went 4-12 after a 10-6 season that was built on smoke and mirrors with fourth quarter comebacks against four awful teams in St. Louis, Arizona, Cleveland and Cincinnati. Morris was out of control, and so was his team.

Ex-Bucs coach Greg Schiano - Photo by: Getty Images
Ex-Bucs coach Greg Schiano – Photo by: Getty Images

Greg Schiano was an over the top disciplinarian. Everyone remembers “toes on the line,” right? Schiano was so tightly wound, especially on the sidelines on game days, that his players’ sphincters were tight, too. That explains losing close games at the end like the season opener at the New York Jets and an overtime game at Seattle in 2014 during a 0-8 start.

Lovie Smith was simply the wrong guy for the job. His penalty-ridden, mistake-filled teams lacked discipline – and wins. He was a ho hum coach and so was his team.

While I lauded Koetter’s instance on having a fun work environment as I suggested he replace Smith, I wonder if there is enough of a business-like attitude around One Buccaneer Place. I also wonder how hard the players take these losses. There just doesn’t seem to be a sense of urgency at One Buccaneer Place these days and it has shown up in the first half of too many games this year. It’s troubling.

I don’t see enough accountability in Tampa Bay. I don’t see enough fear, which is a great motivator. Bill Belichick, Bill Parcells, Jimmy Johnson and Gruden among others used the fear of demotion and the fear of getting cut to install accountability. Mess up too many times and you were on the bench or out on the street.

Dungy didn’t use fear, but he had two guys that scared the crap out of the other players in Pro Bowl middle linebacker Hardy Nickerson and Sapp, who ruled the Bucs locker room with an iron fist. If you messed up, you had to face the wrath of Nickerson and Sapp, which was intimidating in person.

The Bucs have a lot of leaders like Winston, defensive tackles Gerald McCoy and Clinton McDonald and linebacker Lavonte David, who can shower this team with positivity and pep talks, but is there any team captain – or any player – that actually points fingers and holds the players accountable? Pointing fingers in the media is a cardinal sin for football players, but sometimes a team needs a few fingers pointed inside the secret confines of a team meeting room or the locker room to light a fire and bring a team together.

Winston might be the best leader on the team and gives some fiery, positive pregame speeches and wrote a nice love letter to the team last year that helped key a turnaround. But there are times when a team needs its ass kicked from within, and I don’t think there are any ass kickers on the current Bucs roster.

Defensive end Robert Ayers has that demeanor, but hasn’t produced nearly enough this year to have the credibility to stand up and demand accountability in the locker room. I think in time middle linebacker Kwon Alexander can become that type of player due to his personality as long as he continues to play well on the field.

Bucs MLB Kwon Alexander - Photo by: Mark Lomoglio/PR
Bucs MLB Kwon Alexander – Photo by: Mark Lomoglio/PR

By the way, despite a four-game losing streak that has already sunk the Bucs’ season not one leader has stepped up and demanded a players only team meeting as of Wednesday. What are they waiting for? Winston addressed that on Thursday.

“This isn’t a time where we can have a huge team meeting and bring everyone in and start pointing fingers and say, ‘This is what needs to change,’” Winston said. “This is a time where all of us must be accountable for our own actions [and] check ourselves. I was listening to Eric Thomas, one of his motivational speeches and it’s called ‘Check Yourself.’ One thing he said is you don’t need a coach to be telling you what to do. You don’t need your wife or your brother or your father to be telling you what to do. You have to check yourself.”

I wholeheartedly disagree with Winston. Not everyone is a self-starter or a self-motivator. If they were there would not be the need for leaders because everyone would be leading themselves. That’s not going to happen on a 53-man roster. Players need leadership, and sometimes they need to be called out in front of their teammates to be held accountable.

Earlier this week it was suggested by some voices on Twitter that the Bucs lacked heart, but I also disagree with that. If the Bucs didn’t have heart they wouldn’t have come a reliable kicker away from beating New England, or fought back from a 31-0 deficit in Arizona or rallied to take the lead in Buffalo in the fourth quarter. Heart is not the problem.

I sense from talking to some of the Bucs players off the record that none of whom saw this 2-5 start coming and that they bought in too hard on the preseason hype. The players are the ones out there on the field that are playing inconsistent football. For a week or two the kicking is the problem. Another week it’s the offense, then the defense, then back to the offense, then the defense again.

But the coaches aren’t doing enough to prepare this team to play. The play-calling, especially on third down offensively and defensively, has let the Bucs down too often. There was no reason why Hargreaves should have been playing 10 yards off the ball earlier in the season, and no reason why the Bucs should only have seven sacks in seven games. I would be very concerned about my job if I was defensive line coach Jay Hayes, who too often has called for the Bucs to stunt and run games this year rather than just up-field rush the quarterback.

Bucs head coach Dirk Koetter
Bucs head coach Dirk Koetter – Photo by: Getty Images

The talent is there in Tampa Bay, especially on the offensive side of the ball. The offense’s underachievement – highlighted by last week’s three-point effort at home against Carolina – is damning for Koetter.

Winston, injured shoulder and all, is still the most promising quarterback the Buccaneers have ever had. At age 23, he is on pace to become the first QB in Tampa Bay history – and NFL history – to begin his career with three 4,000-yard passing seasons.

The Bucs’ wide receiving corps features the greatest wideout in team history in Mike Evans, the fastest receiver since Joey Galloway in DeSean Jackson, a reliable slot guy in Adam Humphries and a promising young player in Chris Godwin.

Tampa Bay’s tight end tandem of Cameron Brate and O.J. Howard is as talented as the tight end room in 1985, which featured Jimmie Giles, Jerry Bell and Calvin Magee, who combined for 13 touchdowns that season.

An offensive line that despite its flaws, would make Smith, Schiano, Morris, and yes, even Gruden, jealous. A pair of second-round picks that are NFL starting-caliber in Ali Marpet and Donovan Smith, a high-priced right guard in J.R. Sweezy that excels in run blocking and a veteran right tackle in Demar Dotson that is having his best season at age 32.

The Glazers have to be looking around the league and seeing Philadelphia’s second-year head coach Doug Pederson guiding the Eagles to the best record in football, and wonder if they have the right guy in Koetter. Especially with first-year head coach Sean McVay having turned around the Los Angeles Rams in no time and quickly developed quarterback Jared Goff, who was thought to be a potential bust last year.

I remember when the Glazers felt like they needed another coach to get the Bucs over the top in 2002 and jettisoned Dungy after back-to-back one-and-done playoff seasons. The guy they brought in to finish the job? Gruden.

Time appears to be running out on Koetter and if the team’s four-game losing streak isn’t snapped in New Orleans on Sunday the chorus for Gruden’s name will continue to grow louder and might be echoed by PewterReport.com if the needless losing of this talented team continues.

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Scott Reynolds is in his 23rd 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 enjoys 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]

53 COMMENTS

  1. SR, I think that part 2 is a major overreaction. Koetter is known around the league as one of the best play callers, why would you want to strip him of what he is best at for Todd Monken? Who is completely unproven as a play caller. Ever since Koetter has come to Tampa we have had the best offense that I have had the pleasure to watch in my many years as a Bucs fan, by far! If anything we should be worried that Koetter was being too loyal to his friend Mike Smith when we should have gone out and tried for Wade Phillips. We need a DC that we can trust to do his part, so that Koetter can completely focus on the offense as you mentioned. Calling for Koetter to get fired will set our franchise back multiple years, please don’t do that to me!

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  2. Don’t feel bad. There were plenty of us who didn’t buy into the PR hype this season.

    When it was announced that we were participating on Hard Knocks, I knew the season was over before it started. A bunch of players buying into their own hype. Soft practices. Trying to look good in front of the cameras. Believing they were the media darlings, despite not accomplishing shit in 10 years. PR ate it up like the abundance of casuals roaming the boards.

    So, after your apologies for not “reporting it like it is” and for “overhyping the team”…your first line of remedying the situation is to strip Koetter of play calling duties. Seriously, do you even watch these games? While some instances can be questioned (like all OC’s), do you think that’s going to miraculously change Winston’s accuracy or penchant to make idiotic decisions with the ball? Receivers have been open on nearly every route, all year long, and Winston simply can’t hit them. He throws the worst deep ball in the league. He can’t consistently lead receivers, and he continuously passes on underneath routes trying to force the ball deep.

    You want to rip Koetter for not letting go of the worst DC in the league (who happens to be his buddy), then so be it. You want to rip Koetter for running a soft camp, then so be it. But, ripping him for play calling (despite what film breakdown shows), just so you don’t have to be critical of Winston, is amateur hour. More amateur than claiming “Aguayo Was a Genius Pick”.

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    • Where I disagree DonkeyHunter is that it’s not just about Koetter’s playcalling. Perhaps its not PRIMARILY about Koetter’s playcalling.

      It takes so much to be an HC, and I think most coaches are better for focusing on that. And Koetter is a good playcaller, but there’s also reasons he get criticised for some of his decisions (3rd down, Sims, tosses, etc.)

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    • DonkeyHunter I agree with what you said for the most part. The only part I’m not sure on is whether Koetter might be part of the problem as the play caller. Winston has been inaccurate and Koetter continues to call the deep ball which is bad, but I don’t know if the OC will call a more balanced attack than Koetter. Even if you can run the ball, if your QB can’t hit wide open receivers it doesn’t matter what passing play you call because you can’t win only throwing short. Defenses will adjust.

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  3. A lot of flailing around here, Scott.

    Bottom line is, if Koetter can’t turn it around and win most of the remaining 9 games, resulting in a 4 or 5 win season, the Glazers are going to look elsewhere for a head coach. And Jon Gruden might just be that guy. Or not.

    Whether Koetter calls his own plays or not is immaterial – he has to start producing wins, or he’ll be another failure at the head coaching spot in Tampa. It’s not just one thing here, it’s everything that is inconsistent and producing less than mediocre bottom line results. This is a bottom line business.

    As for feature backs being supposedly a new thing this year, how well is that working out for Minnesota? Or the Saints? When you put all your eggs in one basket and that basket gets torn up on the field, or even the practice field, you’re done. Better to have multiple backs who are good, and the one with the hot legs should get most of the carries. Right now that’s Martin. The problem is our coaches are obviously, despite all the talk to the contrary, not committed to running the ball, and our offense is entirely predictable to where opposing MLBs call out our plays in real time.

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  4. This is a great and depressing Fab 5. So many things have gone wrong in just 7 games it’s hard to even point to one thing. Offense, defense, clock management, in game adjustments, player rotation, execution and on and on. Maddening.

    I like Dirk. I like Winston. I love the playmakers we have on offense. But the disconnect on offense is disturbing to watch though. I was on board with Dirk giving up play calling at the end of last season. He specifically mentioned he might be stretched too thin to effectively call plays. As Scott mentioned, our predictability on offense is depressing. Winston has his issues with inconsistent play. No doubt. But far too often the play calling has certainly not done him or the offense any favors. Trevor even did an excellent Cover 3 about it. We don’t have true balance. In 2015 we passed 134 more times than we ran the ball. That number jumped to 185 in 2016. We’re already at 146 more pass attempts with 9 games remaining. Something has to change on offense.

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  5. Koetter play calling is not great, clock management is still questionable with him as well. I’m more concerned with him as a coach, I just don’t see him being effective. The locker room may respect him, if they down it’s not a lot though. Not holding Smith to any standards is a complete failure IMO though.

    Also this “we don’t have an identity” BS, really. The team doesn’t have the identity that we expect them to have with the talent we have but they certainly has an identity and it’s a consistent one. Only the coaching staff and those men in the locker room can change that, so enough with the excuses and catch phrases.

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  6. Haven’t commented since draft season earlier this year but I’ve been reading PR every day as usual and of course following the Bucs, and let me say this: Gruden is not the answer.

    How quickly we forget that Gruden’s overall record in Tampa produced a mere .509 winning percentage (57-55 record). In seven years he did win the division three times, but the other four finishes consisted of two third places and two fourth places. Besides the Super Bowl year, those other two first place NFC South finishes produced first-round wild card losses.

    Not only that, but his trend as a head coach during those last three years was definitely heading in a downward direction. His teams were mediocre at best, and below average at worst. His coaching style had become stale and not only did his players begin to tune him out but other NFL teams had written the book on his system and it wasn’t nearly as effective as it was in those first three seasons.

    Lest we also forget, his hand-picked GM was one of the worst, if not THE worst, in Bucs history. Couldn’t draft his way out of a wet paper bag if his life depended on it. And Gruden thumbed his nose at the owners time and time again when pressed to draft and develop a QB. His stubbornness and narrow-mindedness cost this franchise its future for many years to come back then.

    There are those of us who remember, and we remember very well, the Gruden years. We’re grateful for the Super Bowl and some of the great players and personalities this team had, yes, but we’re not blind and we don’t romanticize the “glory days” like some seem to be doing. We understand that this team needs to be looking to the future, not the past, for its next phase of success and, hopefully, glory.

    Gruden is not the answer.

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    • 100% agree; look at all the younger coaches who are winning without a QB like Brady or Brees.

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    • Agreed

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    • When criticizing the acquisition of players; shouldn’t you also consider the fact that so many premium Draft choices were given up to get Gruden in the first place?

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  7. Well IRMA didn’t help at all as there is no two week reset-timeout button to go forward. I really don’t expect two more wins at best, but I hope I’m wrong. There’s not just an identity issue with the players; there’s also no solid coaching, good communication going on between coaches and players, and on going teaching player’s isn’t happening either. No contact at practices during pre-season was a surprise for me, and does answers some of my questions as to what happened with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. What I see so far is an inexperience head coach not learning yet how to be a head coach. The Saints are a good balanced team so the wake call is now! Mike Smith needs to get his ass down on the field and help his defense from ground level. Just curious Pewter Report Scott; did the Bucs practice in the indoor facility this week as it should have happened like Surferdudes brought up in an easrlier article? After this game we are going to know who we really are. ! Coaches and Players, find some pride for crying out loud!

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  8. Really some good honest and realistic insights Scott. Don’t feel like the lone ranger, the vast amount of Buc Fans and many respectable analyst predicted they would have a good season in view of their 9-7 record and weapons for Jameis acquisitions. After 50 years of watching and playing football I can tell you I cannot predict nor even come close to determining what a team will actually accomplish in terms of Wins and Losses during any given season. The long used axioms, “On any given Sunday, and Thats why they play the game,” are alive and well and have been since the first snap from center over 100 years ago. That being said there are factors which influence perennial success by a team. In college Alabama is predictable because of it’s recruiting program. In the pros you get teams with solid foundations, great coaching, and successful schemes that seem to sustain success for several seasons. Eventually they lose a long term franchise QB and cycle into a rebuilding phase. Then there are teams who rarely go to the playoffs of break .500. They are teams that perpetually change coaches and spend every season with top rookies who have to adapt to the NFL. From 3000 feet these factors are obvious, it’s when we bore down on problems that we become frustrated, when we over analyze every phase of the game that we become too critical. Team chemistry win games, losing attitudes and player motivation lose games. No one entity is responsible. External factors like rule changes (concussion protocol) scheduling, injuries, etc. have major impacts on all teams. Finally many games are decided on 3 or 4 plays, so while non of this is rocket science anticipating a teams season is virtually impossible.

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  9. Everything that was said about the bad adjustments playcalling and defensive specialization I called for it since the Arizona game. It’s dumb and we’re both right it doesn’t give the players time to feel it out and set up moves or catch on to tendencies.

    One thing I disagree with is running Martin because you can look back through the film and see how obvious it is when it’s a run the formations the pre snap motion defensive players can see this and this is why we have a lot of one yard gains and losses but that occasional 10 yard gain is because we run the same plays and it looks like we only have 5 running plays in 5 formations not a fact but it’s something I see. Running from shotgun will also be beneficial because then the linebackers can’t just sell out on pass. The predictability of run or pass is so obvious

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  10. Way Too early to be saying Koetter needs to give up play calling. Hard to get in any groove when we cant complete any third down conversions. A lot of that falls on Winston’s slow starts. He just seems to take for ever to get rolling. That’s hurting alot. And our offense has had some high scoring games already. Just way too early to give up play calling. If it’s still a problem next year than I could see Koetter giving up play calling. IMO GO BUCS!!!

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    • What does it matter who calls the plays? What matters is points on the board, and Ws in the W-L column. It’s Koetter’s responsibility to decide how and who calls the plays. Maybe Moncken isn’t a good play caller – nobody can say he’s ever done it effectively in the NFL before. Or maybe he is a good play-caller. Either way, it’s Koetter’s responsibility to git’er done.

      And right now, Koetter’s not gittin’ er done. That has to change, or the Glazers are going to have to take action to git’er done.

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  11. Too many “whys”, in this article, and no answers in sight. If Licht, Koetter, the Glazers themselves knew how to fix this mess, they’d have been doing so. Every press conference, the same questions are asked about this team, and we get the same we need to do better all around spiel. That may be true, but nothing changes that might make that happen. You can’t pry the play calling away from Koetter, Smitty is staying in the press box, we keep rotating players, nothing has changed, nothing will change. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over, and over expecting different results. Don’t know about you, but it’s driving me insane!

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    • surferdudes, agree with you.

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  12. I want to go on record before Sundays game, Koetter was not great choice for coach but has made some strides, The problem is the defence is being asked to spend to much time on field due to fumbles, punts, Ints open receivers being missed, and on this site no one wants to blame the QB.
    This site assumes he is great franchise QB with bad team and coach.
    However, in 2 quarters Fitz lit up the field with points TD and yards using the same team.
    There will be excuse Monday JW is hurt shoulder, my point let the hurt shoulder rest and let Fitz in this week, last chance to save the season.

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    • Mike.Seven; you make good points and I do agree with some of it, but during Fitz time on the field the game was over and the other teams defense was playing softer coverages

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      • Understand 2nd half they were in more prevent, however, I sure liked the way ball hit receivers in the numbers and open receivers were found so often.

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    • If Winston can play he should. If he can’t, he shouldn’t. That’s up to the medical staff.

      Whether Fitz will do better or not, that’s impossible to say unless he is asked to take over.

      I don’t believe that anyone is making excuses, Koetter, Winston, or anyone else associated with the team. Everybody on the Bucs agrees that the performance to date is bad and must get better. Talk is cheap. We need to see improvement or nothing else matters.

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      • Naplesfan, Agree with you.

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  13. Koetter should be here next year no matter his record. He does not throw the ball nor catch the ball. As far as the assistant coaches go many will probably be let go.
    The person to look at maybe Licht GM earn their pay by finding talent in the 4th to 7th rounds he has not done so. If we look at some good teams they find some talent in those rounds.

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  14. Its already too late. Koetter is not an NFL Head Coach. Its obvious. Someone I work with said this team has no soul and they are right. Its a lifeless team. Not inspired. Its beyond play calls and the clock. these guys are just collecting paychecks. they do not care if they win or lose. This has been going on the last 9 years.

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    • Buc76; not sure yet. I’m going to wait until after these next two games.

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      • Horse this season started with a bye because of IRMA. That was a game that could have played on Thursday! But because of network contracts was NOT. The Bucs IMO would have won that game and the Bears game a week later.
        And who knows after that but the moral I think would have been much better with 2 wins under their belt.

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        • I can’t disagree with those thoughts, but I thought we were focused at the Bears game and it gave me no reason to doubt we were in trouble. Not sure if the Coaches know how to coach out of this mess. Surprised no trades were made last week? I sure would have sent some kind of message to the team as a wake up call.

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  15. Great Fab 5, I agree the soft training camp was probably the recipe for disaster on this team. The offense didn’t face real competition in practice so it makes sense why the timing is not good and things are inconsistent. We had guys playing flag football all summer now when they get hit in the mouth THIS team doesn’t know how to respond. There are new players starting at virtually every level of the team that are facing real competition for the first time as a unit during the season. Teams bond and find out a lot about themselves during the summer and this looks and sounds like a team not on the same page. It’s ashamed that veteran coaches didn’t understand the important of training camp and virtually tanked the season with a half assed start. I want nothing more than continuity for this franchise but if the Glazers decide to spring clean I won’t be upset. Watching a GM neglect the trenches for 4 seasons and a “veteran” coaching staff meander through training camp in year 2 has to be concerning.

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  16. Koetter thought the whole preseason was about finding out who your back ups were going to be. His admission, he didn’t know how to approach the games, because winning didn’t matter. He admitted he didn’t game plan. I don’t see why he couldn’t do both. Yeah you got to find out who your back ups are going to be, but your main goal should be getting your starters ready when it does count. Koetter clearly has failed at that, slow starts, no physicality, on either side of the ball from a soft no contact training camp. I get he didn’t want to get anyone hurt, but injuries are part of the game no matter when they happen, Look at D. Watson, torn ACL in a none contact drill. Shit happens, As Gruden was fond of saying, live in your hopes, not in your fears. This team plays like it’s scared, and they play like they hope things won’t go wrong. An attitude adjustment is needed.

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    • Surferdudes, I hear you for sure and agree on most what you are saying. I’m waiting to see what happens these next two games. I’m waiting to see how many players step forward so we know who to release, cut, trade when the season ends; same for Coaching, GM too. There’s got to be some major progress here in winning now!

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    • I said the same things weeks ago. Being reminded of the timid training camp solidifies the view I have of Koetters mentality which is that he plays the game not to lose until he’s forced to play to win. I get that he doesn’t want to squander his first head coaching job and wants to protect it. That’s back firing badly. Time to lay it on the table Dirk and your players will follow!

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  17. I’ve been waiting for this article. SR’s unrealistic insight and analysis has really turned me off of PR over the years. I can’t remember when it started but I typically read the title of the article and if it’s full of hyperbole and unearned hype then I haven’t been reading them. I hope this Fab 5 is the start of a return to insight and analysis based on the facts that brought me to PR in the first place over 10 years ago.

    I thought it was a pretty good article except there is one assumption almost everyone is making including SR that is the core of why the team isn’t meeting most people expectations. For me, they are performing they way I though they would since training camp started due to the one thing I see that most don’t: This is not a talented football team, at least not relative to the other teams in the NFL. It’s just plain old fashioned not. The Bucs aren’t void of talent, but their talent does not match the best teams in the league. In short, our talent level overall is average, which is why the team the team performs averagely. We aren’t losing games by much, but we weren’t winning by much last year. Stop bringing up that 4000 yard/season crap, the game is measured in points, not yards and to this point he has also been inaccurate. A lot of those yards game in garbage time when the game was out of reach. For all of Evan’s success, he drops more balls than he should and doesn’t offer YAC. Desean Jackson has never been a good run blocker, D. Smith and J.R. Sweezy are poor pass blocker, Brate is not a good run blocker and like you said SR, Dougie can’t catch and Sims can’t run. Now all the guys I named have good attributes as well but aside from Evans, Desean Jackson, Marpet and Brate the other guys on offense are either average or below average.

    On the surface that appears above average overall, but the defensive and special teams talent is below average overall which makes for an average Bucs team at best and 2-5 at worst. As mentioned in the article, we have no DE’s on this team. None. How do you expect to win with a 4-3 like that? Our whole secondary is below average and both L. David and Kwon have been inconsistent tacklers for years. I like their will to try and strip the ball from ball carriers in the 2nd half of games, but sometimes it’s too little too late. The greatest attribute of a LB is shedding blocks and making tackles. Too often their high tackle numbers come from tacking receivers after they catch the ball (see the Cowboys game last year for example). Good RB’s averaged too many yards per carry against us since L. David has been here.

    Our punter has been the only good thing about special teams. Maybe we have a kicker now, but we sure didn’t this offseason when everyone thought we were talented enough to make the playoffs. The kicker is the 2nd most important position on the team. Also, when have our kick and punt returners been threats to take it to the house? Not since Peanut Smith, that’s when.

    All this stuff counts and most of you are not acknowledging it when you say we are talented, including you SR. You should know better. If we don’t improve and don’t make the playoffs we need to blow most of this team up. I saw last week’s article about Chubb and he’s great, but until the college and NFL season is over I’m not ready to say who or what position we need to draft. If we end up on the top 5 how can you guys not be considering a QB with the guys that are coming out and Winston’s performance up to this point? One thing I have to give Gruden credit for that he said once was, “If you are drafting in the top 5 of the draft, you have a problem at the QB position”. Of course, he’s the same guy that drafted Cadillac instead of A. Rodgers at the #5 spot, which is another reason Gruden should not be the head coach for the Bucs again. His ego won’t even let him follow his own good advice.

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    • BTW, all of this criticism I am directing at talent is a direct condemnation of Licht’s work as the GM. He needs to be gone after this season is over.

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    • Pinkstop; hard not to agree with what you are saying. I’m not ready yet to fire the cannons until these next two games are done.

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    • 23 teams passed on Aaron Rodgers in the 2005 draft. Hindsight is always 20/20, and the cheapest kind of sight one can have.

      And Cadillac Williams won rookie of the year, and performed great until he got injured.

      No coach or GM can possibly predict injuries. Everybody was patting the Vikings guys on the head for getting such a great deal by taking Dalvin Cook in the second round. He looked fabulous for the first month of the season, and then wham! Out on IR.

      Ditto with all the declarations of genius bestowed upon the Texans for taking DeShaun Watson down low in the first round, after all the dumb yucklehads before them in the draft passed on Watson. Watson was literally tearing it up in the first two months of the season, putting on a masterful show against Russell Wilson just last Sunday, a game many said was the best offensive showing by a pair of quarterbacks in many years. And then, just a couple days ago, Wham!! Deshaun Watson out for the season with a torn ACL.

      Nobody predicts injuries. Nobody.

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  18. Horse, you crack me up with how you get stuck on a saying and then end every post that way. What is the relevance of the next 2 games exactly?

    And Pink, I get that you’re angry man. I said last week that there’s got to be something more productive for me to do with my Sundays than to be wasting 3 hours watching this sh!t show. But to say there isn’t tremendous talent on this team is inaccurate. It’s the lack of refinement and use of talent that’s the killer. These players are not being put in position to succeed. I’ll admit jamies is not as good as the hype. His inability to hit a wide open receiver in stride down field is maddening. He’s no Carson Wentz as PR tried to convince us he’s better than earlier in the season. But coaching is definitely the problem here. There’s much less talent on other, better coached teams, that win games. Inconsistency across the board, in every facet of the game, points to one man at the moment.

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    • beubanks; can’t disagree with you about my draw out as to what I know is going to happen, but I’m like many Buc Fans I still have some hope something good will happen. Once our 9th game is over we will be well into the season. If we are 2-7 by then, it’s surely over and any win after that means nothing, but losses in obtaining higher draft picks.

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  19. We here in Bucville always know how to place blame when the losses begin to pile up. Here we cite predictable play calling when most of us couldn’t even diagram even the simplest one. We blame the General Manager for failed player acquisitions albeit more typically after the results are known. We blame the Head Coach for not getting the team ready when most of the players earn more than he does and shouldn’t need prompting. We blame the Defensive scheme when most of us have no idea what any of the terms even mean and certainly have no clue about an individual player’s responsibilities within it. And of course we blame the quarterback, who we anoint as the scapegoat for all things that don’t go as planned. Oh we have our favorite whipping boys; often with little basis of fact. It used to be Gerald McCoy who was called a “bust” early in his career. We like to blame Chris Conte because well, they did in Chicago. We blame Donovan Smith if one or two plays out of 60 are noticed. Many didn’t like the selection of Justin Evans so he was nominated for whipping boy status until he unseated last season’s darling Keith Tandy. Folks wanted to name Kendall Beckwith as a potential whipping boy until his solid play nixed that. Of course JonnyG’s favorite blame recipient Luke Stocker can’t be forgotten even though he continues to contribute in many ways. Point is, when a team that seemed so promising starts the downward spiral everyone can share in the causes because it changes from week to week and play to play.

    Me, I also blame our fan base. Even after an exciting 9-7 finish to the 2016 season, the expectations of an even better 2017, the acquisition of one of the league’s top deep threats and stadium improvements, our fellow fans responded with a collective ho-hum. Some season pass holders with the premium seats operate as ticket brokers more than devoted fans. How are the players to feel when our 12th Man is wearing the opponent’s jersey? At the Patriots game when our offense was driving for a game winning TD, the chant was “Defense-Defense”. This past game against the Panthers was one of the most uninspired games I’ve ever attended both on the field and in the stands. A beautiful day against a Division rival and the stadium was 3/4 full. Contrast that this week when the Saints fans, whose team went 7-9 a season ago, will show up in force with their Who Dat cheer.

    Let’s hope the team does something this week to reignite the fan base whose flame is as the song says, Like a Candle in the Wind.

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    • I disagree with you for the most part on this one Scubog. Most football websites nowadays, including PR, offer offensive and defensive play breakdowns. TS does it with a fair amount of regularity with this Cover 3 articles. What better time is there for blaming the GM’s player acquisitions than after the results are known? Should we be calling for the GM to be fired before the results are known? The head coach is paid to get the team ready; it’s in his job description. If the players didn’t need prompting all we would need are coordinators and position coaches. A coordinator could throw red flags and call timeouts, as this article pointed out that’s what the Rams do sometimes. We blame players when they deserve it based on their play on the field.

      I do agree with you 100% about the fans. We need to do a better job attending games and not selling our tickets to opponents. I’ll reiterate something I said immediately after Schiano was fired. I said guys, maybe it’s us. By us I mean the Tampa Bay fans, media and owners. We’re the only common denominators in all this football ineptitude. That’s why I said throughout the Lovie period from day one I don’t care if he stays or goes. Until the Tampa Bay owners, media and fans figure out what college players will be elite in the NFL, what free agents are worth acquiring and what players are worth trading for it doesn’t matter who the head coach is. We collectively decide who the GM is because the owners hire him and the media and fans lobby for whether that GM stays or goes and the GM does all those things I listed that this team needs. The Glazers need to solicit a firm to hire a Team President/CEO to run this team and select the GM or the Glazers need to sell the team because they clearly don’t know what they’re doing. SR is realizing he’s been doing this wrong so that’s a start, I hope the rest of the local media follow suit. The fans need to watch way, way more college football, not just the teams they like and also watch every NFL game every week so they see how other players perform. They can watch the game replays on their cable provider or on Youtube.

      It’s everybody’s job to get this team to the Super Bowl and win it and nobody up to this point has been doing their job.

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      • I love the fire and heart and accountability you feel for this team Pink. You are a true fan to believe you are a part of this organization as I do as well. But to think that we can affect the buccaneers draft plans by watching more college film is a little far fetched. The organization has employees that they pay a lot of money to figure that out. These people have jobs just like we all do. I know for a fact they couldn’t do my job and I’m not for a second believing that I could do theirs.

        SCU this point goes out to your post as well. These people that run our little slice of life distraction are not doing the job their getting paid to do. If you hire a contactor to work on your house you won’t need to know how to do their job to know if they’re doing a bad job. It’ll be obvious just as it is with this football team. Something is very wrong inside the walls of this team. We may be drawing at straws but something structurally isn’t right as this building is failing. You can not dispute that. Its a sloppy product that’s failing under its own weight.

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        • In my case, I do know about contractors, but I get your point. My point was to include ourselves as part of the problem with our favorite team’s psyche. There’s just little passion for this team nowadays. Even in the old days folks would complain about yet another loss. Now, no one seems to really care. No longer do I go to work on Mondays and hear, “What happened to the Bucs?” I actually miss that.

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    • The Bucs fan base has ALWAYs been dominated by a combination of fair weather fans and the “ticket brokers” who gladly buy season tickets simply to sell them off to the enemy. It’s always been that way.

      People in Florida simply do not have the longstanding sports culture that northern cities do. Even perennial losers like Cleveland still have rabid fans and sell their tickets mostly to the home crowd. Perennial winners like New England or Green Bay, you better be the son or daughter of a lifetime season ticket holder, because inheriting those tickets is the only way you’ll ever see them.

      There is no such thing as the 12th man here in Tampa .. or Terrible Towels as in Pittsburg … or the loudest stadium in the world as in Seattle.

      Tampa is closer to some of the southern tier “Sun Belt” state cities where “ho hum” is the norm. Los Angeles cared so little for their Rams that nobody noticed when the skipped town for St. Louis .. or noticed when they arrived back in town. And look at those poor Chargers … nobody cared enough in San Diego to figure out how to keep them in town, and then when they blew town, they cannot even fill a FCS college stadium holding 27,000 seats unless they give the tickets away to first responders and military members.

      Not all Sun Belt cities have our problem .. Atlanta never fails to get behind their Dirty Birds … Dallas is still “America’s Team” as far as their fans are concerned. And the Saints supported their team even when they spent decades as the “Aints”.

      OK, rant over.

      The bottom line is that the present Bucs leadership better get their shit together or they’ll be handing away free tickets the rest of this season, and then they are going to have a very hard time convincing anyone to care next season, unless big changes are made (unfortunately) yet again. Getting tired of the coaching carousel. But maybe we need to start with a change at GM, or a combined HC/GM. Maybe Jon Gruden is that guy. Or maybe there’s someone better out there.

      God, I’m getting so fed up with perpetual underperformance at One Buc Place, I’d even consider asking Payton Manning to come in as GM and hire a head coach. And that’s desperation, I tell ya! 🙂

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      • Correction – “Peyton”

        I threw up a little in my throat while writing that last paragraph above

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    • Scubog Yes, once again I admit i called McCoy a bust after two years of injuries. I was wrong like I have said numerous times. Yu pretty much play it safe in your writings. Yes I speak out; sometimes too soon like many fans and yes we aren’t coaches or past professional players. I’m waiting until after our 9th game because if we can’t beat the Jets, then we have to go back to the drawing board. As to the fans who aren’t attending the games, but are still fans; accept the thought many don’t want to sit in the hot sun or spend hours coming and going to the games; and oh yes it is about the money too. What do you think the Bucs fan average age might be I bet it’s up there based on our fan base because the organization has missed for years the opportunity to grow the base by letting children under the age of 12 in free, middle/high school discounts, under 25 discounts. The next CBA will be the final spear in the heart of the NFL. NFL and Players in the future have to accept less profit and wages or just like many Unions they will be gone. Most people under 40 really could care less about the violent sport of footbal. Now that I’m past 71, I only watch the Buccaneers, FSU, Miami, UF, USF, UCF; only the Bucs I will work around my life to watch every game.

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      • I never mentioned your name Horse. You weren’t the only one down on McCoy.

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  20. Scu, I’m sure the fans would’ve been into the game if the team gave them something to cheer about. The stands would’ve been full if we were riding a winning streak instead of a losing one. Can’t blame people for not wanting to spend good money on season tickets for a team that’s been flailing along for the last 10 years. As far as player acquisitions, and the draft, most weren’t happy drafting a kicker in the 2nd round, letting guys like Penn, or Bennett go, and myself, and Horse have been calling for building in the trenches for years. One thing we’ve all shut up about is how cheap the Glazers were. They must be really pissed with the money they’ve spent on the stadium, and indoor facility only to see the team move backwards again. It’s another year of instead of fire the cannons, it’s fire the front office, coaching staff!

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  21. I find it hard to blame Koetter – the mistakes our players are making are not what he’s (or their college coaches for that matter were) teaching them. I can find blame in Smith for sticking with a system that relies on the weakest aspect of the players he has (1-on-1 pass rush). But most of all Licht’s neglect of the two lines is criminal for a GM…that’s got to be GM 101, and he’s failed it miserably. Not a single 1st rounder or top-tier FA on either line in his whole tenur – a recipe for disaster. He also passed up later round linemen to fill clear needs on our team (Gabe Jackson when we had nobody at OG, Lael Collins as a late round gamble)…his lack of attention to the lines has meant losing in the trenches.

    I hope we can win a few more this year and get Koetter back…good thing about the league of parity is that winning is rarely really an upset….but Licht in particular needs a pink slip.

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    • SMH

      Guys like you claim that Licht “neglected the two lines”, which is complete balderdash. The entire O-line that we have was brought in by Licht, using both high draft picks and expensive free agents. Other than McCoy, the entire D-line was brought in by Licht, and he’s made multiple high draft picks (2nd round counts as “high”) and expensive free agent acquisitions, every year he’s been here.

      And, uhhh, we had many needs beyond the lines. Virtually 100% of all Bucs fans agreed that quarterback, receivers, tight ends, linebackers, and defensive secondary were ALL top needs too.

      One can say that the results of the new guys on the line has been mixed, which is true. Not liking the results does not mean the lines were ignored.

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      • SMH

        Our best OLineman was brought in by Dominik. And if Licht hadn’t cut him, our second best OLineman would still be a Dominik pickup.

        Our best DLineman was brought in by Dominik…as was one of our starting DE.

        Who is this amazing high priced talent Licht brought in…Cousins? Collins? Johnson? Johnson? .. Just bringing in cast offs is not particularly helpful.

        If you want to give the guy credit, that’s fine, but find somebody on the roster that he should actually be able to count as a win…Cameron Brate…but no, there is nobody on either line that he can count as a win….

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        • …in the 1st round or FA….yes Marpet in round 2 is a win.

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  22. Scott,

    LONG time reader/subscriber of PR and LOVE these articles. Your writing and analysis is deep & well thought out… (ready for it?)

    most of the time.

    BUT, you have to get off this soapbox about hitting in preseason being a big cause of their poor play in regular season. This team is mismanaged, underprepared, & lacks accountability, ALL true.

    But the no contact preseason = sloppy tackling regular season argument fails in week one.

    By the logic of lack of tackling drills and contact in preseason then week one would be the worst example of this, but it wasn’t. That was a solid effort by the team against the Bears.

    This team has numerous issues and as much of a Koetter fan as I am and on board with #FireLovie from day 1 this team has no identity because the coach has no identity. He has divorced himself from the defensive side of the team with too much deference to Mike Smith and he clearly can’t balance the CEO nature of a coach with the focus required of an O Coordinator.

    So he’s a leader that isn’t really leading. Thats the issue with this talented but underperforming team.

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  23. I read all of your comments this morning before kickoff, Pewter Nation. I appreciate your passion and kind words – even when we disagree. You guys are THE BEST FANS! Thank you for taking the time to read my SR’s Fab 5 columns and visit PewterReport.com. Greatly appreciate it.

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