FAB 2. McCoy Must Demand Change From Bucs Coaches

I’ve been around Tampa Bay defensive tackle Gerald McCoy for eight seasons now and I’ve gotten to know him a little bit. No, we haven’t gone to a WWE match together, nor have we gone to see the latest Marvel superhero movie. I haven’t been to the “Bat Cave” at his house, nor have we sat down and watched Game of Thrones together.

I don’t know McCoy very well outside of One Buccaneer Place, and like you, I got my first intimate look at him on HBO’s Hard Knocks this year. But I’ve been around McCoy enough to know when he isn’t happy.

There have been a couple of times where the usually mild-mannered McCoy gets a bit Hulkish and goes off to the media, such as he did after the Minnesota game when talking about fans who get publicly disparage on his teammates on social media, and then disparaged President Trump in the same media session, for which he later apologized. Most of the time, McCoy is more David Banner than he is Hulk, although Bucs fans would love to see more “Hulk smash” from McCoy on the field.

Bucs DT Gerald McCoy - Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Bucs DT Gerald McCoy – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

But even when McCoy is being more Banner than he is Hulk, he can still be quite angry. McCoy is the kind of person who can be upset on the inside and still smile through it on the outside. I think that’s the case based on what I saw on Wednesday in the open locker room session.

In the eight year’s I’ve covered the Bucs since McCoy was selected third overall in the 2010 draft, I’ve been around him long enough to know he’s very unhappy with the team’s pass rush and how he’s being used this season. When he uttered the words “I don’t know if I can pinpoint it, I’d really have to break some things down and go into some things I would rather not go to” my spider sense started tingling and I immediately wrote a story for PewterReport.com entitled “McCoy Not Happy With Bucs Pass Rush, How He’s Being Used.”

McCoy reminds me an awful lot of former Bucs linebacker Derrick Brooks and strong safety John Lynch – company men who toed the company line publicly and always put the team above themselves.

When McCoy volunteered publicly that the Bucs should do less stunting and more up-field rush, he came close to crossing that company line, and that signaled to me that there’s trouble behind the scenes in the defensive meeting rooms.

“I think we can do less games and less twisting and more straight rush,” McCoy said Wednesday. “Regardless of what it is, we have to get him (the quarterback) on the ground. We’re getting to the QB, but we need to get him on the ground. That’s the big thing. It doesn’t matter how many times you hit him. I’m hitting the quarterback constantly, but we need to get him on the ground.”

When McCoy was asked about his role in the defense when the Bucs went to a 3-3-5 alignment at Buffalo, he rolled his, tried to hold back but took an indirect shot at the scheme and expressed some displeasure about how he is being used.

Bucs DT Gerald McCoy and D-line coach Jay Hayes - Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Bucs DT Gerald McCoy and D-line coach Jay Hayes – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

“Your rush has to be different for sure,” McCoy said. “You can be aggressive, but not as aggressive because when you have a guy that can run like Tyrod [Taylor] could or Cam [Newton] can, you have to make sure you keep your hands out in front of you. You really kind of just mirror the quarterback. For me, I make guys move. That’s why I give guards so much hell. Once I get them in space it’s a problem for them. But when we are in a three-man front I can’t really do that.”

McCoy caught himself in the verge of a verbal rebellion and spun it back around to being a good soldier and doing what he’s asked to do by the coaches.

“We’re just trying to figure out a way to win,” McCoy said. “I don’t think any coach is here to put clamps on anybody. That’s why I said it’s not about me. It’s about the team. The ultimate goal is to win. If the coaches feel like that’s the best way to win, then I’m going to go with it. I don’t game plan. I just play what the coaches call.”

I saw enough to know there is trouble brewing behind the scenes with the scheme and design of Tampa Bay’s pass rush. I don’t know if it starts at the top with defensive coordinator Mike Smith or if defensive line coach Jay Hayes designs and calls for the stunts that the Bucs deploy, but something is definitely wrong at One Buccaneer Place with the team’s pass rush – evidenced by seven sacks in six games, which ranks Tampa Bay dead last in the NFL in that category.

This problem has been going on since the start of the season and was highlighted in a previous SR’s Fab 5 in which legendary Bucs Hall of Fame defensive tackle Warren Sapp helped me break down the defensive line’s film from the Giants game.

It’s time for McCoy to do something about it now while this team is 2-4 before a season that was supposed to be filled with so much promise totally slips away.

McCoy has been more of a gentle giant like Lee Roy Selmon during his time in Tampa Bay than he has been like Warren Sapp, which has always frustrated some fans who believe he’s “too nice” on the football field. But in this instance in dealing with the Bucs coaches he could use a little bit of Sapp’s brashness in order to help the team.

Bucs DT Gerald McCoy and head coach Dirk Koetter - Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Bucs DT Gerald McCoy and head coach Dirk Koetter – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

It’s time for McCoy to march into Dirk Koetter’s office and meet with the head coach, Smith and Hayes together and demand that some things change schematically because what the coaches have been implementing for the past six weeks with the poor spacing and stunting obviously hasn’t been working. McCoy doesn’t need to grandstand and call out the scheme in a team meeting in front of other players. That would be considered insubordination. He needs to call a private meeting with those three men and have a private conversation.

It’s one thing for McCoy to subtly voice his displeasure through the media, but he needs to take it a step further and actually address it face-to-face with the powers that be even though that may go against his nature. McCoy needs to understand that the changes he should be suggesting – namely for more straight up-the-field rushes and when the Bucs defensive line does stunt, that the players have some say-so in when and how those stunts happen in games – are for the good of the team, not just himself.

McCoy must view that standing up to the coaches, whose defensive schemes don’t seem to be working, and recommending some changes is what leadership and being a team captain is all about. As a team captain, it’s actually his responsibility to address this issue with the coaches. McCoy wouldn’t be a good team captain if he didn’t.

At 2-4 and with just seven sacks on the season, this is not the time for McCoy to be a good soldier and simply do what the coaches say, especially if he doesn’t believe in what they’re asking he and his defensive linemen to do. McCoy has all the clout he needs to make this happen. In fact he’s never had more clout at One Buccaneer Place than right now.

McCoy is a five-time Pro Bowler, who is regarded as one of the elite defensive tackles currently playing in the NFL. He’s the highest-paid player in Tampa Bay. No one has been a team captain longer than McCoy, and no player has been in Tampa Bay longer than him outside of right tackle Demar Dotson.

McCoy has played through a shoulder injury, and is currently playing on a sprained ankle. He’s play with a broken hand. McCoy has done what he’s been asked to do by this organization his entire career for more than a handful of defensive line coaches. He’s paid every due imaginable.

McCoy needs to realize he’ll turn 30 years old in February and that time is ticking. He’s never been to the playoffs and is on the verge of being the franchise’s next Paul Gruber – a great player for a decade before Tampa Bay made it to the postseason.

McCoy has nothing to lose by standing up and demanding that the coaches listen to the players that are actually out there on the field trying to beat the offensive linemen and get to the quarterback.

Bucs DT Gerald McCoy – Photo by: Getty Images

“Most people ain’t trained monkeys – they don’t like to be told what to do, especially these new age kids,” Sapp told me weeks ago in my SR’s Fab 5 column. “There’s no communication going on out there on the football field. That’s the rebellion that a D-lineman would take against the system if, I’m being told what to do, as I understand it. I would rebel. If you told me what to do from the sidelines I would do it just like a damn robot. I would hate it. If I was a defensive lineman I would rebel.”

Sapp played for two Tampa Bay legends in defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin and defensive line coach Rod Marinelli and told me that both coaches listened to him and the players and collaborated together on the game plan, as well as the in-game adjustments.

“Every time you see a ‘game’ that is being called – and if it ain’t by the men in the trenches that’s where I think the disconnect is,” Sapp said. “When you are asking men to do something and they have no say in what they’re doing that is the ultimate recipe for a rebellion.

“When you leave it up to your players on the field that understand what it is, you get reward out of it as a coach, and I now get a rapport where we can build something.”

It’s simple. McCoy is the best up-the-field, penetrating defensive tackle in the league next to Los Angeles’ Aaron Donald. He’s the best player on Tampa Bay’s defense and the highest paid because of it.

If the coaches aren’t playing to his strengths and aren’t trying to get McCoy singled up one-on-one with a guard as much as possible then quite frankly they aren’t doing their job. Good coaches adapt their schemes to fit great players.

McCoy needs to do what he does best, which is to get up-field off the snap and shoot the gap, not move laterally down the line of scrimmage on a stunt – especially one where he goes from the left A gap past the right A gap and then attacks the right B gap. That’s idiotic.

McCoy needs to know that speaking up is not exactly a form of rebellion or insubordination. It’s actually leading a revolution for positive change. And it needs to happen before Sunday or Newton will embarrass Tampa Bay’s defense and expose the Bucs’ penchant for inadvertently creating running lanes with excessive stunting far greater than Taylor did last week.

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Scott Reynolds is in his 24th 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 son's Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: [email protected]

31 COMMENTS

  1. If Coach Smith does not make significant changes in his scheme, in spite of the terrible performance of his defense, then he will be fired. He may not even make it through week 17. And if Coach Koetter is resistant to leaning on Smith to make a change, and/or if he is reistant to letting Smith go if he does not adjust, and if the end result is 6 or fewer wins this season after everybody expected double digit wins and continued improvement from last seasonn, then the Glazers will fire Koetter.

    If the Glazers fire Koetter, they will likely not extend Licht’s contract. They will end up offering the new head coach control over the roster. particularly if they were to hire Gruden. I believe if they hire Gruden they’ll fire Licht too.

    I am not necessarily advocating any of the above … but this is what the Glazers do. They will keep doing it until they can produce a consistent winner in Tampa. It’s business.

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    • By the way, the Tampa Bay Times just put up an interview this morning with Warren Sapp. He rips the present coaches for not dealing with Gerald McCoy the way that Rod Marinelli worked with him. And says explicitly that Smith is using McCoy all wrong.

      Read it – very damning stuff.

      If this is really what’s going on, and he won’t budge, then Smith needs to go, now.

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  2. Scott, it’s not McCoy’s job to tell his coaches how to best utilize their players talents. That’s what coaches get paid for! If anyone needs to bang some heads for answers it’s Licht. Is Licht deaf, blind, and dumb? Surely he sees what you, and I do. If you know McCoy isn’t happy along with other players, shouldn’t he know it? This is a complete, and utter failure on his part, along with the whole coaching staff. What will the Glazers do? I’ll tell you. They’ll give this crew all the rope they need to hang themselves. Gruden is the wild card, or as he would put it the joker in any changes the Glazers might make. By that I mean if Gruden wants back in it’s a done deal. Firing another staff after two years would make the Glazers look impulsive, and incompetent, but if you fire Koetter for Gruden, who could fault them. Scott you spent some time with Gruden this summer. Did you ever ask him what he’s learned from his time away from the sidelines? What would he do different this time around? I read where he said the Tampa 2 is dead in todays NFL, what would he run? How has his offensive philosophy changed? Would he want complete control over everything, or would he trust whatever G.M. is put in place? I think these are the questions the Glazers are asking themselves, because I think it would be Gruden or bust for them. One other thought. The timing of Grudens induction into the ring, along with the kiss, and make up with the Glazers, tells me they were putting an ace up their sleeve in case this season went where it’s going. Your thoughts.

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    • Surfer,

      The man call himself a “meathead”. Nobody ever questioned his honesty!

      http://www.tampabay.com/blogs/bucs/new-bucs-gm-licht-proud-of-meathead-scouting-roots/2162408

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    • Actually, it IS McCoy’s job to provide honest feedback to his coaches. He is no kid – he is a 30 year old man and a professional and very good at what he does – 5 time Pro Bowler, 3 Time First Team All Pro, anchor of our D-line and leader of the defense, and has been for years.

      If such a member of the team cannot engage in honest discussion and feedback with his coaches, then we a problem – with the coaches. And we know we have a problem with one of the worst defenses in the league this season.

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      • Please provide reference to the “3 Time First Team All Pro.” Which system are you referencing? The Associate Press selection is the only one that matters for HoF consideration, however I realize that there are others out there. Gerald has just 1 First Team All Pro award from the Associated Press writers.

        I have seen many people writing that McCoy has more sacks than any other DT in the league since he was drafted, which is also not true. Suh has 5 more sacks than McCoy over the EXACT same period.

        Gerald McCoy is more popular than good. Absolutely he is talented. But, he has mastered the art of public perception, while doing little for the art of winning when it counts. He is laser focused on getting the glory play, the sack while neglecting the lunchbox plays like tackling anyone not called QB.

        Since coming into the league, Ndamukong Suh has 94 more total tackles than Gerald McCoy. I know tackles are not sexy, but every tackle is a DEFENSIVE STOP. THAT’S 94 MORE DEFENSIVE STOPS. How many times have the Bucs failed to stop a drive that would have won the game with one more stop? Last week comes to mind. In fact, every loss for the Bucs this year except perhaps arguably the Cardinals game could have been won with one more stop. Gerald McCoy is at the middle of the league, tied for 42nd in 2016 for DL tackles, 14 of those were interior lineman. Suh was 7th and his team made the playoffs. Damon Harrison was 1st and his team made the playoffs. Gerald has never made many tackles comparatively, and he has never been to the playoffs. Is there a connection? Defensive stops matter.

        McCoy knows that sacks will get his face in front of the cameras, where he loves to be; nothing make him happier. Sacks get TV time, and help to win the Popularity Contest called Pro Bowls. Gerald knows what makes him happy and tackling a RB is not on the menu it seems.

        Many people question what it is about some fans’ opinion about McCoy; why some fans complain about him. Well, Gerald McCoy is uber talented with one of the best “get-offs” in the league, but he comes off as a Drama Queen, more concerned about people’s perception of him than whether or not his team wins. If you want Gerald McCoy to get angry, say he is not good enough. When have you EVER seen McCoy angry about losing? I cannot recall a single time, yet every year, twice already this year he gets upset because fans say bad things about him. Don’t mess with his popularity is his focus, and winning has nothing to do with it.

        If anyone has ever had a beautiful girlfriend, but she is a diva or drama queen, they can relate. Sometimes no matter how beautiful she is, the drama BS becomes too much. The thing about drama queens is they are never as good as they think that they are, and that fact is compounded by the fact that they will never see it. To them, they are perfect and everyone should see that.

        When Gerald McCoy starts taking over games, making critical stops in the final minuets to win, then he can talk. Until then, he needs to STFU, and earn the right to be the highest paid player on the team, because recently, he has not earned it. JMHO

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        • Long winded way to declare you are a McCoy hater. That’s all we needed to know.

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    • You may also be interested to know where others would rank our GM. See #27.

      http://ftw.usatoday.com/2017/05/nfl-gm-general-managers-rankings-2017-bill-belichick-john-schneider-john-elway

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  3. I’m not sure you’re using the term “gambit” correctly Scott…

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    • Also, the headlines read as if you know what the Glazers are thinking – but Fab 1 is just speculation…

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      • Didn’t you learn in pre-school or kindergarten what a question mark is, and what it means?

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  4. If we draft any DE under a legit 6’3″, it is a big mistake.
    The next 2 games will say it all. Go Bucs! Up to you to show us you can win!

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    • Horse,

      Excuse me for looking at a mock draft so early and as you know everything can and probably will change. This is WalterFootball. I think you will like the pick but like me, hate where we are picking. See Round 1, pick #6. Yikes!

      http://walterfootball.com/draft2018.php

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      • Not going to make you feel much better at #8, but looks like its DE….

        http://drafttek.com/2018-NFL-Mock-Draft-Round1.asp

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      • Macabee; Thank you. I hope we are wrong and the season ends up being better than the way it looks right now. Like some fans, I’m getting too old to be waiting every year for next year to be the year.

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    • Where’s the Beef? Agreed need bigger DE.

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  5. The problem for the Bucs is that Jason Licht has put the team into a position that it has to pick a defensive end in the first round because the Bucs have the worst defensive ends in the NFL.
    I like Jason and I think he has done a lot more good than bad but the Bucs had a glaring need last offseason at defensive end and they did nothing, the Bucs had a glaring need at corner and did nothing. The Bucs also had a glaring need at running back and almost did nothing.

    It is not prudent to put the team in a position where there is such an overwhelming need that the Bucs may be forced to spend two of their first three picks at one position yet still have glaring weaknesses at two other positions(corner and running back).

    If the Bucs have a receiver, tight end, QB, Offensive lineman or line backer at the top of their board when one of their first four round picks come up next year they are going to have to pass on the player because they are in such a dire need at defensive end and corner.

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  6. Never said Licht was dishonest. I think he honestly doesn’t know what he’s doing. Yes McCoy should be giving his coaches feed back, but that’s a lot different then telling them how they should coach, Christ that’s what they get paid for, putting their players in position to be most successful. Isn’t that what Smitty himself said? He said he welcomed feed back from his players, and would run a scheme that fits the talents of his players. That seems like B.S. now, if that’s the line the Glazers bought, they must be feeling buyers remorse.

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  7. A lot of people have short memories. Less than a year ago, most Bucs fans were panicked that we were going to lose Mike Smith to a head coaching position. Now everyone wants his head. This is a fickle game. We’ve lost three games by 5 or fewer points and we had a chance to win all three, even the Arizona game that we once trailed 31-0. Even without a good running game, this offense is on pace to finish in the top 5, perhaps number 1. Koetter is one of the best offensive minds in the league. I’d be disappointed if they fired him unless the Buccaneers lose 10 or more games. New Orleans is built a lot like the Buccaneers except for having a more experienced quarterback. This year they put more emphasis into the defense and they’re hanging in there with a good chance to win the division. We need to hire a new defensive coordinator and use Free Agency and the draft to get some pass rushers, improve the secondary, and find a running back.

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    • It doesn’t really matter what we fans want. It totally matters what the Glazers want. This Fab 5 is about trying to discern what the Glazers might be thinking, and takes into account their history of how and when they make decisions to fire and hire. These are not patient people.

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  8. great info on the upcoming prospects Scott. Are there any elite/proven free agents on the radar next year? I would hope the scouting dept has several guys targeted.

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    • Eric a great place to view 2018 free agents is http://www.spotrac.com/nfl/free-agents/2018.

      They also give detailed contract analysis of every player in the league and how it impacts the teams salary cap.

      Teams in great cap position next year:
      LA Rams, Colts, NY Jets, Redskins, Browns, 49ers, Lions, Bucs and Vikings

      Teams in awful cap position next year:
      Jags, Cowboys, Dolphins, Raiders, Ravens, Panthers, Eagles, Chiefs and Steelers

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  9. If we are talking draft I would definitely work on the trenches my draft would start with chubb in the 1st then if Maurice Hurst is there at the end of round 1 or top of round 2 I do what i do whatever to draft him cuz he wud b the replacement for McCoy. If hurst is not available there a big corner from aubirn who is big and looks the part of a shutdown cb.Then I look to get a more athletic left tackle or a true center i love ali but he is a guard . Secondary i look at free agency we need bigger cbs trumaine Johnson would b my pick up definitely. And mayb a veteran left tackle. I really feel like we will pick up more wins I really believe we are a 10 win team don’t ask me why I just believe in this team I feel they need a confidence builder and the next two games against familiar foes can b a good thing and help the mental side of the game. Remember we got going against Carolina last year. Go Bucs

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  10. I know that Malcolm passed away in 2014. Had he already passed the torch to his kids? I was just wondering how many of these changes were his and how many were the son’s.

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  11. And, with all of this damning Bucs reporting; they are actually only two games from .500 with all of their division games left. This season is still salvageable. Koetter, get this team back to the schemes from the end of the season start lighting some fires under some a#$es! C’mon, man!

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  12. It’s been well documented lately how the scheme and alignments we are operating under on defense are “inept” and “idiotic”. Makes it hard to evaluate the current talent of players and would stymie any talent we brought in. 1st round draft picks aren’t super human. They still need to be put in positions to succeed or else they become a scapegoat. Even our best, most dominant defender, McCoy can’t succeed in what seems to be a sabotage of a defensive scheme. Vernon Hargraves has been the best DB of the preseason the last 2 years. A place where super secret squirrel schemes aren’t over thought and raw talent can shine. I’d like to see how he’d look with competent coaching in scheme that’s not built to fail and hang young players and seasoned veterans out to dry.

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  13. I remember the days when being 2-4 would have been cause for celebration. I remember the days wishing we just weren’t the worst team. I remember the days when I was happy to score a few points. I remember the days when I got excited that the QB completed 50% of his passes. I remember the days when Punter Dave Green was game MVP. I remember the days there were games we almost won. I remember the days when seeing another orange clad fan was akin to seeing a unicorn. I remember the days when it was inevitable that the Bucs would be on the clock for the first pick the day the season started.

    Those were the days my friend, I thought they’d never end. Those were the days my friend, Oh no, not again.

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  14. Great article Scott, Don’t that last year the Bucs were struggling defensively then halfway through the DC Mike Smith simplified the defense after which they started winning

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  15. Great article Scott, Don’t that last year the Bucs were struggling defensively then halfway through the season, DC Mike Smith simplified the defense after which they started winning

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  16. Great article Scott, If you remember that last year the Bucs were struggling defensively then halfway through the DC Mike Smith simplified the defense after which they started winning

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  17. No need to worry about Hard Knocks next year, Scott. Teams with new head coaches aren’t required to participate 😂

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