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.
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.
“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.
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.
“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.