FAB 5. SR’s Buc Shots
• There will be some big changes to the Bucs coaching staff in 2019, and with general manager Jason Licht looking outside the organization for Dirk Koetter’s replacement, none of the coordinators – Todd Monken, Mark Duffner and Nate Kaczor – will stay in Tampa Bay in those roles. But there are some Tampa Bay assistant coaches that did a great job in 2018 that should get an interview with the new head coach.
I’ve always been a big fan of Duffner, whom I recommended as Mike Smith’s replacement as defensive coordinator when I called for him to be fired during the Bucs’ bye week. Duffner is one of the best linebackers coaches in the league and a total team player. I would have him as my linebackers coach any day of the week.
Skyler Fulton really impressed me in his first year as the wide receivers coach, and I think he has a great future in this league as a potential offensive coordinator. Fulton, who learned under Monken until taking over the receivers room in 2018, helped Mike Evans have a career year with 86 catches for 1,524 yards and eight touchdowns, while both Chris Godwin and Adam Humphries had career highs with over 800 yards apiece and a combined 12 touchdowns. He’s energetic and reminds me a lot of P.J. Fleck, the former Bucs receivers coach under Greg Schiano in 2012, who is now the head coach at the University of Minnesota.
Tight ends coach Ben Steele finished his second year by getting a combined 11 touchdowns out of O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate, despite injuries hampering both players. Howard was on a Pro Bowl pace before a leg injury put him on injured reserve after he caught 34 passes for 565 yards. Throw in the development of Antony Auclair and Alan Cross and Steele has been a really good tight ends coach.
And finally, new defensive line coach Brentson Buckner did a great job with his unit, as the Bucs’ D-linemen produced 31.5 of the team’s 38 sacks this year. That was a huge turnaround from a year ago when Tampa Bay’s D-line had just 20 of the team’s league-low 22 sacks. Jason Pierre-Paul had a team-high 12.5 sacks, while Carl Nassib had a career-high 6.5 sacks under Buckner’s watch. It was also encouraging to see first-round pick Vita Vea come on down the stretch and record 28 tackles and three sacks, which matched the rookie production of both Gerald McCoy and Warren Sapp in Tampa Bay.
If former Arizona head coach Bruce Arians comes aboard as Koetter’s replacement that would bode well for Buckner, who coached under Arians with the Cardinals. Buckner is under contract through 2019, but the new head coach will determine which contracted assistants will stay and which ones will go.
• Despite MMQB’s Albert Breer suggesting that disgruntled Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell winds up in Tampa Bay next year, it’s not going to happen. The Bucs have had some selfish players that have hurt team chemistry over the years, including defensive tackle Chris Baker in 2017 and wide receiver DeSean Jackson and cornerback Brent Grimes this past season.
The cap-crunched Bucs can’t afford Bell, who wants to be paid in excessive of $13 million per year after sitting out the entire season in a salary dispute. That’s too rich for a running back who turns 27 in February and has a bad attitude. The Bucs don’t need that in 2019.
• LISTEN UP! We finally reached the 101st episode of the Pewter Nation Podcast, and man, is it a doozy! It starts off with prank on Trevor Sikkema where Mark Cook almost gets fired before going hardcore into the firing of head coach Dirk Koetter and Jason Licht’s future with the Buccaneers. Lots of great Bucs discussion in this one, which has become one of the most listened-to Pewter Nation Podcasts of all time. Be sure to listen to Pewter Nation Podcast Episode 101: Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes by clicking here.
If you missed Sunday’s post-game Pewter Nation Podcast, Episode 100 Part 24: An Emotional End, which came out after Tampa Bay’s season-ending loss to Atlanta, make sure you listen to it while you are out and about this weekend as it was a good one. You can listen to Pewter Nation Podcast Ep100 Part 24: An Emotional End by clicking here.
Listening to the Pewter Nation Podcasts on your drive home from work on Fridays or on Saturdays while doing some chores around the house or running errands this weekend is fun – so do it. The next Pewter Nation Podcast will be taped the middle of next week or as soon as the Buccaneers hire Dirk Koetter’s replacement.
The popularity of the Pewter Nation Podcast continues to grow. In addition to listening to the Pewter Nation Podcasts on PewterReport.com you can also subscribe to the free podcasts at PodBean by clicking here and on SoundCloud by clicking here. Make sure you subscribe so you don’t miss a single episode.
And if you want to see the opening of the Pewter Nation Podcast that features the prank – and a great cameo by The Athletic’s Greg Auman – watch it below.
• If you haven’t read Trevor Sikkema’s Cover 3 this week you have to – it’s a must. Sikkema does a great job of lining up the ideal Bucs coaching staff for 2019 with former Arizona Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians at the helm. It’s a job well done by Sikkema and worth your time to read today or this weekend. Click here for this week’s Cover 3 column.
I endorse the potential hiring of Arians as Tampa Bay’s next head coach – as long as the 66-year old is doing fine health-wise. He had some health conditions in Arizona that led to his retirement following the 2017 season. I wrote about what Arians would bring to the Bucs earlier this week. Read my column: Arians Would Be Ideal To Lead The Bucs And Develop Winston by clicking here.
• Don’t worry, Bucs fans. Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly is not a candidate to fill Tampa Bay’s head coaching vacancy. As is the case sometimes in free agency with players, coach’s agents will throw their client’s name out to the media to generate buzz that could lead to more money for their client from their current team. I’m not saying this is what happened with Kelly’s name being linked to the Bucs earlier this week, but I’m suggesting that is what could have happened.
• Left tackle Donovan Smith has no idea about his future in Tampa Bay as he told me that he hasn’t received any word about a contract extension offer by the Bucs. Smith is slated to be an unrestricted free agent in 2019 unless he receives an extension by the Bucs or has the franchise tag placed on him.
“Right now your guess is as good as mine,” Smith said. “Now I’ll be able to sit and talk with my agent about the things going on, but your guess is as good as mine as to what is going to happen.”
Smith had a good – but not great – contract year in 2019 and finished his first four years in Tampa Bay starting all 64 games since the season opener of his rookie season in 2015.
“It’s huge,” Smith said of his consecutive starts streak. “There are a lot of miles on my body. It’s a huge milestone. I’ve just got to keep going.”
I asked Smith how he thought he played during his fourth season in which he surrendered a career-high 6.5 sacks, but did cut down on his number of penalties.
“I think I played well,” Smith said. “Obviously there were some ups and downs, but I think that’s pretty much the same with any player in the NFL. You just continue to build on it and come back and be better next year.”
Smith will be playing for a new head coach and a new offensive line coach in 2019. When asked if he would object to the team placing the franchise tag on him in lieu of giving him a contract extension, Smith was non-committal.
“We’ll see,” Smith said.