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FAB 1. Like Tomlin Was, Goodwin Is “The Next Big Thing”
Quite frankly, NFL owners can be dumb when it comes to head coaching hires.
That’s why they’re overlooking Bucs assistant head coach and run game coordinator Harold Goodwin.
Instead of looking for the right fit for an organization, owners can be overly trendy with their hires.
Rather than looking for a leader of men, which is what a head coach really is, they look for hot, buzz-worthy coordinators. Often at their own peril.
Goodwin, who coaches a Tampa Bay offensive line that boasts three Pro Bowlers this year, is not a play-caller. He’s a leader of men.
I saw that firsthand in January of 2019 when the Bucs paraded every new assistant coach under Bruce Arians one right after the other before the media in a marathon interview session. It literally spanned three hours.
Who stood out the most? Goodwin – and it wasn’t even close.
When Goodwin spoke, I wanted to get up out of my seat and play for him right then. And I’m not a player. I’m just an old member of the media, whose nondescript playing days on the football field ended at Shawnee Mission South High School back in 1988.
When I heard him speak, Goodwin, who is referred to as “Goody” by the players and coaches, reminded me of Mike Tomlin, the former Bucs defensive backs coach from 2001-05. Tomlin became Bill Cowher’s successor in Pittsburgh in 2007. I wrote a cover story on Tomlin back in the early 2000s where I labeled him “The Next Big Thing.” I feel the same way about Goody.
Tomlin and Goodwin share the same agent in Brian Levy, who is also Raheem Morris’ agent and the agent for several prominent assistants around the league. Levy also sees a lot of similarities between Tomlin and Goodwin.
“I absolutely do because they both have the ‘it factor,’” Levy said. “When you talk about the ‘it factor’ it’s the first impression of the person when they speak to you. Is that a person that you feel can motivate you? Harold and Mike both have that same quality. Both of them are not afraid to say what they believe in. Both of them are not looking to be popular – they’re looking to be correct. Those are things that are critical things to being a leader in this business. They both are extremely bright. They both can talk without a cheat sheet. They’re going to be honest with their success and they are going to be honest with their failure. And they both hate to fail and love to succeed. Those are the real qualities that you see in both of them.
“One of the things you’ll find with Harold is that he doesn’t fit the cookie cutter coordinator/assistant head coach profile because he’s extremely confident. He’s outspoken and not afraid to say what he believes. Those are qualities that most Fortune 500 companies would look for in a leader. Yet in the NFL, it seems somewhat frowned upon for some reason.”
Goodwin deserves to be a candidate for one of the league’s current seven head coaching vacancies. It’s really eight if you count Rich Bisaccia’s interim head coach status in playoff-bound Las Vegas.
Bucs OC Byron Leftwich, HC Bruce Arians, WRs coach Kevin Garver, OL coach Harold Goodwin – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
“I think when you’re in this profession you want to be a head coach,” said Goodwin, who filled in for head coach Bruce Arians when he had COVID-19 the week prior to the Jets game. “I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing with a couple teams in the past. But I know this league is predicated a lot on play-callers. Why? I don’t know. Everybody likes play-callers. But there are a lot of good coaches out here in this National Football League that are good leaders, they just don’t happen to call plays, like myself.
“Hopefully one day it will come my way, but at the end of the day that’s in God’s hands. But like I said, there [are] a lot of good coaches on a lot of good teams that need that opportunity that don’t [get it]. They don’t call plays. But we talk about what makes a head coach – it’s about building cultures, being leaders of men, and just having that disciplinary, authority-type figure that can get a team behind you and fight for you. They’re a lot of good coaches out here that can do that that are not coordinators.”
Goodwin is one of those coaches, and NFL owners are foolish for not giving this guy an opportunity to interview.
In recent years the trend has been to hire not just head coaches with an emphasis on the offensive side of the ball – but play-callers with experience developing quarterbacks.
Sean McVay was the buzz-worthy hire a few years ago in Los Angeles. He turned a 4-12 Rams team in 2016 into an 11-5 playoff squad in 2017 in his first year. In his second year, McVay’s Rams won the NFC West with a 13-3 record and lost the Super Bowl to Tom Brady’s Patriots.
Since then there have been plenty of hires with teams looking for the next McVay.
“That’s what people miss – you’re not hiring an offensive coordinator, you’re hiring a leader of men,” said Bucs head coach Bruce Arians of Goodwin in an interview in 2019. “I’m looking at all the hires this year, and guys are going to be calling plays for the first time and be a head coach. There’s only one Sean McVay. … To think that you’re going to get another Sean McVay, it’s one in a million.”
Well, Cincinnati’s Zac Taylor, a McVay disciple, Arizona’s Kliff Kingsbury and Green Bay’s Matt LaFleur were all hired in 2019, and have their teams in the playoffs this season. Time will ultimately tell how good these hires were.
However, other coordinators-turned-head coaches like New York’s Adam Gase, Cleveland’s Freddie Kitchens and Chicago’s Matt Nagy, who was in the 2018 coaching hire cycle, didn’t work out and have already been fired.
Bucs run game coordinator Harold Goodwin – Photo by: PewterReport.com
“I still think owners think it’s a sexy move,” Levy said about teams looking for play-callers. “Look at the cycles over the past four or five years and we’re looking at about six firings per year. If you redact the teams out of that formula who never fire coaches – the Saints, Seahawks, Ravens, Chiefs, Steelers and the Patriots – then there are 26 teams left. An average of six per year are looking for a new coach. What they’re missing on is these leaders of men – the Bill Belichicks, the Mike Tomlins and the Andy Reids. Those are people who players would run through walls for. We’re seeing these offensive guru hired and they’re pairing him with a defensive-side-of-the-ball guy because that’s not what their strength is. Why wouldn’t you hire a head coach whose strength is actually being a head coach and leading 53 men in a building?
“I’ve seen teams divided by offense and defense, and there are fingers being pointed. If you get a guy like Harold – he’s a unifying force of men. Here’s a guy that is going to come in and have everybody buying into one principle. What does it matter if a head coach calls plays? A head coach should be the head coach of both the offense and defense. He should oversee and have say in both sides of the ball. That’s what teams should be looking for. I’m even hearing in this cycle that teams are looking for offensive guys because they’re happy with how their defense played. You’re looking for a new head coach because your team failed. Forgot about the defense playing well or vice versa. One side of the ball doesn’t fail. A team fails. The head coach failed to lead both sides of the ball.”
The Bucs have a pair of head coaching candidates that have already interviewed in Jacksonville and will wind up interviewing in Chicago next week. Offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich has appeal because he’s a former NFL quarterback and has guided one of the league’s most prolific offenses over the last three years in Tampa Bay. Defensive coordinator Todd Bowles has one of the league’s top run defenses and blitzing units, and has previous head coaching experience.
Both helped the Bucs win a Super Bowl last year and win the NFC South division this year, as did Goodwin. Understandably, both Leftwich and Bowles are worthy candidates deserving of interviews.
No offense, but I wouldn’t hire either one over Goodwin. He’s the guy I would hire as Arians’ eventual replacement in Tampa Bay – or elsewhere if I were an NFL owner.
Goodwin has the charisma and the fire-in-the-eye you want in a head coach. He’s humble, yet full of vigor and confidence.
When Goodwin speaks, he doesn’t just win the press conference. He dominates it and takes it over. His words draw you in and don’t let you go. Just like Tomlin.
Goodwin is not a play-caller, and that’s okay. He’s a leader of men, which hopefully will be the new trend in the NFL hiring process.
Goodwin has interviewed for a few head coaching jobs, including Tampa Bay in 2016. But the Bucs had sights set on hiring offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter to replace the fired Lovie Smith. Still, it was a valuable lesson and learning experience for Goodwin.
“Every time I went in to interview, ‘You don’t call plays.’ Well, I did call plays in the preseason,” Goodwin said back in 2019. “Are we looking for play-callers or are we looking for leaders? Leaders of men, who can help build an organization from the ground up on the football side. The next excuse was, ‘Well, we don’t like your staff.’ A lot of my staff is still coaching. Some guys are coordinators in the NFL now that have had a lot of success that were on my list.”
Bucs HC Bruce Arians, run game coordinator Harold Goodwin and OC Byron Leftwich – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Football is just as much about the X’s and the O’s as it is the Jimmys and the Joes. Coaching is helping players unlock their potential and getting them prepared to win. Those are areas where Goodwin excels.
Goodwin played college football at Michigan. He was a grad assistant for the Wolverines under Lloyd Carr when Tom Brady was a freshman quarterback. He’s worked on staffs with Smith in Chicago and Tomlin and Arians in Pittsburgh. Then he worked for Arians again in Indianapolis and then Arizona.
“He’s an ex-player, he’s just a normal guy, he’s not a guy who can just talk football,” former Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer said in 2015. “He has a lot of different interests. He’s young, so he can assimilate with guys and have conversations with any of the guys in here. He is the combination of a really good teacher and a guy who you can have a good conversation with about a movie or song or whatever. He’s not just football, football, football.”
“Harold is a coach who has had nothing but success,” Levy said. “Winning and losing in this game starts at the line of scrimmage. When you have TB12 (Tom Brady) there, the most critical players on that team are on the offensive line. Trusting that to a guy like Harold is a brilliant move. He’s not only going to get it done. He is going to get it done to perfection by making sure that they are fundamentally sound and mentally sound. That’s what he does. He’s in their head, and he delivers his message and keeps it real. They hear what they need to hear from Harold.”
The Giants have been even worse, hiring three offensive play-callers in a row. Ben McAdoo (2016-17), Pat Shurmur (2018-19) and Joe Judge (2020-21) didn’t last more than two years.
Bisaccia is a former special teams coach and will be considered as the Raiders next head coach. John Harbaugh was also a special teams coordinator before becoming the head coach in Baltimore. Detroit’s Dan Campbell was a tight ends coach before being hired to lead the Lions last year. New England linebackers coach Jerod Mayo is believed to be the front-runner for the Houston head coaching position.
Maybe hiring non-play-callers will soon become a trend. If so, Goodwin may finally get the chance he deserves.
“It’s literally like banging your head against the wall,” Levy said. “You’re trying to do the owners a favor, but obviously they think they know more than anybody else. It’s an impossibility to let them know that there are guys outside the ones that continue to get hired. And fail year after year. At some point there will be someone with the foresight and intelligence to say, ‘You know what? Let’s hire the best head coach. Let’s hire the best leader.’ Honestly, I’m still not seeing that yet. But when they do, I’m pretty sure Harold will be on that call list.”
There have been a few of former offensive line coaches that have become head coaches in the NFL. The best of which was Art Shell, who had two stints with the Raiders (1989-94 and 2006). The others were Mike Tice (Minnesota, 2002-05) and Tom Cable (Oakland, 2008-10). Tice and Cable flopped, as did Shell in his second tenure in silver and black. The track record for offensive line coaches being successful head coaches in the NFL isn’t a great one. That doesn’t help Goodwin’s cause.
“If that’s the case he’s got two difficult roads to cross,” Levy said. “One is that he’s an offensive line coach, and number two is that he is a minority. But being an assistant head coach should help that process. Yet I’ve never claimed to understand how this process works. All I know is that six or seven teams out of the same 26 every year are hiring new coaches. Some teams are hiring every two or three years and there is a reason for it. They keep going after the same type of guys referred by the same people. It’s absolutely shocking to me and I don’t get it. At some point maybe they’ll realize it’s not the road to take.
“Watching Mike Tomlin and seeing what his record is over the years and the consistency he brings. Yet, we’re still looking for jobs for minority head coaches. We’re begging for work for really talented minority coaches.”
Bucs head coach Bruce Arians and run game coordinator Harold Goodwin – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Goodwin is really talented, and really inspirational. Great leaders have both qualities. When Arians went down with COVID-19 in Week 17, Goodwin assumed the head coaching duties for several days until he returned for the Jets game.
“It’s been fun,” Goodwin said that week. “As far as walking around the field and all of that, that’s not me. At the end of the day, I have to take care of my job. And that’s making sure the O-line is right. Plus, we have two good coordinators on offense and defense in Todd and Byron, and then we have Keith [Armstrong]. Really and truly, they know how to run their ship and I just stayed out of the way. At the end of the day, all I did was control the team meeting, control any decisions that needed to be made between myself and the trainer, or if Jason needed me. I just had the post-practice walk-up as far as everyone coming up and saying a few words to break practice down.”
Goodwin got a brief taste of being head coach by standing in for Arians. The team that eventually hires Goodwin might get the next Arians or Tomlin.
“I view B.A. as one of my major mentors as far as my coaching career,” Goodwin said. “I’ve been with him a lot. I probably in some shape or form carry a lot of his mannerisms, too. I don’t ride the golf cart, but a lot of things he does, says, sees, I see the same thing.”
Some day we’ll see Goodwin in a head-coaching role. It may be as Arians’ replacement in Tampa Bay if Bowles and Leftwich depart before he retires. And no other team is brave enough or smart enough to hire him.
FAB 2. Bucs Assistant Coaching Update
With Bucs offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich and defensive coordinator Todd Bowles getting multiple job interviews this season, there is a growing feeling that one – if not both – gets hired in January.
Bowles only received interest from Detroit last year. And the feeling was mutual that he would not be a good fit for the woeful Lions. But this year, fresh off a Super Bowl LV win and in the mix to win another one with a 13-4 Bucs team, there is plenty of interest around the league in both Bowles and Leftwich.
I wrote in last week’s SR’s Fab 5 about what could happen to Tampa Bay’s coaching staff if either Bowles or Leftwich departs. The plan would be to promote outside linebackers coach Larry Foote to defensive coordinator if Bowles leaves. And to promote wide receivers coach Kevin Garver to offensive coordinator if Leftwich leaves. Head coach Bruce Arians has always been a big believer in promoting from within.
Bucs head coach Bruce Arians and OC Byron Leftwich – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
“I always felt you have to promote your guys,” said Arians back in 2015, tracing that belief back to his time being on legendary coach Bear Bryant’s staff at Alabama.
Yet if Bowles and Leftwich leave, there could be a tug-of-war over some assistants with Foote being the biggest target.
If Bowles gets hired as a head coach, the feeling is that defensive line coach Kacy Rodgers also departs, and possibly inside linebackers coach Mike Caldwell. Both Rodgers and Caldwell were on Bowles’ staff in in New York from 2015-18. Rodgers has been friends with Bowles for years and served as his defensive coordinator. Caldwell was Bowles’ assistant head coach with the Jets.
But if Leftwich leaves he could take Foote with him as his defensive coordinator, especially if Bowles doesn’t get a head coaching job this cycle to create that DC opening in Tampa Bay. Foote has been instrumental in developing Shaq Barrett into a two-time Pro Bowl outside linebacker, and also oversaw Jason Pierre-Paul’s Pro Bowl season in 2020. Plus Foote has helped develop young pass rushers Anthony Nelson, Joe Tryon-Shoyinka and Cam Gill. Losing Foote would be a big blow to the Bucs.
If Bowles and Leftwich both depart, and either coach pursues Foote as a defensive coordinator, the Glazers might have to step up and compete financially to keep Foote in that role in Tampa Bay.
If Foote is a defensive coordinator in Tampa Bay or elsewhere, look for him to bring Brentson Buckner along to serve as his defensive line coach. Buckner coached with the Bucs in 2018 and was on Arians’ staff in Arizona in 2013-17. He would have stayed on in Tampa Bay in 2019 when Arians was hired. But part of the conditions for bringing Bowles on board as defensive coordinator was that Rodgers would serve as Tampa Bay’s defensive line coach.
Buckner spent the 2019 season coaching with Jon Gruden in Oakland and the last two years back in Arizona on Kliff Kingsbury’s staff. It is believed that Buckner signed a two-year deal with the Cardinals and that he will be a free agent coach in the 2022 offseason after the playoffs.
Like Foote, the same could be true with Garver, as the Bucs might have to compete with another team financially to keep him in Tampa Bay if either Bowles or Leftwich wants him as their offensive coordinator elsewhere. The belief is that offensive line coach and run game coordinator Harold Goodwin does not want to be a play-caller in the NFL, so he wouldn’t necessarily be in the mix to replace Leftwich.
Former Bucs DL coach Brentson Buckner and DT Vita Vea – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Leftwich is being rumored to be a potential favorite in both Denver and Jacksonville, where he played quarterback from 2003-06 after being the seventh overall pick. The Broncos have not yet requested permission to interview him, but it’s believed to be coming next week. NFL rules prohibit teams from requesting or conducting interviews this week for assistants on playoff teams. That window opens again on Monday after the first round of the playoffs.
If Leftwich and/or Bowles get hired this month and start assembling their respective coaching staffs, including Bucs assistants, there is the potential for distraction during Tampa Bay’s playoff run if the team handles business on Sunday and beats the Eagles to advance in the postseason.
So what would happen to Goodwin? If Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh leaves for the NFL, Goodwin could emerge as a candidate to replace him.
Like Harbaugh, Goodwin played for the Wolverines and was also a graduate assistant on Lloyd Carr’s staff from 1995-97. Goodwin has eight years of college coaching experience as well as 17 years in the NFL. He won Super Bowl XLIII on Mike Tomlin’s staff in Pittsburgh and Super Bowl LV in Tampa Bay. In addition to glowing recommendations from Tomlin and Arians, Goodwin would also get a nice endorsement from a fellow prominent Wolverine in Tom Brady.
As Arians’ assistant head coach, Goodwin couldn’t be plucked from Tampa Bay unless he received a promotion to be a play-calling offensive coordinator or a head coach elsewhere. With Bowles being the in-house favorite to succeed Arians in Tampa Bay, if he and Leftwich depart this offseason that would likely mean Goodwin could be in line to succeed Arians as the Bucs’ next head coach.
Goodwin was interviewed by general manager Jason Licht for the Bucs’ head-coaching job in 2016 before offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter was promoted to replace Lovie Smith. But if Goodwin takes over for Arians, how much of the staff will be left for him to coach with?
FAB 3. 4 Matchups To Watch: Bucs Offense vs. Eagles Defense
Each week you can find 4 Matchups To Watch on offense and defense in my SR’s Fab 5 column. Here is preview of Tampa Bay’s playoff game vs. Philadelphia in a rematch from the Bucs’ 28-24 win. The Eagles surrendered two rushing touchdowns to Leonard Fournette and two passing TDs to Tom Brady in Week 6. Here is a look at Tampa Bay’s key players on offense vs. Philadelphia’s best defenders.
Bucs C Ryan Jensen vs. Eagles DT Javon Hargrave
Bucs C Ryan Jensen – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Hargrave was off to an incredible start to the 2021 season when these two met back in Week 6. The 6-foot-2, 305-pounder had six sacks, seven tackles for loss and a forced fumble in five games, but finished the season with 7.5 sacks. Hargrave had just 1.5 sacks over the last 12 games and was handled pretty well by Jensen and guards Ali Marpet and Alex Cappa in the first game. If Philadelphia has any chance of winning in Tampa Bay on Sunday it will be because Hargrave and Fletcher Cox got pressure on Tom Brady up the middle.
Jensen will again face a challenge when Hargrave lines up in the weakside A or B gap with his interior rushes. Hargrave and the aging Cox, who is still dangerous, are a formidable duo upfront. Jensen, who is dealing with a shoulder injury, will need to play his best game of the season. Both Hargrave and Cox will want revenge for being shut out by Tampa Bay’s interior line in Week 6. ADVANTAGE: Push
Tampa Bay WR Mike Evans vs. Philadelphia CB Darius Slay
Bucs WR Mike Evans – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Slay has been one of the better cornerbacks in the league for some time, but is not the player he was now at age 30. The 6-foot, 190-pound Slay has enough size to give the 6-foot-5 Evans trouble, and the speed to keep up with him down the field. Slay, a three-time Pro Bowler, led the Eagles with three interceptions and held Evans to just two catches for 27 yards in Week 6, including a 20-yarder. The Eagles rarely give up deep pass plays because of their zone coverage.
Evans was held in check in Philadelphia earlier this season, but is coming off a six-catch, 89-yard, two-touchdown performance last week against Carolina. Slay often plays the left cornerback position, so when Evans is lined up on the right side of the offense, this will be the matchup. Evans didn’t do much against the Eagles in the prior game, but that’s because Antonio Brown went off with nine catches for 93 yards and a touchdown. Without Brown and Chris Godwin, Evans and tight end Rob Gronkowski will be the focal point in Tampa Bay’s passing attack in the playoffs. ADVANTAGE: Evans
Bucs WR Tyler Johnson vs. Eagles CB Avonte Maddox
Bucs WR Tyler Johnson – Photo by: USA Today
Maddox is a small, fast slot cornerback at 5-foot-9, 180 pounds. With 4.39 speed he does a good job of not allowing slot receivers to make big plays vertically down the seam. Maddox did a credible job of slowing down Chris Godwin in Week 6, helping to hold Tampa Bay’s slot receiver to just five catches for 43 yards (8.6 avg.). Maddox will be tasked with guarding Johnson, who has good size at 6-foot-1, 206 pounds, but isn’t nearly as fast or quick.
Johnson hasn’t flourished as Godwin’s replacement in the slot over the past three and half games. He caught five passes for just 22 yards (4.4 avg.) last week in a win against the Panthers. Johnson struggles to create separation because he’s not an elite athlete, and will have to rely on body positioning and his bigger frame to box out the smaller Maddox for catches across the middle. The Bucs need Johnson to step up and create some yards after catch in the playoffs. That has to come from breaking tackles or running better routes. ADVANTAGE: Maddox
Tampa Bay TE Rob Gronkowski vs. Philadelphia S Anthony Harris
Bucs TE Rob Gronkowski – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
The Eagles don’t really have any defenders that can effectively match up with Gronkowski. Strongside linebacker Genard Avery doesn’t have any pass breakups or interceptions this season and can’t keep up with Gronkowski vertically. At 5-foot-9, slot cornerback Avante Maddox is too small to match up with Gronkowski. That leaves the 6-foot-1, 202-pound Harris as the better coverage fit from a size standpoint. Harris has three pass breakups and an interception on the season and will need to have the game of his life to shut down Gronkowski on Sunday.
Gronkowski missed the Week 6 game in Philadelphia due to broken ribs he suffered in Week 3. Tight end O.J. Howard had his best game of the year replacing him, catching six passes for 49 yards and a touchdown. Yet many of those receptions were on tight end screens. Gronkowski has been used that way to attack the flank before, but will do most of his damage down the seam. He’s coming off his third 100-yard game of the season and the Bucs will need another 100-yard day from Gronk against the Eagles. ADVANTAGE: Gronkowski
FAB 4. 4 Matchups To Watch: Bucs Defense vs. Eagles Offense
Each week you can find 4 Matchups To Watch on offense and defense in my SR’s Fab 5 columns. Tampa Bay’s defense sacked Jalen Hurts twice and held him to just 115 passing yards with one touchdown and one interception in Week 6. The Eagles did rush for 100 yards and Hurts ran for two TDs in the red zone. Will the Bucs defense have some answers for Hurts’ rushing ability in the playoffs? Here are the key matchups to watch on Sunday when the Eagles are on offense.
Bucs ILB Devin White vs. Eagles QB Jalen Hurts
Bucs ILB Devin White and OLB Shaq Barrett – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Hurts finished his first full year as a starter in Philadelphia with 16 touchdowns and nine interceptions. He completed 61.3 percent of his passes for 3,144 yards. As one of the NFL’s best dual-threat QBs, Hurts led the Eagles in rushing with 784 yards and 10 touchdowns, averaging 5.6 yards per game. Whether it’s scrambles or designed QB runs, Hurts can hurt teams with his legs. He had 44 yards rushing and a pair of red zone rushing touchdowns in Week 6.
White has the speed to go sideline-to-sideline and pursue Hurts. He had five tackles in Week 6 and was often used as a spy on Hurts. Defensive coordinator Todd Bowles likes to blitz White, but he’s missed several point-blank sack opportunities this season. White hasn’t played well since Lavonte David went down with an injury against New Orleans. He’s totaled just 12 tackles over the last three games combined. White will need to play at a much higher level – and under control – on Sunday against Hurts. ADVANTAGE: Hurts
Tampa Bay NT Vita Vea vs. Philadelphia C Jason Kelce
Bucs NT Vita Vea and Saints QB Taysom Hill – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Kelce is still one of the better centers in the league. He’s made five Pro Bowls, including this year, and been named All-Pro three times. The 33-year old veteran is as crafty and savvy as they come, relying on technique to win due to his 6-foot-3, 295-pound frame. That’s smallish by today’s standards in the NFL, where it’s rare to find offensive linemen that are under 300 pounds. Kelce struggled to block Vea in Week 6 and that should be the case again on Sunday.
At 6-foot-4, 347 pounds, Vea has over 50 pounds of size and strength on Kelce. Todd Bowles’ game plan will likely be to single up Vea on Kelce as much as possible with some A-gap blitzes from Devin White and Lavonte David or Kevin Minter so that the Bucs’ nose tackle can use his size and power to his advantage. Vea recorded half a sack at Philadelphia in Week 6 and has a career-high four on the season. Don’t be surprised if Vea gets another sack in the first round of the playoffs. ADVANTAGE: Vea
Bucs CB Sean Murphy-Bunting vs. Eagles WR DeVonta Smith
Bucs CB Sean Murphy-Bunting – Photo by: USA Today
Smith, the Eagles’ first round draft pick, led Philadelphia in receiving with 64 catches for 916 yards and five touchdowns. The former Heisman Trophy winner wins with speed and quickness, as he has a thin build at 6-foot, 170 pounds. Smith was held to just two catches for 27 yards in the Week 6 game against Tampa Bay. With more experience under his belt since then, Smith is more of a threat to the Bucs secondary this time around.
Murphy-Bunting has struggled in coverage this season after missing the first half of the year with a dislocated elbow. He’s surrendered three touchdowns in 2021, including one last week against Carolina. Murphy-Bunting, who missed the Week 6 game, will have to use his size to jam Smith at the line of scrimmage when he’s lined up in the slot. If the Eagles coaches are smart, they’ll try to match up Smith with Murphy-Bunting as much as possible, as Jamel Dean and Carlton Davis III are playing better right now. ADVANTAGE: Smith
Tampa Bay OLB Shaq Barrett vs. Philadelphia RT Lane Johnson
Bucs OLB Shaquil Barrett and Eagles QB Jalen Hurts – Photo by: USA Today
Johnson, a three-time Pro Bowler, is one of Philadelphia’s best offensive players. He didn’t play in Week 6 game and was sorely missed. At 6-foot-6, 325 pounds with great mobility, Johnson has the length and athleticism to keep Barrett at bay in pass protection. Where he could really help the Eagles and hurt the Bucs is in the run game as he’s one of the better run-blocking right tackles in the league.
Barrett took advantage of Johnson’s absence in Week 6 to lead the Bucs in tackles with five, in addition to a sack of Jalen Hurts. The Pro Bowl pass rusher put a good deal of pressure on Hurts in Week 6 and he’ll need a similar type of performance in the playoffs for the Bucs defense to keep the mobile QB in check. Barrett has missed the last two-and-a-half weeks due to a knee injury, so it will be interesting to see how much speed and agility he has to work with in his return to action. ADVANTAGE: Push
FAB 5. SR’s Buc Shots
• BUCS PLAYED A BIG ROLE IN BLACK MONDAY: There were a total of five NFL head coaches that got fired on Monday (and Tueday) with the dismissal of Chicago’s Matt Nagy, Denver’s Vic Fangio, Miami’s Brian Flores, Minnesota’s Mike Zimmer and New York’s Joe Judge. Over the last two years, Tampa Bay beat every one of those teams, and those losses played a small role in their departures. The Bucs lost to the Bears last year, but beat Chicago this season. Tampa Bay had wins against Denver and Minnesota last year, and beat the Giants in back-to-back years in New York and at Raymond James Stadium. The Bucs also beat the Dolphins this season.
• GRONK’S REACTION TO GETTING HIS $1 MILLION BONUS: If you haven’t seen Rob Gronkowski’s reaction to getting his $1 million bonus in Sunday’s 41-17 win against the Panthers, check out this video from NFL Films. Gronkowski needed a couple of catches and a few yards to get a pair of $500,000 incentive bonuses on Sunday.
"If I don’t get the seventh catch, I have to go get a real job." 😂
• BALDY’S BREAKDOWNS FEATURES WIRFS’ BRILLIANCE: FOX NFL analyst Brian Baldinger has a great video breakdown of Bucs Pro Bowl right tackle Tristan Wirfs’ dominant performance against Panthers’ leading sacker, Haason Reddick from last week’s 41-17 win.
• BUCS-EAGLES PLAYOFF PREVIEW ON THE PEWTER REPORT PODCAST: The Pewter Report Podcast is energized by CELSIUS and broadcasts four live episodes each week. The Pewter Pregame show for the Bucs vs. Eagles game starts at noon ET prior to the 1:00 p.m. ET kickoff with Pewter GameDay. The Pewter Postgame podcast follows later Sunday night. Then we’ll have Pewter Report Podcasts on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday at 4:00 pm EST previewing the Bucs’ next playoff game if they advance.
It was another Victory Monday as Jon Ledyard and Scott Reynolds broke down the win over the Panthers and looked ahead to the Eagles.
On Wednesday, Ledyard and Reynolds previewed the Bucs vs. Eagles playoff game with special guest Ben Solak.
On Thursday, Ledyard, Paul Atwal and special guest Mark Schofield looked at how the Bucs offense needs to evolve to be successful in the playoffs.
Watch the Pewter Report Podcasts live on our PewterReportTV channel on YouTube.com and please subscribe (it’s free) and add your comments. All Pewter Report Podcasts are archived so you can watch the recorded episodes if you missed them live.
There is no better time to listen to or watch a new Pewter Report Podcast – energized by CELSIUS – than Friday afternoon on the way home from work. Or early Saturday morning during your workout or while running errands.
• AS GOODY AS IT GETS: If you haven’t hadn’t the chance to see Bucs assistant head coach and run game coordinator Harold Goodwin speak to the media, check out this press conference from last year on Zoom. It features questions from the late great Mark Cook at the 4:20 mark, followed by Pewter Report’s Jon Ledyard to close out the interview.
Scott Reynolds is in his 25th year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds spent six years giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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