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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. Time For McCoy To Step Up Or Step Aside

Let’s get a few things straight before we tackle this topic.

Buccaneers defensive tackle Gerald McCoy is one of the elite players in the NFL and has been for a long time. He’s a six-time Pro Bowler for a reason. McCoy is currently the most decorated player in Tampa Bay and he’s a future Bucs Ring of Honor inductee.

McCoy deserves to be a team captain for his accomplishments and his lead-by-example style. I have a great deal of respect for him professionally and personally. McCoy is a great community servant and role model. He represents the Buccaneers with class. McCoy deserves to be a leader in Tampa Bay, and no, the team shouldn’t trade him this offseason or anytime soon.

Now here comes the tough love.

I don’t think McCoy should be the front-and-center leader anymore in Tampa Bay, yet that’s the role he’s taken on by default through the years by being the best player on the Bucs defense. I don’t even think that’s a role he initially sought out earlier in his career. It’s just that he was a first-round pick and the best player on a sub-par Bucs defense very early on, so everyone looked to him.

The reason I say this is because McCoy is entering his ninth year in Tampa Bay and his team has yet to make the playoffs. Something about this team’s leadership has to change, and the status quo that’s been going on for years has not improved despite adding more talent to the roster, especially last offseason. Coming off a 9-7 campaign in 2016, a 5-11 season last year should not have happened in Tampa Bay.

Other than being a great lead-by-example guy, I don’t think McCoy has been good enough as a leader for this team from a vocal standpoint and a control standpoint. Remember that being a lead-by-example guy only works if enough people are watching you lead by example. There have been enough bad apples and sub-par players over the years in Tampa Bay that I’m sure not as many have been paying attention to McCoy doing things the right way as this franchise would have liked.

To be fair, McCoy hasn’t been responsible for acquiring players, game plans or doing anything outside of rushing the passer and stopping the run as a three-technique defensive tackle. So in no way is he solely responsible for Tampa Bay making the postseason, nor is he the reason the team hasn’t made the playoffs since he became a Buccaneer in 2010.

But has McCoy done enough to elevate his play to become enough of a difference-maker on defense? That’s debatable, and it was just a year ago that he said he got a wake-up call at the Pro Bowl about needing to be more effective in the fourth quarter as a pass rusher. The fact that McCoy notched just six sacks last year, and that his sacks have declined in each of the last three seasons is a bit worrisome as he turns 30 later this month.

 

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

Perhaps more importantly, has McCoy elevated the level of play of those around him? That’s what great leaders do. I can’t say he’s done that outside of linebackers Lavonte David and Kwon Alexander, and I’m not sure how much of their development into becoming Pro Bowlers I can specifically attribute to McCoy.

Back in the day, you saw Hall of Fame defensive tackle Warren Sapp’s presence help elevate Chidi Ahanotu’s sack total to 10 in 1997, and Brad Culpper’s sack total to a team-leading nine the next season, and Marcus Jones’ sack total to 13 in 2000. Has McCoy had that type of affect on any other defensive lineman in Tampa Bay? In defense of McCoy, I’m not sure he was always been surrounded by the talent and work ethic that was possessed by guys like Culpepper and Ahanotu.

McCoy should be lauded for the extra time he spends working with young ends and tackles after practice. Yet for whatever reason, the results have not always shown up on Sundays with those players.

So what I’m suggesting is McCoy do one of two things – radically change his leadership style or step aside and turn the defense over to Alexander, who seems ready to take on more of a leadership role entering his fourth season with Pro Bowl credentials. Alexander is more of a gritty bad ass, and his brand of vocal leadership and fiery demeanor is more reminiscent of that of Nickerson and Sapp than McCoy’s style is.

I’ve done a good deal of research on leadership, and when it comes to the topic there is a fine line between going outside your comfort zone and being true to yourself without being phony. Some people are comfortable going outside of themselves, or are at least open to trying it. Other people try it, and it doesn’t work as nobody buys it because they come across as phony.

McCoy is a classy, tough, goofy, friendly guy in addition to being an elite football player. He’s caught some grief from fans for not being angry or mean (i.e. not being Sapp) and for helping opponents up after plays and for smiling and shaking hands with them after games – otherwise known as sportsmanship. But what I don’t know – because I’m not in the locker room more than an hour or two each week nor am I on the practice field – is if McCoy is willing to speak out and get in a guy’s face, ruffle some feathers, step on some toes to hold someone accountable.

This is an assumption I’m making based on the results I’ve seen in the Bucs’ record and Tampa Bay’s stagnant defensive rankings since his arrival in 2010, as well as his own recent statements in an interview on 620 WDAE about the team’s shortcomings during the 2017 season.

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

“Whether it was preparation. How guys prepared. How guys played,” McCoy said on WDAE via the Tampa Bay Times. “We just shot ourselves in the foot a lot with penalties and mental errors. And then there were times where we just got beat as a team. The team was just better than us. That comes from experience. Guys have to band together. We’ve got to come together as a team and unit and get on the same page. We weren’t always on the same page.

“I think myself and Lavonte, we take a lot of blame for that. Not doing enough in the room or at practice. If this thing is going to change, we need to take this thing over and make sure it changes.”

If McCoy is indeed going to “take this thing over” that would be welcomed news, but is he going to make the necessary changes within his personality so that the necessary changes in the team’s record actually show up? Sometimes leadership can be messy and confrontational. Is McCoy willing to get in a guy’s face and say, ‘That’s not the way we do things around here. Knock that shit off. It’s time to get focused and get serious.”

McCoy, who is a bit of an attention seeker and a people pleaser, likes to be liked. He has shown instances in the media and on social media where he can be a little thin-skinned. Leaders can’t be afraid of not being liked – it’s only about being respected. There were plenty of former Bucs players that truly didn’t like Sapp and his style of leadership, but he had the entire team’s respect.

As Times columnist Tom Jones pointed out on a recent podcast with Bucs beat writer Rick Stroud, we hear the same thing from McCoy every year it seems after a disappointing season. He needs to do this better. The team needs to do that better.

“Gerald McCoy is one of the veteran guys on this team, and again, I know it feels like I’m picking on him, but it just feels like every year I get a speech from Gerald about ‘How we’re going to do things differently this year or how I’m learning this this year,” Jones said. “Man, you’ve been in the league eight or nine years now.”

I feel the exact same way Jones does, and it is becoming clear to me that McCoy knows how to lead to a certain extent, but he’s not a good enough leader to lead Tampa Bay out of the abyss or he would have done it by now. One thing that being on the Bucs beat for over two decades has afforded me is the opportunity to see what real, effective leadership looks like in Tampa Bay. I’ve seen it.

I’ve seen Hardy Nickerson not put up with any nonsense, heard that he literally kicked Keith McCants’ ass and told the Bucs that he was the new sheriff in town.

Bucs CB Ronde Barber - Photo by: Getty Images
Bucs CB Ronde Barber – Photo by: Getty Images

I’ve seen Sapp rule the locker room and the huddle with an iron fist, and demand greatness – and intimidate anyone that didn’t follow his lead.

I’ve seen Derrick Brooks’ brow turn into a frown and give the most disapproving glares to players that weren’t doing what they were supposed to. Brooks was so well respected that’s all it took – a look – and that’s why he was called the Godfather at One Buccaneer Place.

I’ve seen Ronde Barber come out of the shower with only a towel wrapped around him in the middle of open locker room and get between Aqib Talib and Stroud during a heated argument to break it up and kick all the media out while the former Bucs public relations staff was caught flatfooted and did nothing.

McCoy’s style of leadership just doesn’t measure up. At least it hasn’t yet.

So the challenge for McCoy is to do something different and go outside of his comfort zone – or step aside – because what he’s been doing hasn’t worked well enough to help drive this team to the playoffs. Doing something means not letting Chris Baker get away with being lazy early in training camp and setting that tone. Waiting until Baker jumps offsides on fourth down for a costly penalty in the waning moments of a Week 16 loss at Carolina isn’t being accountable.

That’s being late on leadership.

And besides, it didn’t seem like it was McCoy who was getting in Baker’s face in the locker room after the game for Baker’s smiling and lackadaisical attitude right after a crushing loss on Christmas Eve. That would have been Alexander who did that, along with Jameis Winston and apparently David from what was overheard on the Bucs Radio Network minutes after the loss to the Panthers. It’s hard to know for sure because the players didn’t want to talk about it to the media.

Bucs DTs Chris Baker and Gerald McCoy - Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Bucs DTs Chris Baker and Gerald McCoy – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

Perhaps McCoy needs to be less goofy and be more serious as he enters his ninth year in Tampa Bay? Hard Knocks showed McCoy to be the class clown at One Buccaneer Place. The truth is that the class clown rarely gets voted as the homecoming king or the student body president for a reason.

I’m not saying that McCoy and the Bucs shouldn’t have fun. It’s a long season and football is, after all, a game. It’s meant to be fun, and sometimes the mood needs to be lightened up.

But the best kind of fun comes after a hard-fought victory. Any little gags or cut-ups in the cafeteria, locker room, training room, meeting room or out on the practice field pales in comparison.

And losing sucks.

“The coaches would be giving us the scheme and we would run the scheme, but if you if you’re supposed to be in the B gap, be in the B gap,” McCoy said in his 620 WDAE interview via The Times. “If you’re supposed to set the edge, set the edge. If we’re in man, be in man. If you’re supposed to drop to a certain spot, then drop to that spot.

“It wasn’t that guys were being rebellious. I’m not saying that. But we’ve got to be more in tune as a unit and just more professional. But that just comes with time.”

That’s a bunch of bull.

Time?

McCoy is entering his ninth season with the Bucs and he’s seen three head coaches get fired, and Dirk Koetter will open the 2018 season on the hot seat and could be No. 4 on McCoy’s watch if this team doesn’t make the playoffs next year or show dramatic improvement. McCoy is running out of time with maybe two or three years left in red and pewter. In fact, by not standing up and demanding the players be more professional or more accountable in years past he has, in fact, wasted time and been derelict in his duties as a team leader.

“I talked to Sapp and Brooks and one thing they did, they did it,” McCoy said on WDAE via The Times. “They took it over. We’ve got to do a better job of taking it over. A lot of what I’m saying is it’s my fault things didn’t go the way they were supposed to go. But we’re going to face that.”

Bucs DT Warren Sapp and Tampa Bay's 2002 defense - Photo by: Getty Images
Bucs DT Warren Sapp and Tampa Bay’s 2002 defense – Photo by: Getty Images

Time’s up, Gerald.

No more speeches. It’s time for some action. If McCoy doesn’t develop a zero tolerance for the B.S. things holding the franchise back from the postseason then it’s time for him to step aside.

McCoy can still wear the “C” on his chest as one of the best players on the Buccaneers and one of the lead-by-example guys like Barber used to do. But Barber was always clear – he didn’t want to be a vocal leader. He always felt more comfortable as a lead-by-example guy and as a lieutenant to Brooks and Sapp rather than being one of the generals himself.

And that’s okay. If McCoy wants to bow out of the front-and-center vocal leadership role and follow Barber’s approach, there’s no harm or disgrace in that. Just let Alexander take over.

But if McCoy truly intends on taking over the Bucs in 2018, holding this team more accountable, and getting them into the playoffs, then by God, just do it and do it right.

And stop talking about it.

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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: [email protected]
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CrackerBall

The tough thing about being a vocal leader is having the gravitas to influence – otherwise Riley Bullough would be the leader of this team. McCoy will never be the vocal guy we want him to be. In the old days, we had Warren Sapp, Derrick Brooks and John Lynch – all vocal with the peaches to back it up. People respected them because they could bring it as well as preach it.

Ah… the good old days.

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FLBoy84

Definitely hit the nail on the head with GMC section Scott. He came out with another “I’m not good enough, thanks for the push, I hear you” tweet regarding not getting a single All-Pro vote last month. Believe Sapp would’ve been more like “F%$k you” instead of “thanks for the push”, which I believe more players respond too. That whole “do your job” and “us vs the world” mentality resonates more with players imo than the “come on guys, we can do better”. LIke Kwon, but just don’t see him as being that guy yet that can lead the entire… Read more »

Cody

Who gets the better end of the deal if the Bucs trade their 7th pick for both of the Bills first rounders this year? I know they need a QB and we need to fill some holes so I feel like this may be a good trade. What do you think?

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FLBoy84

Think you’re spot-on Cody. Would be down for that, as the value is comparable, though it would obviously depend on who’s there at #7 right? Lot’s of mocks out there have the top QB’s gone by #7 so, if the run on QB’s start early, Buffalo is probably calling Cleveland at #4. If we did make the move, good chance a G/C like Wynn or Price and a DL like Bryan or Hurst are there as well.

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Cody

Yeah if Chubb somehow falls to us then I’d stay and take him at 7. But if we get those two first rounders from Buffalo then we could definitely get Hurst and maybe Josh Jackson as well or Harold Landry. I’d also be totally okay with taking Davenport at that point as well.

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TBChucky

I agree on GMC and Fitzpatrick. He’s my least favorite blue chipper, for the Bucs anyway. Not saying that he’s not a good player. I think they’d probably prefer a true CB like Jackson from Iowa, or the kid from Ohio State. I’m hoping you’re right, and they fill that need through free agency. Focus on the lines and RB in the draft please.

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BucFanInNC

Everyone clamoring for Baker & Ayers to be cut but what about Gholston? Dude was trash too.

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athans5

I don’t understand why everyone is so hot on Fitzpatrick. I personally think that Derwin James is the better player of the two. I’m actually a Florida fan so I’m not a homer, I just think that guy has the abilities to be special. In my opinion, him, Nelson, and Barkley should be our top prospects at 7. Why does no one talk about Derwin? After the combine I guarantee he will be a top 10 pick in mock drafts. If you don’t believe me please refer to this http://www.nfl.com/news/story/0ap3000000844755/article/derwin-james-scouts-see-future-nfl-star-in-freakish-fsu-safety Rate this item:Thumb UpThumb DownSubmit Rating00 No votes yet. Please… Read more »

macabee

Thought of you my friend when I saw this. Enjoy!

https://www.cbssports.com/nfl/draft/news/2018-nfl-mock-draft-both-new-york-teams-get-qbs-49ers-give-jimmy-g-a-running-mate/

Oh, btw, PFF has the same idea. Good luck on your picks. Go Bucs!

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surferdudes

McCoy isn’t going to change as a leader, and he’ll never give up the C on his chest because he’s a media whore. It’s obvious his goal now is to make more pro bowls, and go on to a career at ESPN, or NFL Net when he retires. Eight years going on nine we hear the same song, and dance from McCoy, time to realize it’s all talk. If the Bucs don’t move on from Gerry then they better draft Vita Vea instead of a safety. Put a top ten D line talent next to McCoy to finally shut up… Read more »

Tampa 2.2

I totally disagrees with your FAB 2. The great number of NFL executive of the year award having, HOFer William Patrick “Bill” Polian Jr. once said, “If you are drafting in the top 10 you must select a player who scores TDs, protect the passer blind side, sack QBs, take the ball away or score TDs.” In other words the only positions you should draft in the top ten are LT, QB, DE, RB, or WR. Offensive Guard Quenton Nelson or Defensive Tackle Vita Vea doesn’t fits Bill criteria to be selected with the Bucs 7th pick. Let’s take a… Read more »

JustaBuc

The amount of criticism McCoy receives for absolutely nothing is frankly f*cking pathetic. You’d think the guy played every position on the football team. Dude’s done nothing but ball at an elite level for us, half the time injured and with no help, and the fanbase thinks he’s the problem. Lmao. People write about leadership like its some possession that McCoy can just dig out of his locker and hand to some louder rah-rah man since everybody should aspire to the masculine fantasy that being a hard ass is the de-facto best and only valid leadership style. Christ, let’s go… Read more »

Bucsfan1983

Seriously Scott?

The Bucs should absolutely not pass on Fitz, if the opportunity is there. There are 4 players they should be looking at #7, Chubb, Fitz, Barkley and James. If all four are gone, then look to trade down for Nelson, Davenport, Vea or whoever.

I don’t think all 4 will be gone by 7, at least 3-4 QBs will be going before 7.

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stlbucsfan

It makes no sense that we are still having articles written about GMC not being a vocal leader. Tony Dungy didn’t lead the same as Gruden but they both have the same amount of rings. Writing articles that even suggest that GMC is the problem is asinine. The problem with this defense is the guy who surrounded GMC with “top notch” talent like William Gholston, Robert Ayers, Chris Baker, Michael Johnson, Stevie T, George Johnson and I could go on but you get the point. GMC doesn’t need to be Warren Sapp to win in the NFL, plenty of players… Read more »

RootsCrew

Unfortunately, the Fab 3 likely won’t happen. Koetter is a dinosaur in terms of how he views football. Despite the overwhelming evidence that his defense couldn’t hold leads/or consistently hold the other teams offense, he still punted or called plays “not to lose” instead of going for the win. That’s just who he is. He thinks it’s still 2008. The lack of using the QB sneak has driven me mad since 2015. He’d rather go 5 wide on 3rd and 1 than use the sneak with Jameis. In regards to the Fab 2, I’m not against drafting Minkah dependent on… Read more »

RootsCrew

And you really can’t compare teams when evaluating if McCoy elevated his teammates play. The talent is night and day different. 1997: Sapp’s 3rd year Hardy, Brooks (HOF), Lynch (HOF worthy), Donnie, Culpepper, Upshaw 1998: Sapp’s 4th year Hardy, Brooks, Lynch, Donnie, Culpepper, Upshaw, Ronde (HOF worthy) 2000: Sapp’s 6th year Booger, Brooks, Lynch, Donnie, Ronde, Quarles, Robinson Contrast the supporting casts 2012: GMC’s 3rd year LVD, 37 year old Ronde, Barron, Bennett, Foster, Ahmad, Miller 2013: GMC’s 4th year LVD, Barron, Foster, Dashon, Clayborn, Revis, Banks, Akeem 2015: GMC’s 6th year LVD, Kwon, Conte, Gholston, Jacquies, Lansanah, McDougald, Moore,… Read more »

Ken - Kfromfla

Great players make plays when it counts. Great defensive players create stops on critical drives. Great player make plays. Ask Brandon Graham about his strip-sack, or Julian Edelman about his ridiculous diving catch in SB – 51, or Von Miller about his sack on Cam, or Malcom Butler about his Int. Great players make plays in when it counts. Now, name that play for McCoy in 8 seasons? Maybe the hurry on Ryan in 2016? I can’t think of another out of 109 games and a $100 Million dollar investment. Please name another. I’ll wait. Rate this item:Thumb UpThumb DownSubmit… Read more »

Ken - Kfromfla

I hate the subject of leadership on the defensive side of the ball because when I try to explain my issue with it, I get accused of McCoy bashing, when that is never what I set out to do. Gerald McCoy is one of the best DT in the game, but his position as team leader dramatically reduces his possible contributions. Let me explain. Football is a man’s man sport, alpha male trying to take the heads off of other alpha males, especially on the defensive side of the ball. Yet, the bucs are soft on defense, there is just… Read more »

owlykat

Enjoyed your entire article. McCoy needs to up his leadership by example and pass the Captainship to the caller of the Defense who has the fire to do it. Licht’s failure to build from the trenches forward is the real problem! Koetter used to call QB sneaks when Jameis had the weight to pull it off but he should have never let Jameis lose his weight which led to his injury and increased fumbles. Koetter’s pampered practices does not prepare his teams to be strong enough to dominate. He needs to visit the Gator practices going on right now and… Read more »

martinii

Fab 1 regarding Mc Coy and his leadership strategy absolutely makes me sick to my stomach. This site is beginning to remind me of another Hater site which I have all but stopped visiting. For all you experts on leadership the most basic form is by example. No he doesn’t have the fire and brimstone, no he’s not the animated spokes person or maybe he doesn’t have the Warren Sapp bravado, but every time he steps on that field opposing coaches and players are game planning for him with double teams. So go ahead trade hime, cut him, ridicule him… Read more »

SaskBucs

Fab 1- Agree. I never bash McCoy’s play but I have been in a locker room my whole life and if you can’t confront teammates or even the coach in a proper manner, you aren’t leading properly. Fab 2- Admittedly, I don’t understand the talents and projections of these college ballers as I don’t usually watch but I tend to agree with what you said and I am firmly in the camp of drafting for the trenches. Fab 3- Agree, but only if Koetter can stop telegraphing plays and targets. Get creative, sneak Winston, fake an end around to DJax… Read more »

Garv

It never ceases to amaze me how much crap Gerald McCoy takes from some fans. And of course the media inflames it for even more attention. He is himself, will always BE himself and that is an NFL Pro Bowl DT year after year after year. I do agree that Kwon and Jameis are the leaders now and that’s fine. I love their passion and drive to win the damn games. In fact their drive to win the damn games is, ironically, the very thing some fans were bitching about when they led the team to the final win against… Read more »

Alldaway 2.0

Fix the lines.

Passing superior safety talent in the 2018 draft isn’t a good idea but the Bucs don’t have that luxury with their o-line/d-line.

Fix the lines.

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scubog

I’m a little late reading the Fab 5 this week, but I’ll offer my take on the on going GMC debate. There are lots of ways to lead and certainly being one of the players to demonstrate how it’s done is one of them. It sure would be difficult to get folks to follow your lead when you don’t do things properly or take the easy way out yourself. Gerald and the great Lee Roy Selmon are great examples. But unlike #63, #93 rarely takes over a game or comes through when needed most like Selmon, Sapp, Brooks or my… Read more »

plopes808

GMC’s leadership style is just fine. We already have Kwon bringing the fire on defense so having 2 of the same leadership style is a waste. Not to mention the fact that the “in your face” style is obviously not GMC at all. I hope we don’t reach on Fitzpatrick when clearly our most sure-fire hit would be to draft Nelson and put him next to Ali. Those 2 would bust gaping holes through D-lines and allow our backs to gallop through them. If we can land Michel in the 2nd round, our 2 picks would compliment each other very… Read more »

jp414

Spend a first round, seventh overall pick on a G? Who does that? The last time anybody spent a pick that high on an OG was AZ taking Jonathan Cooper at pick #7 in 2013. How’d that work out for them? SF drafted Mike Iupati at pick 17 in 2010. Other than those two, no guards have been taken any higher than 23rd by any team for the last 15 years! This team needs a pass rush. And, CB help. And, a RB. And, maybe a LT & C. All of those – before OG. Rate this item:Thumb UpThumb DownSubmit… Read more »

Dan.B

Yes i totally agree that we should pass on Fitzpatrick with the 7th pick and go for either Vea or Nelson. both are mammoths that move extremely well and will be contributing players for a long time. I also think we should double up on big men with our 2nd round pick of the draft as well. if we take nelson, maybe the Florida DT taven bryan will be there in the early 2nd, or if we take Vea at 7, why not go for a solid OLinemen with our 2nd pick. the game is won and lost in the… Read more »