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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. Bucs Need Coaches That Can Make Better In-Game Adjustments

I’ve learned a lot in my two decades of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the NFL, but one lesson of the game has stood out to me more recently. That’s the ability to make adjustments – quickly.

That’s something the 4-8 Bucs just don’t do on either side of the ball on Dirk Koetter’s staff, and that is plaguing the team this season.

I’ve learned that the best coaches are the ones who make the fastest in-game adjustments. In my opinion, that may be the most important game-day coaching aspect at any level.

It’s not scheme. Given time to study film, schemes can be thwarted.

It’s not necessarily motivational ability. Good pep talks only go so far, and don’t help when a team is trailing by 20 points or when a losing year is inevitable halfway through the season. Former Jacksonville head coach Gus Bradley was full of inspiration and motivation and was liked by everyone. Yet his Jaguars were routinely outfoxed and outplayed during his four-year tenure.

Figuring out what an opposing team is doing offensively and defensively and making the necessary adjustments is what separates bad coaches from good coaches and good coaches from great coaches. That’s true at every level of football.

Making adjustments is defined as the ability of how quickly a coach and a staff can figure out: 1. What the opponent is doing AND 2. Successfully anticipate what the opponent will do next.

Staying one step ahead and not falling behind your opponent – and not just on the scoreboard, but also in the flow of the game as it relates to the clock – is the most critical part of successful coaching. That’s why New England’s Bill Belichick and his staff are the best in the business. Belichick and the Patriots coaches are the best prepared and they make the best in-game adjustments.

Defensively, it starts with taking away what the opposing offense wants to do the most. The Patriots are like a chameleon on defense, changing each week to blunt the opponent’s best weapon. New England has the personnel to run a 3-4 or a 4-3 defense either week-to-week or play-to-play.

Belichick knows you want to “zig,” so he’s going to make you “zag,” and he and his staff have already anticipated your zag and they already know how to stop it, too.

“The only sign we have in the locker room is from ‘The Art of War.’ Every battle is won before it is fought,’” Belichick told CNBC’s Suzy Welch.

Some NFL teams have an identity on offense and say, “This is what we do. Try to stop it.”

That’s not what New England does. Offensively, the Patriots look for weaknesses in defenses and mismatches to exploit.

Some weeks the game plan is to take shots downfield, while other weeks it is to feature short passes and screens. New England will run the ball 35 times and feature the ground game one week and then just ignore it and have less than 20 the next week – all based on the match-ups.

“You [have to] know what the opponents can do, what their strengths and weaknesses are … [and] what to do in every situation,” Belichick told Welch. “Then once you get into the game the adjustments will be – I don’t want to say it’s easy, but relatively easier and more manageable.”

The Patriots don’t have the most complicated and sophisticated schemes. Sometimes their game plans end up being downright simple. Belichick has been called a “mastermind” and a “genius,” but it’s not because he always outsmarts the competition. Sometimes it’s because he knows less is best.

For Belichick there reaches a moment when the pre-game preparation is enough, though.

“When everybody knows what to do because our game is so fast and everything happens so fast and so quickly,” Belichick said. “So you review the situation and you review the communication and you want to make sure everybody is on the same page.

“We try to make sure everyone’s on the same page. If it’s too complicated it’s probably not going to work. If it’s too simple that might not work either because it’s too obvious. So we try to find that fine line in the middle where it’s challenging enough for your opponents but it’s something you can execute because it all comes down to execution.”

Other coaches are good at making in-game adjustments. Seattle’s Pete Carroll, New Orleans’ Sean Payton, Carolina’s Ron Rivera, Arizona’s Bruce Arians, Green Bay’s Mike McCarthy and Pittsburgh’s Mike Tomlin are among the better ones. That’s why those coaches have been in Super Bowls and have their teams in the playoffs more years than not. But they don’t hold a candle to Belichick and his staff.

Making in-game adjustments is what separates the Patriots from the rest of the league. It’s so important that in a pre-game meeting with his staff before the team’s Super Bowl victory against Seattle Belichick told his staff: “This game is no different than any other one. It’s a 60-minute football game, and whatever issues we have, let’s make sure we correct them, coach them, and fix them. That’s our job.”

Patriots QB Tom Brady, OC Josh McDaniels & HC Bill Belichick - Photo by: Getty Images
Patriots QB Tom Brady, OC Josh McDaniels & HC Bill Belichick – Photo by: Getty Images

New England offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels wrote down seven words in blue sharpie on his play sheet before Super Bowl 49: “Adjust” “Correct problems and get them fixed.”

The Patriots beat the Seahawks with a fourth quarter rally on offense and on a defensive stand in the game’s final seconds when rookie cornerback Malcolm Butler recognized Seattle’s pick play at the goal line and stepped in front of Ricardo Lockette and came up with a heroic interception.

Because of his NFL-record five Super Bowl championships in New England, Belichick is regarded as the greatest coach of all time. Yet all five of those championships have come in very close games where making in-game adjustments have been critical.

Bill Belichick’s New England Super Bowl Appearances
Super Bowl 36: Patriots 20, Rams 17 – WIN
Super Bowl 38: Patriots 32, Panthers 29 – WIN
Super Bowl 39: Patriots 24, Eagles 21 – WIN
Super Bowl 42: Giants 17, Patriots 14 – LOSS
Super Bowl 46: Giants 21, Patriots 17 – LOSS
Super Bowl 49: Patriots 28, Seahawks 24 – WIN
Super Bowl 51: Patriots 34, Falcons 28 (OT) – WIN

“Game management, game decisions, adjustments, and seeing things during the game – it’s all important” is one of Bill Belichick’s famous quotes.

I don’t know about you but it seems like Bucs head coach Dirk Koetter and defensive coordinator Mike Smith have trouble seeing things during the game, adjusting, correcting problems and getting them fixed.

Having a great game plan heading into a game is one thing. But it’s the ability to make the in-game adjustments and properly manage the game that allows teams to win consistently.

“I think General [Dwight D.] Eisenhower put it pretty well, a battle plan is great until you actually get into the battle,” Belichick told Welch. “Then it doesn’t mean anything. That’s the way it is in football. You have a game plan and you go into the game and then you see what your opponent is doing or they make an adjustment to what you’re doing and then you have to change. So my job as a coach is to make good decisions. It’s not to block or tackle, thank God. That wouldn’t be very good. It’s to take information, calculate it, put it through some kind of process and figure out the next thing to do. That happens after the first play of the game.”

Bucs defensive coordinator Mike Smith - Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Bucs defensive coordinator Mike Smith – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

Not only have the Bucs been out-played this year, but they’ve also been out-coached. Take the Bucs’ 34-20 loss at Atlanta three weeks ago. Koetter said Tampa Bay “tried 14 different coverages” against superstar wide receiver Julio Jones and “none of them worked.”

Jones, whom Koetter and Smith had intimate knowledge of having coached in Atlanta, had a season-high 12 catches for 253 yards and two touchdowns. The Bucs apparently tried to make some in-game adjustments as Jones was going off, but they made the wrong ones.

The obvious adjustment would have been to put top cornerback Brent Grimes on Jones one-on-one or to double cover him. Jones was rarely double-teamed and mostly faced off against second-year cornerback Ryan Smith.

During his Wednesday press conference the following week, Smith tried to sell the notion that the Bucs couldn’t put Grimes on Jones because they “didn’t know where he was going to line up.”

“We felt like they were going to move him around into different places. He wasn’t always at the same spot. You could possibly do that in man coverage, but you can’t do that in zone coverages because your corners always lineup outside on number one. That is a theory that works very, very well when you know where the guy is going to line up and where he is going to be. For the most part he was lined up at number one, but they did move him around in terms of where his alignments were. They would hide it by motion as well.”

I’m going to call B.S. on that one.

Smith wanted his defense to play zone, quarters specifically, and the Bucs did that a good portion of the game and it totally backfired as Jones ate Tampa Bay’s secondary alive. Grimes was not used in man coverage against Jones, but Minnesota’s Xavier Rhodes was the next week in Minnesota’s 14-9 victory.

Rhodes held Jones to two catches for 24 yards and no touchdowns. Perhaps it’s because Jones was so tired from scoring all those touchdowns and getting all those yards the previous week against Tampa Bay. Maybe the fact that the Bucs defense was so bad wore Jones out.

Bucs head coach Dirk Koetter - Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Bucs head coach Dirk Koetter – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

With four games remaining I believe the Bucs have to win at least two of them in order for Koetter to have any chance of returning as head coach next year. Because of the unbelievably bad game plans on the defensive side of the ball, I don’t know what Smith can do outside of seeing his unit pitch four straight shutouts down the stretch to warrant a return to Tampa Bay next year.

The Bucs need a new coaching staff next year that has the experience, intelligence and aptitude to make much better in-game adjustments than what we’ve seen this year. Obviously Belichick is still under contract in New England and won’t be leaving anytime soon, but perhaps one of his two coordinators could help turn around the red and pewter in Tampa Bay next year. Whether it’s offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, defensive coordinator Matt Patricia or former Bucs head coach Jon Gruden, whoever the Glazers are considering needs to have coordinators that are intelligent and can think fast on their feet when it comes to in-game adjustments.

Because I have tunnel vision on the Buccaneers I don’t have a firm grasp on the up-and-coming coordinators and position coaches around the league fit that criteria. But then again, I’m not making the next hire in Tampa Bay. That’s on the Glazers. They’ll have to correctly identify those folks and make sure that whoever replaces Koetter has the knack for making quick, wise in-game adjustments.

It’s that important.

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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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GoldsonAges

Regardless of the teams issues this year I would keep koetter over McDaniels, Patricia, or Gruden. Gruden’s defense GAVE UP ON HIM during his last 5 years here. Do we not remember that awful stretch? McDaniels does not have the respect of the players. Did you see Brady ripping into him on the sidelines in the last game. And why is Patricia going to be a good coach? Simply because he is under a great coach? Rubbish. I am hoping the Glazers stay the course with Koetter and clean out the awful scouting department. If Peyton Manning is ready to… Read more »

devasher

Bill Parcells once said “You are what your record says you are.” And that’s true in most cases, except when you are Jason Licht and Pewter Report is covering you. In that case, you may be the GM of the best 4-8 team in professional football, although the 4-8 Houston Texans may disagree and have a better -13 pt differential to Tampa’s -45. The fact that Tampa just lost to a Brett Hundley led Packers team and Licht’s teams have won 35% of their games is really only secondary to the completely subjective “upgraded talent” department that Scott has made… Read more »

Ken Grant

The defense didn’t give up on Gruden. Things fell apart when everyone found out Monte was likely leaving.

Also, the scouting department is fine. You are still bitter than you were completely wrong on Josh Evans. Get over it.

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devasher

I’m sorry I don’t know who Josh Evans is… are you talking about Justin Evans? And what a great impact Justin Evans has made for the fortunes of this franchise! Why if Josh…I mean Justin Evans wasn’t here, the Bucs might not have beaten the New Englan….I mean, that pick against Green Bay was the difference in the ballgame…oh wait, you mean this team is 4-9 and headed for it’s 4th straight non-playoff season under Licht because his greatest moves in the past two years are drafting a safety, a strongside linebacker and a TE? You mean those positions don’t… Read more »

spartan

I know you said you are not advocating for Koetters firing Scott, but you certainly are writing like he is a dead man walking.

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JustaBuc

A-effiing-men brother. At this point, I’m not even mad anymore that PR is shilling for Koetter to get fired and Gruden to replace him because the PR’s interview of Gruden got 5 minutes in the national spotlight. We’re not stupid.

And yes, until there’s something actually solid, it’s just shilling.

Here’s the bottom line when it comes to managing a franchise:

Instant
Sustainable
Success

Pick two.

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Ja'crispy

my favorite thing Belicheck said in that video…”Good players cant overcome bad coaching. Its impossible.” So true.

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MudManVA

Nice fab 5 again. Grading the whole Licht should be given a contract extension. If you are the GM your are going to have hits & misses in regards to drafting & signing personnel. We can rehash all his hits & misses, but his wins are far greater than his misses. The roster has gotten better since he arrived. Any BUC fan not drinking the Kool-aide could see that the BUCS were 2-3 more drafts away (after last year) from being a “real” playoff team. Both lines need to be improved, and our young players need to grow up/mature. (I… Read more »

martinii

Good articles Scott, not exactly what I thought I would be reading at this point in the season. Definitely thought we would be discussing play-offs. let me say at this point as unpopular as it may seem, I am not ready for a coaching change. It has become a bi-annual ritual that over the last several years has produced little to no improvement in the number of Wins. In fact 2016 9-7 was a breath of fresh air and fed into the heightened expectations of 2017. I doubt if we could get a quality coach or coordinator with out reputation.… Read more »

matador

I’m not saying Gruden is the savior but if you still think he won with Dungy’s team you are clearly an idiot. Please please PLEASE recount for us position by position how you came to that conclusion. We’ve become a nation of idiots forming opinions based on feelings instead of facts. Do us the favor of making a fact based argument. Thanks in advance

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a-bomb

The premise here about coaches that adjust is spot on. There is little evidence to indicate that Smith and/or Koetter are capable of making these kind of adjustments. I do take some issue with the implication that Licht is somehow insulated because he has “improved the talent.” If you want to see how a “real” GM runs a team look no further than Steve Yzerman. Not only are the Lightning loaded with talent now, but they also have a very well stocked farm system. Yzerman and his staff just make decisions that always seem to work out- I don’t think… Read more »

DonkeyHunter

I’m glad how SR claims to not have an agenda, and then proceeds to report about how he spoke with players in the locker room about their feelings and thoughts on Gruden.

Koetter and Licht should’ve kicked his ass out of there on the spot.

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Naplesfan

Good fab 5, Scott. In game coaching is an absolute must, and does separate the bad from the good from the great. But good in game coaching, including adjustments, is also a product of preparation and contingency planning, as Bill Belichick explains from his quotes. If you haven’t already thought out not only Plan A but also Plan B and Plan C and Plan D in advance, then you just become clueless on the field, just pulling out of your hindquarters whatever comes to mind (like Coach Smith’s incredible 14 different defenses for JJ!!!). Definitely both McDaniels and Patricia ought… Read more »

matador

It has been Bust Central under Licht. He must go. If the Glazer boys keep him it will just prove they’re clueless. How many of his picks have been unqualified successes? Very few is the objective answer. Feel free to list them out to prove me wrong, I’m open to information based arguments.

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reymatos

I fully agreed with you that matador…Jason Light and Mike smith need to GO..!!! …I’m starting the fan push for Derrick Brooks to become our next GM…It’s time…he’s done a great job as the Storm GM and free agents will come here to play and not steal the Bucs money because we over pay for them such as (Lazy Chris Baker). They know a DB a (Hall-of-farmer) is watching…!! Koetter should get another year unless Derrick thinks otherwise..!! Mike Smith should be the first one out the door..!! He system doesn’t work…!! Rate this item:Thumb UpThumb DownSubmit Rating00 No votes… Read more »

drdneast

So we are going to fire Koetter because the Mike Smith defense has been rancid pretty much all year. Scott, you make abut as much sense as some of the people who post out here. Also, weren’t you one of the people who were relieved last year when Smith wasn’t hired away.an OL Where was your foresight last year. Give me a break. I’m all for firing Smith, but the core reason for this defenses ineptness is because our defensive line is old, slow and over the hill. When I was calling for a defensive lineman in last year, you… Read more »

Buc 1976

The D line is old. I have wondered how far VH3 Would have fallen if the Bucs had taken Rankins instead. As for Spence undersized for a Dlineman. As for our GM the best draft was when Jon Robinson was here pluses we had 1st or 2nd pick every RD. The FA signings are bad except for Grimes and he kind of fell in our laps.

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surferdudes

Well drd, if you’re going to blame Smith’s defense, shouldn’t you blame the man who wanted to hire him? That would be Koetter. Scott you say Licht signed Martin, and others for fear of seeing them move on, having success, and being criticized for not resigning them. Belichick does not have that fear, part of the reason for his success. He’s let popular players walk, traded others considered by some vital, yet he keeps winning with what he has. Credit has been given for resigning McCoy, and David. I saw David miss a tackle that would’ve prevented that T.D. Sunday,… Read more »

Horse

Good Article Scott; I just don’t have a clue what we should do after this season is over. The things you have pointed out with the Patriots ares valid. After the season is over I hope the Glazers give Licht and Koetter a pass for one more year if they are willing to make some changes and one of them is to let Mike Smith go and Koetter gives up play calling and be just the Head Coach. I’m not a Gruden fan because I felt part of Gruden problems with the past Bucs as Head Coach and player caller… Read more »

e

So, for how many years has PR talked up the new coach in the first year and then proceeded to tear him down the next? I don’t believe that any coach is going to be successful with the franchise under such immense pressure. Ron Riviera won 6 games his first year and then 7 the next? Would he have survived the PR assault? Belichick went 6, 7 & 7 wins his first three years in Cleveland… then, 5 wins in NE before he latched on to Brady. Tomlin did have success, but with an established team & franchise QB right… Read more »

reymatos

We just need a GM with an eye for Football talent….Derrick Brooks needs to be the BUCS next GM..!!

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cgmaster27

well when it comes to what we have here, this offseason will be full of some tough choices. One thing is for certain though is that Mike Smith needs to go, end of story. HIs defense has been awful outside of a 5 game stretch last year. Hope the Giants take him. When looking at whether we should keep Koetter and LIcht, if I were the Glazers I would give Koetter another year ONL:Y under certain circumstances. 1, you need to get an offensive coordinator to call plays, and 2 fire you buddy Mike Smith. Then and only then do… Read more »

inspecto

Trading up to draft that kicker in the 2md is very damning to Light.If he was 50/50 that would push under.

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seat26

I am still of the opinion that our expectations were unrealistic for this year. we won 9 games last year and maybe we were not as good as other 9 and 7 teams. We still had several positions that we were weak at and we didn’t address them in the Draft. And we have been injured in positions this year that we were strong in making us and all around mediocre team. I love Howard, but we already had one of the best TE’s in football and I really think that first pick was a waste strategically. The Coaching has… Read more »

buccaneerNW

The Gruden propaganda network is at it again. PR pumps Gruden like FuxNuze pumps Trump.

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Dbuc63

bucNW, Still suffering from TDS. (Trump Derange syndrome) GET OVER IT

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buccaneerNW

Not as long as there’s a fascist traitor in the White House. Not gonna get over it. You must be one of the gullible morons who voted for the ignoramus.

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buccaneerNW

Also, if you wanna talk about derangement, what’s more deranged than a president and a party that still spend time deflecting away from issues to bring up old conspiracy theories about HRC which have been thoroughly debunked. Oh I’m sorry, Russia must be fake news, despite the ongoing investigation and obvious lies and coverups from virtually everyone we’ve heard of in the campaign. But you might not have heard about any of that because you’re probably putting on a tinfoil hat and filling your brain with FuxNuze and Breitbart. Delusional morons. Rate this item:Thumb UpThumb DownSubmit Rating00 No votes yet.… Read more »

loviesmith

all I know is something has to change! The free agents are terrible the play-calling is terrible and the defense stinks

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seat26

I agree. I am not sure that it is coaching but maybe you are right. I think we got unlucky with Baker. He is past his prime. Ayers is good but too old as well. Jackson is just not being used enough in my opinion. Some of this is Injury related. But I think if we can have one or two more drafts as good as this last one but in positions that we need addressing, we can be a lot better. One guy on the Defensive line who can play at an above average level is not enough. Rate… Read more »

reymatos

Mike Smith & Jason Light need to go….Derrick Brooks needs to be our next GM..

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drdneast

surferdude, you make some valid points about McCoy and David and I’m not against trading either of them if the price is right. Unfortunately at the moment, McCoy is about our only serviceable defensive lineman. I also don’t think anyone is going to offer us a No.1 pick for either one of them. This team really needs to revamp it’s defensive line and has needed to for the last four years. Every defensive lineman that Dominick drafted proved to be a bust except for William Gholston and he is no world beater. They better seek an A rated DL in… Read more »

seat26

I took a lot of heat for wanting to trade McCoy last year, because the hype on him was so great I believed we could have gotten multiple picks. If we had taken a DE, Corner and Running back early, who knows how different this year might have looked? But then without McCoy this year, we might have lost every single game. It’s a tough position to be in when the talent level is so strong at Linebacker and so suspect on the Defensive line.

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deeznuts

At this point, it’s time for amageddon. Cut everyone who isn’t Lavonte David, Kwon Alexander, Gerald McCoy, Mike Evans, DJax, Ali Marpet, Demar Dotson, Brate, OJ Howard, or Jameis Winston.

Maybe we can keep a few guys like Justin Evans (even though his INT’s dont make up for his blown coverages), Ryan Smith, Kendall Beckwith, and Chris Godwin.

The offensive line, head coaching, and pass defense/rush are atrocious. Gruden wouldnt touch the current roster with a 50-foot pole.

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Bucs Capacitor

Wait, so the main knock on McDaniels is that once things got tough and they started, he didn’t know how to handle his players? Given our recent history, do you REALLY think that that’s a quality we need in a head coach in Tampa? You can tell me all you want about how he’s had time to learn under Belicheck…but he had time to learn under him BEFORE Denver. I’m sorry, but while McDaniels is a great playcaller, all we can do is hope that he’s learned from his mistakes. The only true proof we have in his head coaching… Read more »

Bucs Capacitor

* started losing

I need to proof read before posting.

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Buc76

Scott knew the season was over after the Arizona game and that was Correct. Fire Koetter and Licht

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seat26

Regime changes every two years are not helping us.

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Buc-n-Philly Fan

It seems nothing helps our Team. Maybe we really are cursed. I am so tired of sucking….

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