Insult Meets Injury With Bucs Loss To Saints

The Bucs Did Nothing Well On Sunday In A 30-10 Loss

Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston (3) watches from the sideline in the second half of an NFL football game against the New Orleans Saints in New Orleans, Sunday, Nov. 5, 2017. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)

Drew Brees threw for 263 yards and 2 touchdowns, Alvin Kamara had a combined 152 yards from scrimmage and 2 touchdowns, Jameis Winston left the game with shoulder problems, and the Buccaneers’ wheels have truly come off as the New Orleans Saints defeated the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 30-10 in New Orleans on Sunday.

New Orleans scored their first touchdown on a blocked punt in the first quarter, making the score 9-0 in a game that already felt more lopsided than that. A near interception by Lavonte David and a forced fumble by Lavonte David kept Tampa Bay in the game for most of the first half in terms of score, but it never felt like the Bucs were actually in the game.

Jameis Winston looked terrible in the first half, and he also looked like he was playing through pain. That pain got worse as he took hits throughout the first and second quarters, eventually being held back by the team’s medical staff. That was the injury.

The Saints pulled away at the end of the second quarter and throughout the third. Ryan Fitzpatrick looked every bit the backup quarterback he is in relief of Winston. Fitzpatrick finished second on the team in rushing with 30 yards, and threw a touchdown to still-on-the-team Luke Stocker, proving once and for all that tight end Luke Stocker has actually existed this whole time.

Injury met insult in the third quarter when Winston—who was supposed to be tending to his injured throwing shoulder, being out of the game and all—provoked Saints defensive back Marshon Lattimore. Lattimore started to say something to Winston before getting blindsided by Mike Evans, who was not ejected for that. This started a fight between the two teams along the Bucs’ sideline.

We have reached the point where records are somewhat unimportant. The Buccaneers’ state can be described better by phrases like “the wheels have come off” than their 2-6 record. Just halfway through the season, it seems like everything has changed. Certainly a lot needs to change now.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Dirk Koetter talks to the officials in the second half of an NFL football game against the New Orleans Saints in New Orleans, Sunday, Nov. 5, 2017. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)

The question isn’t whether Dirk Koetter is on a track to get himself fired, the question is whether Sunday’s game constitutes a letter of resignation from the Buccaneers coach. In some extreme cases, teams have been known to quit on a bad coach. In this case, it’s worth asking whether Koetter and his staff have quit on their team.

In all four road games this season, Tampa Bay has surrendered at least thirty points. They’ve been outscored on the season by forty points. The Buccaneers have given up the most points in their division and scored the fewest. They have the fourth worst record in football, the fewest sacks, a negative turnover differential, and they fail the eye test badly.

This goes beyond a disappointment and takes a turn toward time to change things up. Forget winning records or development, the rest of this season will be about Dirk Koetter and his staff’s ability to continue on in their jobs. At this point, perhaps it’s about their willingness to do those jobs.

Remember, Dirk Koetter replaced Lovie Smith, who mailed in his own letter of resignation of a season in 2015 as he looked asleep at the wheel. It wasn’t that he was doing a bad job of coaching so much as he was not actually doing the job of coaching the team. It appears that Koetter has taken a similar strategy of ghost-riding the Bucs.

With the other coaches on the team not looking much better, there seems little reason to fire Koetter in the middle of the season. That gives him eight weeks to show that the Buccaneers actually have a head coach right now. Mike Smith has eight weeks to make the defense look like something other than the reason nobody outside of the Suncoast has heard of Lavonte David.

Of course, if that’s the case, Bucs fans have to come to grips with the reality that accompanies it: This gives the Glazers about ten weeks at most to figure out whether to continue on with Koetter or find somebody new. If they opt for somebody new, they also have to be evaluating candidates.

They would then have to decide whether they want to go for a splashy but expensive hire, like the oft-recited idea of luring Jon Gruden out of the broadcast booth. With a powerful coach comes a likely change of the general manager, which is an expense all its own.

Going with a first-time head coach comes with its own risks, and how risky will owners want to be with a team still building around a young quarterback? How much slack would a young coach be given on a team that would in this case be looking for its fifth coach this deade? For that matter, who would be willing to work for a franchise becoming a revolving door for coaches?

How much you want Koetter to be gone at the end of the season should hinge on how much you trust the Glazers to handle those decisions well.

Coming into the season, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were considered a team on the rise.

After week one was postponed due to Hurricane Irma, the Bucs destroyed the Chicago Bears and looked like a team full of potential. Following a blowout loss to the Minnesota Vikings, people started to see the flaws in the squad. Those flaws did not go away in weeks four or five, a win against the Giants and loss to the Patriots respectively, but they were masked by bad kicking.

Three no-shows later, the Buccaneers enter the midpoint of their 2017 season as a clear disappointment, and the blame spreads wide. Jameis Winston has not looked like the leader he was drafted to be. The defense outside of Lavonte David looks terrible. The offense looks uninspired if not checked-out.

Most alarmingly, it appears that either the coaching staff has lost control or simply forgot they had control to begin with. On Sunday they didn’t look poorly coached, they looked barely coached. It’s enough to bring up serious questions, questions nobody wanted to ask about this Tampa Bay team and its future.

The failure against New Orleans was teamwide. The defense couldn’t get a stop that Lavonte David didn’t get for them. The offense mustered a grand total of ten points, seven of which came off a gift turnover well after the outcome had been effectively decided. Even the punting unit, the Bucs’ strongest group to this point, gave up a blocked punt for a touchdown.

In the Saints, the Buccaneers saw everything some people thought they could be this season. In the Bucs, the Saints saw every worst case scenario many had for them. It was New Orleans that was supposed to be the team with a spotty defense that travels poorly and doesn’t get as much as advertised out of the offensive unit. It was Tampa Bay that was supposed to be the fun contender full of surprises. Such is football season.

It wasn’t just that New Orleans lit up the Buccaneers, it was how effortless the entire game seemed that really jumped out. The Saints seemed to be on cruise control, winning in a blowout without trying particularly hard to do it. They’re 6-2. The Bucs are the opposite.

Tim Williams has been covering sports since his days as a student at Northeastern University covering events such as the Beanpot. In the thirteen years since, he has covered college hockey, the NFL, Major League Baseball, the PGA Tour, and the National Hockey League. A native of the Tampa Bay area, Tim has returned home after living much of his life in the northeast, including sixteen years in the Boston area. These days the Managing Editor of Sports Talk Florida can be found on Florida's golf courses when he's not working.