THE QB BLAST: Sinner Mike Sullivan Can’t Fish

September 24th, 2012

Former Bucs QB Jeff Carlson goes deep into the mess that is the Bucs offense

Former Bucs quarterback Jeff Carlson (1990 & 1991) writes The QB Blast column here at Joe loves when Carlson fires away. Carlson is often seen as a color analyst on Bright House Sports Network, and he trains quarterbacks of all ages locally via his company,America’s Best Quarterback. Plus, he’s a really cool dude.


I was at church (the same where one I regularly see Gerald McCoy and other Bucs during the offseason) before the Bucs kicked off in Dallas and the pastor illustrated how fishing is based on tricking the fish with the lure. But underneath there is always the hook, and that is how the sinful pleasures of life can be; they look good on the outside but the hook lies inside and we know how deadly the consequences of that hook can be. 

In the NFL, the consequence of that deceptive lure can very often be the difference between being on the right side of the “victory formation.”

Following their third game of the season, even Troy Aikman and Joe Buck are bored and frustrated with the Buccaneers offense and it is becoming painfully obvious that Mike Sullivan does not understand the concept of successful fishing. He probably goes out on the lake, throws the unbaited hook into the water and after a few hours of no bites, wonders what the problem is.

Sullivan has not even attempted to lure the defense into any false illusions of the Bucs acting like they might be doing one thing while actually doing something else. He has fallen into Greg Schiano’s philosophy of just banging his head into a wall until the wall gets tired and quits being a wall.
Sullivan’s biggest sins are the following:
1) The running game does not go outside of the tackles or use any change of pace plays. Doug Martin isn’t the problem and LeGarrette Blount isn’t the answer. There is absolutely no deception in the running game to make the defense get itself out of position. This is the NFL and you cannot physically dominate the opponent week-in and week-out on straight-ahead running plays. Has Martin gotten one pitch play to see if he even has any shifty moves?

2) He does not use motion to create space in either the running game or passing game. The only weapons available are formations and motions by which to gain an advantage and he doesn’t use motion to help create mismatches.

3) He does not use Vincent Jackson’s height advantage to his own advantage (they should have thrown the fade to Jackson at least 5 times against Mike Jenkins, both to the front and back shoulders). One time late in the game, Jenkins was able to knock it down, but every time Jenkins turned his back to Freeman, Jackson had a “big” advantage. With Jackson set as a single receiver on one side of the formation, a receiver from the opposite side of the field should have been motioned across and run a “seam route” through the over-the-top safety and you would guarantee a one-on-one situation for Jackson that he would have won consistently and he also would have won the game single-handedly, in my opinion.

4) He asks Josh Freeman to fake left on play-action passes most of the time, which puts the right-handed quarterback in a bad situation for getting rid of the ball quickly. Freeman’s mechanics struggles have always been to get his shoulders back on line from the left side and he consistently fades away to the left on throws to his left, but Sullivan more often than not, makes him go that way anyway.

5) He does not move Josh Freeman out of the pocket on controlled roll-outs to help the offensive line and receivers find open space.
Although I believe the majority of the problems begin with the play-designer, Josh Freeman does not escape his dose of criticism. 

Freeman has no understanding of his time on three-step drop passing plays. He gave up sacks and a sack-fumble by holding the ball far too long on those short drops. 

Freeman is taller than most, but chooses the lower release option more often and makes the ball sail a bit. Although the interception was D.J. Ware’s fault on the missed pass, Freeman slung it low through the defensive lineman’s arms and too hard for the distance, which is why it caught Ware unaware.

Vincent Jackson looks beautiful in his uniform and I like a guy that just goes to work, but he has to start fighting for balls and for penalty flags. Early against the Cowboys, Freeman threw a good ball on a fade into the end zone. Jackson was well past 5 yards downfield and was continuing to get pushed by the defender. The ball fell harmlessly to the ground and instead of fighting to get to the ball and draw the pass-interference penalty, Jackson calmly returned to the huddle. He needs to get some of Schiano’s fight in him.

As I wrote this, I was watching the New England Patriots and the Baltimore Ravens fight it out and Mike Sullivan and Josh Freeman would do well to review this film multiple times.

The Patriots just used a formation-and-motion combination with Julian Edelman to create another easy TD pass for Tom Brady to take a halftime lead. For Freeman, I think he resembles Joe Flacco quite a bit and Flacco is very disciplined in his proper shoulder alignment and arm slot for all of his throws.

Josh, please watch Joe and take notes. Tell Sullivan to take notes of both teams’ offenses.

I don’t know if it is possible before the Bucs host RGIII and the Washington Redskins next Sunday, but can someone please get Sullivan out on the water and show him how to bait a hook?

If not, then we will get to watch the Bucs play great defense and stay just close enough to line up at the end of the game and once again blast mindlessly into the Redskins’ “victory formation.”

30 Responses to “THE QB BLAST: Sinner Mike Sullivan Can’t Fish”

  1. Bobby Says:

    Right on the money! I am very disappointed in Sullivan. He is just slightly better than Olsen….maybe not even that. I think even Olsen would have had the sense to throw the ball when you’re down by 6 with 2 minutes left in the game.

  2. MTM Says:

    How hard is it for the Bucs to pick an offensive coordinator that can utilize the players they have and execute the offense? If everybody in the stands and watching TV knows what the next play is going to be. How can than the opposing defense not know. Schiano better resolve the offense soon or his head will roll along with the “Rock Stars”.

  3. raphael Says:

    hideous , when is the last time Josh ran with the ball…they need to figure out a Offense and run it, its like they don’t know what they are doing…

  4. bucyea Says:

    I thought you were the intellectual…wrong! This has Shiano’s egomaniacal fingerprints ALL OVER IT. Sullivan is doing the dirty deeds for Shiano, IMO.

  5. SteveK Says:

    The run up the gut, late in the game, where Freeman made the call was awful.

    C’mon Josh, chuck the rock.

  6. Orlandobucsfan Says:

    What’s most disappointed IMO is we thought we had a QB in Freeman at least someone who can manage the game and move the ball somewhat. Sullivan is to blame for some play calling but that last run according to Freeman was called by Freeman himself because on 3rd and less than two min all he could think about was that play to call. It says a lot about him when his headset goes out and he calls a run play, a winner wants to control the ball when it’s pressure time and I thought Freeman really looked lost the entire game. He doesn’t look like he belongs out there.
    Like you said joe I think this is much bigger than Doug Martin or getting LB involved we have Quarterback issues. If Freeman isn’t audibling any of the run plays when he sees anything that how far has he fallen since 2010.

  7. Kennedy Says:

    Great column!

  8. Vic Says:

    Relax. Schiano had a lot of success winning big games and tight games at Rutgers. Oh, wait a minute …

    Sullivan really does deserve a load of blame here, or he’s totally incompetent, or I agree he’s probalby afraid of Schiano.

  9. BigMacAttack Says:

    Yes, excellent job Jeff. Let’s hope they listen and correct.

  10. holymoly Says:

    Hell , the Bengals had a receiver throw a bomb for a TD . Time to open the offense up a bit , let Blount do some pounding and throw away Mike Shula’s playbook .

  11. bucfanjeff Says:

    Well written.

    It’s not all on Freeman, that has to be one of the most boring, innovativeless, vanilla offensive game plans I have ever watched. UNBELIEVABLY FRUSTRATING.

    No creativity, no motions, no trickery, no rollouts – nothing. Just line up and snap the ball. UGLY.

    My crosshairs are on Sullivan, and my trigger finger is twitching. Step it up or step out.

  12. Travis Says:

    Wait, what? All yesterday we were forcefed “Doug Martin is the problem with the run game.” Today were told now its the playcalling? Hmm… I wonder who called that yesterday……

  13. Travis Says:

    In other words, lets not let this be overreaction Monday, we’ve lost 2 close games, albeit frustrating loses, it sure the hell beats getting blown out like the last 10 games of last year. And its a thing of beauty how well the defense plays the run this year. My god getting gashed by the run last year was like getting kicked in the nuts, but this year we can take pride in punching people in the mouth stuffing the run!

  14. MTM Says:

    at Holymoly

    You nailed it. Its like a Mike Shula offensive curse that never seems to go away. The offense is predicated to be at 3rd and long every series. If they gain any positive yards they have a penalty which negates it and then some. It is hard to watch a team rebuild and look the same with every new coordinator/QB. The Bucs play prevent offense. It prevents them from winning.

  15. Macabee Says:

    Who is the culprit here? Freeman, Sullivan, or Schiano? After the Talib interception and the refs were trying to determine the spot for the ball, the camera panned into Freeman’s helmet. There was a wide-eyed look on his face that was telling and set the stage for the remainder of the day. Josh literally looked bothered, uncertain, and I may be seeing too much here, but scared!

    This wasn’t regression. This looked like he’d never been in a game before or seen a playbook. Freeman is not calling the plays and I’m not even sure Sullivan is. I cannot believe that Schiano would stand idly by and let that repetitive and semi-comatose series of run, run, pass, punt for the whole game if he didn’t approve of it.

    With the wild swings from game to game between the offense and the defense, I can’t honestly put this on the players alone. Just like you, I’m reading all the media reports about Schiano’s inflexibility and other principles he goes by like no halftime adjustments, etc. Up to this point I’ve paid little attention to them, but it is as reasonable to question some things that he is doing as it is to question Freeman’s skills. Are the players and coaches intimidated by Schiano to the extent that it’s affecting a consistent performance on the field?

    It is still early and the kinks may be worked out, but I’m equally split between the coaches and the players as to the crux of our problems. Make no mistake about my post, Freeman should be playing better no matter what now. I’m not panicked, but seriously concerned!

  16. Teddy Says:

    I blame this one on the Glazers.

    Remember how it took so long for Schiano to hire his coordinators? I think what we’re seeing from our offense is a product of Schiano’s late hire, when all of the quality asst. coaching candidates were already snatched up by other teams. Mike Sullivan might be a great QB coach, but he’s obviously over-matched as a play-caller.

    What this means is we’ll probably have to watch this crappy Mike Shula-esque offense for the rest of the season before they can go hire someone creative with NFL play-calling experience to install a real NFL offense next year.

  17. Jessup Says:

    Good quality write up.

  18. lightningbuc Says:

    Unfortunately, I agree with bucyea. Schiano is bound and determined to get his 1st round pick that he moved up to get (Martin) untracked come hell or high water. The lack of Blount is ridiculous – reminding me of when Gruden quit using Alstott! Let’s give Blount 15-20 carries and see how things work out. Martin is 2 yards and a cloud of dust.

  19. Teflon Don Says:

    The play calling was atrocious to say the least. Down in the 4th quarter on 3rd and long and we do a HB draw? If the bucs want to sell tickets at home and lift black outs we need to do something about this offense quickly. The defense is playing up to par after the shellacking the giants put on us but this offense makes me scratch my head more then anything.. get it together BUCS

  20. Justin Says:

    Bucs offense has circled back to 2001 when we would just slam Warrick Dunn up the middle for 2 yards on 1st down. I could have sworn that was Dunn out there on Sunday.

  21. Andrew Says:

    i know our offense was bad but did anyone see how well Mason Foster played. holy crap he was on fire, he must have had at least 10 tackles yesterday and had his best game by far as a pro. i remember 1 play they ran a zone blocking scheme to the left and put our whole d line on skates, then out of no where foster knifed through the line to make a tackle for a loss. WOW! NOW THATS HOW YOU PLAY LB. THAT GOT ME PUMPED. if he keeps playing like that then we have one heck of a lb.

  22. Miguel Grande Says:

    Fire Sullivan, hire Jeff Carlson.

    Isn’t Brian Billick always campaigning for a HC job?

  23. BUCTIME Says:

    Prime example that the Josh Freeman is not an elite quarterback: minutes left in the fourth quarter, the headset in his helmet goes out, what does he call? a draw play ON THIRD AND LONG????

    This guy is a back up QB.
    In games that we win:
    he rarely breaks the two hundred yards passing mark.
    rarely has more than two touchdowns
    rarely has multiple deep pass plays completed
    rarely/if ever blows out a team where there is no “real” hope of them coming back.
    rarely/if ever looks on the opposite side of the field
    Plus, he cannot not manage a game to save a victory.

    C’mon man….next year we draft a QB… a real one

  24. ScottyinFatAntonio Says:

    Maybe Josh should ball up and go to Sullivan and Shiano (ala Gerald McCoy) and tell them things need to change up. Josh has been in the NFL for 4 years now. He needs to stop listening to everyone all the time and go with what HE is comfortable with ala 2010.

    What blame is Jimmy Raye taking in all of this? Wasn’t he our OC back in the mid 80s? Did we not learn our lesson back then?

  25. Jbrooks8604 Says:

    Something will give eventually. If things stay the way they are then either Free or Sullivan or both are done this next offseason. Only so long you can wait for a QB to get it together.

  26. Brain Says:

    Great article.

  27. MR.T Says:

    Great post, lets hope the coaching staff reads it and implements some or most of the suggestions.

  28. Piratic Says:

    Jeff, I’ve generally enjoyed your articles, as they offer a unique and interesting perspective. Your criticisms and critiques have been largely clinical in nature, and you’ve avoided making it personal, as I hope to do with the following request:

    Please spare us the use of any reference to religion, and especially it’s ludicrous concepts of sin and damnation. By law you are allowed to have any belief that you choose, but the first paragraph of this article is easily among your worst. It was a complete reach to use that introduction, and it failed miserably. Throw the “religion” page out of your playbook, Jeff, and we’ll ALL be better off.

  29. MR.T Says:

    Jeff, continue to write as you see fit. If anyone doesn’t like it they can go read something else, don’t compromise for the sake of anyone’s silly objections.

  30. mikemalarkey Says:

    the playcalling was pathetic.