Close Doesn’t Count

March 2nd, 2018


What did you expect them to say?

No NFL coach or GM worth his hefty paycheck is going to stand up at a podium and talk about the chasm between their team and the other clubs in the division.

According to Jason Licht and Dirk Koetter, the Bucs are close. The standings suggest they are not, but things can change in a hurry in the NFL, where five or six new teams seem to vault into the postseason field every year.

Koetter says Tampa Bay’s 5-11 record wasn’t a referendum on effort. He has no qualms about the hustle and desire of his players and Licht says he’s proud of the way the Bucs competed hard for an embattled second-year head coach.

Hold on, folks. In a way, those remarks are particularly troubling. If the 2017 Bucs gave it their all and still fell short 11 times, what does that say about the talent and the coaching?

At the Indy combine, much was made of the fact Tampa Bay was 3-7 in games decided by 7 points or less. Koetter took his fair share of the blame for those chronic failures in crunch time.

“The No. 1 thing I have to do better is, I have to help our guys – we have to figure out a way, when it comes down to winning time, we have to figure out a way to win,” Koetter said. “There was more than one team that had 10 one-score games, but of the teams that had that many, we had the lowest winning percentage. We can make all the excuses we want, but we played hard enough.”

Before we get carried away with all these close losses, I’d like to point out that the Bucs failed to post at the start of several road games.

Effort Not Enough

How about a 21-3 halftime deficit at Minnesota? Remember the halftime score at Arizona? Try 24-0, Cardinals. The Saints led 30-3 after three quarters at the Superdome. Atlanta bolted to a 20-6 halftime advantage at its new stadium. That’s half the road slate in which the Bucs simply were not competitive until things got out of hand. That’s anything but close.

How about chemistry?

“I believe, and I’m not the only one here, that we have a very, very good core group of players in terms of what they bring and add to the locker room,” said Licht, “and we need to add to that.”

Still, Swaggy Baker’s immature antics went unchecked until the season was almost finished. Kwon Alexander finally took Baker on and if you look closely enough at the altercation in Charlotte, you can see Licht cheering from outside the locker room.

“Looking back on it now, I did like the passion and energy that I did see out of the young players, wanting to hold people accountable,” said Licht. “I loved it.”

Fresh Faces & Realism

Big changes are coming to One Buc Place … that’s a given. If things don’t improve this fall, even bigger changes are on the horizon.

When training camp concludes, you’ll see many new faces in the trenches, at running back and in the secondary.

I wouldn’t be shocked to see a half-dozen new starters as Licht and Koetter fight for their professional lives. Speaking of fight, let’s remember that Demar Dotson, the longest-tenured Buccaneer, said securing Koetter’s future in Tampa was very much on the minds of players down the stretch.

“What I don’t think people realize was just how close our team was coming together and galvanizing,” Licht said. “They really love playing for this coach. They believe in him, I believe in him, our roster believes in him and our assistant coaches. They played their asses off for him and it was really cool to see that.”

Let’s turn the page in an ugly chapter. A new year is almost upon us and optimism abounds. But let’s be realistic, too.

In the NFL, close doesn’t count. In the NFL, close gets you fired.

Always be closing.

Ira Kaufman is the most revered sports personality and writer in town. He has hung his hat at world headquarters since July 2016. Tampa Bay’s only Pro Football Hall of Fame voter, Ira busts out columns here every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and his award winning podcasts fire Tuesdays and Thursdays. You can also hear Ira on SiriusXM Mad Dog Radio Wednesdays during football season, and see him now on Mondays and Fridays at 10:30 p.m. on Spectrum Sports 360. Ira also is part of the FOX-13 Tailgate Sunday and enjoys beet salads, Riesling, Chiefs victories and needling Joe.

18 Responses to “Close Doesn’t Count”

  1. WutdaBucisthis Says:

    Thanks for the read Ira…
    HEY !!!! You guys n girls need to listen to these podcasts here. First they’re GREAT. Secondly you can get a truer sense of how these guys feel n care about our Bucs
    Ira – Chiefs fan
    Joe Bills fan ( not sure which )
    And yet they give us constant coverage.
    Thanks Joe…for putting together the most straight forward sports blogs ever!!!
    Wake and bake with Joe’s….it’s FANtastic
    Lots of “bake” if you think Joe is a Bills fan. –Joe

  2. AKick'nTheBucNuts Says:

    Ira is right. We are not “close”. We are many players away from competing.

    Time for a rebuild.

    We need more, newer and younger talent, especially on defense. Trade McCoy for a bunch. If we can finish 5-11 with McCoy (and lots of other losing seasons with him) then what difference does or did he make? Answer…None.

    Maybe we can get 2-4 draft picks for him and then finish 5-11. At least we could get excited that the gaping holes we have are being filled and built for the long term.

  3. WutdaBucisthis Says:

    Lol my bad Joe…just thought i heard one of the Joe’s has a team they were on before the Bucs…yea lots of bake

  4. WutdaBucisthis Says:

    @AKick’nTheBucNuts…dude we’ve been rebuilding for over a decade…lol where u been? But yea i would trade GMC in a heartbeat…can’t win with him, can lose without him…same sh!t

  5. tmaxcon Says:

    Joe is not a bills just a fan of losing and every washed up bum that still has a pulse and recorded a sack within the last decade.

  6. B Coburn Says:

    Far too much is often made about only losing by one score… that’s generally how it usually is in the league. Run out the clock in final minutes.. maybe give up one meaningless score in 4th… you don’t think some of those teams could have buried us if they’re wanted to?

  7. Tom Edrington Says:

    Love Ira getting a “Glengarry, Glen Ross” reference in there:

    “Put that coffee down — coffee is for closers only”

    “First place is a new Cadillac, second place a set of steak knives, third place, you’re fired….”

    Maybe Alec Baldwin’s character from that movie should be the Bucs new G.M.

  8. Pickgrin Says:

    ya beat me to the coffee is for closers line Tom.

  9. darin Says:

    Not even close. This team has enough talent to make the playoffs. Even your HC said it before last year. The failure simply lied in the terrible coaching job. Dirk has said as much, thank goodness. People were not put in position to succeed. When other teams brass is saying the bucs offense and defense is the most predictable in the league you take notice. Lets hope the coaches learned their lessons.

  10. Jeebs the Honey Bear Says:

    Love you Ira. Koetter is a good OC. Licht is a good scout. Problem is that we made our good OC head coach and a good scout at GM. We should have fixed this mistake in the off-season, I’m afraid now we will probably waste a year we could have been rebuilding by trying to put more band aids on a broken ship. Rebuilds can happen fast: look at the Eagles and Rams. Unfortunately we probably delayed ours another year with this regime.

    Prove me wrong, guys.

  11. SteveK Says:

    This is our year to improve, or some big changes will go down.

  12. tmaxcon Says:


    There is not a sane person in this universe that believes bucs have playoff talent…. They damn sure dont have playoff hearts… soft mentally weak heartless defense led by captain blowout cancer93

  13. Destinjohnny Says:

    Jason is a scout not a gm

  14. Defense Rules Says:

    Great read Ira. Particularly liked your question… “If the 2017 Bucs gave it their all and still fell short 11 times, what does that say about the talent and the coaching?”

    The coaching left a LOT to be desired, but better coaching with this level of talent might have only gotten us to 8-8 or thereabouts. We’d lost a number of games by the end of the 1st half we were so far behind. T-A-L-E-N-T (or rather, lack of it), is our biggest problem. Like you said, we could very well see 6 new starters this fall. That’s now a team that’s ‘close’ … that’s a team needing to be ‘renovated’. We’ve got a decent core to build around, just not nearly enough of it. I wouldn’t be surprised to see us field NINE (9) new starters this fall: LG, C, RB, NT, DE, 2 CB, SS, PK.

  15. 813bucboi Says:


    I agree…..glad to see them “fighting for their professional lives”…..its about time they feel the heat!!!!!!!

    we’ll see how close we really are when the bullets start flying….

    #NOEXCUSESIN2018!!!!!!!….GO BUCS!!!!!

  16. Bucsfanman Says:

    Yea, you know, I’m starting to see the light here.
    Trade GMC for a 3rd maybe 4th,
    Trade Jameis for a 1st and 3rd,
    Trade Mike Evans for a 2nd and 4th,
    Trade LVD for a 4th,
    Trade Brate for a 6th,
    Then package those picks to get the #1,2,3,4 overall. This way we can start fresh. I mean these guys are career losers anyway, right? Am I right?!!!!

  17. Greecosuave Says:

    No Bucsfanman! That’s the apsolute worst thing to do. Just chill. No GM is going to throw his team under the bus or himself. I may not like the lack of perceived aggressiveness but there is just enough faith in the tank to still bring “Hope” and “Respectability “ back to this team.

    …Now back to my “Beet Salad” and “Riesling”.

  18. delson Says:

    It was a tough schedule and we were plays away from victory on a few of them. The bucs gotta pull themselves out of this hole. We are close to being the cleveland browns of the south.