The Excuses Are Over

August 29th, 2016



The Buccaneers play for keeps in less than two weeks and the first order of business is to stop serving as a 53-man punching bag for the rest of the NFC South.

The Bucs have a chance to showcase themselves from the start against a division opponent (Atlanta) they swept last season. That was rare success for Tampa Bay, which had dropped 10 of its previous 13 matchups against the Falcons.

The Saints have beaten the Bucs eight times in the past nine meetings, and the Panthers hold a 6-game winning streak.

Add it all up and it’s obvious these division doldrums have been a major culprit in Tampa Bay’s five-year lease on the NFC South basement.

So why will things change?

For starters, the talent in the division drops off exponentially after Carolina. The NFC champion Panthers remain a force, powered by a marauding defense that forced 50 turnovers and posted 57 sacks en route to a 17-2 finish.

Those are sick numbers by anyone’s standards.

It seemed like everything went right for Carolina in 2015, with quarterback Cam Newton turning in an MVP season. The return of injured wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin gives Newton another dangerous target, but tight end Greg Olsen is already dealing with back spasms and he is Newton’s go-to man in clutch situations.

Josh Norman has taken his skills and his swagger to the nation’s capital, forcing coach Ron Rivera to consider starting a pair of rookie cornerbacks in a division armed with Drew Brees, Matt Ryan and Jameis Winston.

“I’m not apprehensive about the situation because in the past we’ve had to go with a rookie quarterback, a rookie middle linebacker, and I’ve always been with teams that put rookies on the field,” Rivera said. “It’s all part of the challenge of coaching and of having the football team that we’re having to develop. Part of that development is playing young guys.”

Light Competition

Once again, the Panthers will rely on a dominating front seven on defense to mask any secondary issues. Even in the Super Bowl loss to Denver, Carolina’s defense was superb, so don’t expect much decline on that side of the ball.

That leaves the Falcons and the Saints, a pair of also-rans who scare no one except their defensive coordinators. If you combined those two rosters, you still couldn’t forge a decent pass rush.

As long as Brees is standing upright, the Saints can beat anyone on a given Sunday. But with a defense this abysmal, they also could lose to the Browns.

New Orleans was rocked by injury this month. Top draft pick Sheldon Rankins, a defensive tackle counted on to shore up a run defense that allowed an average of 4.9 yards per carry, is recovering from a broken fibula.

That means defensive end Cameron Jordan will continue to draw extra attention as Sean Payton’s only legitimate pass rusher. The Saints yielded at least 26 points in 10 games last season and Brees is understandably tired of trying to win shootouts at the Superdome — where New Orleans has been rather ordinary the past two years.


Poor drafts have caught up with the Falcons, who opened 5-0 last season for new head coach Dan Quinn before losing seven of their next eight games.

The passing combination of Matt Ryan to Julio Jones is about as good as it gets, but Atlanta is terrible in the trenches. Vic Beasley topped the Falcons with four sacks as Atlanta finished with 19 takedowns as a team — 1.5 sacks more than Houston’s J.J. Watt by himself.

That’s disgraceful, and there’s no credible reason to think the Falcons will be depositing more quarterbacks on their keisters in 2016. Cornerback Desmond Trufant is the real deal, but promising rookie safety Keanu Neal just tore up his knee and had surgery.

How desperate are the Falcons? This week they signed Dashon Goldson, a disastrous free-agent buy of the Bucs in 2013. Goldson was yet another misguided decision by former GM Mark Dominik, labeled a rockstar by others on this website. A big hitting safety, Goldson has picked off only two passes in his past 42 games.

I just call him Mark 28-52 Dominik.

A new season is upon us and, for Tampa Bay, the excuses are over. If the Bucs end up in fourth place again, the league may decide to grant the franchise permanent residence.

Since 2011, the NFC South’s cumulative record stands seven games below .500. Under new head coach Dirk Koetter, there is an opportunity for the Bucs to crawl out of this moldy basement and put the Falcons and Saints in their rearview mirror.

The road to redemption begins Sept. 11.

In the immortal words of Cosmo Kramer, giddyap.

26 Responses to “The Excuses Are Over”

  1. Chris Says:

    Shots fired by Ira!

  2. BuccaneEric75 Says:

    I just wish that we had Dallas earlier in the schedule. He shouldn’t be out with his current injury at that time.

  3. tmaxcon Says:

    very nice piece ira. i could not agree more. no more excuses. licht has some work todo to shore up roster with the final cuts next week but i have faith. bucs need to keep aj francis considering the fragile 3 (mccoy, mcdonald, a. spence) will miss time collectively and individually. good luck mr licht in your search for upgrades…

  4. grafikdetail Says:

    LOL at the rockstar dig

  5. JonBuc Says:

    Atta boy, Ira. A much deserved shot over the fan boy bow of Dirtstar Dominik. He talks an awfully big game on radio & tv, however. Ira has been a solid addition to this site. You go, Joe(s). You go!

  6. SB with Jameis Says:

    Nice article Irah. Thanks for the work.

  7. Capt.Tim Says:

    Great article!!
    Yes, its time.
    Time to start dominating the Falcons and saints
    Time to split with Carlina
    I think we can do it

    Lol, Mark 28-52 Dominick, lol . .

  8. dubstepper Says:

    No excuses indeed! Smith will know how to pester the crap out of Matt Ryan teehee, no reason they don’t beat Atlanta twice, Rams, Oakland, Denver, 49ers, Bears, Chiefs, Chargers then saints and cowboys?!

    10 and 6 is very very doable this year!!!

  9. Love and Warrick Dunn Says:

    Joe: Et tu, Ira?

    Great work!! Thanks, Ira!

  10. tdtb2015 Says:

    The Den of Depression will be renamed this season!

    Go Bucs!!!

  11. I know why Says:

    Good one Ira! Man with writing like this I can see why the Tribune moved on….Two years ago the NFC South was TERRIBLE – we only won two games, now the Panthers are studs and you pick apart the other two teams, I hope your right…we will see. Dominik had 17 wins after three years – Right now Licht has 8. Blame Licht’s wins on the roster? He had three first team all pros, what three first team all pros did Bruce Allen leave Dominik? IRA! What is your prediction for the season and how many wins is success, write something with a real opinion that you stand behind.

  12. Vic Says:

    Ira, you’re out of your mind. If you were covering the Falcons, you’d see a second-year 8-8 team with a rising head coach and better offensive weapons than the Bucs. And they beat the Panthers last year in December.

    Wake up.

  13. gotbbucs Says:

    We’ll split with the Panthers this year, split with the Saints, and win both against the Falcons.

    Newton played out of his mind last year, he’s a front runner and if everything isn’t going great for him he loses control. If Carolina stumbles Newton will start to press and things will snowball against them.
    We have a chance to threaten for the division, but we need to catch some breaks. If we’re in the Wild Card hunt at the end of December I’ll be happy with the season, but I think this team is capable of more.

  14. Love and Warrick Dunn Says:

    I’m convinced that I know why is related to the Dominik family.

  15. Architek Says:

    “just call him Mark 28-52 Dominik”

    Very nice write-up Ira and very nice reference

  16. SB with Jameis Says:

    Vic Says:
    August 29th, 2016 at 8:55 pm
    Ira, you’re out of your mind. If you were covering the Falcons, you’d see a second-year 8-8 team with a rising head coach and better offensive weapons than the Bucs. And they beat the Panthers last year in December.

    Wake up.
    Obviously you don’t follow football very closely, sir.

  17. I know why Says:

    Nope. I knew him. He was good to me and my family and did a lot with our military as well. A good dude and just don’t like people taking cheap shots. Look his record is what it is but he didn’t coach. Is Jason licht an 8 win ACDC GM? I mean if we are holding to the same standards my point is Licht needs to win 10 games to have a better record. It’s not all the GM

  18. tmaxcon Says:

    I know why

    Lucht receives a free pass for having to work under the most incompetent head coach in buccaneers history loser lovie smith. I am a proud veteran who very much respects what Dominick has done for military and vets that being said he deserves all the criticism he receives for his many mistakes. the Dominick led failed choirboy expirement was a disaster.

  19. Mike Johnson Says:

    Thank You IRA!! Joe give us this daily BS of how beautiful our Bucs look.I’ve been saying this all along. Bucs are the Spinmasters of excuses and scapegoats. Injuries fault, coaches fault, poor attendance fault. Everybody’s fault..cept the players. And I’m fed up, sick and tired of all of them. Time to..Ruck Up Bucs! Beat somebody, hurt somebody, win a lot of games. Take no prisoners. Cry havoc, Let lose the real dogs of war. Stats and nice ohhs and ahhs won’t get her done. How many yrs we gotta come up dry? Lets stop being the..laughing stock of the NFL. I’m waiting………. As always, great contribution again IRA.

  20. Pickgrin Says:

    I know why Says:
    August 29th, 2016 at 8:36 pm
    “what three first team all pros did Bruce Allen leave Dominik?”

    How about Derrick Brooks, Ronde Barber and Davin Joseph? Also Aquib Talib, Michael Bennett, Kellen Winslow, Warrick Dunn, Ike Hilliard, Joey Gallaway and Jeff Garcia were on the team. Dom let the majority of those good players go and brought in a bunch of crap on the way to a 3-13 record.

    Dom may have been a “nice guy” – but he SUCKED as an NFL GM.

    28-52 speaks for itself. So do all the blown high draft picks. So does the fact that Dom has not even sniffed another NFL job since he was fired 3 years ago. Dominik was NOT a good talent evaluator which is the #1 responsibility of a general manager. Sorry dude – but you and the Joes are on an island here.

  21. 1sparkybuc Says:

    I do appreciate the snippets of information and opinion provided by the Joes, but really look forward to the professionalism that Ira provides. Great hire guys.

  22. Phil Says:

    It’s great that Ira has a voice again. There should be no more excuses. I think with Jameis in his second year we can have a winning record but Jameis has to play really well. If he does everyone else on the team will follow.

  23. D-Rome Says:

    A new season is upon us and, for Tampa Bay, the excuses are over. If the Bucs end up in fourth place again, the league may decide to grant the franchise permanent residence.

    You hear that, folks? If the Bucs don’t win at least 8 games I don’t want to hear this nonsense that the schedule is harder or there’s a new coach or that 6-10 is OK as look as they look good getting there (which is impossible). By every measure the team this year is improved over last year.

  24. blind melon Says:

    Watching our NFC South opponents games in preseason and was non-plussed. None of them (even the panthers) looked prepared.

    I think there is a very good chance for our Bucs to seriously make a run at the division this year, although we have some good teams to play outside of the division – I expect them to be highly competitive and in it to win it every game.

  25. LargoBuc Says:

    Sorry tmax, but Licht and Dom have the same bar. It’s not like Dom had a competent head coach to work with either.

  26. South Florida Buc Fan Says:

    Dom let Michael Bennett walk. That is the end of the story as far as I’m concerned. That should never have happened.