Where’s The Development?

November 9th, 2016



Player development is what it’s all about in the NFL, and the Bucs have made few strides.

Learning your craft to uncover that winning edge is a defining hallmark of successful organizations. Jon Gruden used to say that you either get better as a player or you fall behind.

In that regard, the 2016 Bucs have a lot of work ahead of them at the halfway point of the season.

With the exception of Mike Evans, it’s difficult to name a single Tampa Bay starter who has made a significant improvement from 2015.

Kwon Alexander looks about the same, along with Chris Conte and Bradley McDougald. Gerald McCoy keeps fighting off double teams with no discernible improvement, and William Gholston continues his role as an effective run plugger with limited pass-rushing skills.

Lavonte David remains a talented player whose career needs a jolt.

“C” For Jameis

Offensively, Adam Humphries and Cameron Brate have been functional but not exceptional. The offensive line is erratic, and even Ali Marpet’s play at right guard has leveled off after an encouraging start.

What about Jameis Winston?

He’s been decent. His midseason grade is a “C” and that’s not good enough by Winston’s own standards. To be fair, he doesn’t have the same powerful ground game as last year, but he remains the No. 4 quarterback in the NFC South.

Through a 3-5 start, Evans has been the man. You can make a convincing case he’s been the best wide receiver in the league this season– with all due respect to Julio Jones and A.J. Green.

Evans ranks fifth in receiving yards (745) and is tied for fourth with 55 receptions. He leads the NFL with eight touchdown catches and tops all wideouts with 46 first downs generated.

He is a prime example of a player who entered the 2016 season on a mission to improve. He didn’t need Pro Football Focus to tell him he dropped too many balls last year.

“Talent Level”

Evans looked at the tape and didn’t like what he saw, so he went to work in the offseason and the results have been extraordinary.

“Give credit to Mike,” said Dirk Koetter. “Mike was the [seventh] overall pick in the draft, so he’s playing to his talent level. That’s what we want all of our guys to do. Mike’s a very, very talented player and he’s playing that way. That’s what professional football is all about.”

This column isn’t about talent, it’s about dedication.

Evans is probably the most skilled player on the Buc roster, but talent without commitment gets you a seat on the bench. You’ve got to have an inner drive to maximize your skills.

Derrick Brooks came to training camp every summer worried about losing his job to a younger, cheaper outside linebacker. That fear factor led to a bust in Canton.

Evans is playing with that same passion.

“Hat’s off to Mike,” Koetter said. “He’s been his own worst critic, he’s worked on his weaknesses and he probably exemplifies what we’d like every player to be playing like right now.”

While Evans is living up to his potential, too few of his teammates exhibit the same will to be great.

Better coaching would surely help, but ultimately it’s up to the player to look at the tape, look at the man in the mirror and say it’s not good enough.

So let me be so bold as to speak for Buc Nation … it’s not good enough.

Not by a longshot.

13 Responses to “Where’s The Development?”

  1. Bucsfanman Says:

    “… it’s not good enough.”
    Enough said!

  2. Jim Says:

    How does “America’s Quarterback, Pro-Bowler” JW rank a “C” from Ira and 25th in the NFL QB ratings? Very confusing… (Uh, where’s the Cool Aide? Did we run out?)

  3. gotbbucs Says:

    The “leader” on the defensive side of the ball is here to have fun. You don’t ever see him chewing his team mates out for missing an assignment like Winston will do. When he finally does get a sack he’s too interested in pounding his chest to realize if the play is still going or not.
    Evans and Winston will both be phenomenal football players and will continue to get better as pieces are added to that side of the ball.
    The young guys on the defense are afraid to spread their wings because they’re told when they walk through the door that a certain DT is the leader of that side of the ball, and he’s here to have fun.

    It’s tough for young players to grow when the elder statesman is ok with the status quo. If he has any trade value with that inflated contract, trade him before the draft and build a winning attitude.

  4. Architek Says:

    Very nice and well said Ira. I think you nailed the root of the problem. It’s not just the Bucs are bad but they can’t develop talent.

  5. RumRunner Says:

    Lack of consistency within the program makes it difficult to develop as a player. In other the Bucs need to keep there coachshould for more than two years so they can develop within the system.

  6. RumRunner Says:

    *in other words*

  7. 813bucboi Says:

    ira is 100% correct…my favorite quote is, “Better coaching would surely help”….GO BUCS!!!!

  8. Defense Rules Says:

    @Ira … “This column isn’t about talent, it’s about dedication.” Do you honestly believe that Mike Evans would be having a better 2016 than 2015 or 2014 if he wasn’t extremely talented Ira? It takes BOTH talent AND dedication to be elite (plus effective coaching).

    This morning the Bucs had 52 guys on the roster. 19 of those 52 were undrafted … well over 1/3 of our roster. Add to that the guys drafted BELOW the 4th round and fully 50% of the Bucs roster would be represented. Point being that the Bucs simply aren’t talented enough right now to be truly competitive in the NFC South (or any division for that matter). Dedication and coaching are HUGE in terms of player development … but without an adequate talent level (which we presently lack) Bucs will continue to struggle to win games.

  9. M.Stevbobucfan Says:

    Thats my question..Development. .since Sapp..Brooks..Lynch. .and Alstott who are any of the players the bucs have developed ( on defense or offense )

  10. ThunderSack Says:


    You hit the nail on the head. Even Jonathan Banks commented on how incessant coaching/scheme changes inhibit growth and impacts desire.

  11. Mike Johnson Says:

    Great article here Ira. You are.spot on sir!! Nobody is pushing these players. Not coaches or other players. They just start a game and HOPE..to win. I don’t see the fire. Maybe a flash here and there. And the cherished Mr. Winston is not getting better. He over and under throws receivers to much. Where’s his improvement. And where is the pass rush? I say again. Mr. Banks fired HC Smith for a reason. He seems to have lost what magic he had. Many yrs ago when Bill Parcells said he would coach the Bucs if he had complete control, the Bucs said No. But he knew he had to have that control. We’ve been in shallow water ever since. We’ve had what? 10 or 11 winning seasons since 1976. That straight up PITYFUL!! Its no wonder we are the laughing stock of the NFL.

  12. FLBoyInDallas Says:

    I’m laughing right now because Joe spent an entire season with his main talking point being that the Bucs would never win with the fourth best QB in the division leading them. Then Ira comes along and deftly points out that the Bucs are still, to this very day, in the same exact position. Joe must be throwing his beer bottle at his computer screen after reading that. They drafted his guy, then he promptly nicknamed him America’s QB, and so far it hasn’t made a damn bit of difference in the standings or in the division.

    Jameis Winston: NFC South’s (fourth best) QB!!!

  13. Harry in Costa Rica Says:

    Spot on Ira – another great column. This clearly explains why the defense is so atrocious. It explains why there are so many McCoy haters (I am not one, but I am getting tired of his lack of production). Where is the improvement in the D?