The First-Half Divide

May 28th, 2018


If the Buccaneers brain trust is taking suggestions for a theme song to blare over training camp loudspeakers this summer, I’ve got just the tune.

“Start Me Up” by a little group you may have heard of. The Rolling Stones are still bringing crowds to their feet with this rousing anthem and Dirk Koetter is certainly into the message.

“If you start me up. If you start me up I’ll never stop.”

That’s music to the ears of every Stick Carrier who plans on cheering on the Bucs when they report for training camp in two months.

Whether we’re talking about games or seasons, this franchise is mired in a fall funk that simply can’t go on.

Let’s start with the early standings, shall we? Since 2013, Tampa Bay’s record at the halfway mark is a cumulative 9-31. That covers three head coaches, two general managers and thousands of turned-off fans who didn’t renew their season tickets.

By year, it’s been 0-8, 1-7, 3-5, 3-5 and last year’s 2-6 mark. The second-half record (17-23) is nothing to celebrate, but comparatively, the Bucs have been a juggernaut after Halloween.’

Gasping For Air

That 3-5 start in 2016 sabotaged what could have been a special season, highlighted by a five-game winning streak after the bye week.

Tampa Bay still came up short in December because the margin for error was so slim.

The early schedule for 2018 appears challenging, but so what? The Glazers can’t wait to see the new-look Bucs flex their muscles against the Saints, Eagles and Steelers, who went a combined 37-11 last year.

The Bucs haven’t had their heads above water at the season’s midpoint since 2010, which just happens to be the last time they won 10 games.

The NFC South is too tough a division to escape an early hole.

Expecting to go 7-1 down the stretch isn’t realistic — and everyone at One Buc Place knows it.

This poor-start syndrome extends to games as well, especially on the road. In setbacks at Minnesota, Arizona, Buffalo and New Orleans, the Bucs were outscored 71-12 before halftime.

In the immortal words of Cris Carter, c’mon, man.

Clear Blame

Jameis Winston has played 45 games as a pro. Of his 69 career TD passes, only 10 have come in the opening quarter.

“If you look at Jameis’ career, when Jameis gets off to a fast start, we usually play pretty well,” Koetter says. “When he gets off to a slower start, not as well. That’s one of the things that falls on the offensive coaching staff — to have the right game plan early in games that we don’t have to tinker around to find it.”

There were too many times last year when Tampa Bay’s offense floundered early. By the time the Bucs found their rhythm, they were too far behind.

The NFL has long been seen as a finishing school — finish your blocks, finish your tackles, finish your drives. That’s understandable, but lets’ get real … lousy starts are a major issue.

In the past five seasons, the Bucs are 18-14 when leading at the half and 7-40 when trailing at the half. Crisp play at the start of a game builds confidence. Crisp play at the start of a season builds a cushion.

Gentlemen, let’s get started.

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 at 10:30 p.m. on Spectrum Sports 360 (aka BayNews 9). Ira also is part of the FOX-13 Tailgate Sunday show and enjoys beet salads, Riesling, Chiefs victories and needling Joe.

13 Responses to “The First-Half Divide”

  1. Nole&aBuc Says:


  2. AlteredEgo Says:

    “Who let the dogs out”

  3. Andrew Says:

    A solid run game (or at least a decent one) should help get us going early.

  4. Tampabaybucfan Says:

    Ira, I wouldn’t exactly call 17-23 “juggernaut”…..well, maybe only compared to their own ineptitude.

    We need to sustain drives and score touchdowns, not FGs….early, mid and late in games.

    I am hopeful that our Defense’s depth punishes opposing offenses and sets up up for victories late in games.

  5. Guzzie Says:

    It’s Koetters fault for the slow starts, constantly putting JW in poor situations by running up the gut for little yardage or going for a low percentage 20yard play early in the game before the QB gets comfortable, which leads to early 3 and outs, poor field position for the defense, pressure on the QB to make the spectacular throw, it’s poor coaching, and you can put stupid decisions on JW but most of that is from poor play calling, throw an early slant, or 8 yard curl, call some high percentage completions early to get you offense in a rhythm, play calling can hurt the offense as much as execution from the players #JIMSCHWARTZ2019

  6. BucEmUp Says:

    I personally think the tough schedule to start those first 3 games will be exactly what the doctor ordered. They need to change the cruise control mentality. People always perform their best when out of the comfort zone. I BELIEVE looking at that schedule every day until September is going to make this team play nasty.

    That is until they get tired of playing in a flawed scheme on defense and the entire roster realise they are doomed….but up to that point should be pretty exciting.

  7. Not there yet Says:

    Taking about past records and coaching is irrelevant talk for this upcoming season. Of it has nothing too do with the current regimeit doesn’t matter. The current regime win loss record has nothing to do with Mark Dominick or previous coaches up to now. Dorkis not the same play caller he was when he was an offensive coordinator.

    The difference between this season and all the others since gruden left is it’s the first time we can truly say no excuses. There are backups everywhere for a starter that goes down at any position. They’ve got everyone and motivation and the coaching staff has nothing to lose. Actually how big a role rojo will be able to play is the unknown and how good barber will be but other than that if we lose you can blame three people. Koetter Winston and Mike Smith

  8. Buccfan37 Says:

    In the Stones song “Start Me Up” is that title copyrighted? A great slogan individually for the Bucs players. Start me up running on all cylinders at peak performance. Never stop, never stop.

  9. Roy T. Buford Says:

    “Start me up” reminds me too much of “Rick and Tom” on 620. OMG, both guys make me want to puke. Sorry, don’t need to associate my Bucs with those two chumps.

  10. Alanbucsfan Says:

    Right game plan? How about the right players, too?
    We need to see changes in the starting lineup!

  11. Mike Johnson Says:

    Our 1st five games are critical. Some say we need 2 wins. But I say we mandatorily gotta have 3 of those 1st 5. By 1 or by 20. We need to start the season faster. If not, I see playing catch up the whole season.

  12. BoJim Says:

    Koetter thinks Jameis needs to start faster. Ya think? Hey coach, call some not so conservative plays for him.

  13. Crabberbill Says:

    A running game will help for sure but Jameis needs to quit cheerleading before games. He gets to exited and doesn’t calm down until the second half. How about a pass on first down once in a while? I bet the very first play will be a run up the middle? Even I know that’s what they will call and I’m just an old crabby crabber!! lol