Fourth-Quarter-Fresh Philosophy Is Questionable

May 20th, 2018

Mike Smith got into a little football philosophy talking while to media Wednesday, and some of it left Joe unsettled.

It’s a bit of nitpicking, but maybe not if you consider the words of Peyton Manning and everything Smith said.

Manning, the legendary quarterback, has the most fourth-quarter comebacks among QBs in NFL history with 43. Only four other quarterbacks have more than 30.

Manning was often asked about that mark when he was playing, and Manning typically would respond with a head shake. As Manning would say, that stat only meant he didn’t play very well in the first three quarters and it really was not something to celebrate.

Joe always loved that take. So true, and it represented the right attitude.

The goal of every team is to punish its opponent in the first half and dictate the game from there.

With that in mind, Joe turns to Smith discussing that, barring injuries and or issues, Buccaneers defensive linemen will rotate a lot more this year and there will be a preservation system for the final minutes of games.

“We’re not going to play guys like we have in the past in terms of their play count,” Smith said. “We’re going to make sure that we’re going to have these guys fresh for the fourth quarter when games come down to the last drive, and most games do, 65 percent. We want to go out there and be as efficient as we can.”

The rotation thing sounds nice, but it is very difficult to implement efficiently (to use Smith’s word). And it’s fair to say that Smith has very limited experience with the kind of rotation he’s seeking in 2018.

Yeah, Joe understands the concept of keeping players fresh, but frankly, the Bucs must stop starting slowly in games and they need to win games at all costs early this season. There’s no time to play rotation games for the sake of philosophy. If Jason Pierre-Paul and Gerald McCoy are healthy and fresh enough to play 80 percent of the snaps against the Saints, Eagles and Steelers through the first three games, then that’s exactly what should happen.

If Vita Vea is disruptive but limited in his snaps because of stamina, then Joe would rather see Vea out there early in the game wreaking havoc and helping the Bucs play with a lead.

“We’re going to put the best 11 guys out there on every snap,” Smith said Wednesday.

That’s a very tough balancing act on a deep defensive line. It might be Smith’s biggest challenge this season.

Joe hopes Smith’s approach and focus is to bury teams in the first half. Games can be won there, too, Coach.

And what a darn culture change it would be to look at the game that way.

29 Responses to “Fourth-Quarter-Fresh Philosophy Is Questionable”

  1. SB Says:

    I truly believe that we are going to have something this yr that hasn’t been seen around here in a Looooong time. A Pass Rush!!

  2. CT Buc's fan. Says:

    I get your point Joe, and while there is some validity to it, what Coach Smith said also is true. Most games in the NFL are decided in the 4th quarter, with many not decided until the final whistle of the game.

    Given that that is the case, my preference would be to have JPP, McCoy, and company with some gas in the tank during the final moments of a game when needing to hold onto a lead or force a turnover.

  3. StPeteBucsFan Says:


    Agree. And it may not involve a star player getting double digits as much as a very deep unit becoming relentless.


    Last year at this time I would have accepted your point. We couldn’t even muster a decent starting lineup on DL much less a rotation. This year is different…we have enough good players that we can substitute without fear and make sure our stars still have gas left in the tank.

    When you have a deep DL….see last year’s Eagles….another benefit is better health with less wear and tear on your “starters”. If we muster a running game and Jameis truly blossoms our DL should get fewer snaps per game./

  4. Not there yet Says:

    Completely disagree!!!!!!!

    The defense was giving up the booty at the END if games and the offense was the culprit of slow starts not the defense. If your playing with a lead teams will throw more so your best pass rushers will automatically get more snaps and probably true playing from behind. If McCoy and JPP are averaging 50 snaps I would imagine the backups averaging 30-35. Either way McCoy will play most unless it’s a run heavy offense we’re up against which would render him useless

  5. martinni Says:

    When I played football the starting players played every snap when they were required to be on the field. The only exceptions were an injury, or you had a comfortable lead to the extent that the coach could rest some players for the next game. We spent half the summer and several weeks prior to the first game conditioning for that role. When you ran onto the field before the game your mindset if you were a starter was I am going to play every snap because each year we spent the preseason workouts wining our starting position. Each year was a new challenge for every player. Maybe the answer is as simple as if you are over 50 your perception of how the game is played varies from the younger fanbase that see’s rotating and resting players and inserting back-ups into the game when they are most affective is the winning formula. IMO

  6. BucEmUp Says:

    Doesn’t matter, corners will be playing in a different stadium they are so far off the line

  7. Pryda ...sec147 Says:

    We need Jameis to score TDs that will give defense so much flexibility let’s turn it up this year lighting about to hoist that Cup for 2nd time Bucs gotta catch lighting

  8. Ga. Buc fan 42years Says:

    If you go back and check the film I believe you’ll find that Monte KIffin would sit Sapp and others during the 3rd qtr. to keep them fresh for the4th.They would pound them during the 1st. half, rotate during the 3rd qtr. and set the dogs loose in the 4th. Seemed to work good back then. Worth a shot!

  9. Bob in Valrico Says:

    IMO these Peyton comments most closely relate to our offense. Its clear that QB who had the most comebacks over his 18 year career thinks the offense has to get ahead early and try to put the game away before the Fourth quarter.

  10. gilhealy Says:

    I think Smitty is gonna let Buckner figure this out. The man’s got 12 yrs under his belt, recently, in the trench. He’s got a wealth of good lineman to work with. If they buy into the rotational “one groups better than the next” mentality, and each owns his role, we could be volatile.

  11. Fire the Glazers Says:

    Manning had a few bad years…
    I’m old enough to remember a Monday night game, in Manning’s 3rd year, where madden said something to the effect that “the jury is still out,” on him. Referring to Manning’s monster numbers but inability to lead the team to victories…
    Sounds familiar…

  12. Pickgrin Says:

    Its an interesting question you pose Joe.

    Better to play your DL “stars” a high # of snaps the 1st 3 quarters in an attempt to have a lead going into the 4th? Or rotate liberally throughout the game and save some of your best player’s “gas” for the last few minutes of Q4?

    Considering that a majority of NFL games are won by 1 TD or less – and a pretty healthy % of those 1 score games are decided (often late) in the 4th Quarter – I’m gonna have to side with Smitty on this one.

    The Bucs defense lost at least 4 games on the final drive late in the 4th Quarter last year. That was playing with the late game lead (or tie) that Winston and the offense had just secured in every case.

    It actually got to the point where as a Buccaneer fan – even sitting on a lead late in the 4th – you are almost hoping the other team will go ahead and (inevitably) score quickly so that Winston will at least have a bit of time left to try and win the game on a final scoring drive.

    Pretty sad that mentally naturally took most of us over at the end of 2017.

    Things should be different this year. Much different. GM Licht did a great job of totally re-designing and bolstering our Defensive Line this offseason.

    But we are Bucs fans. Until we SEE it happen on the field we are naturally skeptical of pending positive results. We are used to Murphy’s Law rearing its ugly head season after season after season. We almost expect it. 40+ years of seeing mostly SUCK on the field will have that effect on one’s psyche I guess…

  13. RickinFt.Myers Says:

    To “bury teams early” as Joe says, the offense has to play its part too. The offense has avoid its own problems with slow starts that puts the entire onus on the defense, to keep it close, until the offense gets its act together. Unfortunately, Joe’s trying to put the whole “fast start” thing on the defense, but part of the problem has lay with the offense and its often bumbling ways in the early going.
    Why make things up? The slow starts/fast starts are on the entire team. Specifically, the offense has struggled greatly with this under Koetter. Joe has written that many times. This post is about the defense specifically. –Joe

  14. The Buc Realist Says:


    Bucs 2017 Offense
    1st half for the season 12TDs
    2nd half for the sesaon 24TDs

    Bucs 2017 Defense
    1st haft for the season 20TDs
    2nd half for the season 19TDs

    The offense scoring less than a touch down a game for the season in the first half is troubling!!!!!!!!

    GO Bucs!!!!!!!!!!!!

  15. Mike Johnson Says:

    Wish we had not rehired Smitty as the DC. I have absolutely ZERO confidence in him. Its no wonder he spends all of his gametime coaching..up in the pressbox.

  16. Tampabaybucfan Says:

    What would be the objective?…..have fewer players so the good players play more or have more good players so they all play less but at a higher level of energy and stamina.

    I like the depth….how can it be a bad thing to have options at the end of the game….and it’s a long season….players get banged up and somewhat fatigued….it is great to have a deep bench.

  17. Bob in Valrico Says:

    Right premise,wrong side of the ball. More victories will come from a balanced well executed offense that maintains a two score lead, than fourth quarter comebacks.
    The defense gets the added bonus of extra rest and should be more effective
    when needed.
    In his fourth year ,I look for Jameis to lead the team to a more scores early.
    Koetter can help Jameis starting him off with passes less than 25 yards in the early parts of game. As jameis heats up then deep balls can be sprinkled in. To me Jameis best passes are in the 15-25 yard range. Believe he was about 70 % from 20-25 yards and somewhere over 60 % for 15-20 yards.
    Go Bucs!

  18. D the Bucs fan Says:

    Yea the superbowl losing falcons theory Got to dominate the whole game but that it’s nice playing with a lead but that is when teams get complacent and start playing prevent defense always letting the other teateam back in the game. Rather be like the eagles fresh in the fourth. Causing havoc in the end of the game.

  19. TouchDownTampaBay Says:

    Well Joe, while Rick overstates the problem, he does have a point. I would argue that the slow starts were almost all on the offense. Unless, you were expecting to get a couple of turnovers in the first quarter, the defense did its part most of the time in the early stages of games while the offense often did nothing. Conversely, late in games the defense was completely falling apart when the offense finally came around. By calling out Smith, you seem to be insinuating the defense was equally responsible for the slow starts. I would say the biggest problem with the defense was clearly the late game collapses. So one could certainly argue that the defense would be better served by having guys fresh late in game. I think a big part of the problem was the lack of talent on that side of the ball, but lack of depth and playing guys too much may also have played a big factor in the sh1t shows we were watching in the final minutes of several games last year.

  20. Not there yet Says:

    Defenses don’t have slow starts, they have bad game plans. If a defense starts slow it usually means they had to adjust their game plan. Our defense couldn’t stop anyone so Joe it’s hard to have a see start if you never got going on the first place. Slow starts are on the offense and the head coach two years and running

  21. Geno Says:

    Fire the Glazers Says:

    Just compared Jameis to Payton Manning. Hope he is right!

    Although Manning lead the NFL in passing yards and passing TD’s in his third year.

  22. superslacker Says:

    Classic. We have the talent to get production out of probably 8 D linemen, and now we don’t want to exploit that depth? The flexibility to do this is a coach’s dream… And many successful defenses rotate in fresh guys all the time. But when Mike Smith talks about it, it’s suddenly a questionable strategy. Okay, this is kinda like digging for complaints.

  23. Destinjohnny Says:

    Don’t play vea until the 4th quartet

  24. webster Says:

    What are you talking about joe? The giants won both of their superbowls due to a great dline rotation. Depth is a good thing
    Who ever wrote that depth was a bad thing? Joe’s primary concern is getting to the bye in Week 5 with two victories. If that means riding the horses and ditching a broad play for a preconceived rotation, then do it.–Joe

  25. JimmyJack Says:

    Looking at the line and assuming everybodys healthy Mike Smith should be planning on rotating Spence in on passing downs. JPP plays everydown and should not be taken off ths field unless he gets banged up.

    McCoy needs to take fewer snaps. This is no mystery, he has always slown down late in games and gone down(and played with injury). McCoys body has taken a beating working thick in the trenches. My guess is that McCoy could be much more effective, the entire game for us, if we can send him onyo the field fresh every time……This is something I always wanted to see but we have never had the depth to do it.

    Vita is hard to say. Who knows what his mindset will be? The great thing is that we have the right makeup to be able to use Vita howevet we need to. Between McCoy, B. Allen, Urien and even Curry can kick inside our Line is in perfect shape for the Tackle position.

  26. I’m a Tandyman Bucs Fan Says:

    I’m with Mike Johnson. If Smith sits up in the Crows Nest again and has the 32 nd best defense in NFL I’m going to Tampa to talk with the higher authorities. No excuses this year!!! Perform or get out of the way and give someone else the opportunity!!! I may be wrong but I may not!!!! GO BUCS!!!

  27. Echase Says:

    We had role players in the glory days so this isnt anything new… hopefully this will help McCoy show up on the 4th qtr…

  28. Dreambig Says:

    There is no one size fits all simple answer here which is why DCs get paid the big bucks to manage the defense and scheme their way through to finding what magic combinations work best. Having said that part of this equation from a team perspective, has to be the running game. A good running game leads to an advantage in time of posession. If your offense runs the ball well, they eat more clock, keeping your defense on the bench resting which helps keep them from being gassed in the 4th quarter. Our running game was hardly stellar last year.

  29. Owlykat Says:

    The best defenses in the NFL as well as in college rotate to keep their DL fresh. We saw the effect of not rotating DL last year—total breakdown in the fourth quarter. We may have too many injuries to keep it up all year but that makes our chances early to be able to do it in three big games worth trying it.