September 6th, 2018

Secret to first-half struggles unearthed?

As much as Joe hates to admit it, math doesn’t lie.

And neither does the eye in the sky.

(Joe’s issues with math are deep-rooted and date back decades. To this day, Joe has an urge to punch a nun.)

Warren Sharp is a well-known NFL handicapper and a math guy. Long-time listeners of “The Big Dog,” the dean of local sports radio Steve Duemig, likely remember Sharp’s name. He appeared regularly during football seasons with Duemig.

Anyway, Sharp is big on trends and patterns (Joe is also a patterns kind of guy). Studying game film of the Bucs, Sharp believes he has solved the riddle of why the Bucs got off to so many slow starts on offense last year, so he typed for BSPN.

The biggest issue holding back the Buccaneers is coaching. Case in point: In the first quarter of games last season, the Bucs ranked No. 7 in success rate and No. 3 in passing efficiency. In the second quarter, when their game script was exhausted, they dropped to No. 30 in success rate and No. 27 in passing efficiency. A big part of that was due to lack of creativity. In the first quarter, they juggled their personnel a ton, using 11 personnel just 38 percent of the time (12 personnel 46 percent, 13 personnel 10 percent). But in the second quarter, they used 11 personnel on 75 percent of their passes and 12 personnel the other 25 percent.

What are personnel groupings? Here is a cheat sheet.

Are the problems producing fast starts that simple? Joe isn’t into always blaming playcalls. That reminds Joe of what he once heard from Phil Simms. The Super Bowl-winning quarterback said the Monday after a team loses, the two things fans are guaranteed to complain about are playcalling and the offensive line.

Joe is hesitant to blame playcalling because Joe doesn’t see what Koetter sees with opposing defenses. It is cool to say, “Throw to Chris Godwin” and complain when that doesn’t happen. But if Godwin is double- or triple-covered, that would be a foolish play. To quote Jimbo Fisher, this ain’t PlayStation.

Koetter all along has said red zone struggles doomed the offense. Given how bad they were in the red zone and how many close games the Bucs lost, it’s hard to disagree.

33 Responses to “Patterns”

  1. adam from ny Says:

    word of the day is:


  2. Bob in Valrico Says:

    To my eyes ,Turnovers ,dumb penalties ,and missed assignments caused a lot of our slow starts. I don’t recall a lot of fast starts in the first quarter either.

  3. kelley rose Says:

    i think the reason for more groupings in the first quarter is to get the defence to show there hand and to establish a running game. they would then know what plays they think would work against that defense the rest of the game. i would be curious to know that same break down on other teams seems. to me most teams do something similar.

  4. Bucs_in_Spain Says:

    That’s interesting, my reading of that is that in the second quarter Koetter is getting into decision fatigue type behaviour.

    I’d be curious as well to see how the personnel line ups relate to score as well. Is Koetter sticking in 11 to try and catch up because they’re behind?

  5. Bucs_in_Spain Says:

    Update: Yes!

    57% when we’re winning, 75% when we’re losing.

  6. Steve in Mad Beach Says:

    Just don’t choose to suck!
    Man I can’t wait until Sunday…

  7. Realbucfan941 Says:

    I think it’s def a combination of trying to establish the run. Seeing how the defense is going to defend specific concepts. And Winston and company being a little too hyped and missing on plays.

  8. Defense Rules Says:

    Lots of defenses do better with their backs against the wall (the Red Zone is after all a pretty short field). For a defense, it seems to be especially important to be able to stop the run at that point. Bucs defense did that a little better in 2016 than in 2017 it appears (allowing 2 fewer TDs rushing), although they allowed 2 more TDs passing in 2016 (Bucs defense allowed 39 total TDs in BOTH 2016 & 2017). Not all those were in the Red Zone obviously, but most were it appears.

    Unfortunately, the Bucs offense hasn’t had a credible rushing threat of its own, especially in the Red Zone, since 2015. That year we ranked #5 in total rushing yardage, and #15 in rushing TDs … fairly decent. But we slipped to near the very bottom of the league in those same categories in 2016 & 2017.

    Would seem logical that if the opposing defense doesn’t have to respect your rushing threat in the Red Zone, you just made their job a LOT easier. Really doesn’t matter much IMO whether you blame play-calling, OLine or RBs; if 1 of those 3 is missing, you’re in trouble in terms of scoring. Since we went from #8 & #7 in rushing attempts in 2015 & 2016 way down to #26 in 2017, I have to think that Koetter didn’t have much confidence in his running game last year. Hmmm, wonder if that impacted play-calling & our 5-11 season in any way. Nah, surely just coincidence.

  9. Tampabaybucfan Says:

    We march down the field with the pass and get to the red zone and get stuffed on the running plays… happens constantly.
    Also, we don’t score unless our receiver is in the end zone…..we don’t catch and run for TDs…..and our longest rushing TD was 2 yards….

    That coupled with a weak defense late in games dooms us.

  10. EA Says:

    I enjoyed listening to Warren Sharp, hopefully he jumps abord with JP this season.
    Koetter isn’t going to win you a Superbowl, he is just not that type of coach, whether that’s X’s and O’s or motivation, the defense carried the team back in 16 when they had that run.
    Somehow most bucs fans here are confident in him, SMH.
    His play calling has left a lot to be desired, meanwhile he is still paranoid to give it up, we don’t know who’s calling plays in the regular season. Great guy, not sold on him as the main team leader one bit.

  11. Ndog Says:

    Yes it is this simple think about it if teams are even close to even talent and one knows what is coming and the other doesn’t who do you think has an advantage? Also think about this if we had Bill Belichick coaching this team right now do you believe that people would be saying we are going to be horrible?

  12. Darin Says:

    Well I dont know the stats but I’d guess the Bucs scored more points in the 2nd quarter last season than they did the first. I do agree the teams problem was coaching. I dont think it was the personnel grouping tho. Doubt they should be using the same personnel in 75 percent of the pass plays tho. Definitely need more underneath routes.

  13. Bucsfanman Says:

    Ndog nailed it. We have talent. It’s just not being maximized.

  14. Bucsfanman Says:

    BTW Joe, placing a pattern like that in plain view is torture. Takes me back to the Smurf days (NOT the cartoon!).

  15. Bucnjim Says:

    I am pretty sure we have suffered from slow starts for well over a decade and three or four coaching staffs. Injuries and lack of talent are the main reason. Another is baking these guys in the sun all day every day. Once the season starts your legs feel like concrete because of constant dehydration. This will be the first year they have been able to take advantage of the indoor facility. I am looking forward to seeing a much faster and tougher team. For those who say practicing in the heat makes them better it does not. Just living in FL already gives them all the advantage they need.

  16. Sweeptheleg Says:

    Saints 35
    Bucs 21

  17. Sweeptheleg Says:

    I don’t for one second believe the defense is improved enough to start beating super bowl contenders.

    I live in the world of reality.

  18. orlbucfan Says:

    Hey Joe: you like the Alan Parsons Project? That’s definitely ‘the Eye in the Sky’ image. 🙂 Bucnjim points out the risks of too much outdoor practice. I’m glad. I’ve wondered about that, too. The heat and humidity are getting more intense. Glad they are using an indoor facility now. Coaching is definitely a factor, too. The DK/Monk scheme will make it interesting this season. Hope it works like it did in preseason. Go Bucs!!

  19. ATrain Says:

    The Bucs problem is not talent or coaching
    Maybe coaching some what

    The BUCS problem is HEART

    Several games were lost in4th quarter and by 6 or less

    Bring it all game
    Leaders of the team should not stand for mediocre play
    And Yes McCoy is one who had to stand up and Lead

  20. Bucsfanman Says:

    ATrain- We’re going to see this year about GMC. He’s got talent around him now, it’s time to show up. I think JPP will prove to be a better leader, IMO.
    With a better run-game and defense, hopefully they won’t be gassed at the end of games like they were last year. Too many drives given up late in games.

  21. Says:

    I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again. Best way to make the playoffs: make sure Bill Belichick is your coach. The Patriots are the bar and the other 31 teams are pretenders. The Patriot Way is the only proven way to repeatedly be a winner. Sooner or later the rest of the league will catch on.

  22. Godeep66 Says:

    Did you mean personal gropings? Regardless, let snake a move for Leveon Bell

  23. stpetebucsfan Says:

    There is another major pattern in our team.

    JW has come out hyped like he just drank a gallon of speed with eyes the size of saucers and he has a well documented record of turnovers and other mistakes at the start of games that dates back to his FSU days.

    Then his superior talent takes over and he brings his teams back from the brink of disaster…at least in college and occasionally in the NFL where it’s much harder.

    Again IMHO JW seems to have fixed this least if the pre season is any indication.

    A calm cool collected JW at the start of the game will go a long ways to helping our starts and I think this will be his year of maturity to do just that.

  24. 813bucboi Says:

    The biggest issue holding back the Buccaneers is coaching.


    I’ve been saying that for the past 2years……but some folks continue to make excuses for this staff……


  25. unbelievable Says:

    Duh. This is why we want Monken calling plays.

    Predictable playcalling + below average run blocking = unsuccessful offense

    Also, I hate to break it to you but that image at the top is not a pattern.

  26. Brandon Says: Says:


    About the name… Booger is in there but not #63? or is this just about the 90’s and early 00’s team? If so… who in the eff is #7? Was that Gramatica? You named yourself after an idiot kicker? Please say that it isn’t so! Greg Spires and Keyshawn, Jurevicius, McCardell, Quarles, Brian Kelly, and Brad Johnson meant a lot more to those teams than #7! Gramatica sucked. Michael Husted and Matt Bryant were clearly better than Gramatica.

  27. Says:

    To each his own. It was an era, and Automatica was a big part of it. The only common theme in the NFL since? : The Pats have been contenders if not favorites each year.

  28. Trench War Says:

    This is why it is so important to have QB’s that have the ability to read defensive alignments on the fly, and the autonomy to adjust at the line of scrimmage.

  29. Gambelero Says:

    You had a post highlighting work by an analytics guy who was addressing the following conundrum: “Does running often lead to winning?” or “Does winning often lead to more (successful) running?”

    He noted that teams that run a lot in the first quarter and first half are almost exclusively bad to terrible teams. Teams that run a lot in the fourth quarter are almost all good to great teams.

    Obviously, we were in the former category last season. Early in games we repeatly went for the the Koetter special, run twice for less than three yards, then pray for Jameis to save us on third down. We were especially prone to go run, run, pray early in games and when we first got to the red zone.

    If anybody checked, I would bet that we set some kind of record for fewest first half possessions in a 16 game season. Our defense was historically bad in getting off the field and when you give up a couple possessions early in games (remember all the one possession losses) bullheadedly trying to establish the run via run, run, pray, and you have the 32nd ranked defense, you’re going to score very few first half points and not have a very good season.

    The best way to establish the run is to jump out to a 21-3 lead.

  30. D1 Says:


    I don’t want to ruin a perfectly good narrative but the facts occasionally due just that. For example,
    * the Bucs in the 1st qtr ran the ball 109 times vs passing 128 times.
    ** 1st vs pass 236-236 equal.
    *** 2nd down running 120 vs 214 passing.

    If you’re story was correct ..the total rushing attempts would be near the top of’s simple math right 2r/1p · # of possessions = twice as many r’ s as p.
    But the problem is the Bucs finished 26th in total rushing attempts. In no qtr did rushing attempts exceed passing attempts.

    So the big question is How can the data be reconciled with the koetter special narrative? I mean the predictable playcalling claims are told what 20 times a day 7 days a week. And that story is predicated on the myth of run, run, pass.

    There’s a big discrepancy between what the actual numbers show and how you remember the games.

  31. Buccaneer Bonzai Says:

    “In the second quarter, when their game script was exhausted, they dropped to No. 30 in success rate and No. 27 in passing efficiency. A big part of that was due to lack of creativity”

    Or…it was because the starting qb was playing injured and the other player injuries piled up quickly, forcing the team to rely on backups…

    …not to mention THE BUCS DEFENSE SUCKED!

    Dude is an idiot. Bucs manage to move the ball up the field in all of those games. The ‘creativity’ was there.

  32. Gambelero Says:

    A fair question deserves an answer D1. I didn’t mean to say that we always went run, run pass, but we sure did it a lot early in games, usually at the beginning of drives or when we got into the red zone. Overall we passed 62.32% of the time, so 109 out of 237 (46%) and a 50/50 ratio on first down shows that we ran a lot more in the first quarter than we did the other three quarters.

    This thread was about patterns and the previous thread about analytics was above teams that run relatively more early in games (bad teams) and teams that run a lot more later in games (good teams). The run twice on first and second down for 3 yards or less happened a lot more to us than the norm.

  33. lambchop Says:

    I can guarantee we’re going to be seeing a LOT of 21 grouping from the Saints!