New Beginning — Or The Beginning Of The End

October 17th, 2018


In theory, every NFL regular-season game counts the same.

You win, you lose or you tie and it all goes into the mix. You have 16 opportunities to put your best self forward and at the end of the year, you are what your record says you are.

So how come this one feels different?

The Browns are coming to town this weekend, and these are not the 0-16 Browns who earned the No. 1 overall draft choice.

This Cleveland team tied Pittsburgh and beat a solid Baltimore club. Two of Cleveland’s three losses have been by three points, including a game they were robbed against Oakland. The Browns played poorly last week and were drubbed by a surging Chargers team that has found its way after a Week 1 setback.

As Dirk Koetter approaches his 38th game as Tampa Bay’s head coach, this one feels different. Don’t just take my word for it. In my weekly segment with Derrick Brooks on The Identity’s “Tampa Two,” the Buc icon attached special significance to Sunday’s home matchup.

Must-win feel for Sunday, says Derrick Brooks

Brooks said this one has the feel of “a must-win game,” and it’s easy to see why.

Road Ahead

In the following two weeks, the Bucs face Cincinnati and Carolina on the road, where they are yielding an average of 41 points per game. This is the moment Koetter’s team must stop the bleeding and return some belief to a beaten-down fan base.

One member of the coaching staff has already been thrown overboard on this sinking pirate ship, with more carnage to come in January if things go awry.

Without question, this is the biggest game of the year — and not just because this is the next game. That stunning opening-day win in New Orleans took a lot of pressure off Tampa Bay, but that feel-good story seems like a distant memory.

A three-game tailspin has plunged the Bucs below the .500 mark for the first time in 2018, and if they don’t respond, Tampa Bay fans will start turning their attention to the 2019 draft.

Hitting the road mired in a four-game losing streak is a recipe for disaster. This offense deserves better, and so do the loyal supporters who are starting to get that old queasy feeling.

Fresh Voice, Instant Change

Perhaps Mark Duffner can make a difference.

He’s been waiting a long time for another opportunity to oversee an NFL defense and he’ll bring a different voice to the meeting room. Since 2016, he has made suggestions to Mike Smith, but now he is in charge. With Duffner suggest he would have it no other way.

Amid all the points and turnovers, there haven’t been enough takeaways. The pass rush hasn’t been good enough and the coverage has been abysmal, but Duffner’s position group hasn’t distinguished itself, either.

That’s where it has to start, facing a rookie quarterback. Baker Mayfield has been picked off five times in his past three starts, but Tampa Bay has registered only one interception this season.

Lavonte David and Kwon Alexander have to lead the way. Duffner has to be more creative with his linebackers, and I think he will.

A 3-3 record would give this franchise a fresh start. Anything less would likely be the beginning of the end.

Derrick Brooks takes on the tough questions of the day — your questions — with sage columnist Ira Kaufman.Click below and enjoy this great production from The Identity Tampa Bay and, presented by Caldeco Air Conditioning & Heating.   

Now in his 40th year covering the NFL, Ira Kaufman is the most revered sports personality and writer in the Tampa Bay area. He scored a full-time seat at world headquarters in July of 2016. Tampa Bay’s only Pro Football Hall of Fame voter 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 at 5 p.m. Also a TV star, Ira is part of the FOX-13 Tailgate Sunday NFL show at 10:30 a.m. He’s also on BayNews 9 Mondays & Wednesdays at 10:30 p.m. “The Sage” enjoys beet salads, Riesling, tennis, Bette Midler, Chiefs victories and needling Joe. …WATCH IRA AND DERRICK BROOKS on the new TAMPA TWO show from The Identity Tampa Bay and JoeBucsFan.

22 Responses to “New Beginning — Or The Beginning Of The End”

  1. Cobraboy Says:

    Until this defense shows something, I don’t believe they can even slow a team down. And unless something changes, should anyone think Winston won’t cause 2-3 turnovers?

    If the Browns beat the Bucs the wheels come completely off and once again we look forward to another regime change.

    Enjoying such a fantastic offense can’t be offset by the single worst defense I have ever seen in the NFL. It’s like the old arena league: if you don’t score every possession, you will lose the game.

    I hope Duffner brings some Majik Whiffle Dust.

  2. BigPoppaBuc Says:

    Have to hope that Duffner has been preparing for this day and that the players respond. The Browns have a tough, physical defense but I don’t think they have enough depth in their secondary to hang with our receivers. Should be a good game and I agree this is a must win for Koetter and many of the players we have on contract years.

  3. LakeLand Says:

    I have a feeling that Cleveland will try to control the clock and keep the Bucs offense off the field. I wouldn’t be surprised if they run the ball 35-40 times. And short passes to their RB and TE. They average 30 rushes a game.

  4. Reach87 Says:

    Lakeland, I agree. I think we can offset that run game and short passing attack with some good press man or pressed zone looks to start (but you still have to make the tackle). One of the things that hurt us I think in the past is in making adjustments and actually executing them. Lets hope we give the Browns a different look on the short passes and run game (a little more blitzing with those presses) and then when they block it up, we are in position not to get bombed. BL: This could be a “control their run and short passing game, then don’t get beat deep when they take their shots” kind of game. Go Bucs!

  5. TouchDownTampaBay Says:

    Not sure if I agree with this. Last week was the turning point in the season. They had two weeks to get healthy and prepare against an injury riddled Falcons team. That was a must win game. When they lost that one the wheels came off and we are in full tailspin mode. I don’t think a win this week will control the downward trajection of this team. The defense is horrendous and that is going to cost them numerous games over the next 11 contests. Beating an improved Browns team would be nice, but their fate has already been determined. Now we can watch the games and hope for the best, but I don’t think anyone, including Koetter, really believes this team is going to end up with a winning record. Those oddsmakers in Vegas seem to always get it right and us fans get overly optimistic until realtity sets in year after year after year.

  6. BigPoppaBuc Says:

    @touchdowntampa…. The Falcons were a little more desperate than us last week. We’re not very far back in the division and wildcard race. A win on Sunday will keep us in the hunt. If we lose then it’s over and we might not win another one… I agree that they should have come out of the bye with a win, but they should have used that time for Duffner to get his feet wet as DC. Season the line Sunday.

  7. Sunday_44 Says:

    Just listened to Duffner’s Press Conference and I have to say I was hoping for more.

    Heard a lot of this was great back then and this coach was amazing in the 70s and I have been doing this for 45 years attitude.

    Nice man, quality individual, but don’t we need a man with amazing passion who is still trying to make a name for himself and is willing to put in the work no matter what it takes.

    Just don’t get the feeling that Duffner is the answer long term.

    My HOPE is that he hits on something, even by accident, that helps propel this team forward this year, whether it be the right personnel for a unique stunt, or blitzing the safety vs the CB.

    It’s not the talent level that is making this team the worst in NFL History.

    It’s an accumulation of attitude and heart from a team that has a lot of quit in them, from losing for so long.

    They need 1 solid game to even believe it is possible IMO

  8. Frank Pillow Says:

    The Browns have real talent at every level of their D. Garrett is a monster. Jaboo spends most of the day running for his life, while Marpet, Smith, Dot and El Matador (aka Benenoch) stand around and enjoy the view. Our annual lateral running and heavy screen to Humphries game plan is snuffed out. On our D not much changes…we make Mayfield look like a young Drew Brees, while Hyde (a guy we should’ve signed) slices through our front 7 with relative ease. Meanwhile our kicker misses two field goals. 26-21 Browns and Noah Spence finally gets his picture on a milk carton.

  9. jmarkbuc Says:


    You can’t control the clock against the Bucs D.

    We are as easy to get through as a hot knife through butter… doesn’t take much time off the clock.

  10. Pryda...sec 147 Says:

    Does Noah Spence play Sunday ?

  11. 813bucboi Says:

    browns don’t have to control the clock….they have enough weapons for a shoot out…..

    the thing is, our strength is on offense is passing and the browns strength on defense is pass rush…..we don’t run the ball that well and they don’t stop the run that well….

    @touchdown I agree….the game to be had was vs ATL….coming off a bye facing a banged up team….

    this is a must win game for dirk…..lose this one and his head might roll…..


  12. Lord Cornelius Says:

    I hope they run it a lot because that’s the only aspect of the defense that’s done OK. Meanwhile pass D on historically bad pace lol. So please run

  13. Lord Cornelius Says:

    I’ll laugh my a4ss off if they put Noah Spence in and he plays well… that’d be awesome but also really make the staff look really bad and bring up a lot of questions.

    @Kobe – I don’t own a Spence jersey (I think I’ve tried to reply to your obsessive rants like 3 X now but you haven’t seen it I guess). The only jersey I own is Winston’s right now. I bought my wife a Vea shirt so you can root for him to fail if you want now.

    Spence was our best DE when healthy as a rookie and it wasn’t close in terms of pressure created with or without him in the game. I’m such an idiot for ever taking that performance as hope for the future i guess. What a sh** fan I am lol. You got me man. Sterling Shepard would have had us SB bound.

  14. unbelievable Says:

    Agreed, I hope the Browns run a lot.

    If they go for an aerial assault, it will turn into a shootout (provided our o-line remembers how to consistently pass block).

    On the other hand, we could try running the ball and controlling the clock, which would keep our defense fresh and maybe allow them to make more than 2 stops the entire game.

  15. Darkmir The Bold Says:

    The “new” NFL doesn’t impress. How long, I wonder, before high schools and colleges stop training up running backs beyond the position of quarterback? How long before running plays take up a similar place in playbooks as trick plays? If I wanted arena league football, I’d watch The Arena League.

    Doesn’t matter anyways. Give it another 15-20 years, and boomers will all become droolers, and then the NFL can blithely continue to go right to hell, like most everything else.

    Jeezus. Does it have to be so damn hard to be a Bucs fan? A rapist quarterback. And a quarterback who feels like he can ignore one of the best receivers in the league, even if Jackson has lost a quarter step. Fitz seemed able to find him on a VERY regular basis. Either for long yards or a score. And Jackson can still take open field hits, or throw an open field juke on someone, as he proved more than once in the first two games. What a waste. Guess we can all look forward to him going elsewhere at the end of the season and giving someone with a brain two or three more really great years.

    No matter how many times we change coaches or head office staff, it’s like there’s a curse on The Bucs. What is it with quarterbacks that the Bucs draft into the league? Hard Knocks last year showed what a putz this kid is. If one good thing comes out of this recent Uber fiasco and the kid’s benching, pray god it is him learning to keep his damn mouth shut. Not to mention keeping his hands (and other body parts) to himself.

    I was a temporary Bengals fan through the early 90’s in order to share more time and joy with my dad, which was dying at the time. Came back to my beloved Bucs when Dungee took over as head coach in ’96. I’ve remained loyal since.

    But damn, it’s tough.

  16. adam from ny Says:

    duffner had a heavy twinkle in his eye at that press conference…like he knew this moment was coming…let’s hope he’s prepared for it


  17. jmarkbuc Says:

    To say we are good against the run is a little misleading, no?

    Why would anybody run on us when receivers and running backs run free through our LB’s and secondary, catching everything uncontested?

    It’s like saying we were good on third downs, when the opposing team never gets to third down.

    Unless there is some kind of miracle at Ray Jay, it’s definitely the beginning of the end for this regime, Ira. Even then, one victory over the Browns isn’t the be all end all.

  18. Mike Johnson Says:

    Great Article here Ira..As usual and on. That carnage you speak of will follow for Dirk if he cannot get this team turned around. The fans are sick and tired of excuses after all those signings. The Browns have improved. If That rook Mayfield is allowed to scramble, he will hit targets. He’s gonna be a good one. All Duff has to do is get this Defense say..40 to 50% better. Thats all. And we will win some games. I just question ownerships heart. Smitty should have been fired after last season. Dirk did not fire Smitty. He did not have the balls to let his mentor go. The Glazers..finally stepped in. Yes, this is a Must Win for our Bucs. At least we know Duf will be on the field and the pressbox. This is his opportunity. I wish him well. Go get’em Duf!!!!!!!!!

  19. Buccnbeliever Says:

    Biggest game since Raheem went to London.

  20. Dooshlarue Says:

    I think that twinkle in Duff’s eyes might be a little booze related!
    Just sayin…… he’s got that barroom look.
    …..and after clean cut creepy grandpa Smitty…… what the hell!

    Let the D hunt Duff and good luck!!!!

  21. Crabberbill Says:

    I’m the first one to say that we should hire Tony Dungy foe President of football operations like the Jags did with Tom Coughlin. I read other people suggest him or maybe Derrick Brooks. While I love Derrick and think he’s a great person, he doesn’t have the coaching background of Tony. Let him pick our new DC or maybe our new head coach if we don’t start winning. He has the experience and we all love and respect him here. He could run for President of this F**Ked up country and win!! He is a great moral leader and what we need for this team & for this country too !! He could beat Trump and put some morality back in this great country that Trump and these spineless republicans don’t have!! GO Bucs !!!

  22. The Buc Realist Says:

    The same flaws are happening again and the sheep don’t even see it!!!!!! Overestimating the talent, blaming coaches when their wrong assumptions of all the talent does not show up!!!!! The worst part is that the owners are just as guilty!!!!!! They will flush the coaching staff, and maybe the gm, thinking that the roster is loaded with talent, they will have to hire second rate coaches because the coaches directive will be to ” fix JW3″ and on defense to keep building around GMC because the owners #1 objective is to get gmc into that stupid ring of honor!!!!!!!!!! do the sheep want to know what happened to all that 3-4 that we never got to see but heard of consistently???????? GMC half azz it and did not want to play in it as it did not pad his stats!!!!!!!!!!

    after the next two games that will eliminate all hope from most fans and draft/ who the new coach talk will start up!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!