“Preseason Games Don’t Count, But They Matter”

August 31st, 2019

Sage of Tampa Bay Sports Ira Kaufman puts a bow on August

The Sage Of Tampa Bay Sports

This is a tale of two coordinators.

It was the worst of times for the defenses of the Bucs and Chiefs in 2018, so the culprits had to take the fall.

In Tampa Bay’s case, Dirk Koetter and his entire coaching staff was jettisoned. Mike Smith had already been fired six weeks into the season, a call that was likely ordered from the executive suite.

In Kansas City, defensive coordinator Bob Sutton was dumped only two days after the Patriots upset the top-seeded Chiefs on the road in the AFC title game.

“Bob is a good football coach and a great person,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said after Sutton’s dismissal. “He played an integral role in the success of our team over the last six seasons. I’ve said before that change can be a good thing, for both parties, and I believe that is the case here for the Chiefs and Bob.”

Every Buc fan knows how poorly Tampa Bay’s defense has played in the past two seasons. Hard to believe, but Kansas City’s defense was just as porous last year, despite 52 sacks.

Like Mike Smith, Sutton appeared stuck in a gridiron time capsule, unable or unwilling to adjust to the new pass-happy NFL. While the Bucs ranked 27th in total defense in 2018, the Chiefs were 31st.

Led by league MVP Patrick Mahomes, KC kept outscoring opponents until the Patriots ran all over them in arguably the biggest home game in franchise history.

Even the ultra-loyal Reid knew a change was necessary. So Reid reached out to an old friend to stop the bleeding, naming Steve Spagnuolo the new defensive coordinator.

Bruce Arians also tapped a familiar face by bringing back Todd Bowles.

The similarities don’t end there.

Early Returns

After helping the 2007 Giants to a Super Bowl victory against the 18-0 Patriots, Spagnuolo coached the Rams for three seasons and went 10-38.

Todd Bowles

After helping Arians for two seasons in Arizona, Bowles went 24-40 in four years as head coach of the Jets.  As coordinators, both Bowles and Spagnuolo prefer an aggressive approach, marked by a blitz-happy scheme. The Chiefs will stay with a four-man front while the Bucs shift to a predominantly 3-4 alignment.

The early results in Tampa are encouraging.

Preseason games don’t count, but they matter. This seems to be a new day for a young Bucs pass defense. Throws are being contested. Receivers aren’t running downfield wide open. First-down sticks aren’t moving in a methodical manner.

In these four games, Buc opponents converted third downs at a 29 percent rate. The completion rate was 52 percent, second-lowest in the league to New England. Tampa Bay yielded an average of only 4.3 yards per snap, fourth best in the NFL.

Yes, August stats can be meaningless, but let’s compare the numbers to the 2018 preseason.

A year ago, Buc opponents enjoyed a 39 percent success rate on third down, completed 59 percent of their throws and averaged 5.2 yards per snap. Communication breakdowns have been at a minimum and these inexperienced defensive backs are having fun.

All of this enthusiasm could change when the 49ers come to town for the opener. Somebody has to cover Pro Bowler George Kittle, who just set an NFL record for tight ends with 1,377 receiving yards.

But it’s clear to see Tampa Bay’s defense has a fresh bounce under Bowles. The Chiefs are gunning for the Vince Lombardi Trophy while the Bucs are gunning for respectability.

By the looks of things, both goals are well within reach.

Watch Bucs every road game with Ira Kaufman and JoeBucsFan.com readers at Buffalo Wild Wings.

Great giveaways, too. The preseason opener was a blast!

6 Responses to ““Preseason Games Don’t Count, But They Matter””

  1. dmatt Says:

    U can c the difference this year in the attitude of the players on defense n overall scheme of the defense. No doubt, this defense has n will improve from last years erratic embarrassment put on display by so call Buccaneers coaches. Great coaches knows how to put systems n processes in place to maximize the skill sets of the players. This group has a new attitude. They are playing hungry, aggressive, n violent, contrary to last year’s…passive, literally “lost in space”, “my bad Ben”, bunch of misfits players/coaches. There’s a new sheriff in town.

  2. Hodad Says:

    Todd is like a lot of other great coordinators. W.Phillips, N. Turner, even D. Koetter. Good defensive, offensive minds, bad head coaches, just not cut out to run the whole show. A good H.C. has to be like a circus ring master. Keep all three rings, special teams, offense, defense working together. B.A. has that ringmaster quality, few if any, Gruden did, have it.

  3. teacherman777 Says:

    Jimmy G has the yips.

    If we hit him in the 1st series we will win.

    We must hit Jimmy G all game. Thats the key.

  4. WhatTheBuc Says:

    Bowles got a raw deal in NY. His rosters were garbage. They were tanking and clearing out cap space. Bowles overachieved in my opinion. He won more than he should have and his players respected him.

  5. BucsBandit Says:


  6. Bojim Says:

    Put OJ on Kittle.