Tipping Pitches

July 1st, 2020

Predictable in one formation.

Joe got under Byron Leftwich’s skin once last year.

Joe doesn’t try to get under anyone’s skin at One Buc Palace, but sometimes a question doesn’t sit well with a guy at the podium. Joe is looking for answers, not a reaction.

So last year after the Bucs lost a couple of games early, it sure seemed like the Bucs constantly were running up the middle with Peyton Barber and getting nowhere (not that running outside was much better).

Then Joe went through those two games and counted runs between the tackles. Sure enough, the Bucs ran far more up the middle. Lots of effort; sad production.

So Joe asked Leftwich at a weekly presser if part of the reason for the lousy run game was that he may be tipping pitches, that teams knew the Bucs were going to run up the middle based on the ratio of running plays called up the gut, and defenses then adjusted accordingly.

This didn’t sit well with Leftwich, who gave Joe a terse one-word reply.


Well, Sheil Kapadia of The Athletic, who typed a real stat-geeky article about the Bucs (Joe spent as much time researching what his made-up stats meant as Joe did reading the piece), showed Leftwich while in shotgun may as well have hollered to the opposing defense what his offense was going to do.

Few teams, Kapadia noted, ran out of a shotgun less than the Bucs.

The Bucs ran out of the shotgun on just 19.6 percent of their attempts. That was the third-lowest percentage for any team and is unlikely to change.

Kapadia went on to document, using a variety of different stats, how the Bucs’ run game was just miserable. Then Joe found another stat, this time on Buccaneers.com, that demonstrates how rotten the run game was.

The Bucs had 81 rushing first downs in 2019, a number that ranked 27th in the league.

The more Joe thinks about it, maybe Leftwich was simply being smart. He knew better than to run out of a shotgun with his lousy rushing attack. Perhaps Leftwich believed running out of a shotgun was a waste of a down? Better to put the ball in the hands of a guy who led the NFL in passing than a guy lucky to get four yards.

28 Responses to “Tipping Pitches”

  1. ModHairKen Says:

    Leftwich’s play calling last year was many times predictable and damaging. The running up the middle with no success was what made the OL look inadequate. Yet, Jensen’s play has been revised the last few months as outstanding. It was not.

    The passing game produced so much because the team could not and would not run.

    How much better would the defense have been had the running game been better strategized? How many less times would the defense have been out there because of a Jameis pick because the running game was not working?

  2. BucEmUp Says:

    The saints, packerr,pats, cheifs dont run good because of the oline, they run good because they are unpredictable.Leftwich sucks

  3. Hodad Says:

    So far as an O.C. Byron stepped into a bad situation in AZ with a rookie QB Rosen, and his first full year as OC with Winston. Not exactly the cream of the crop. Let’s see how he does this year with TB12 as his QB. As Gruden so aptly put it, it’s not about the X’s, and O’s, it’s about the Jimmy’s, and Joe’s. Notice how every team LaBron plays for their coach looks good.

  4. Tampabaybucfan Says:

    I got news for you…..this has been going on long before BL & BA arrived….

  5. SufferingSince76 Says:

    TBBF – Exactly!

  6. El Buco Realisto Says:

    Let me translate what Tampabaybucfan just said

    “I got news for you…… these coaches are not any better than the past regimes!!!!!!!! The sheep have been lied to!!!!!!!!!!!!”

    go bucs!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  7. Youngbucs Says:

    When a wrench gets thrown into your whole gm plan. Spit tends to happen just saying forget last year. I’ll judge this team when their on an even playing field.

  8. Sport Says:

    I’d like to see how teams ran against a stacked box with a QB that will throw nearly 2 picks per game and one returned for a TD every other game.

    Relentlessly hitting the open man in the passing game will open up the running attack.

    Best field general of all time…

    In BA I Trust!

  9. 813bucboi Says:

    running behind marpet, jensen, cappa was better than running behind of d.smith and dotson….

    the real issue was defenses were game planning to stop the run and force JW to pass…which they knew would result in a INT…..

    BL did a great job last year…run game will open up because teams wont be able to game plan to stop the run with brady,gronk, ME13,CG14,brate, OJ ready to air it out in the passing game…….

    GO BUCS!!!!!!

  10. 813bucboi Says:



    GO BUCS!!!!

  11. batman Says:

    So, the article’s stats were “made up” because Joe hasn’t encountered them before?

  12. Joe Says:

    So, the article’s stats were “made up” because Joe hasn’t encountered them before?

    Partially, yes. That would likely mean some fidgety person with too much time on their hands decided to concoct some mathematical jibberish and slap an acronym on it.

    “See Ma, I’m valuable!”

  13. Smashsquatch Says:

    Balance on offense is much more important than one dimensional attacks. Just ask the Ravens and Bucs who led the league in rushing and passing. We won a SB with a balanced offense and game manager QB who didn’t turn the ball over. Protecting the ball allowed the defense to thrive and the Bucs put it all together in a symphony like run through the playoffs. Brady’s experience will pay big dividends this year. His teams have always found a way to exploit their opponents weaknesses which opens up the rest of the playbook filled with counter attacks. It’s always checkmate when Brady gets a defense on their heels. Leftwich will benefit with a balanced attack and head coaching opportunities as a result.

  14. Duthsty Rhothdes Says:

    do the bucs not have an in game scouting dept; or a staff that scout both bucs offense & defense tendencies; high school teams do this but an nfl team cannot do this. Please, I hope this is not true but it would make sense with a 6-10 franchise.

  15. Joe Says:

    do the bucs not have an in game scouting dept; or a staff that scout both bucs offense & defense tendencies

    Yes. By “in game” are you referring to as the game is being played? That would be assistant coaches.

    As for as scouting other teams, that’s the player personnel department.

  16. Joe Says:

    Balance on offense is much more important than one dimensional attacks.

    Joe always preferred Mike Leach’s philosophy on “balanced offense.”

    You only are balanced if both the run and the pass are working. For example, it’s crazy to run, just to run if it’s not working. When the old wishbone was working, there was nothing balanced about it.

    Last year for example, if the Bucs were more unbalanced, they would have beaten the Giants and who knows, perhaps had a winning record?

  17. TSmitty3000 Says:

    I know many fans and media will focus on Winston’s 30th pick vs Atlanta. I want yall to take this into consideration. The Bucs had the lead in the 4th, but they couldn’t run the ball effectively enough to milk the clock. The Bucs didn’t have the ability to run the clock out. Brady may have had no name backs(with the exception of Corey Dillon and Fred Taylor), but you rarely heard about Brady having no running game. Look how creative Shanahan is with his run game in San Francisco. The Bucs don’t have maulers up front so being more creative with their backs would help.

  18. Dusthty Rhothdes Says:

    Joe, not scouting other teams; I am saying do they scout their own team both the offense and defense to help both bowles and leftiwch and Arians overall. Say they play the Saints on Sunday, then after the game do the bucs go and scout the bucs both offense and defense. Then they could see if Leftwich is tipping pitches etc. Basically a self scouting of their own offense and defense. Just as they scout their opponents coming up for the upcoming game but they would scout themselves to see what other teams might start to pick up so they can keep it fresh and not tip off their pitches.

  19. lambchop Says:


    The whole point of data science is to get hidden meaning from data. Many times that’s information that isn’t easy to spot with the naked eye, so models are used to plot the data points to look for patterns. There aren’t a whole lot of people who do data science in sports, so yea a lot of it will seem new, but it sure isn’t made up unless the person is not qualified. Usually, these data points are public knowledge, so it can be verified if one so chooses to verify the conclusions. But really, I would bet the guy knows what he’s doing cuz his peers would out him if he was a phony.

    But, data science is really more interesting with Gigabytes of data (decades of data points) – not 16 games which could easily be done by hand especially if only looking at runs out of shotgun.

  20. lambchop Says:

    Also, while looking at past data, it is more data analysis, which is easier to verify. Predicting outcomes with predictive analysis is more of the voodoo science that Cynthia Frelund is known for. She tries to predict outcomes using past data. But, in sports, there are too many variables to reliably make predictions. It’s more of an educated guess.

  21. Youngbucs Says:

    Tsmitty3000 the QB who wanted 30mil a year had the ball last. And you know what happened don’t talk to me about a 4th qtr lead. Go get a td and win it !!!!!!!

  22. Show me the TDs Says:

    FAKE NEWS! Led the NFL in passing yardage, not “led the league in passing”. Huge difference.

  23. Cobraboy Says:

    @Sport: Stacking the box then dropping back into coverage at the first sign of pass against a QB who read defenses poorly and threw almost predictable picks was a common strategy.

    Handing the ball off in shotgun without a hint of a pass against a stacked box went nowhere.

    Football is fairly simple in the running game: you need at least the same # of O guys as D guys at the point of attack, at minimum. More D’s than O’s at the point of attack goes nowhere, even if you hand the ball to Barry Sanders…

    IMO, stuffing the run up the middle was an unintended consequence of D’s jobbing Winston’s head at the LoS. Maybe it was Winston telegraphing the ply, not the play call itself. I have NO doubt that shotgun formations with a RB can have both a pass and run option. The QB has to understand the D and chose which accordingly.

    Winston was really weak at that, based on 5 years of study.

    I doubt even a weaker-armed Tompa Brady will suffer similar issues.

  24. Cobraboy Says:

    Dusthty Rhothdes Says:

    Joe, not scouting other teams; I am saying do they scout their own team both the offense and defense to help both bowles and leftiwch and Arians overall.

    Funny you should mention this.

    I was a grad assistant at a Div. I college in the late 70’s-early 80’s. It got me through grad school with two degrees.

    I had three main and one minor job:

    1) Do game cut-ups with 16mm film, cutting and pasting. I spend all day Sunday doing this to get to the coaches on Monday Morning. During Spring ball and pre-season camp, I’d cut up scrimmage film, but we didn’t do that much because of the cost.

    2) Do scouting cut-ups of coming opponents films: take the film the opponent sent, have the lab make 2 copies, then I’d cut it for coaches, and with the second can do situational cut-ups by down. More cut and glus cellulose film. This was an ongoing project, but had to be complete by Monday for each opponent

    3) Work with kicking specialists Wed-Fri afternoons.

    4) Sat: Scout OUR team on game day like they were an opponent, and create a SWOT analysis (Strenght, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) to give to the HC. This bit of my job did NOT make me popular with the players, because I was the one with first documented criticism of their performance.

    I have no doubt, in the digital age where everything, all the data, all ^^^those functions^^^ but one (Wed-Fri) are done quickly in just a few hours with mere clicks of a button creating specific files.

    Today’s “quality control” guys never had to nurse a flim cut, or get a buzz with film glue.

  25. Jeebs the Honey Bear Says:

    Been waiting for an article on Leftwich’s poor run game design for a long time… I’ve mentioned it in many comments. I wish you didn’t back pedal in the last paragraph. Predictable playcalling gets predictably plugged up by defenses. Byron was predictable. HB dive way too much, then relying on Jameis to air it out, little play action or creativity. It actually made me miss Koetter as the OC. That guy knew how to move between the 20’s (unfortunately he struggled calling plays in the red zone). I see the Brady effect as correcting the mistakes from last year in playcalling. He will have a lot of influence, and can help pre-snap as well.

  26. tickrdr Says:


    Cool story and thanks for sharing.
    Agree with you and Sport re: stopping the run game, and waiting for the inevitable turnover.


  27. Cobraboy Says:

    @tickrdoc: Here is a frightening 2019 stat:

    The Bucs led the NFL with 194 drives. They also led the NFL is turnover per drive: .206.

    So 1/5 of all TB Drives resulted in a turnover. 1/5!!!!!!

    They were also 28th in the league in points per drive, 2.32.

    The Saints led the league in fewest turnovers per drive, .042—1/5 of the Bucs—and 4th the league in points per drive at 3.04.

    Can anyone else understand why Jameis Christ is no longer a Buc? And what a substantial and quantifiable issue turnovers were from him (35).

    Two a game, pretty much guaranteed. They is worth a click less than a touchdown per game.

    In a game of inches, and when games are settled by a field goal or less, those numbers are HUGE!

  28. Joe Says:

    Been waiting for an article on Leftwich’s poor run game design for a long time… I’ve mentioned it in many comments. I wish you didn’t back pedal in the last paragraph. Predictable playcalling gets predictably plugged up by defenses.

    Joe is pretty sure he was the first person at One Buc Palace with media credentials last year to ask Leftwich about his predictable run calls. It didn’t go over very well.

    The last paragraph makes a lot of sense. When your quarterback is leading the league in passing and leads the league in first downs and your running backs stink out loud, why would you run out of a shotgun?