Extending The Turnaround

August 17th, 2020

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With so much focus on the addition of Tom Brady, it’s easy to forget the Bucs scored a ton of points last year.

There wasn’t a single game when Tampa Bay failed to reach at least the 17-point plateau. Only twice did the Bucs score less than 20 points. Yet as the pads go on in training camp, this offense could feature at least four new starters.

That’s a lot of changes for Byron Leftwich to assimilate in a short period of time. But it’s the other side of scrimmage that likely will determine Tampa Bay’s fortunes this fall.

The most important defensive players have returned for Year 2 in the Todd Bowles system, and that’s a good thing. With Vita Vea and Ndamukong Suh stuffing the interior, Tampa Bay’s run defense should be stifling once again. Shaq Barrett and Jason Pierre-Paul are back to fuel the pass rush while second-round safety Antoine Winfield joins a young, aggressive secondary.

That all sounds promising on paper, but let’s remember this defense played like paper tigers for much of last season.

Todd Bowles must end a four-year streak, writes Ira Kaufman.

If you choose, you can blame a Jameis Winston-led attack that easily led the NFL with 41 giveaways, including seven interceptions returned for touchdowns. Bruce Arians isn’t going there. He says he isn’t cutting the defense any slack for inexcusable lapses throughout the first 10 games, contributing mightily to a 3-7 getaway.

The grim news is this team’s defense has basically been atrocious since Monte Kiffin walked out the door with Jon Gruden at the end of the 2008 season. With few exceptions, this club hasn’t made big defensive stops during the entirety of a 12-year playoff drought.

Even in ’08, there were clear signs that a franchise built on defense had lost its way. In those final four games, opponents averaged 31 points as an 0-4 skid doomed Gruden and his staff. Since that point, the Buc defense has struggled virtually without exception.

See for yourself.

Year      Average points allowed   League Rank

2019                28.6                          29th
2018                29.0                          31st
2017                23.9                          22nd
2016                23.1                          15th
2015                26.1                          26th
2014                25.6                          25th
2013                24.3                          21st
2012                24.6                          23rd
2011                30.9                          32nd
2010                19.9                            9th
2009                25.0                          27th
2008                20.2                          10th

Brooks, Sapp, Rice, Barber … where have you gone?

That chart represents quite a sick legacy of southern hospitality, especially painful when you acknowledge Tampa Bay’s brief glory days (1979-82) and 1997-2002) were triggered by dominating defenses.

Win or be ignored, explains Shaq Barrett.

As the NFL’s reigning sack champion, Barrett vows a return to Buc Ball, at least on his side of the ball. Although he and David both made the list of the league’s Top 100 players, he claims more accolades are dead ahead.

“I think it’s all based on if we were winning,” Barrett says. “It’s going to be just whoever the teams that were doing the best who have some guys who are making plays that’s going to get all the recognition. We know what we can do and what we bring to the team – that’s the most important thing.”

This organization is overflowing with individuals standing at the crossroads. Brady wants to prove he can flourish without Bill Belichick. O.J. Howard wants to show he’s a big-time player while Barrett knows he needs another outstanding season to attain a long-term contract extension.

But don’t forget about Bowles, who built a reputation with Arians in Arizona as a keen defensive mind. In his final three years as head coach of the Jets and his first season as coordinator in Tampa, Bowles has seen his teams rank 29th, 29th, 22nd and 28th in scoring defense.

Buc fans are watching closely. Six impressive efforts down the stretch, when you’ve already been effectively eliminated from the postseason, offers hope but no assurances.

Momentum doesn’t always carry over to the next year and this defense has so much to prove. It all starts in less than a month at the Superdome, where Drew Brees and company tend to prove it all night and all day.

Bill Currie Ford
5815 N. Dale Mabry Hwy.
Tampa, FL 33614

Ira Kaufman’s column is presented by Bill Currie Ford. Click on Ira to visit BillCurrieFord.com.

5 Responses to “Extending The Turnaround”

  1. stpetebucsfan Says:

    What a challenge for all the teams. I can only imagine how ragged the first couple of games will be league wide. Let’s hope a couple of decades experience at the most important position will help settle things down sooner rather than later.

  2. SB Says:

    Thank you Ira. Your articles are Always informative and well thought out.

  3. PSL Bob Says:

    Statistics can be tricky adversaries. When you put up as many points as the Bucs did last year, opposing offenses are forced to put the pedal to the medal to catch up. And that makes it tough on the defense. Granted, conventional wisdom says SB teams are built on strong defenses, but it doesn’t mean a high-scoring, turnover-averse offense can’t get the job done. And, as long as the Bucs score a few more points than their opponents each week, who cares how many the defense gives up? It’s all about the Ws. But remember not to eat them. Stack them on top of one another until they reach the SB.

  4. Jmarkbuc Says:


    Maybe it’s just my memory, But it seems to me we were behind in a lot of games we were the one with the pedal to the metal trying to catch up and overcome turnovers.

  5. PSL Bob Says:

    Jmarkbuc, you’re probably right, although I certainly recall games we were in control of and let the lead slip away at the end. I certainly agree with Ira that a good defense is important, but was just making the point that a high-scoring offense can get the job done too if you don’t turn the damn ball over so much.