Worst To First

May 9th, 2021

Bucs DC Todd Bowles.

The first time Joe heard the term “worst-to-first” was when the Bucs went from the speed bag of the NFL to winning the 1979 NFC Central and advancing to the NFC title game.

Well, that moniker could also be applied to the recent Bucs defense.

It literally went from a historically garbage defense in the last two years under defensive coordinator Mike Smith to the best-run defense in the league the past two seasons, which included a Vince Lombardi Trophy.

In an article by Scott Spratt of Football Outsiders on the health of the 2020 Bucs, Spratt noted a defense has never gone from pure trash in 2018 to one of the best the next season, to the NFL standard in winning the Super Bowl a year later.

Casual football fans discovered the excellence of the Bucs defense in that recent run to the Super Bowl. Football Outsiders readers likely recognized it in 2019 when the team finished sixth in defensive DVOA despite a Jameis Winston-interceptions-aided bottom-five total of 449 points allowed. But adjusted games lost supports an argument that the team’s defensive improvement happened more gradually than either group would attest. Tampa Bay ranked 32nd in defensive (rankings) in both 2017 and 2018, but their latter unit suffered from 91.4 adjusted games lost, the highest defensive total since 2001. That nadir spurred the biggest year-to-year health improvement (66.1) for a defense in our database between 2018 and 2019 and helped catapult the Bucs defense to their top-six (ranking) finishes the last two seasons.

One of these days, Joe is going to find out why Vernon Hargreaves dragged the defense down so badly.

Astute followers of the Bucs noticed the dramatic difference in the defense after the Bucs tossed Hargreaves on the sidewalk midway through the 2019 season.

Another big reason the defense improved? Well, it is now clear Bucs AC/DC-loving general manager Jason Licht was doing a helluva job drafting and signing talent. It took a strong coaching staff to start developing and nurturing this talent.

15 Responses to “Worst To First”

  1. JA Says:

    Let’s face it, coaching in football supersedes other sports when related to success or failure. Baseball managers are beholden to a computer. Basketball coaches seem to work for the players in today’s NBA, rendering the latter two sports nearly unwatchable.
    Of course talent is the most important factor, but it’s how that talent is used that can make or break an NFL season.
    Despite the Buc’s defensive talent, it cannot be ignored what Todd Bowles has done to maximize it. And I believe he had input with the draft, especially last year. True or untrue I consider him the chief factor in the rise from worst to first.

  2. AlabamaBucsFan Says:

    Is Vernon Hargreaves still in the NFL? Last I heard he signed with the Texans as a backup.

  3. August 1976 Buc Says:

    2019 Run Defense was Historically good, not just #1 against the Run, like last year, but one of the best since the merger in 1970. So all the more, T Bowels and Co, just flat out can coach. Exihibit A is the difference in the first and 2nd KC games last year. They were seal clubbed in the first quarter of the first game, but in the Super Bowl, they reversed it and curb stomped and seal clubbed the “KC Mahome Boys” Great coaching and great results. GO BUCS!!!!

  4. Buccaneer Bonzai Says:

    The reason the Bucs got better on Defense?

    The attitudes of JPP and Suh.

  5. TOM Says:

    Bowles should be next head coach of Bucs.

  6. PA Buc Fan Says:

    TOM I don’t want Bowles leftwich as our head coach. They are good at what they do but don’t find either as a great head coach. I would love for Brady to retire and immediately become head coach if Arians retires. I know it’s a dream but Brady would be a dream for a coach. Will push for perfection and his name and legacy will forever get the buyin from his players!

  7. Buczilla Says:

    LOL, reading that from football outsiders is just mind numbingly boring and naseauating. We got coaches who knew what they were doing and what they needed to succeed. Our gm also grew up before our eyes. It’s crazy that people pay these dudes to break things down like Spock. I’m having a cold one and jumping in the pool to wash my brain of that gobbledygook.

  8. Tampabaybucfan Says:

    Our defensive FAs & draft picks have been much better since Todd Bowles came on board….
    Our improvement can be attributed to the Three Bs…….Bowles, Bruce & Brady….yep Brady….he improved the focus and culture of every player, including the defense.

  9. Defense Rules Says:

    TBBF … Great observations; couldn’t agree more. I’m convinced that winning in the NFL (possibly in all sports) is about taking advantage of the ‘weak links’. Our coaching from the player development & game management aspects used to be a ‘weak link’; now they’re a real strength. It seems like in almost every position group we’d have a starter and/or key rotational player (or players) who were ‘weak links’; now anyone would be hard-pressed to find a weak link anywhere.

    Hard for the opposition to take advantage of your weaknesses when you seemingly don’t have any. Many of our starting veterans are older, but they’re still kicking ass. Easy for some to forget though that guys like Brady, Gronk, Suh, JPP, LVD and a number of others have excelled their whole careers, right from Day 1. And some of our ‘youngsters’ like White, Vea & Wirfs for starters are following right in their footsteps.

  10. 2021 Year of the GOAT Says:

    TB came to town and convinced them they could win …… once you believe as a group ….. its hard to stop that positive energy …. the results speak for themselves

  11. DrunkInYbnor Says:

    I think one lazy dude brings the whole unit down. You know your out there doing everything you can to win. Then some dude who was gifted a starting job because of his draft status is dogging it. it pisses you off and I think it makes them think they cant win, no matter how hard I try this lazy dude is going to start.

  12. bucnut2 Says:

    Maybe one of the Joe’s will now finally understand why some of us were screaming about JW TO’s. He put the D in a bad spot all a LOT.

  13. Jonny Says:

    Bowles is a proven DC with success at multiple teams with multiple players. It is hard to win with the Jets or anywhere if you don’t have a franchise QB. Still Bowles coached a 10 win team with Fitz.

  14. Buckaroo Boozie Says:

    Checking on Vegas odds for Bucs to go 20-0… gonna throw 5 grand down!

  15. mark2001 Says:

    And lets not forget that the D isn’t put in nearly as many precarious spots… or do they have a guy at the QB position that demoralizes them by putting them behind the eight ball, in spite of every good stand they make. Or giving away games when they don’t even get a chance to again take the field. That may not factor in the stats… think the change in the D’s mindset is part of the overall cultural change we have seen.