How Far The Bucs Have Come

December 12th, 2021

“I remember that, Joe!”

There are some things so jarring to the senses, no matter how much alcohol you drink in their aftermath and how many voodoo witch doctors you visit, you will never, ever forget.

The last time the Bucs played the Bills was one of those times.

In 2017, with under three minutes left in a tie game at Buffalo, Mr. Entertainment, America’s Quarterback, Pro Bowler Jameis Winston, engineered a drive to give the Bucs a 27-20 lead and what looked like a rare road win that season.

Instead, Joe got was the one shining moment that epitomized the reign of terror of then-Bucs defensive coordinator Mike Smith.

The Bills took over at their own-25 with just over two minutes left. Under first-year coach Sean McDermott, Buffalo had a decent defense but a garbage can on two feet for a quarterback, Tyrod Taylor. This should be simple, right Mike?

Mike Smith replied, “Hold my beer.”

Taylor, who virtually every season is replaced the following year by a first-round draft pick of a quarterback no matter where he lands, put together a 3-play, 75-yard touchdown drive to tie the game.

Three friggin’ plays! Seventy-five yards! Tyrod Taylor!!! Confusion. Despair. Defeat.

The Bucs got the ball back but fumbled right away giving Buffalo a can-of-corn field goal kick to win the game.

Nothing summed up Mike Smith’s defense better than that three-play series to Taylor. Unfreakingreal.

Joe’s research yesterday found the Bucs defenders who made plays on that series (cough). Robert McClain, Ryan Smith, Kwon Alexander.

How bad were the Bucs? After the season, McClain was not brought back and he was out of football despite having three interceptions. Ryan Smith, horrible as he was as a corner (he is a pretty good special teams player) started 10 games for Mike Smith that season! Can you imagine?

And Alexander, well, since that season, his career has been on a steady decline. The last two plays Joe remembers Alexander making since he left the Bucs was headhunting Jameis for a 15-yard penalty and getting run over at the goal line by Pat Mahomes for a touchdown in the Super Bowl two years ago.

Not only does this painful flashback demonstrate how bad the Bucs were the last time they played the Bills, their opponent today, but it also documents just how far they have come since Bucs Super Bowl-winning coach Bucco Bruce Arians arrived in town.

20 Responses to “How Far The Bucs Have Come”

  1. Defense Rules Says:

    Aahh yes Joe, nothing says Merry Christmas & Happy New Year like dredging up ‘painful flashbacks’. But as always, there’s more to that story than the snippet I just read.

    Mike Smith was obviously miscast as the Bucs’ DC, but anyone who followed the Bucs that year knows that he had very little to work with in terms of talent (as in ‘close to nothing’). Jason Licht was in his 3rd year as GM, and he had focused Bucs’ resources on Jameis Winston & the offense. The defense got the dregs.

    Starting defensive lineup that year:

    o LDE – Robert Ayers (32 & over-the-hill FA brought in by JL)
    o LDT – Gerald McCoy (29 & on the career downside)
    o RDT – Chris Baker (30 & over-the-hill FA brought in by JL)
    o RDE – Will Gholston (26 & never really developed by Bucs)
    o MLB – Kwon Alexander (23 & drafted by JL)
    o RLB – Lavonte David (27 & star of the show)
    o LCB – Vernon Hargreaves (22 & drafted by JL)
    o CB – Robert McClain (29 & over-the-hill FA brought in by JL)
    o RCB – Brent Grimes (34 & over-the-hill FA brought in by JL)
    o SS – Chris Conte (28 & brought in as FA by JL in 2015)
    o FS – Justin Evans (22 Rookie drafted by JL)

    I’m sure that defensive lineup brought fear to the hearts of all offensive coordinators around the league. Care to compare that roster to what we’re fielding today, even though our defense still isn’t getting the share of resources (aka, salary CAP?) that top defenses like the Pats receive? Probably not, but instead let’s drag in the Mike Smith Sacrificial Lamb for the holidays.

  2. Roy T. Buford Says:

    I’m not sure the Bucs should exactly be thumping their chest right now with some of their pass D performances this year, and they were carved up by guys like Siemian and Heinicke, and leading the NFL with penalties along the way. Yes, the roster is way better on D but the difference is probably the top notch offense led by Brady. That game Joe speaks of in BUF was also a not-so-common situation where Winston took his team down the field in the final minutes to take the lead. Rare. Yeah, I’d probably not have brought that game up right now. Indeed the Bucs have come a long way…I get the point…but the D secondary doesn’t scare anyone right now, injuries or not.

  3. Roy T. Buford Says:

    Good stuff D Rules. And don’t forget who it was who held onto Winston 2 years longer than he should have. Oh, but of course JL brought Brady here. Or…did Brady bring Brady here because Belichick didn’t want to give Brady more input for the team? Sure, JL likely offered Brady anything he wanted. I’ve said it before…JL has done some good stuff, and some bad stuff. He is a mixed bag. JL is still a C+ in my book. Frankly, I give most credit for this roster to Tom Brady, because it is he that drew the desire for players like Suh, Fornette, Gronk, Succop, etc here and especially, the team/competitive culture. Best decision of JL: Brady. Worst: Winston. Two extremes, and the rest are in between. Of course, the Aguayo incidnet warrants being brought up here. And who hired Mike Smith? Who paid him HC money because of fear of losing him to another team?

    JL would be gone by now had Brady and the guys Brady lured here not come.

    Yes, JL is doing his job, but the D of that era is as much or more on him than it is Mike Smith.

  4. NCBucsfan Says:

    That one was def painful! However, there are 3 that still give me PTSD. Two of them were the year after our 1st SB. The panthers game in 03, when we tied the game with a long score to Mccardel, only to miss the extra point(and this was when it was really a chip shot) that would’ve won the game. We ultimately lost in OT! Then a couple games later when manning had the comeback of a lifetime against us, the tony dungy revenge game I would call it. Then of course the 2018 bears game, where trubisky tore us a new A-hole! All three of these games bring back awful memories!!

  5. DBS Says:

    I am not sure I would be saying a lot now either. Not with the articles comparing this defense to Mike Smith’s so many times. Like 9 minute drives. Can’t get off the field on 3rd down. I too would say thanks to the offense more than defense how lucky we are to be 9-3

  6. NCBucsfan Says:

    Actually on 2nd thought. That Burt Emanuel catch game was prob more painful since that was a playoff game!

  7. orlbucfan Says:

    The Buffalo Bills aren’t chopped liver. They’re a very good team who were shocked and beaten last week. Thank gawd, this is a home game at RJS. Bucs are unbeaten at home. Brady can NOT throw anymore pick 6s, period! Also unleash Fournette as a receiver out of the backfield. And please, more balls to Cam Brate and ME13. How about a few blitzes starring VV and JTS? As far as horror seasons go, Mike Smith has nothing on the 1980s Bucs. I was a witness to it. Shudder.

  8. Alanbucsfan Says:

    Anything can happen if a QB gets hot – I can still remember with disbelief a SB Bucs defense getting carved up for 28 4th quarter points against a hot Peyton Manning. Josh Allen isn’t Manning, but he has shown he can get hot.

  9. FortMyersDave Says:

    NCBucsfan: The 11-6 playoff loss was a tough one, awesome D but no offense. I would rank the 2018 loss to the Bears as the worst of the Mike Smith era thought that loss to the Bills was a dropkick to the package for all Buc fans. Mitch Trubisky put up 38 on the Bucs in a half and to make matters worse; Koetter refused to fire Smith after that game and covered for his friend even though the bye week was up and the Bucs were giving up 35 a game with Smitty. So Smith allowed the Falcons to shred his schemes after the bye and finally someone over Koetter force Dirk to can his friend. Mike Smith truly mailed it in in 2018.

  10. SOEbuc Says:

    They’ve done nothing but talk about the Bills comeback in 2017 on Twitter. The comparison is hilarious.

  11. NCBucsfan Says:


    Yep, Koetter def had blind loyalty to Mike Smith! I mean, in Smiths defense, we were awful at DB and the D-line was pretty much getting no pressure most of the time! A bad combo!

  12. Swampbuc Says:

    Thanks for that reminder, Joes. I was having a nice morning until I read that. Now I’m traumatized. Thanks.

  13. Defense Rules Says:

    Roy T. Buford … ‘Yes, JL is doing his job, but the D of that era is as much or more on him than it is Mike Smith.’

    Perfect recap Roy!

  14. Sparky Says:

    I have to give Joe credit. There’s no way I could keep pushing out content day after day for a bunch of people who can’t read, but who think they know everything.
    You’re a good man Joe.


    I see a lot of people saying not a lot has changed between the Mike Smith and Todd Bowles regimes, but when was the last time the Bucs lost a game when leading late in the 4th quarter and the opponent had the ball? Compare that to Mike Smith’s record and there’s no doubt the defense is much better.

  16. Howard Cosell Says:

    Earnest Hemingway still wasn’t as bad as the DC who called out fans to fight him in the parking lot at one Buc. Howard thinks McCoy was on that team too. Howard could almost hear a resounding bell-like tone as the Bucs hit rock boittom.

    Thankfully it all just seems like a horrible, horrible memory now. God bless us everyone!

  17. D-Rome Says:

    Joe, is there any insight as to why Mike Smith was terrible? It was as if he mailed it in during that last season.

  18. VabucSINCE’97 Says:

    Tyrod better than anything that came thru Tampa besides Brady

  19. Matlok727 Says:

    first post dude said Will Gholston never developed. He was drafted for Greg Shiano 3/4 hybrid defense and he played well in it . He was never a sack guy but in my opinion he never been soft and a been a hell of a run defender and played out of scheme with Mike smith and Lovie smith . Now he back in a 3/4 and I don’t think anyone thinks he ain’t a well rounded developed now . Big Gholston fan here so I could be biased

  20. NDoGS burner Account Says:

    Doc Antle was the Bucs DC?