Did The Bucs Turn Too Old Last Year?

August 7th, 2023

Second half breakdowns.

Joe hates to go into the wayback machine because in today’s world, anything over a decade ago is geezer material.

Back in 2008 (the year JoeBucsFan.com was born), the Bucs totally collapsed in the second half of the season, and in the second halves of games. The Bucs lost their final four games, the last two at home. Obviously something wrong when, in the final game at the Stadium on Dale Mabry Highway, JaMarcus Russell and the Oakland Raiders rung up 31 points to beat the Bucs.

Nothing may have demonstrated how the Bucs struggled in the second half of games more than a Monday night game at Carolina in early December.

The Bucs were 9-3. The Stinking Panthers were 9-3. The winner would lead the NFC South. With the score tied 17-17 entering the fourth quarter, the once proud Bucs defense shockingly fell apart.

Carolina just pounded the ball down the Bucs’ throats. Guys were getting blown off the line. Defenders were getting destroyed by blockers and running backs for all kinds of YAC. It was embarrassing.

This began the four-game skid to end the season and it was the beginning of the end for Chucky. He was fired almost a month after the season finale.

Shortly after Chucky was fired, Team Glazer ordered a housecleaning. So there was a purge of veteran talent. Among the victims was Derrick Brooks.

The Bucs claimed, at the time, that the way the Bucs cratered in the final month, highlighted by the galling fourth quarter in Charlotte, meant the Bucs had too many old men on defense and they didn’t have the legs to play a (then) 16-game season, and maybe not enough juice to finish games.

Well, all of this crossed Joe’s mind while reading an element from Scott Spratt, typing for Aaron Schatz’s Football Almanac 2023, that the Bucs defense sucked in the second half of games last year.

Tampa Bay had the best defense in the NFL in the first half of games, then dropped to 23rd after halftime.

That’s a huge dropoff. Either Bucs coach Todd Bowles wasn’t adjusting, or dudes were getting old and couldn’t hack finishing games.

Of course, to suggest Bowles didn’t adjust his defense is asinine. So Joe is looking at Akiem Hicks (33), Lavonte David (32), Will Gholston (31) and Logan Ryan (31). Yeah, the Bucs had a few key defensive players over 30 (Joe did not include Shaq Barrett, 30, because he was lost to injury midseason.)

One could argue the Bucs had too many older veterans on the field too often, and that resulted in the defense tailing off in the second half. Joe isn’t positive this is the reason, but it’s possibly a factor. Maybe a significant one.

21 Responses to “Did The Bucs Turn Too Old Last Year?”

  1. Leopold Stotch Says:

    I blame the offense as well. Defense was absolutely exhausted. It’s tough to go right back out, after getting a minute or two of rest then on top of that, the opposing offense had the entire play book able to be run since the score was close or they would be winning. If they would be winning, we’ll then they’d just run the crap out of the ball which is even more tiring for a defense.

  2. westernbuc Says:

    I think in today’s NFL it’s inevitable that the other team will score. The offense needs to have sustained drives in the 2nd half which we’re lacking last year

    It could also be an adjustment issue

  3. Brandon Says:

    That had way more to do with the pathetic offense and their constant three and out drives in the first halves of games. The offense did absolutely nothing to help the defense and they got left on the field too long and were tired by the second half. A good balanced offense keeps their defense fresh.

  4. Brandon Says:

    I saw the biggest problem with the 2008 team was the defense collapsed when Monte Kiffin let it be known that he was leaving after the season. Lane Kiffin torpedoed that season for us. I’m happy he’s such a bad coach.

  5. garro Says:

    Joe I don’t think it was just the defense and I don’t think it was just the age of the players. Overall I saw a lack intensity and Physicality from our guys the entire season. Even the younger guys.

    I also agree with Brandon we could not get any sustained drives with our Leftnut play calling until they allowed Tommy to do his come from behind thing. By then the defense as a whole was… lets say tired.

    Go Bucs!

  6. garro Says:

    BTW I have heard a whole nother story behind the firing of Gruden.

    Go Bucs!

  7. Brian Hand Says:

    Run the Ball and the defense will play both halfs!!!

  8. Architek Says:

    And the pedestrian offense contributed to the drop off as well.

  9. TampaBayBucsFanSince1976 Says:

    Bucs had the oldest average age roster in the NFL last year and it showed , we will see a difference this year in a positive move toward youngry.

  10. Pickgrin Says:

    Kiffen telling the players (way too soon) that he was leaving at the end of the season is more responsible for the ’08 season collapse and subsequent Gruden firing than age or any other reason…

    This year’s draft was all about getting younger and faster as almost every draft pick had stellar speed and athleticism ratings. That is NOT a coincidence!

    Add UDFAs Chris Izien and Sean Tucker’s mid-4.3 wheels to that draft class and this team got significantly faster in the 2023 off-season….

  11. Jack Burton Mercer Says:

    Absolutely they were old and slow. Hope we have enough youth injected this year to fix it, or at least ameliorate it.

  12. ModHairKen Says:

    That’s a fascinating statistic. I wonder how much the Offense contributed to that with short drives. If Canales can increase TOP even a few minutes per game with his style of Offense, it could help the Defense tremendously.

  13. Defense Rules Says:

    Bucs didn’t just lose those last 4 games, we got thumped in 3 of them. Monumental collapse. BTW, the Bucs let it be known by Dec 2nd of 2008 that Monte would most likely be leaving, but that he’d finish out the year as Bucs’ DC.

    Our 4-game skid started on 8 Dec with the loss to the Panthers (38-23), then continued 14 Dec against the Falcons (13-10 loss in TO), then lost to the Chargers (41-24) on 21 Dec and to the Raiders (31-24) on 28 Dec. Prior to the Panthers game the Bucs defense had been allowing 16.7 PPG average and the team was playing some good ball (9-3 at that point). For those last 4 games though we allowed 30.8 PPG average … almost double. But then again, the Panthers (12-4) and Falcons (11-5) were both excellent teams that year (even though they both got eliminated in the first round of the playoffs). The Chargers were decent (8-8), and only the Raiders ended with a losing record (5-11). But by that last game the die had been cast.

    Just a thought, but PERHAPS Monte’s mind was on something other than the Bucs’ defense when that 4-game skid started?

  14. Tampabaybucfan Says:

    TBBF was at that game on Mon night in Carolina……..sat right in front of Caddilac Williams’ Mother…….

  15. unbelievable Says:

    Well, thats when Kiffin told the team he was leaving, and then we proceeded to lose 4 games straight, with the defense playing particularly bad and completely collapsing… so I think that situation was a little different Joe.

  16. Cover deuce Says:

    Their depth was on the older side last year but they weren’t as old as everyone makes them out to be. Definitely not as old as the 2008 starters. In their defensive starting 11 the only truly old guy they had was LVD (still really good). Hicks, Gholston, and Ryan were all part timers. I think the struggles clearly had much more to do with an anemic offense that couldn’t possess the ball for long enough to give the defense a rest and most importantly score enough points.

  17. Bosch Says:

    Lane Kiffen carelessly boasted that his Father, Monte would be joining him at UT as Defensive Coordinator. That left the Bucs and Monte no choice but to acknowledge this. And yes, it certainly gives credence to the theory that the defense was demoralized. This only compounded the Defense’s aging and slowing down. As I recall Brooks tried to continue his career after Bucs released him, but he just didn’t have enough left in the tank.

  18. Joe Says:

    Lane Kiffen carelessly boasted that his Father, Monte would be joining him at UT as Defensive Coordinator.

    AND at Clemson which is how Joe first learned of it.

  19. Mike Johnson Says:

    Bucs fans have a difficult time believing it was Brady who caused out Bad season last year. Yes he was old. But there were just to many things going on in his life. And the culmination of all of those things just came down on him. I was glad to see him ride off into the sunset. Father time is no joke. There were 4 easily winnable games for us last season had Brady been on top of his game.

  20. Buckeyebuckchuck Says:

    Absolutely too old. They were screwed by interior O-Line injuries, the 45 year old statue couldn’t roll out behind Wirfs. They couldn’t run up the gut for the same reason so the defense could crash the off tackle stuff. Passing game eats no clock so your old ass defense interior linemen get zero rest between possessions. Lichts first 2 picks in the draft addressed the middle on D and O. Thats where games are won and lost

  21. Joseph C Simmons Says:

    I remember that Carolina game in 2008. I could not believe my eyes. The Panthers just called run after run and we could not stop them. It was like the entire team aged in an instant.

    It had to happen eventually. Gruden almost never drafted for defense. Under Dungy, the defense was always getting replenished. We have the best DL in the league? Who cares, we’re drafting Booger McFarland. Under Gruden, I think the only defender drafted in the first round was Gaines Adams.