Critical Internal Evaluations

October 17th, 2023

BILL CURRIE FORD IS OPEN DAILY! Shop now online and don’t forget to request the Ira Kaufman Discount. Nationwide lifetime warranty on new vehicles.

BY IRA KAUFMAN columnist

(Ira is known as The Sage of Tampa Bay Sports because, well, he is the sage of Tampa Bay sports. He’s been covering the Bucs since 1985, following six years on the NFL beat including starting on the New York Giants beat in 1979. Sage is a Pro Football Hall of Fame selector and is a member of the Hall’s prestigous senior committee. Ira drives a cherry red 2020 Ford Escape, “the fancy kind,” he purchased at Bill Currie Ford. Sage can be bribed effectively with a cannoli, a top shelf cuban sandwich or Bette Midler tickets.)

It’s five games into the season and Jason Licht might consider hanging a Help Wanted shingle outside One Buc Place.

At 3-2, the sky isn’t falling on top of the 2023 Bucs, but some storm clouds linger heading into Sunday’s home divisional matchup.

Tampa Bay still sits atop the NFC South as the Falcons, Saints and hapless Panthers also fell this weekend.

The defense, for the most part, has been more than adequate. The concern is that at some point, similar to last season, this unit will wear down mentally and physically because of a plodding attack.

Licht and the coaching staff must decide whether there’s enough juice on the offensive side of the ball to make the Bucs competitive with the better teams in the league.

So far, the answer is obvious: hell no.

It’s one thing to beat up on Minnesota, Chicago and New Orleans. The challenge is to upset a team with a winning record. Against the Eagles and Lions, both now at 5-1, the Bucs combined to score one touchdown, registering only 25 first downs and 425 yards of offense.

Detroit ranks seventh in total defense while Philadelphia sits at No. 9. And the Falcons will bring the NFL’s fourth-ranked defense into Tampa.

Company man Todd Bowles, says Ira Kaufman.

Todd Bowles is echoing the company line at the moment. He says this offense will improve as the season progresses and players become more comfortable with a new system implemented by Dave Canales.

But what if the problems run deeper than mastering the playbook?

While the Eagles built a 22-point lead in the fourth quarter, Tampa Bay was limited to a field goal. On Sunday, the Bucs never reached the end zone.

Bowles chalked it up to a sluggish performance coming off the bye week. Isn’t a week off supposed to rejuvenate a team? There’s got to be more to the story.

No matter who is cradling the football, the Bucs haven’t run with any authority all season.
At some point, if production doesn’t improve, Bowles and Canales will run out of patience with Rachaad White and the rest of the crew. That’s where Licht may have to step in and make a move in the running back room.

Team Glazer (Bryan Glazer shown) won’t stand in the way of GM Jason Licht making a move, says Ira.

He’ll get no pushback from the Glazers, who can’t be happy with a ground game that has scored one touchdown and averages 3.0 yards per carry. Running backs are available — at the right price. In a week or two, Licht may have to meet that price because this sturdy defense deserves better.

The passing game has its own issues.

Chris Godwin has yet to reach the end zone. Last season, despite catching 104 passes, Godwin posted only three touchdowns. He and Baker Mayfield are still looking for chemistry in the red zone.

Cade Otton averages only 8 yards per catch and the tight ends, as a group, are averaging a mere 20 receiving yards per game. Is there a veteran tight end out there who can help?

Not if you don’t look.

If you think this attack isn’t all that bad, think again. Tampa Bay is averaging only 18 points, 25th in scoring offense and 25th in total offense. Perhaps things will change Sunday against the Falcons, who have their own problems.

Unlike the Bucs, the Falcons are buried by turnovers. Since Week 1, the Falcons have one takeaway and 10 giveaways. That sound you just heard is Arthur Smith slamming the door on Desmond Ridder, his floundering young quarterback.

The Falcons average even fewer points than the Bucs. That’s little solace for Todd Bowles, who may soon be approaching a very candid discussion with his general manager.

So far, Licht’s message to any potential trade partner is clear: we’re good.

Another clunker on Sunday could prompt a new message: we’re open for business.

51 Responses to “Critical Internal Evaluations”

  1. Jack Burton Mercer Says:

    Ira, when you’re right, you’re right. But it’s not just the running backs. The line needs to block better and a little more mystery would help. My daughter calls out the running plays as they leave the huddle. Surely the defense is doing it to.

  2. stpetebucfan Says:

    Agree with virtually all Ira has said. I would like to point out one thing however.
    I have to give Cobra credit for this however. He opened my eyes to reality.

    I thought as IRA posted…”Isn’t a week off supposed to rejuvenate a team?”

    Cobra pointed out there is also a downside to a week off and lo and behold I started looking at Buc results.

    Just go back to the SB season. The Buc bye came right after a game in N.O. with a major difference…The Saints pounded the Bucs in that game as opposed to this season. Those Bucs faced a crappy Washington Football Team and LOST.

    However after that loss the Bucs only lost once again…to the same stinkin’ Saints! The Bucs have two more losses scheduled in the next four weeks…the 3rd of the top 4 teams since midseason last year…SF..on the road and that after a road game in Buffalo against a talented Bills team. Then it’s off to Houston in that stretch for a game against the rapidly improving Texans.

    After that however a string of “winnable” games including two games against Carolina. The only “tough” team is Jacksonville.

    If the Bucs can continue to improve they should end up with 10-12 wins and a solid berth in the playoffs. Get to the playoffs and anything can happen! Who would have picked the Cleveland Browns to beat the Steelers in Pittsburgh with Mayfield at QB?

  3. Tampabaybucfan Says:

    We don’t need to waste a good draft pick and money on a RB……we couldn’t afford a player good enough to help……and I suspect anyone we bring in would do no better than the crew we have…..our Oline isn’t blocking.
    We need to use our TEs more and the RBs in the passing game.

    The loss on Sunday had little to do with our run game…….missed passes….dropped passes….batted balls on offense….and a couple of huge chuncs gven up by the defense.

    Sunday’s offense looked EXACTLY like last year’s Brady team.

  4. Rod Munch Says:

    Here’s an idea, down by 14, with 10 mins left in the game, on 4th and 2 from near midfield – how about you go for it? Instead Todd ‘Ball-less’ Bowles punts the ball, knowing the defense is gassed, and basically raised the white flag.

    Yeah, the offense was terrible – but it was 2 yards and your last chance to turn the game around, and instead that gutless wonder punts the ball.

    Why Bowles isn’t being roasted for that is beyond me.

  5. Shane247 Says:

    They need to poach another teams practice squad. McBride from Minnesota maybe? Cut Vaughn. Good running backs don’t need giant holes to get yards.

  6. A Bucs Fan Says:

    I second Rod’s comment on not going for it on 4&2. The defense was gassed. In my view it showed Bowles did not believe in or have confidence that the offense was going to convert. He thought they would fail and believed the best chance of winning was the longer field to give his defense more of an opportunity to get a stop than the shorter one which could make it easier to give up points .

  7. Shane247 Says:

    How about Zach Kuntz from the jets? Couldn’t we use some tightend help?

  8. Rod Munch Says:

    I think what we all need to be celebrating is Jake Camarda leading the NFL in punting.

    Everyone roasted Licht for drafting yet another kicker, and if you did take someone, not taking the Punt God … and here is Camarda, the best punter in the NFL!

    Not only does he have the highest average, he has the 4th most punts inside the opponent 20 despite playing a game less than most of the league. Of course the gutless offense that can’t move the ball and punts all the time is a big part of that, but lets keep things positive.

  9. SlyPirate Says:

    The Bucs need to be pass first. Pass heavy. The Bucs don’t have a running game but they can still be balanced …
    1. Spread 4xWR out and use RB draw plays
    2. Spread 5xWR for designed QB draw plays
    3. Run reverses to WR
    4. Run screens when the defense shows blitz

    Most importantly, Canales needs to show he understands the team’s strengths and weaknesses and can adjust accordingly.

  10. miken Says:

    I hate to be dramatic, but lose this weekend at home and we really need to br sellers at the deadline. I think we win and I think we win the division because I think we have a really good D and hope we trade a late rd pick for a decent rb.

  11. RuKa Says:

    We need to make up our minds, we can’t have it both ways! Every time we lose against a team coming out a bye week the narrative is “we played a rested team, it’s tough”. Every time we lose coming out of our bye week the narrative is “bye weeks can lead to losing momentum and be a bit rusty”.


    Enough with this middle of the road coach! No guts! No presence! No grit! No life!

  12. DavidBigBucsFan99 Says:

    Rod Munch you constantly
    call Bowles names but then you type the very reason he didn’t go for it on 4th&2
    “Of course the gutless offense that can’t move the ball and punts all the time is a big part of that, but lets keep things positive.” What part of that can’t you understand?

  13. Alanbucsfan Says:

    Maybe the coaches can look at video of the Dolphins’ running game – they’re averaging 6.5 yards per attempt.

  14. Tampabaybucfan Says:

    Raiding a PS from one of the other 31 teams is a good idea.

    Available, Cheap, No Draft pick involved…….surely there must be one player out there worth a shot.

  15. HC grover Says:

    Put in Trask to replace Shorty.

  16. Joseph C Simmons Says:

    Here’s an idea, down by 14, with 10 mins left in the game, on 4th and 2 from near midfield – how about you go for it? Instead Todd ‘Ball-less’ Bowles punts the ball, knowing the defense is gassed, and basically raised the white flag.

    Yeah, the offense was terrible – but it was 2 yards and your last chance to turn the game around, and instead that gutless wonder punts the ball.

    Why Bowles isn’t being roasted for that is beyond me.


    I’m with you; I never understood that decision, or why it hasn’t been talked about. He took a way bigger chance than that against Minnesota.

  17. Defense Rules Says:

    Rod Munch & A Bucs Fan … Instead of roasting Bowles for not going for it on 4th-and-2 at the TAMPA 33 (that’s right Rod, NOT MIDFIELD) with 10:52 to go (yup, not 10 minutes), why not call out Canales for the play selection on 3rd-and-2 (the play PRIOR) … a deep pass to Palmer (who was 2-for-7 in the game). A more patient OC (like the Lions Ben Johnson?) would’ve shot for a higher percentage completion SHORT pass to a more sure-handed receiver (like Chris Godwin?). Or even Rachaad White.

    From the TAMPA 33, Bowles made exactly the right call with nearly 11 minutes to go. We were down by 2 TDs & our offense wasn’t doing diddly. We’ve got a fantastic punter who could’ve gotten it well inside the Lions 20. And in fact Camarda did just that: a 66-yard punt down to the Detroit 1-yd line that our S/Ts allowed a 15-yd return on.

    And no, the Bucs’ defense shouldn’t have been ‘gassed’ at that point. The series BEFORE, they’d held the Lions to a 6-play, 3-minute drive to start the 4th qtr (resulted in a FG). The fact that our limp offense only held the ball for a little over a minute didn’t help get them any additional rest, but look at it another way: If we’d gone for it on 4th-and-2 at the TAMPA 33 and NOT made it, that would’ve been game over for sure.

    What amazes me more is that you’d use words like ‘gutless wonder’ to describe Bowles’ choice. His job is to try to put the TEAM in the best position to win the ball game. He made a reasonable HC’s decision in that situation to try to do that.

  18. gp Says:

    Here’s an idea, down by 14, with 10 mins left in the game, on 4th and 2…

    As I recall, he pulled a very similar move against the Brownies last year.

    Having a real hard time believing that tiger can change his stripes.
    A very stubborn, and predictable man.

  19. gp Says:

    Just curious…
    What was the TOP differential at that point in the game?

  20. gp Says:

    Also, what was the average TOP per series.
    This would give us a better idea of whether we would be able to score twice in 10:52, or even possess it twice in that time frame(we didn’t).
    We also left 4 total ‘time outs’ on the board (two in the first, two in the second) that might have saved us some time to at least heave a hail mary as time expired (as an example).

  21. gp Says:

    why not call out Canales for the play selection on 3rd-and-2 (the play PRIOR)

    I agree with you here, bad call.
    But… At least Canales is ‘trying’ to be a little less predictable.
    And the failure there is on the execution more than the play call. Still, low percentage.
    I would’ve agreed with a sweep, or other run package “outside” of the tackles.

  22. Durango 95 Says:

    Here’s an idea, down by 14, with 10 mins left in the game, on 4th and 2 from near midfield – how about you go for it? I

    Because they were down by only two scores at that point. There was almost 11 minutes, plenty of time left in the game. Failing to get that first down (at their own 33 yard line) would have put the Lions in field goal territory at the point. Then they would have been down three scores. Instead they punted and placed the ball at the Lions own 15 yard line. Basic stuff.

  23. DS Says:

    Our most dynamic skill position guy is Godwin outside of him Evan has clearly lost a step white can’t break any tackles Evan’s lost a step Palmer a rookie needs to get better a route running Thompkins is a gadget guy Otton might just be a jag. I don’t think it’s Canales fault we just don’t have explosive guys

  24. SlyPirate Says:

    I find it extremely interesting and potentially cowardly that Canales hasn’t spoken to the media since Detroit. I thought he spoke to the media every Monday-Tuesday? I may be wrong or is he hiding?

  25. gp Says:

    Instead they punted and placed the ball at the Lions own 15 yard line. Basic stuff.
    From which the lions then proceeded to “use up” 70% of that precious 10:52 leaving us with “not enough” time to score even once, let alone twice.
    TOP is a very important stat to consider when you’re deciding whether to ‘take a chance’.
    Lose quick or lose long, either way, we lost.
    Poor preparation for the game revealed by poor execution by the players.
    Poor game planning as indicated by the TOP.
    And poor decision making in game. (4 time-outs left, overly conservative predictable play calling[on O and D].

    Yes, several of our offensive players had an ‘off’ game for professionals.

    I would put 80% of the blame for this loss on the coaching, and 20% on the players.
    Funny, if the players hadn’t had such an ‘off’ game, they would have ‘carried’ it for the coaches.

  26. A Bucs Fan Says:

    @DR – I don’t disagree with you about Canales either. The fact is regardless of why they faced a 4th&2 the Bucs should have gone for it if nothing else to try and give their defense a rest after 4 very quick drives.

    The law of probability says anything 4th&2 and under you go for it irrespective of field position.

  27. TonySoprano Says:

    Like usual, Bowles shows no sense of urgency. “We’ll continue to practice and work through the season.” This is his go-to answer for everything and shows he has no intentions to try new things or make any changes. He’ll be using this tired line until it’s week 17.

    I’m also pretty concerned with Canales. He is showing a lot of the same predictability and stubbornness that Leftnut had. It’s an extremely low bar to Avery’s remote points that Byron from last season, and Canales is somehow doing worse. And we’re not seeing any real progress with his offense from week 1 to week 7.

  28. Jerseybuc Says:

    Just like last year stubborn a$$ head coach who can’t see his strength is passing!! Running your head into a wall week after week getting know where. If that’s what you want to do go find a back if you don’t pass the dam ball. Slants. Screens. Quick hitches. N stop for the love of god with a 15 yard cushion

  29. TonySoprano Says:

    *average less (stupid autocorrect)

  30. Durango 95 Says:


    My bad. Didn’t see your post before writing . You nailed it.

  31. stpetebucfan Says:

    D.R. Agree with your take especially IF there was communication between Bowles and Canales that didn’t include the warning…Dave you get one down to make the first or I’m punting.

    If Canales knew Bowles would punt: indeed thats was not the time to get “clever”.

  32. Shane247 Says:

    Go watch the highlights of Dewayne McBride. Just sitting on Minnesota’s PS. Watch his O-line! This guy has great vision, great speed & great balance.

  33. rrsrq Says:

    The difference this year outside of the Sunday’s second half, the Bucs were getting third downs and sustaining drives, even if not ending up in points. There were way too many three and outs last year with no time running off the clock and the defense would really have to get right back on the field. Three players, ROJO, JPP and trade for Mike Edwards, is he getting any time with the chiefs

  34. 1#bucsfan Says:

    Idk what but we gotta do something diff. The defense deserves better production and not have to play the entire game. There gunna get burnt out by mid season if they keep this up and injuries will start to take its toll

  35. optimisticbucsfan Says:

    This is a MUST WIN game.

    If we want to win the division…gotta win on sunday.

    I think we implode again vs a better defense.

    This team is fools gold.

  36. Pewter Power Says:

    If the Bucs get beat by Atlanta yea the sky is falling. The learning a new offense excuse doesn’t work in the era of football.

    I don’t see Todd Monken struggling to get his offense on the same page

  37. Buddha Says:

    Good thing all you Monday morning quarterbacks aren’t on the coaching staff. The Buccaneers lost to a better team They were Underdogs at home. The very fact so many fans are disappointed shows that this coach and this team has thus far exceeded expectations. Take a deem breath. There are 12 more games. The game against Atlanta is not a must win. Even if we lose we will be even in the loss column. Be grateful that even with all the cash we are paying Brady, we still are in the chase

  38. Drunkinybor Says:

    We hired a O.C. with no experience. He is learning on the job for a professional football team. That Bowled sure is a nice guy. Also please please Dave C. STOP talking about the SeaShells every press conference. Get this offense 21 points a game….please sir

  39. gotbbucs Says:

    We have one player on offense that can get behind the defense, and Mayfield can’t figure out how to drop a deep ball in his hands. That’s Trey Palmer. Besides him, there is nobody on this offense that scares any defense in the NFL. Devin Thompkins could be a good run after the catch reciever, but they can’t figure out how to scheme him into space.
    They have to hit on a few deep balls before these defenses give them any kind of respect over the top. Bakers physical limitations are starting to show. He’s got a ton of grit, I’ll give him that, but he’s having to throw rainbows because his release isn’t high enough to get over defensive linemen hands. That first batted ball with Evans 10 yards behind the defense could have changed the entire dynamic of that game.

  40. ATLBuc Says:

    We can bring in Saquan and Travis Kelcy and it will not help one iota because the Oline is still learning how to run block and Baker still will not be able to hit wide open receivers running free downfield. We are wasting great pass blocking on a qb that performs well only against bad teams. I know they won’t do it until after we lose three games in a row but if Trask had that much time we’d be at least 5-1 and averaging 10 more points a game and as a result, the running game will improve.
    We can’t run because nobody is afraid of Baker and they load the box. With Baker we are destined for a mid round draft pick and an early playoff exit.
    Cmon Wyoming Joe, let me have it .

  41. DBS Says:

    They are not going to scheme anyone anywhere if they can’t run. The defense does not have to respect anything. So just like the announcers say. They load up and come after the QB. We already know White can’t block so Mayfield is going to throw on the run. Put in Trask he will get sacked holding the ball like a statue. Good luck trying to figure this out without improvement in a run game and blocking

  42. ATLBuc Says:

    DBS Baker is running out of the pocket so he can see downfield. Trask is 6’5 and can throw from the pocket.

  43. Barbosa Says:

    The real facts: the bill has come due for the fantastic Brady run the Eagles and lions are Super Bowl contenders. The Bucs are good enough to win their own division, in a year where they can’t spend and play a lot of draft picks and second year players. All of this with a first time in his life nfl playcaller and a modern version of Jeff Garcia at quarterback. My real take: Bucs win division with a losing record , home playoff game. And Todd Bowles gets considered for coach of the year. It is folly and fantasy land to think the Bucs are a running back away from a Super Bowl run.

  44. Buddha Says:

    We are only in Week 7 and there are no undefeated teams. So where are all these super teams? The eagles lost at home to the Jets. Detroit lost at home to the Seahawks. KC lost at home to the Lions. San Francisco lost to Cleveland’s bench Quarterback. Miami has a great offense and a wretched defense. This is what the NFL is now. Buffalo is ravaged with injuries as are the Bengals. Dallas lost to Arizona. One of these teams is going to win 13 games, but not more than one. Each weekend brings surprises. Scoring is way down. If you had wagered UNDER on every game last week you’d be rich.

  45. Proudbucsfan Says:

    The problem is this team is built for the air. Thats why our offense was top five from 2019-2021 I’d rather as a fan see my offense score as many points as possible and win than go three and out all game long with no points on the board and lose. Wasn’t TB, whole complaint about that type of offense that his defense was gassed all the time. It seems to me that the defense is still gassed because of all the 3 and out’s

  46. adam from ny Says:

    coach did kind of get passive on the sidelines this past sunday…

    he reverted back to his normal demeanor…

    he wasn’t strutting around adjusting his “big balls” like a man on a mission…

    get back at it coach…adjust the low hanging fruit…spit…curse…snarl…turn your cap backwards…then adjust the fruit again…

    it’s time to reverse the tide and win one at home…

    and then slide on into a luke-warm buffalo and win one for the gipper

  47. garro Says:

    Nailed it Ira!

    I don’t know that extra troops are gonna be enough to fix the offense at this point.

    Good free agents who can hit the ground running? And don’t command a ton of money and or draft picks? Umm… I think we have a problem. Lenny? Nope. Brady? Nope. Gronk? Nope.

    Ok, All kidding aside. Who? The cheap deal guys are cheap deal guys for a reason. Rare that those dudes are really upgrades. I think we may be stuck like Chuck. Because I do not think our man Licht is gonna mortgage any more of the future. Salary cap or draft picks either one. I think he has already made that pretty clear. (See lack of any real high dollar off season moves.)

    Go Bucs!

  48. BucU Says:

    We are without question the worst 3-2 team in the league. Todd Bowles once again does not have his team ready to play a big game. How many big games has he lost compared to big games he’s won as HC?
    He flops virtually every single time the lights shine brightly. Sick of it. Now go get a RB ya dope.

  49. BucU Says:

    Who the hell said we’d be a SB contender if we just went out and signed a good RB? That’s hilarious.

  50. Buccos Says:

    The lack of a running game is disgusting when you are the worst team in the NFL at running the football and you don’t even draft a running back for the following season, that is a recipe for disaster. It’s like the Bucs really were mailing in this season, not even trying to win, now they’ve been surprised that the team is better than they thought it would be, but they don’t have a running back two years in a row. either Jason licht has been negligent or the Glazer won’t open up their checkbook. Either way it’s his job to convince the Glazer to spend the money on the top shelf running back , a good running back might not win the Super Bowl, but may win a playoff game

  51. gp Says:

    Either way it’s his job to convince the Glazer to spend the money
    Ever hear of spending caps?
    It’s kind of a rule in the NFL.