Running = Failing

December 1st, 2023

Bucs coach Todd Bowles.

Look, Joe likes Bucs coach Todd Bowles. That doesn’t mean Joe is a Bowles apologist.

Are Bowles and his staff doing a good job? No, of course not. The team is 4-7. Forget about young players on defense drafted since the Super Bowl who aren’t being developed or defensive veterans still in their 20s who are horribly regressing. Stubbornness on obvious issues is what irks Joe.

Forget for a moment players taking turns each game making lunkhead mistakes — things Bowles claims they’ve done correctly practice over and over. Set that aside.

Early this week, Bowles stated the Bucs need to get the ball to Chris Godwin more. Agreed.

What bothers Joe that is until recently, the Bucs offense was all about the run. Last week at Indianapolis the Bucs threw the ball 12 more times than they ran it.

Throwing is a good thing when you have the worst rushing attack in the league. You have to be a special kind of crazy to be the very worst at something but continue to bang your head against the wall, just because.

Joe thinks it is fair to suggest, no matter who the quarterback is, if he targets Godwin, the chances of moving the chains or scoring a touchdown are a whole lot better than handing the ball off for three yards (maybe).

The Bucs average 3.4 yards a carry.

A recent article typed by follicly-challenged Billy Barnwell of BSPN noted the Bucs still love to run on first and second down and it has killed them.

With the move from Tom Brady to Baker Mayfield at quarterback, the Bucs also have run the ball more often on early downs. They have the 15th-highest pass rate on early downs in neutral situations, down from eighth a season ago. They only convert 20.1% of their plays on first and second downs into a new set of downs or a touchdown, which ranks 29th.

It looks like the Bucs are willing to forgo the possibility of picking up first downs early in series to live in a third-and-manageable world, but because they’re not effective running the ball on first and second down, their average third down comes with seven yards to go, which is right at the league average. And they are picking up 40.4% of those third downs, which ranks 15th. If an offense is going to try to stay alive for third-and-manageable situations, it has to be better at both making its third downs easier and picking them up than an average team.

All sorts of data out there backs this up, as well as respected NFL analysts like former NFL suit Michael Lombardi and handicapper Warren Sharp, who mention all the time how the best offenses throw to move the chains on first or second down.

The best way to score is not to get in third-and-manageable, but to get a new set of downs on first or second down. Or as Lombardi once said, play CFL football, which only has three downs.

The Bucs (until recently) would rather run the ball, despite having the league’s worst rush attack. Why? Joe has no earthly idea.

Joe was talking to a hardcore Bucs fan friend yesterday who asked Joe why it took Bowles until after the 11th game when they are damn near out of the playoffs to acknowledge Godwin needs to be targeted more.

Joe can’t answer. But if the Bucs miss the playoffs — they are only one game out of a division title with six to play! — Joe guesses Team Glazer will be asking the same question at some point.

Shoot, if the Bucs weren’t going to use a stud like Godwin and were hellbent on running the ball, they should have traded Godwin (and his salary) for a left guard.

Thankfully, for the future of the Bucs, no one tried this stunt.

30 Responses to “Running = Failing”

  1. Steven Says:

    We are built to throw to set up the run – not the other way round. Why even have Godwin if we arent going to use him.

  2. HC Grover Says:

    Bowles is a bad coach. No good as HC and no good as DC. But here he is both HC/DC. Why anyone thinks he is a good DC is beyond me.

  3. SufferingSince76 Says:

    Everything said about this guy and by this guy has been said over and over. It’s all a waste of breath at this point. If he continues to be head coach after this year, you will know the Glazers have no interest in fielding a winning team.

  4. bob in valrico Says:

    I agree with some of the points Joe makes. Because we often don’t get make the
    first down due to a variety of reasons including penalties, batted balls, or poor execution. The completion percentage of less than 65% is near a career low.
    So some of that is Baker getting more accurate passes to Chris. And some of it is Canales trying to surprise the defense with largely ineffective passes to Thompkins. He has not proven to be a deep threat so far. Another is a QB sneak
    on first down at the goal line. Baker is a good scrambler who plays with a lot of heart, but I would rather not see him in RPO situations or sneaks at the goal line.

  5. Larry Says:

    Nothing new here. Bowles is not a good HC. Even if he wins the division he is in, he is still not a good HC. The Bucs should have dominated their division not limped in. The HC is the CEO of their team, Any CEO with Bowles record would have been gone a long time ago.

  6. stpetebucfan Says:

    This post is spot on! Bowles has reached Einstein’s famous definition of insanity.
    “Doing the same thing over and over expecting different results”.

    I agree with both Joe and Einstein. In NFL terms Bowles has been insane!

    I would ask Joe a question realizing he has to enter the locker room, deal with OBP, and Buc management. It’s perhaps something he is unable to reveal even if he knows the answer. It’s the only nit I have to pick.

    “Joe is going to guess Team Glazer will be asking the same question at some point.”

    Is Joe just guessing or does he have any knowledge?

    SPBF is going to guess that the Glazers are not dummies!!! The one thing that upset me as a Bucs fan was when they leveraged the team to the max to pull off the major coup or landing ManU. While I didn’t appreciate that I have to acknowledge what the Glazers did was incredibly smart!

    Given that they are smart guys is there really any doubt they’ve gone outside the organization for at minimum informal, “off the record” discussions with NFL minds they respect. They’re not just asking about Bowles but wondering about the entire operation including JL. Licht has been a good GM but along the way he has signed off on Fameis, Bowles, Leftwich and some other questionable decisions.

    Joe is wired in, I am not. I KNOW nothing of the workings behind the scenes. And perhaps the Glazers love JL after the SB. I respect that. And in honesty I do not really know how much responsibility TL had in these decisions. I’m sure he had input but did he have veto power? Probably not.

  7. WillieG Says:

    It’s amazing that a veteran head coach doesn’t understand that he needs to build his system around his players. It’s ridiculous! Every successful general knows how to deploy his troops in combat, based on their strengths and weaknesses. Successful supervisor knows how to use their employees. Even the employees themselves know how to “self assign” tasks based on strengths and weaknesses. For example, when I was a paramedic, I had a small, female partner. She was good with IVs, but very good with airway management. I was good with airway management but very good with IVs. When lives were at stake, she intubated and I started whatever IVs were needed. Common freaking sense. When there was a car accident with entrapment, she had to crawl into the car because she fit. I did all the heavy lifting because I was twice as strong. I also rode in back with all the potentially violent patients and she rode in back with all the OB-GYN patients and rape victims. I’m pretty sure all paramedic crews did this too. And we weren’t paid millions of dollars to figure this out. We just did it. Once again, it’s amazing how a veteran coach refuses to build a system around his players.

  8. Smashsquatch Says:

    Predictability on early downs is the product of a misguided head coach. Bowles insistence of clock control at the expense of innovation is the root. His D can’t stop the pass, and his offense can’t run. That’s why games against good teams are always a steady uphill climb that they’re never in. Good luck Todd, until you open your mind, this team is doomed. Anything short of a philosophical change at the top won’t work.

  9. Voice of Truth Says:

    Times change, people usually don’t

    Todd has 100% demonstrated he is not adapting his 1986 style to todays game regardless of how many OC’s he fires or losing seasons he has on his record.

    I think BA is just amazed as all of us that even though Todd had a front row seat for exactly how to win a lot of games, heck a SB, and when he got his shot he simply turtled back into Ray Perkins

    He learned nothing from BA and this team was build and bred for that style

    We are doomed unless we completely rebuild in the Steelers likeness and then pray Todd somehow becomes Tomlin

    Ugh – it is time to clean house

  10. Popcorn Mike Says:

    I think all losing is about Bowles being stubborn. He insists on running the ball first You can’t put a square peg in a round hole. Also what others have said start with the pass to set up the run. They did that at the start of that last game and was able to not only move the ball down the field but, also made the run game better. Where’s the screen pass? Also I don’t think Mayfield is good down field passer.

  11. Voice of Truth Says:

    Quick stat highlight – we have no other RB on the roster over 100 yards for the SEASON besides White…

    The RB2 position is providing less than 10 yards a game while RB1 averages 56

    That is all

  12. Bucsmarley Says:

    Bowels sucks. His defense is outdated. At least in the Bucs cover 2 days everyone knew their assignments. Baker is an average journeyman qb who can win you about 7 games a season. Time to rebuild play Trask to see if he’s a viable asset. Everyone that’s against Trask we haven’t seen him play and Todd’s to afraid. Every qb needs to take their lumps. Except us we rather draft the kid and let him ride the pine. Not saying Trask will be special but they didn’t think he would be in Florida until given the opportunity. All I ask is give the kid a few games to see. Maybe after we lose to the panthers I’ll get to see it. Only reason baker came back in is because he knew if Trask plays well his season is over and might be on the move again. Also don’t feel mayfield is a good mentor because he’s selfish

  13. BucU Says:

    I don’t give a shyt about the Baker/Trask situation. When you have the worst coaching staff in the league and the worst run game it doesn’t matter who your QB is. This season is an exact mirror of last season. The template is identical.
    Until Bowles and co are long gone this is the product you will get week in week out. NO THANKS.

  14. realistic-optimistic Says:

    I agree with most of your article, Joe. However, I don’t think pass-first is always the answer either. Let each game dictate your strategy. In the Colts game our run game was working great. We needed to keep pounding it to set up a few play-action bombs (hoping Mayfield doesn’t overthrow them). In other games (like BUF) we should have been passing first hoping to open up the run game. There’s just no real strategy from this coaching staff.

  15. Bucsfanman Says:

    If the Bucs are so committed to the run, why won’t they employ a fullback? To be a “run first team” you have to have the personnel. Right now we don’t have a RB with vision and an OL that’s not making holes, that can be seen anyway.

    Baker is going to struggle if we’re going to air the ball out more than 30+ times a game. So, it’s imperative that we find a way to run the ball effectively.

    Did I mention FULLBACK?!!!

  16. Dwayne Cone Says:

    Coaching can only go so far and then it’s up to the player based on the amount of time they spend Playing Football in real time.

    After you kick the ball out of the stadium you run a handful of young guys out when the opponent is 1st and 10 on their own 25. Once the ball gets to mid field you pull them and put in the 1’s fresh and ready to dig in.

    This will also help keep the Defense from wearing down when the Offense goes 3 and out a half dozen times during the game.

  17. WyomingJoe Says:

    For those of you who don’t think that Baker can make ALL THE THROWS, please take a look at the dozens of videos on YouTube that showcase his accuracy and arm strength. In all honesty, I really don’t know why his deep passes have been a little off so far this season- and neither do any of you. But don’t underestimate this guy who was screwed by the Browns after taking them to the playoffs in 2020 (first time in 20+ years) and after he played an entire season with a torn labrum and a fractured shoulder in 2021. The Browns organization was run badly and the team Baker was traded to was the worst team in football, the Panthers. Trask is good, but Baker is better. Remember what the Jets front office said about both of them in preseason? If not, look it up.

  18. Craig Says:

    I think Gaither H.S. could beat the Bucs right now.

    It is not about the players it is about the scheme. You can’t run unless the O-line is in on the plan. Most of the time it looks like they forgot to tell the line that it is a run play, or they don’t practice what the line should do in run situations.

    If Canales wants to expand the offense, now is the time.

  19. DFW Buc Says:

    Stubborn is as stubborn does. This fits this coach to a T. He must enjoy hitting his head against the wall. That can be the only explanation. This is defensive football without a decent defense. It’d be one thing if we had the defense from 2002.

  20. Erik Hesson - Fine Artist and Founder of Says:

    A stubborn commitment to running the ball on offense and our crappy Zone Defense are the 2 reasons we are a losing team.

  21. Alanbucsfan Says:

    The Bucs have a revamped OLine and new QB this year- the run game takes time and it is starting to improve.
    Godwin does need to be more involved, but if you’re obsessed with throwing the ball every play – Arena League starts in April.

  22. FortMyersDave Says:

    StPeteBucFan. I concur, Bowles is insane by definition. Now let us look at the Glazers. As they never launch a horrible head coach in season for whatever reason, do they fit the definition of insanity as you would have to guess that they and all of their advisors have identified traits of Bowels which are much like Lovie Smith as well as the tail spirals of the teams led by Rah, Toes on the Line Greg and the stick carrier Koetter? The teams are flaming and they do not do what most teams do, launch the dude early?. Do they again let the coach destroy morale or try to infuse confidence by launching the core of the cancer (Bowels)? Now maybe they know this and are happy to let Todd coach them to a 5 win season and a top 5 pick for the new coach.

    I say if Bowels loses to Carolina, launch the guy unless you are happy with 4-13 and flipping a coin with the Giants and DC club over who picks after AZ, Carolina (Chicago) and the Pats. Beating the Titans eliminated any chance at a top 3 pick, even the biggest trolls on JBF have to see that now, A new coach may help the Bucs evaluate talent without Bowles protecting the bad players he has kept on the field for so long. It took him 6 weeks to bench Ryan Neal; an example of the lack of accountability by Bowels!

  23. unbelievable Says:

    @WyomingJoe – sure, he CAN make all the throws… but does he?


    Lots of Deep and even intermediate passes have been off. There’s been a number of throws to Evans, that if he leads him just a bit better, those turn into walk-in touchdowns, instead of Evans having to slow down / catch the pass behind him, allowing a defender to catch up and make a tackle.

    Baker isn’t our biggest problem, but he’s also not willing this team to victories as of late either. He’s been giving the ball away and taking more sacks with increased frequency over the past few weeks. That’s no good.

  24. Dave Pear Says:

    Todd’s access to One Buc Place should have been revoked following the collapse against the Texans.

  25. Since76 Says:

    I think the root of the problem for this team is the coach picked the wrong QB to bring in and start. It was his decision and he blew it. He will be fired at the end of the season or this franchise will be bottom feeding for another disastrous year. Very disappointing with the talent on both sides of the ball.

  26. BUCS4LIFE Says:

    I had to literally yell “throw the f,n ball Dave” while in attendance at Indy and yes I was very heard, to the comical delight of all that was within earshot. Point being it’s pretty sad when on lookers can clearly see what the coaching staff obviously cannot. It’s frustrating to say the least.

  27. Bucs'n'Bucks Says:

    Week 12 and players are still learning the “system?” Even if they finally catch on to this scheme, it’s too little, too late.

    No adjustments because you think your plan from the beginning is going to work eventually is just brain dead.

  28. Larrd Says:

    It is hard for Todd. Leave him alone.

  29. Crickett Baker Says:

    Unlike us, the players all seem to love Todd. That’s why the Glazers won’t fire him mid-season. And there is his contract, which we don’t know much about and Licht probably had nothing to do with. I was all into giving Todd a chance, but he has had it and failed. His DC abilities are even fading, as one hat was too large for him let alone his trying to wear two. This team is so damn depressing in SO many ways.

  30. Thugster Says:

    You got Rooney ruled Tampa, a completely incompetent coach chosen only because of identity nonsense. You will be terrible for another decade. I would like to think you fools down there would learn something but that is not going to happen