Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Buccaneers did a lot of good this offseason. That is impossible to ignore. But also impossible to ignore is the tepid dynamic between coaches and players, and the perceived regression of Jameis Winston in 2017. If these developments don’t turn north quick, then the Buccaneers could find their ship sinking early in a contentious NFC South.
The Buccaneers have the talent to compete. The question isn’t about the team’s talent. After the draft and the conclusion of the offseason, the Buccaneers’ roster is considerably stronger, both on offense and on defense. But while the talent is undeniable, so is the questionable coaching. For other teams, such as the Browns, I gave this factor less weight, because Jackson, as dismal as he’s been with the Browns, has succeeded elsewhere. Dirk Koetter was an inside hire for the Buccaneers after other options ran dry.
Koetter had a decent first season with the team, but in 2017, there was much less cause for optimism. To see Jameis Winston regress so much, under an offensive-minded coach, was alarming, and it’s fair to wonder if the Buccaneers are in a situation similar to the Titans when they had Mike Mularkey. The team has the talent to at least compete, but it’s clear that something between the coaches and players isn’t meshing. A comment made by offensive coordinator Todd Monken, per Jenna Laine of ESPN, only magnifies those concerns.
"We chose to suck. We chose not to do it as well as we can do it. I say that all the time, ever since I’ve been in coaching. Everyone has to take a bite of it because I always say, ‘We sure as heck want the credit when we win.’ I do. I want some of the credit. And we’ve gotta own it when we don’t. When we don’t score and we don’t take care of the ball, when we don’t do the little things that allow [ourselves] to win, then [we’ve] gotta own it."
These comments show that not only is the coaching staff deflecting blame for an underwhelming offensive performance in 2017, but they’re also projecting that blame onto the players alone. This kind of denial could be detrimental to the team moving forward. As we saw with the Giants in 2017, friction with a coaching staff can take down even the mightiest of teams. If the players and coaches can get on the same page, and if Jameis Winston can rebound from a down year, then the Buccaneers can certainly contend in the NFC South in 2018. But there’s a lot of “ifs” in that last sentence. This Buccaneers’ squad’s ceiling is double-digit wins. After adding players like Vita Vea, Ronald Jones, and Carlton Davis, the Buccaneers have upside, especially in the years to come. But there’s too much uncertainty to provide a ringing endorsement in 2018.