That is why I will be taking a weekly look around the web to gather some of the analysis you might have missed. I'll also provide my own take on those articles; I will "read and react," if you will.
The pieces that caught my attention this week include Patrick Daugherty’s ranking of the 32 NFL head coaches and a “Uni Watch” breakdown of the Bucs’ new helmet and logo by uniform expert Paul Lukas. Keep in mind, the opinions stated below are my own and don't necessarily reflect Buccaneers management, coaches or ownership.
1. The NFL's Best Coaches, Patrick Daugherty, Yahoo.com
I approached this one with a little trepidation, as I didn't know how the author would choose to rank a newly-appointed head coach, one with a very good NFL track record but also no presence in the league in 2013. I expected Bill Belichick, Sean Payton and the Harbaughs to be placed near the top of the list (and wasn't disappointed) but wasn't sure how Lovie Smith would rank.
My worry was unfounded, as it turned out. Daugherty found a neat solution to that issue, ranking all the returning coaches one to 25 and then creating a separate list for the seven new hires in 2014. Even better, he puts Smith at the top of that second list.
Again, it was no surprise to see New England's Bill Belichick in the top spot among returning coaches, though Pete Carroll has made a dramatic post-Super Bowl surge to #2. Payton comes in at #4 and Jim Harbaugh (#3) bests his brother John by two spots. Daugherty ranks Miami's Joe Philbin last among the returning coaches, and lists reasons that go far beyond the Richie Incognito situation.
New Bucs Head Coach Lovie Smith will try to produce the kind of rapid turnaround that Andy Reid oversaw in Kansas City last year
I was surprised to see Philadelphia's Chip Kelly get the sixth spot on Daugherty's list after just one season in the NFL, but Daugherty anticipates that argument. Why does the author rank Kelly so high? "Because," writes Daugherty, "he has something nearly all his peers lack: Clarity of vision."
Returning to Lovie and the Buccaneers, Daugherty puts him first on a list of what he calls an "underwhelming group," calling him "a true master of the 4-3, Tampa 2 defense." The author dings Smith for the Bears' offensive record during his nine years in Chicago (though the team did rank second in the NFL in scoring en route to the Super Bowl in 2006) but thinks Offensive Coordinator Jeff Tedford will be the key to a long stay in Tampa for Smith.
The interesting name here is Andy Reid. Reid was let go by the Eagles a year ago (hence the opportunity for Kelly in Philly) but he was quickly snatched up the Kansas City Chiefs. After leading the Chiefs to a nine-win improvement – from 2-14 in 2012 to 11-5 in 2013 – Reid comes in at #7 on Daugherty’s list. Many have compared Lovie Smith’s current situation to the one that Reid stepped into last year, with the possibility for a quick turnaround. Given his good track record in Chicago, if Smith turned the Bucs around quickly in 2014, he would almost certainly crack Daugherty’s top 10 in next year’s coach rankings.
2. Uni Watch: Bucs go for sleeker look, Paul Lukas, ESPN.com
The first thing you should know about the author in this case is that he’s not just a random critic; he is an absolute uniform fanatic, and a historian as well. He runs his own popular blog called Uni Watch, which he labels as the “The Obsessive Study of Athletic Aesthetics.” He isn’t exaggerating. ESPN.com has been using Lukas as their uniform expert for years (here’s his take on the various hockey ensembles at the Olympics), and it’s obvious in his writing how much joy he takes in the subject. He’s sort of like the Richard Blackwell of the sports world.
Of course, Lukas’ take on the Bucs’ helmet and logo enhancements is still just one man’s opinion, so we shouldn’t get too uptight about the fact that he’s not initially crazy about every change that was made. On his own blog, he mentions that his opinion is subject to change once he sees it on the field; he also notes that we’re still waiting to see the entire uniform, which will be unveiled on March 5. That, too, could alter some of his thoughts.
As for the flag logo, Lukas says the team has gone with a “sleeker” look, and I wouldn’t argue. I believe one of the goals was a more modernized appearance; sleeker and modernized aren’t exactly synonyms, but they seem to be saying about the same thing. I don’t think the logo designers would be hurt by Lukas’ adjective.
Problem is, he doesn’t think that’s an improvement. Lukas says the new logo will appeal to those who like their pirate imagery looking “slick and modern,” and not to those who like it rough-edged and weathered. He counts himself among the latter group. I’ll side with the former group, though (again, just one man’s opinion). The lines on the skull and the swords are definitely sharper, but I think that will make it pop more when it’s in play. I also think it’s the more vibrant red that makes the logo look sharper, more so than the smoother lines. Overall, Lukas doesn’t appear to feel as if the change was dramatic enough to warrant redoing the logo. I would say it’s another step in the same direction the team took in 1997 when it switched from the orange uniforms and be-hatted pirate logo to the more aggressive look of the flag and its emblem. The new skull and crossed swords looks tougher and more intimidating to me. That’s worth it in my book, but I definitely respect Lukas’ opinion here.
Lukas also does not come down in favor of the much bigger size of the flag logo on the sides of the helmet. Unfortunately, in this very quick analysis posted not long after the helmet was revealed, he doesn’t get into the reasons why he feels that way. Rather, he notes that a larger logo is going to be more prone to getting nicked and torn during games, and he commiserates with the Buccaneers’ equipment staff. Replacing helmet decals between games is very common, and Lukas thinks the new logo size is going to lead to more work for the professionals in the equipment room.
In that respect, he’s probably right. I spoke to one of the Buccaneers’ equipment managers – who, by the way, likes the new helmet look, including the size of the logos – and he confirmed Lukas’ point. Most hits to the helmet are glancing blows, he said, and with a larger logo there’s simply a greater chance that such a blow will hit the decal. Furthermore, the larger decals require very precise placing, so it may take a while for the equipment managers to get proficient at re-applying them. A larger logo also means more work trying to get it on the helmet without creating bubbles, a frustration anyone who has ever tried to apply a protective cover to a cell phone would understand.
Still, my friend in the equipment room was optimistic that he and his colleagues would get the hang of applying the decals more quickly, and he also said they wouldn’t know for sure if they would draw more nicks until the helmets are put into play. He liked the tweaks to the look, saying it resulted in a crisper-looking helmet, and that he thinks it looks even better on TV than up close in person.
And, not to downplay the hard work of the guys in the equipment room, but is the difficulty of applying logos actually an issue that the average Buccaneer fan will worry about? Even if it is a more tedious process, if the look is good, it will be worth the effort.
Lukas does like the new chrome facemask, calling it a “surprisingly effective move.” He believes the former black facemask got “swallowed up” by the pewter shell of the helmet, but that the new one will “pop.” Not surprisingly, I agree. I have yet to talk to a single person who dislikes the new facemask.
Lukas is also pleased that the Buccaneers didn’t abandon their distinctive pewter helmet (he had heard rumors that the team would be going to a white helmet). He says the team made the new helmet shinier; in fact, it is the exact same pewter as the previous helmet. It is probably the brighter colors of the logo and the added dark shading along the crown that leads to that impression.
The Buccaneers will put their entire uniform on display in a less than two weeks. Lukas is almost certain to share his opinion on the new ensemble on Uni Watch, and I for one am looking forward to reading it.