Well this is a loaded edition of Carmen Catches Up if I've ever written one. The 2018 season is now in the rear-view mirror and there have been… changes around AdventHealth Training Center. Major changes.
After another disappointing 5-11 season, Head Coach Dirk Koetter was relieved of his duties following the loss to the Falcons last Sunday night. Was it a surprise? Maybe/maybe not. Was it deserved? I'll let you be the judge. At the end of the day, though, we've now witnessed four of the best offenses in franchise history because of Coach Koetter and that's something to reflect on.
If you want to delve further into what Koetter's offenses entail, what they emphasize and why they work, you can read the feature I did a few weeks ago where I talked to wide receivers coach Skyler Fulton, who not only coached under Koetter, but played for him back in college, too. For now, let's just look at a quick rundown of everything the offense did this past year (and maybe a little bit of how it compares).
The 2018 offense alone shattered an insane amount of franchise records. See for yourself:
· Most points (396)
· Most yards (6,648)
· Most passing yards (5,125)
· Most touchdowns (49)
· Most passing touchdowns (36)
· Most first downs (388)
· Most passing first downs (265)
· Highest third-down conversion rate (46.0%)
· Highest yards-per-play (6.30)
· Highest net yards per pass (7.70)
When compared to all-time NFL offenses across the league, they're still impressive, too. The 2018 Buccaneer offense finished with the fourth-most passing yards in a single season in NFL history with 5,125. That's just 107 yards less than the 2000 "Greatest Show on Turf" St. Louis Rams and 42 yards more than the 2011 New England Patriots.
And listen, I know that stats aren't everything. I know you know that, too. The coaches know it as well, evidenced by how many times they explicitly said these stats mean nothing without wins. In a cutthroat, results-driven business like the NFL, that's true. But it also doesn't mean you have to discredit what these numbers say entirely, either. These numbers are proof of the effort, the time, the blood, sweat and tears poured into this team by its players and coaches. It's proof they never gave up, even in the downturns of the season.
I mean, do you KNOW how many injuries defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul fought through?
If you had been halfway paying attention to the injury report, he was usually listed with multiple injuries and yet – he never missed a start. He also was the team's sack leader, registering double digits at 12.5. It was the first time a Bucs player had done so since Simeon Rice in 2005. This was all in his first year as a Buccaneer and he already said he can't wait to get back to work.
A guy who put in a lot of work last offseason that yielded crazy results was wide receiver Mike Evans. It paid off in a major way in the very last game of the season, when he broke an almost 30-year-old Buccaneer record for most receiving yards in a single season set by Mark Carrier. Evans finished the year with 1,524 receiving yards along with eight touchdowns. He was praised by his coaches all year for the shape he got himself in and how strong he had been running his routes – even in practice. The chemistry with quarterback Jameis Winston was undeniable as a result.
There will be more on individual player performances in the coming weeks but how about we relive some of the best plays this year?
Could you have scripted that any better? Apparently not. After this game, both Coach Koetter and Offensive Coordinator Todd Monken said that route wasn't the original plan. Hearing Jackson and Fitzpatrick describe how the play developed was almost serendipitous. The thing is, it was just Fitzpatrick taking advantage of what the defense was giving him. If you look closely, you'll see that the safety on Jackson inexplicably flat-foots and undercuts him. Jackson already has the corner beat to the inside and Fitz recognizes all of this to launch it downfield. He was given time, too, by running back Peyton Barber picking up on the corner blitz. Jackson said he actually looked up at the jumbotron to know the ball was coming to him. Fitzpatrick placed it perfectly and one little double move later, Jackson was in the end zone for the first play of the game against his former team, who also happened to be the defending Super Bowl champions.
Speaking of former teams, defensive end Carl Nassib's game against the Cleveland Browns was a revenge game if I ever saw one. Though Nassib will be the first to tell you he didn't really think of it that way, his play might suggest otherwise. He registered his first multi-sack game of his career against his former quarterback Baker Mayfield, though they were only together in training camp. Nassib was released by the Browns prior to Week One and picked up by the Bucs immediately. Here, it's only a four-man rush, but the left guard seems preoccupied with what linebacker Lavonte David is doing at first. David ends up dropping into coverage instead of blitzing, leaving the left tackle one-on-one with Nassib who makes a nice couple of moves to get around the outside and into the backfield to drop Mayfield for a loss of nine.
Not only did DeSean Jackson score an insane 60+ touchdown in the roller coaster of a game against the Bengals, he broke Jerry Rice's record for most such touchdowns in league history while doing it. Jackson has 24 touchdowns of 60 or more yards in his career, besting Rice's 23. It certainly validates the deep threat Jackson is notorious for being.
As noted above, defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul finished with the first double-digit sack season by a Buccaneer since 2005. One of those sacks that may mean a little more than the others is this one, against his former quarterback like Nassib. Unlike Nassib, Pierre-Paul and Eli Manning were together for eight seasons in New York and Pierre-Paul didn't mince words when he said he'd be coming for his former teammate in advance of the game. Pierre-Paul ended with 1.5 sacks in the game, making good on his promise. If you look before the play even starts, safety Jordan Whitehead and linebacker Devante Bond move to account for the tight end, who's running an underneath crossing route - putting a safety on him instead of a linebacker. Bond then blitzes, taking the left tackle with him and leaving the left guard one-on-one with Pierre-Paul as the running back sells the fake handoff instead of sitting in pass protection. From there, Pierre-Paul just overpowers his man and beelines straight for Manning as the rest of the pocket collapses for a solo sack.
This is the day that y'all figured out who Andrew Adams was. I'm going to go ahead and call him a defensive back. The coaches carved out a really good role for Adams in dime packages where he acts more as a linebacker than a safety. It works for Adams who is built more like a linebacker, too. It was effective for the Bucs, but just how effective, I don't think anyone could predict. Adams said after this game he was just really in tune with what the offense was doing after all the film he watched. He was able to make the reads and be in the right place at the right time... three times. He joins the ranks of Ronde Barber and Aqib Talib as the only Buccaneers to register three interceptions in a game.
If this one didn't make you jump off the couch or out of your seat, I question your Bucs' fandom, to be honest. After a scoreless first quarter in quite literally the worst football conditions imaginable, the Bucs and Ravens had started to figure out their footing - literally. This kind of footing though, was on a whole different level. This was on third-and-20 after the Bucs were hit with an offensive holding penalty. Tampa Bay lined up in an empty formation with trips to quarterback Jameis Winston's right, kind of signaling they weren't going the conservative route on such a long down. Veteran linebacker Terrell Suggs was able to flush Winston out of the pocket, coming straight up the middle, causing Winston to roll towards his right - at first. Winston then switches directions, scrambling off to his left. Evans is at the top of your screen running what looks to be a dig before he realizes Winston has gone rogue. He makes it a point to then turn vertically as Winston buys time and by the time the ball is thrown, he has just one defender on him on the numbers. Winston throws a dime and Evans is in for the touchdown, rainy, wet conditions and all.
One more time for Mike Evans. In the last game of the season, in the very first quarter, wide receiver Mike Evans broke Mark Carrier's nearly 30-year-old Bucs record for most receiving yards in a single season. Evans only needed five yards to do it coming in the game, but he went for a few more on that completion alone, nabbing the 19-yard pass to seal the deal. Evans ended up with 106 yards and two touchdowns in the Bucs' last game of the season.