Tuesday, April 24, 2018
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Fennelly: What the Bucs can learn from the NFL's Final Four

There are lessons for the Bucs as they watch or don't watch Sunday's conference championship games.

Consistency at quarterback.

Consistency at coaching.

Consistency at organization.

Falcons, Packers, Patriots, Steelers.

Sounds easy enough.

Sure it does.

The Bucs have hitched their wagon to Jameis Winston, and that is that.

Winston, 23, is profoundly younger than the four elite quarterbacks who will be at work Sunday.

Falcons QB Matt Ryan is the closest to Winston in age. He's 31, nine seasons in, with 240 touchdown passes. Packers QB Aaron Rodgers, 33, is in his ninth full season, with 297 TDs.

Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger is 34. Put him down for 13 seasons, 301 TDs.

Tom Brady: 39, 15th full season, 456 TDs.

You're getting the idea.

Bucs coach Dirk Koetter just finished his first season running an NFL team.

Falcons coach Dan Quinn is in only his second season, but the other coaches Sunday have vast experience.

Mike Tomlin has coached Pittsburgh for 10 seasons, with 101 wins and a Super Bowl title. Green Bay's Mike McCarthy has been Packers coach for 11 years, 114 wins and a Super Bowl win. And there's Big Daddy, Bill Belichick, 17 years in New England, 201 wins and four Lombardi trophies.

Consistency of message. Consistency in the front office, by and large. Quinn might be new, but Falcons GM Thomas Dimitroff has been on the job since 2008.

Consistency in building.

No new plan every two years.

Ring a bell, Bucs?

Of course, winning builds consistency.

Success makes the message.

But it's more than that as we watch these four teams.

The Bucs could take a little from each club. And we don't mean just finding a placekicker who makes what he needs to make and then throws in some wow moments beyond that — without having to overspend by using a second-round pick on him.

No, there's more.

Look at the Steelers.

Why are they back in a title game? They put together a great offensive line. For years they couldn't run the ball. Roethlisberger was taking a beating every Sunday. Now Le'Veon Bell keeps giving Roethlisberger second and short, and the line keeps him from getting killed.

Look at the Packers. Their depth is amazing. They keep running middle-round draft picks and undrafted free agents out there, and they keep making plays for Rodgers. And that offensive line has been built up.

Bucs, you getting the message?

The Falcons? This is one of the fastest teams in the NFL. They are dedicated to speed on both sides of the ball. And Atlanta has a balanced offense, always a good thing. The Bucs once had that.

Ryan does a fantastic job executing that offense. The Falcons finally put a line together for him. When Koetter was offensive coordinator in Atlanta, he amazed by keeping that offense going with a decimated offensive line.

Atlanta has invested in that line, drafting high, signing a center. Ryan doesn't get hammered when he drops back, and he has Julio Jones, the surprising Taylor Gabriel and a lot of other weapons. Ryan finds them.

What can the Bucs learn from the Patriots? The same thing every other team can learn. The Patriots, no matter who they have, rely on versatile players. They adjust to opponents better than any team in football. They have multiple guys they can plug in for any situation, like a safety they throw in to cover a slot receiver, or anything else that comes up.

True, it helps to have the greatest coach-QB tandem in NFL history, Canton-bound Belichick and Canton-bound Brady. That's hard to duplicate.

Likewise that over the last two months, Rodgers has been playing as well as any quarterback in NFL history. Ryan might be executing Atlanta's offense, but Rodgers is Green Bay's offense. They might need backup scoreboards for the NFC title game.

If the Bucs are keeping score, consistency in the answer.

At quarterback.

At coaching.

At organization.

It's not as easy as it looks.

Comments
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