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It’s been 44 years in the making, but the Bucs finally have a potent offense

John Romano’s Gimme 5: Nothing wrong with celebrating progress, along with unsung heroes and the greatest offense in Tampa Bay history.
 
A pretty productive pair. Jameis Winston leads the NFL in passing yards and offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich has directed Tampa Bay to its first 400-point season in franchise history.
A pretty productive pair. Jameis Winston leads the NFL in passing yards and offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich has directed Tampa Bay to its first 400-point season in franchise history. [ PHELAN M. EBENHACK | AP ]
Published Dec. 16, 2019

Five topics suitable for inane debate on talk radio

1. Perspective, please: The Bucs are officially an average team. (strained applause) Thirteen teams have won more games, and 15 have won fewer. (polite applause) Tampa Bay has a good chance of finishing the season with more points scored than allowed for the first time since 2010. (enthusiastic applause) That’s not sarcasm, and it’s not faint praise. You know what is? Progress. (standing ovation)

Related: Bucs’ Sean Murphy-Bunting comes home, takes one to the house

2. One play that changed everything: The rest of the country will look at the 38-17 score and assume the Detroit game was a blowout. You’ll know better. The Lions were 35 yards away from a potential 24-all tie in the fourth quarter when Sean Murphy-Bunting intercepted a pass and went 70 yards for a touchdown. When it comes time to recall the season’s biggest plays, do not leave Murphy-Bunting off the list.

3. Might as well be a white surrender flag: If the assistant coaches really cared about Bruce Arians, one of them would hide his challenge flag.

4. Show him the money: So was Arians right when he said free agent linebacker Shaquil Barrett “ain’t going anywhere" after tying Warren Sapp’s franchise record for sacks at 16.5? Tampa Bay is in a great salary cap situation for 2020 with roughly $90 million in space next season. Whether he gets a franchise tag or is signed to a multi-year deal, Jameis Winston should take up about $25-26 million of that cap space. Spotrac.com, which tracks NFL contracts, says market value on Barrett’s breakout season will be in the four-year, $63 million range, which works out to about $16 million a season. That’s more than $40 million on two players, which is a lot considering the Bucs need to spend money on both offensive and defensive lines in the offseason, but it can certainly be done.

Related: Jameis Winston makes his case for staying in Tampa Bay

5. Run for your life: Bless their hearts, the Bucs keep trying to run the ball. They just don’t do it very well. Tampa Bay is 13th in the league in rushing attempts per game, but 27th in actual rushing yards. Still, it’s important for the Bucs to keep some semblance of balance. The first touchdown pass to Breshad Perriman came on a play-action call. So did the 51-yard pass to Chris Godwin. Right now, the threat of the run is still effective even if the Bucs are only averaging 3.5 yards per carry.

A list of five

Five reasons for all the hamstring injuries

5. Winners of Wednesday wind sprints get box of Krispy Kreme.

4. It’s the only way Arians will let you in his golf cart.

3. Doc-in-a-Box is cheaper than a medical staff.

2. Hired the Seven-Minute-Abs guy as the trainer.

1. Not everyone is as nimble as Vita Vea.

Five unsung heroes on Sunday

Give general manager Jason Licht, right, credit for landing Shaquil Barrett.
Give general manager Jason Licht, right, credit for landing Shaquil Barrett. [ PHELAN M. EBENHACK | AP ]
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1. Lavonte David: Moved past Simeon Rice for second place on Tampa Bay’s all-time list for forced fumbles. David now has 20 in 119 career games. Derrick Brooks has the team record with 24 in 224 games. Also had an interception wiped out by an offsides penalty.

2. Josh Wells: Had a holding penalty on the first drive (the illegal block in the back penalty was a horrible call) but otherwise kept Winston safe while replacing Donovan Smith at left tackle. Only the second start in his six-year career.

3. William Gholston: He doesn’t hear his name called as often as Vea or Ndamukong Suh when it comes to shutting down the running game, but Gholston set the tone early on Sunday with two tackles for a loss in a return to his home state.

4. Byron Leftwich: Line them all up. From Joe Gibbs to Todd Monken with Jimmy Raye, Mike Shula, Bill Muir, Greg Olson, Jeff Tedford and everyone else in between. No Tampa Bay offensive coordinator has put more points on the board than Leftwich.

5. Jason Licht: Barrett is the free agent signing of the year.

So this is what it’s supposed to look like

You might say Tampa Bay’s offense was a late bloomer. The Bucs topped the 400-point barrier for the first time in franchise history on Sunday. Until then, they had been the only NFL team to never crack that milestone in any season. To put that in perspective, the other 31 teams had combined to do it 212 times since Tampa Bay entered the league in 1976. Here’s a look at the highest scoring offenses in Bucs history.

1. 2019, 416 points: Winston could be the first Tampa Bay quarterback in history to lead the NFL in passing yards. (7-7 record.)

2. 2018, 396 points: So the Bucs actually set a franchise record last year, too. And all it got Dirk Koetter was a pink slip. (5-11 record.)

3. 2012, 389 points: Greg Schiano’s team was on a record scoring pace before losing five of its last six games. (7-9 record.)

4. 2000, 388 points: Tony Dungy’s highest-scoring team in Tampa Bay with Les Steckel in his one, and only, season as offensive coordinator. (10-6 record.)

5. 2008, 361 points: Offensive coordinator Bill Muir turned 66 that season. I think quarterback Jeff Garcia turned 64. (9-7 record.)

Final five words

Jameis just made a bundle.