Jones: 10 takeaways from the Bucs on 'Hard Knocks'

Crew members from HBO's "Hard Knocks" film Bucs wide receiver Mike Evans (13) during training camp Saturday at One Buccaneer Place. [LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times]
Crew members from HBO's "Hard Knocks" film Bucs wide receiver Mike Evans (13) during training camp Saturday at One Buccaneer Place. [LOREN ELLIOTT | Times]
Published Sept. 8, 2017

The great Hard Knocks experience is over. And the Bucs not only survived, they thrived.

HBO's behind-the-scenes look at an NFL team during training camp is often greeted with a stiff arm by teams. In the ever-secret world of the NFL, no team wants the rest of the country — and the other 31 NFL teams — peeking under their rugs to see what dirt there is.

While the Bucs, including head coach Dirk Koetter, weren't crazy about every practice, meeting and game under the Hard Knocks microscope, it appears to have been a positive experience.

No one got in trouble. No one said or did anything regretful. No embarrassing moments were revealed — unless you count Gerald McCoy's dancing.

All in all, the Bucs came off as likeable and professional.

Here are 10 takeaways from the Bucs on Hard Knocks:

1. Jameis Winston is a leader. While the Bucs quarterback still occasionally shows a lack of maturity (and let's not forget, he's still only 23), Winston is a real-deal leader. He's passionate, charismatic and teammates follow him. He can inspire with pep talks and scold with the occasional chewing-out session. He was the featured character of Hard Knocks and it's no wonder Hard Knocks cameras were drawn to him. He, clearly, is the leader of the Bucs.

Monica Herndon | Times

Monica Herndon | Times

2. Dirk Koetter is a straight shooter. The Bucs head coach doesn't fool around. He says what's on his mind when it's on his mind. He talks like a grown-up and he treats his players like grown-ups. He's not always a yeller and screamer, but he's not handing out hugs either. He's genuine and that's what a head coach is supposed to be.

The more you watch him interact with players — whether it's being flabbergasted with Winston over a stupid throw or gently telling kicker Roberto Aguayo that he has been cut or telling a rookie how to get better — the more you respect him as a head coach.

3. Speaking of Aguayo… The release of the 2016 second-round pick out of FSU was the most compelling scene of Hard Knocks. Give credit for the Bucs moving on when it was clear that Koetter and general manager Jason Licht no longer had confidence in him. As far as Licht showing courage for cutting ties with a player he took in the second round? Not sure about that. The easy thing to do was cut him before Aguayo kept missing kicks — and kept reminding everyone how bad of a pick it turned out to be. For the record, however, I was on board with the pick at the time and don't blame Licht at all for trying to address an important position that the Bucs desperately needed.

Loren Elliott | Times

Loren Elliott | Times

4. The next best scene was Koetter laying into Winston after Winston threw a pass up from grabs in a preseason game against the Jaguars.

"You (expletive, expletive) me?" Koetter screamed. "You (expletive) kidding me? Why you got to do that? You're playing a great game and then your greed takes over. You're so much better than that. Playing a great game. … And then you do that?"

Throughout, Winston kept saying, "I got you."

Koetter then said, "You can't do that. Ever, ever, ever."

You get the feeling Winston will do that again. Over and over and over. That's just who he is. He has a gunslinger's mentality that will win a lot of games, and lose a few, too.

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5. Gerald McCoy is a good guy. Just watching McCoy interact with this family, the fans, his coaches and teammates, you can see he is a good man. And he also proves that good football players and good men are not mutually exclusive. He's a heck of a football player. In fact, he's the best football player the Bucs have.

6. The smartest guy on the team is .... Ryan Fitzpatrick. And not just because the backup QB went to Harvard. And not because he can do a Rubik's cube in like a half second. That's impressive. This is more impressive: he knows where they keep the hot dogs at halftime. (Always check the doctor's office!)

7. I wanted to see more of ... Miko Grimes, offensive coordinator Todd Monken and tight end O.J. Howard.

Loren Elliott | Times

Loren Elliott | Times

8. I wanted to see less of ... Gerald McCoy dancing and, well, Gerald McCoy dancing. Sorry.

9. The breakout stars were ... Rookie linebacker Riley "Joe Dirt'' Bullough and trash-talker extraordinaire Chris Baker. While Bullough's mom didn't like the Joe Dirt nickname, it added to the lore of a never-say-quit kid with the R-rated vocabulary. Meantime, Baker is a guy who could trash talk in a game of Candyland.

10. The final takeaway. This is a likable team. We didn't see any examples of anyone being a jerk. They are team of players who get along. They are a team that respects its coaches and fans. And, they made Tampa Bay proud to a national audience.

Because of that, it wasn't the most compelling Hard Knocks season ever. There wasn't much controversy. No fights. No nasty moments. No uncomfortable scenes. All in all, it was a quiet season for Hard Knocks.

Just like the Bucs wanted.