For much of Sunday's loss to the Packers, the Bucs were actually close in terms of the score. It was 10-3 headed to the fourth quarter. Yet you never had the feeling the Bucs were anywhere close to being able to win.
That's because their normally lousy offense found new depths in the 20-3 loss. They have two plays that have even a remote chance of working. One is sending rookie WR Mike Evans down the sideline and simply throwing the ball in the air. The other is the same play with Vincent Jackson running long.
Even with those two especially intricate plays, the Bucs' offense is inept.
At one point during the first half, the Packers had 154 yards of total offense and the Bucs had zero. The Bucs picked up their first first down of the game with 3:40 left in the half.
QB Josh McCown was sacked seven times. The Bucs rushed for 16 yards. They ended up with only 109 yards of total offense.
Everyone wants to blame Jeff Tedford, the guy who was supposed to be the offensive coordinator (we'll get to that in a second.) But let's face it, this team needs a whole new offensive line and a new quarterback. And if the guy who is picking those players is coach Lovie Smith, who has a history of problematic offenses, the Bucs will continue to struggle well beyond this lost season.
Okay, all at once, let's pile on Tedford. You know, the head coach of the B.C. Lions of the Canadian Football League.
He was supposed to be the Bucs' offensive coordinator this season, but a heart attack in the preseason ended his tenure. Though cleared to return to work a while ago, Tedford apparently didn't feel quite right and, as it turned out, never returned to the staff. Now he says he was all set to go back to work a couple of months ago. And judging by its pitiful production, the Bucs' offense could have used him all along.
Smith would never criticize Tedford publicly. He deftly sidestepped questions about Tedford in Sunday's postgame news conference. Without blaming Tedford specifically, McCown certainly pointed out that losing the offensive coordinator before the season and not having an experienced one to replace him has not helped.
You hate to criticize a man who had a serious health condition, but it sure does seem as if Tedford left the Bucs in a bad spot through all this. Why he never returned still seems rather odd, and you don't know if that was his choice or the Bucs'. Or both.
In the end, Tedford isn't the one who signed OT Anthony Collins and DE Michael Johnson and all the other free agents who haven't panned out. When you're pointing fingers, a few people deserve blame before Tedford. But to suggest that his absence isn't that big of a deal is absurd.
Three things that popped into my head
1. Do you realize the Bucs haven't won a game in Raymond James Stadium in more than a year — Dec. 8, 2013?
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2. The Packers can't feel too great after Sunday's pretty unimpressive performance. A week after being beaten by the Bills, the Packers couldn't do a whole lot against the hapless Bucs. Going up against a Bucs defense that did not include Gerald McCoy, the Packers' offense looked pretty ordinary.
3. Maybe the Packers' offense sputtered because of the solid Bucs defense. Give the unit credit. It had a big goal-line stand and held the Packers to 20 points, 11 fewer than their season average.
Sunday's best moment came in the first quarter when Navy Lt. Commander Donald Bryant, deployed in Afghanistan, was put on the scoreboard to give a holiday wish to his wife, Anna, and his two children, 7-year-old daughter Arielle and 3-year-old son Tristan. You know what happened next. Lt. Commander Bryant came charging out of the runway and onto the field to surprise his family. This stuff never gets old, does it?
The family met in the end zone, proving that occasionally good things do happen in the end zone at Raymond James Stadium.
The Bucs aren't tanking it, but bless them, they are still in line for the No. 1 overall pick.