Each week, Bucs coach Lovie Smith comes to the postgame podium and tries to find the silver lining in yet another loss.
He talks about young players going through growing pains and positive signs that not all of us can see and a strict belief, just you wait and see, that things are going to get better.
Each week he tells us about how well they practiced and how prepared they were and how he was sure they were going to play a good game.
Then the next week comes and the Bucs get their teeth kicked in again, just like Sunday's 37-23 loss to the Panthers.
Enough already. Enough with the excuses and enough of the hollow promises. How about some coaching?
Just spitballin' here, but instead of talking about how your team is getting better, how about actually getting better?
But it isn't getting better. It never gets any better. And it's obvious as to why: coaching.
The Bucs might not have a ton of talent, but want to know why they are so lousy? Because the guy in charge is doing a lousy job. And if things don't start getting better real soon, he should do his Bucs analysis as a broadcaster instead of a coach.
"All losses are disappointing," Smtih said, "but we shouldn't be getting beat that way."
Yeah, you shouldn't. So, Lovie, what makes you think this mess is getting any better?
"You can get better without it saying it on the scoreboard," Smith said.
Unfortunately, the NFL has a funny way of showing who is better than whom. It keeps score. Sorry, no snow cones and orange peels for good efforts and incremental improvement that only the coach sees. If Smith really believes his team is showing improved signs, it would be nice if he told us where.
The Bucs turned the ball over five times Sunday. They committed costly penalties. They kept running a kicker out there who can't make kicks. They fell behind like they seem to do every game.
Does that sound like a well-coached team to you?
"When you have a young football team that's not there, you have some days like this," Smith said. "And then you eventually get over the hump."
The Bucs are now 1-3 against a relatively soft schedule. They are 3-17 — 3 and 17! — since Smith took over. They still haven't won a regular-season home game under Smith. In a league where most games come down to the final few moments, the Bucs are too often not even competitive. Of their 17 losses under Smith, nearly half (eight) have been by 10 or more points.
There's no question that the Bucs lack talent. But isn't that when coaching becomes even more important? Have them ready to play. Help them out. Put them in positions to succeed.
You don't, for example, have your rookie quarterback throw a long out pattern to a mediocre tight end being covered by one of the better defensive backs in the league on third and 8 with a wet football for his first throw of the game. Yes, Winston stared down Brandon Myers for about 20 minutes before Josh Norman's pick-six, but it was the type of play that was doomed to fail.
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Despite all the mistakes and problems Sunday, the Bucs, remarkably, were hanging around for a half, and it would have been interesting to see how things might have developed had it not been for soon-to-be-ex-kicker Kyle Brindza missing a couple of gimme field goals.
The easy thing, of course, is to blame the kicker. But pin this one on Smith, too. It was Smith who decided to keep Brindza after Brindza missed three field goals and an extra point in a 10-point last week at Houston.
Why should anyone be stunned that Brindza missed more kicks Sunday?
This isn't to say that if Bill Belichick were coaching the Bucs, they would be headed to the playoffs. But I bet they would be better than 3-17.
Bet they wouldn't be outscored 38-6 in the first quarter of games this season like they have under Smith. These games are over after they barely get started.
That just sounds like a team not ready to play.
"We didn't play well," Smith said. "As far as ready? We didn't play well. We turned the ball over early on. … The results don't say that, but we're better than that."
How can Smith say that? What makes him think that the Bucs are better than that? What else do we have to go on other than final scores and records? It's one thing to have a bit of hard luck, to lose a game here and there that you shouldn't lose.
But can anyone look back at the past month and say the Bucs should have a better record? Can you look back at last year and say the Bucs were better than 2-14?
They are 3-17 under Smith because they deserve to be 3-17. This is who they are. They are not good. There aren't enough quality players. (And, oh, let's not let Lovie off the hook for picking the players.) And the players they do have don't seemed to be coached up very well.
Smith says it's getting better. Smith says there will come a day when they get over the hump. Smith says this will be a good football team someday.
That's what he always says.