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Unacceptable Bucs loss raises doubts about leadership

Tennessee Titans cornerback Coty Sensabaugh (24) crosses the goal line after intercepting a Jameis Winston pass intended for Adam Humphries (11) in the first quarter. [JIM DAMASKE | Times]
Published Sep. 14, 2015

TAMPA — Safe to assume the Bucs were not "Tennessee Ready."

In fact, from the looks of things, they are nowhere near NFL ready.

In what will go down as one of the most embarrassing performances for a franchise full of humiliating moments, the Bucs had the snot knocked out of them Sunday in the season opener by a team that won two games last season.

Unacceptable. Simply unacceptable.

It's just one game, but already you can't help but doubt the capabilities of those running this organization. That starts with the man who put this roster together (general manager Jason Licht) and ends with the man who is supposed to prepare that team to play (coach Lovie Smith).

And in between is a group of mostly mediocre players who either have little talent and/or don't know how to use the little talent they have.

Put it all together and you have a perfect storm — an imperfect team that has gone from worst to, well, what exactly is worse than that?

Here's the answer: the Bucs.

"I thought I had the team ready to go," Smith said. "We had good practices. (But) we weren't (ready to go). As far as why, I can't give you a lot of reasons right now or we would've stopped it before this onslaught happened."

The truly disturbing part is you had months to prepare for this game, months to dissect tape and formulate a game plan and the best you could do was fall behind 21-0 after one quarter and 35-7 after one half? To the Titans?

If this was the opening of a restaurant, it would be like having a cockroach in the salad and rats in the kitchen.

"Yes, I'm surprised we were that bad," Smith said. "But we'll bounce back. We've been in situations like this before."

Yeah, like last year. For that reason, how can you not have questions about Licht and Lovie? With a rookie quarterback and the cement still settling on the foundation for a future, neither one is even close to losing his job. But when you get a performance such as Sunday, you can't help but wonder if these are the right guys to be in charge?

And, let's not let the owners who keep making questionable hires off the hook.

"We've got to keep this in perspective," Smith said. "We're very disappointed. We're embarrassed … but it is only one game."

But the ramifications go beyond just one bad day at the office. Raymond James Stadium nearly was sold out Sunday. More than 63,000 showed up to watch your product. They were fired up, and this is what you give you them?

"Obviously, we can't give our fans that in the home opener," Winston said. "But we will get better."

Until the Bucs prove they are getting better, why would anybody pay another nickel to watch this team? And there was nothing about Sunday's game that gave you the slightest indication that it is going to get any better.

The Bucs haven't given their home crowd a victory in 645 days, so asking them for patience seems laughable at this point.

No one is expecting miracles. We all knew this wasn't going to be easy. The Bucs won two games last season, and it takes time to fix such a mess. There are going to be growing pains. There are going to be losses.

But losses are one thing. To get pounded by a fellow bottom-feeder, to not even be competitive, to look like you don't have the first clue out there is another.

Part of you simply wants to throw up your hands and say, well, what else is new? This is the Bucs. This is pretty much the way they've always been and the way they always will be. They're a bunch of losers who can't get out of their own way. If something can go wrong, it will.

But another part of you demands answers. How can this happen? How can the Bucs be this bad? Why doesn't it ever seem to get better?

Sunday's opener could not have gone any worse. While first overall pick Winston was throwing interceptions, including a pick-six on his first regular-season professional pass, Marcus Mariota, the second overall pick, was looking like a Hall of Famer.

Mariota and the Titans offense were the hot knife and the Bucs defense was the butter. It's easy to pick on the Bucs for taking Winston instead of Mariota, but you can't declare a draft winner after 60 minutes. Besides, Mariota had a huge advantage because he got to play against the Bucs defense.

It wasn't Winston's struggles that should have you most concerned today, but the Smith-run Bucs defense being shredded by a rookie quarterback.

There was so much optimism, what with a new quarterback, a new offensive coordinator and a new attitude that the start of a new season always brings. But all of that — ALL OF THAT — has gone down the tubes with just one game.

After all, if the Bucs are going to get destroyed by a two-win football team, what does the rest of the season have in store? Like his coach, Winston said it was just one game. He added, "This is the new Bucs."

Funny, looks exactly like the same awful Bucs to me.

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