The Tampa Bay Buccaneers' 2011 season is over, and it taught us a lot about this young team.
The Bucs have already fired head coach Raheem Morris and are searching for their next guy. There is sure to be a lot of players cut and new ones brought in during free agency and the draft.
Out of the teams in the NFC South, the Buccaneers seem to be the one with the most to do in this offseason. Tampa Bay may be another year or two from being a serious contender in the NFC. All of that depends on what new coach comes in and how quickly he glues everything back together.
However, before we look too far ahead into 2012, we can take a look back at this season. The Buccaneers showed us a lot of things about their team. Most were bad, but there was some good sprinkled in.
Let's take a look at three things we learned from Tampa Bay's 2011 NFL season.
While Freeman is still the quarterback of the future for the Bucs, he is not ready to carry the team by himself.
Freeman showed some regression in 2011 and struggled mightily at times. He was unable to put the team on his back and carry them through injuries and tough situations. He may get to this point in the future, but it was obvious in 2011 that he currently needs more support from his teammates.
The running backs and wide receivers did not play as well this year as in 2010, and Freeman struggled because of it. He was unable to be as efficient as he was last year and instead threw 22 interceptions, which is nearly four times as many as he threw a year ago.
There is still hope for Freeman as the Bucs franchise quarterback, but they need to help him more in 2012 so that he does not end up like so many other first-round quarterback busts.
2011 is a year that Freeman, and other Buccaneer players and fans, will try to quickly forget and move on, and that is exactly what should be done.
There is one very positive fact that came out of the Buccaneers' porous 2011 campaign.
It is that the Bucs defensive front seven could end up being very good in a year or two.
The Buccaneers have a solid middle linebacker in the young Mason Foster. In only his first season, Foster came in as the Bucs starter and never looked back. He led the team as well as a rookie, first-year starter could do, and he will only get better.
Young linebacker Dekoda Watson showed some promise in limited playing time in 2011 and could develop into a quality outside linebacker. Other outside backers like Geno Hayes, Quincy Black and Adam Hayward could be shown the door this offseason, but at the very least will be replaced in the next couple of years.
The linebackers for the Buccaneers are not the best as a whole right now, but Foster is a guy you can build around and Watson could be a great player for years to come. A couple more pieces in this corps and the Bucs may find themselves with a good group.
The defensive line is already turning into a pretty solid group. The Bucs have a good future with this line because of young players like Brian Price, Gerald McCoy, Adrian Clayborn and Da'Quan Bowers. These four guys could turn into a dominating group in the NFC very soon.
The Buccaneers need to create some quality depth behind these guys, but these four young players have the talent to lead the Bucs defense in the future.
If you put these four linemen together with Foster and possibly Watson, then the Buccaneers are just a few pieces away from a great front seven.
We all know what Raheem Morris accomplished in 2011—nothing.
He was unable to control the Buccaneer locker room and too immature to understand how to fix his problems. Morris was simply not ready to be a head coach in the NFL and this season proved that.
However, this Bucs team is still very young and therefore can be molded by a new head coach and his staff. It is a good thing because this team needs a lot of work from whoever comes in to take over.
The first goal of the new head coach will be getting control of the locker room. That is obviously the most important factor of any head coach's job. Once you lose the team, then the job is pretty much useless. That is why Morris and the Buccaneers spiraled downward so quickly. He simply could not regain control of his team.
Once a new coach establishes that control again, then some of the unruly players on the Buccaneers roster may straighten up. Once the players start to understand that they are not safe on this roster and could be cut, then they will fix the attitude issue.
Guys like LeGarrette Blount and Aquib Talib are very talented players, but have obvious work ethic, attitude and commitment problems. These players, and some others, may be too far gone already, but a new coach would be wise to see if he can regain their focus and use them in his system. Although, the new guy in charge may decide it's not worth it and show them the door.
Either way, the new head coach and his staff should be able to take this Buccaneer team and straighten them out very quickly. Once that is done, then the entire organization can get back to football and possibly be pretty good in a couple of years.