Boy, were we all wrong. There actually seem to be a game plan for the 2009 and beyond Tampa Bay Buccaneers. You have to take a close look at their process of elimination before you miss it.
How so, you may ask? Before I answer this question, let's get some of the negatives out the way.
This team's defense was built for the Tampa Two, not the Press. With that in mind, it's kinda hard to mold these players on defense to fit into a scheme that does not fit their particular skill set. Case in point, Aqib Talib and Elbert Mack have proven they cannot cover elite, and rookie, wide receivers one-on-one.
Let's get something straight, Barber is a ball-player.
The fans in Tampa had their doubts about him last year, but not this year. The opposite can be said about Barrett Rudd. The last two years, he was a flat out stud. This year, a contract year, he's been a non-factor.
It's easy to say that his decline can be contributed to the front four not protecting him, but with teams running and passing at will, he's not like Patrick Willis of the San Francisco 49ers. He can't be everywhere on the field.
I applaud the trade of Adams and Wilkerson has been a pleasant surprise, but Chris Hovan, Stylez White, and Ryan Simms are blown off the ball on a weekly basis. Roy Miller, Kyle Moore, and Tim Crowder will probably take over before the end of the season.
The offensive lines have some workable pieces. Donald Penn is a stud. He need to be resigned. Joseph seem to have more false start penalties this year after five games than he probably had all of last year. Injuries to Faine and the mysterious departure of Sears have left this team with no viable backups on the offensive line.
Offensive line depth will be addressed during the offseason.
The lost of Josh Bidwell due to surgery and Matt Bryant's inability to participate in training camp have been two glaring holes that have cost this team 1-2 wins this season. I'm sure this has not gone unnoticed by staff and management. With all of these shortcomings, you may ask "where's the so-called game plan?"
Management and staff have given every team member an opportunity to excel to play for this team. After five straight loses, the gloves have come off. The time has come to sift through the carnage that was left behind from the Jon Gruden era. The game plan is like the one Tony Dungy used when he took over the 1995 Buccaneers.
That team started out 0-5 before turning it around to go 6-10. Tony weeded out the left overs from Sam Wyche before molding them to a championship caliber team.
The departures of Jeff Garcia, Joey Galloway, Derrick Brooks, Kevin Carter, Ike Hillard, Warrick Dunn, Brian Griese, Cato June, and Matt Bryant proved to be a curse and a blessing to this year's team. The curse is that they have few proven winners with the heart of these warriors. The blessing is that they can take their lumps, gain some game time experience and gel as a young team for years to come.
With the recent trade of Gaines Adams, staff and management is putting out a notice to such players as Michael Clayton, Rudd, Penn, and Antonio Bryant that they need to play hard and play well. They are professionals.
Dropped balls, missed tackles, and blown assignments will not be tolerated.
What else have the Bucs done to prove my theory? Take a look at the departure of the following; Coach Jags fired, Matt Bryant released, Luke McCown, and Gaines Adams traded, Dexter Jackson cut, Byron Leftwich and Ryan Simms benched, Angelo Crowell and Jermaine Phillips injured and probably will not return.
Players on the hot seat who need to take notice include Jeremy Trueblood, BJ Askew, Sabby Piscitelli, Will Allen, Mack, Clayton, Dre Moore, Hovan, Simms, Stylez White, Leftwich, Phillips, Rudd, and Talib.
By stocking up on draft picks and serving notice to former first and second-round picks, the Bucs may get worst before they get better, but the game plan and direction they are headed in will have this team atop of the NFC South sooner rather than later.