After a surprise 10-6 record a season ago, including several fourth-quarter comebacks engineered by sophomore quarterback Josh Freeman, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers narrowly missed the 2010 postseason.
Given their young core group, young, hungry head coach and successful 2010 campaign, many fans and experts had the Buccaneers pegged as a sleeper playoff contender, possibly with an outside chance to reach the Super Bowl.
That is not going to happen.
Not only have the Bucs experienced a disappointing season in terms of record, their play has been poor and uninspired. They aren't just losing games; they're being blown out of the water. Just ask the Jacksonville Jaguars.
The Buccaneers looked absolutely atrocious yesterday in a 41-14 drubbing on the road in their state. Major changes need to be made.
It is officially time for the Bucs to start considering the future. Immediate action is required, and precise planning for the upcoming draft and free agency should be a priority.
Nothing can be done to save their season.
The fact that this slide is only calling for Raheem Morris to appoint an actual defensive coordinator is giving him a break. Other organizations would have axed him as the head coach weeks ago.
Whatever Raheem Morris is doing as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive coordinator, it just is not working.
A defense featuring a throng of first-round picks, including Adrian Clayborn, Aqib Talib and Gerald McCoy (lost for season), has woefully under-performed. Da'Quan Bowers, a first-round talent who fell the second round, has also not lived up to his potential.
Given the talent featured on their defense, to be ranked 29th overall in the league is unacceptable. Morris has stretched himself beyond his ability.
Letting middle linebacker Barrett Ruud (above) go in free agency was one of the biggest mistakes the Tampa Bay Buccaneers made in 2011. Attempting to build the defense around linebacker Quincey Black was a major mistake, and one that needs to be rectified immediately.
If the Buccaneers front office doesn't believe Ruud was that integral of a piece, somebody should show them tape of the Tennessee Titans defense (where he currently plays), and show them what Maurice Jones-Drew did to them on the ground yesterday.
Targeting one of the top linebackers coming out of college would be a good place to start fixing their defense.
They should consider draft day trades to land themselves an extra first-round pick, because one first rounder is not going to save this team.
Sometimes when you have a season like Tampa Bay's, you'll want to try your utmost to win a few games near the end to carry momentum into the following year.
Tampa Bay is simply so bad that such a series of events is highly unlikely to take place. Instead, Josh Freeman is going out onto the field each week and performing terribly, making bad decisions, turning the ball over and taking hits.
Freeman's confidence at this point must be plummeting, and he has already been hurt this year more than once.
Tampa Bay would be wise to bench their franchise quarterback to protect him from both his failing confidence and the physical risks associated with playing the game.
They are not equipped to win anything right now, and there is no reason to damage their prized 2009 first-round pick.
A new quarterbacks coach would be a good investment for next year, because Alex Van Pelt is not cutting it.
Part of Josh Freeman's fall from grace this season must be attributed to his lack of help at wide receiver. Fourth-round pick Mike Williams was sensational last year with 11 touchdowns and nearly 1,000 yards receiving, but teams figured him out this season.
He is being given extra attention out on the field, and none of the Buccaneers other wideouts have stepped up to help Josh Freeman. Even crafty veteran Kellen Winslow is doing less than his ability suggests that he can.
With what is sure to be a high draft pick, the Bucs should be considering South Carolina WR Ashlon Jeffries or even better Oklahoma state star Justin Blackmon. Either one of these studs or their peers at the top of the 2012 wide receiver class would be a great help to the Bucs sputtering offense.
They could then effect a trade to get another first-round pick and take their aforementioned linebacker.
Tampa Bay has some big moves to make if they want to avoid being the joke of the 2012 NFL season.
They already are for 2011.