It was a busy NFL trade deadline. At least compared to what we usually see around this time of year. Or maybe the significance of this year’s trade deadline just feels magnified because of the big-name players involved.
Regardless, it’s clear that several teams who believe this may be their year were willing to sacrifice future draft capital in order to get better now. In turn, a number of teams who don’t believe this is their year opted to give up proven talent in exchange for resources that should help them improve their chances for next year, and beyond.
Chicago sent away two valuable defensive pieces in edge rusher, Robert Quinn (acquired by the Eagles), and inside linebacker, Roquan Smith (acquired by the Ravens).
The NFC North-leading Vikings made a move within the division to obtain a well-rounded tight end, T.J. Hockenson, who will be a valuable addition to the impressive group of playmakers Kirk Cousins already has at his disposal.
The Dolphins attempted to turn a weakness into a strength, by acquiring talented pass rusher, Bradley Chubb, from Denver, who provides them with a real difference-maker coming off the edge.
Just two games into his tenure as a San Francisco 49er and Christian McCaffrey already looks like he’s found the perfect place to call home, meanwhile Kyle Shanahan and co. feel like they’ve caught lightning in a bottle.
Although the Eagles, Vikings, and Cowboys appear to be leading the charge in the NFC, there are still only four teams in the entire conference with a winning record (three of which reside in the NFC East).
Despite their struggles, this season — in the midst of a three-game losing streak — the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are just one game behind the Atlanta Falcons for first place in the NFC South. Which, if they are able to make up, would put them in a position to host a playoff game later this year.
So at the moment, the prevailing question in Tampa is: Why did Jason Licht choose not to pursue any trades at the deadline to improve his team?
Although many fans in Tampa are perplexed by their general manager’s willingness to stand pat at a time when it feels like change is desperately needed, I don’t necessarily disagree with Jason Licht’s approach.
Because I believe that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have more than enough pieces to win now.
It may be frustrating for some to read, and I’m sure many disagree based on the disappointing product the Bucs have put on the field this season, but the fact is, the Bucs have a deep and talented roster. And although I would have been in favor of bringing in an edge rusher to supplement the loss of Shaquil Barrett, I do still believe this team has more than enough talent to make a deep playoff run.
So why have they failed?
I think it would be naive to try and pinpoint one particular reason. But of the many factors that have contributed to the Buccaneers’ woes this season, I think bad coaching belongs at the top of the list.
There’s no denying that the results of this team do not match up with the talent and experience its roster presents. On offense, Byron Leftwich deserves to take the brunt of the blame. As always, a lack of execution by players needs to be acknowledged as part of that formula. But consistently running the football — predictably and ineffectively — on first downs, while often implementing 12-man personnel, without the resources to do so successfully, is not putting your players in a position to be successful. Frankly, as their coordinator, Byron Leftwich has been more of a crutch to this offense than an asset.
As the head coach and defensive play caller, Todd Bowles hasn’t done his team any favors either. Cowardly decisions on fourth down, questionable time management, and a lack of discipline on the defensive side of the football field are all glaring issues that reflect poorly on this team’s head coach.
For some strange reason, I think a food-based analogy is an acceptable way to articulate my perception of the issues plaguing the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and why the team’s general manager, Jason Licht, didn’t feel compelled to make a move at the trade deadline.
The Buccaneers are a restaurant, and the krewe (their fans) are food critics. Having recently enjoyed the product and experience presented to them, they’ve not only written an extremely positive review in the local paper, but they’ve come back to this restaurant eager to enjoy what they expect to be another delightful dining experience.
Jason Licht is the chef, and knowing these are repeat customers, he has prepared another glorious meal, with a masterful combination of tastes and ingredients that complement one another beautifully. Todd Bowles and Byron Leftwich? They are the servers. As opposed to promptly delivering this impressive feast to their customers in the way it was intended — they have instead become complacent, basking in their previous glory, and ultimately, riding on the coattails of their past reputations, which was well deserved at the time… But now? Without the proper focus and commitment to their current responsibilities, the food has become cold, stale, and on the verge of spoiling.
The result? Disappointment for everyone involved — in what should have been a splendid experience.
After all, a chef can create a masterpiece, which may bring people back to the tables, but it’s up to the servers to execute the care, and delivery of the final product. It’s a top-to-bottom operation. And if neglected at any stage of the operation, a meal that should taste incredible in theory can change course in a hurry (pun intended).
So when a meticulously planned meal made from fresh ingredients isn’t served properly, resulting in a disappointing dining experience for customers, is it the chef who is to blame? Should he or she be throwing their plans out the window, and re-strategizing their entire approach to cooking? Or should they consider re-training, or potentially hiring a new service staff that is committed to completing the process in a way that does justice to the meal the chef created?
I’m not saying these are the only solutions that exist, but what I’m saying is that in the case of the 2022 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the chef isn’t the problem.
It’s the service.
And despite their performance over the past few years, through seven weeks, the Buccaneers coaching staff is doing a disservice to their players (the food), their fans (the customers), and their boss, Jason Licht (the chef).
For the fans in Tampa, all they can do now is hope that Jason Licht — a general manager who has already built a roster, and coaching staff that delivered the franchise its second Lombardi Trophy — knows what he’s doing. And if he does know what he’s doing, then maybe he deserves the fans’ trust… in him, and his decision to not pursue any trades at the deadline.
After all, nobody likes too many cooks in the kitchen.
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This content was originally published here.