Turnover rates are high in professional sports. Coaches and players are fired and replaced weekly, and a plethora of fresh talent and innovative instruction is tossed into the machine, where it either succeeds or gets gnawed and digested to make room for the next man up.
It’s a nasty, unforgiving process. But it’s also exciting. The perpetual evolution of our favorite teams keep us addicted to sports, and few teams have suffered more change through the last couple years than the Buccaneers. In four seasons, we’ve gone from Jim Bates, Byron Leftwich, Jeff Jagodzinski, and Cadillac Williams… through Raheem Morris, Josh Freeman, Greg Olson, and LeGarrette Blount… and we find ourselves smack dab in the molten nucleus of the newest era in Tampa Bay football.
And it didn’t look so good tonight.
But failure’s part of the process. Don’t judge a team on their missteps; judge them on how quickly — and confidently — they regain their balance. Greg Schiano’s attention to detail has been so thoroughly discussed in local media that it’s becoming part of the Buccaneer mythology — alongside Tony Dungy’s honest stoicism, Monte Kiffin’s excited rasps, and Jon Gruden’s inability to convert third downs. Trust the detail-driven Schiano to right the mistakes, lest they catch fire and spread, and burn him like they did his predecessor. The team isn’t great, but hey, Schiano didn’t inherit a great team. He didn’t inherit a competent team. If there are serious mistakes, thank the football gods that it’s preseason, and that the Bucs hired a coach who — superficially, at least — seems capable of scaring the hiccups out of his crew.
That being said, there were a few points of concern.
- LeGarrette’s injury looked bad. When John Lynch — the Grand Poobah of Pain Infliction — prays that your “leg is intact,” it adds an extra twist to the knot of guts in your stomach. Thankfully, Blount was walking the sidelines in the second half, no ice and no brace strapped to his leg. But losing the “one” out of a “one-two punch” spells trouble early for the Schiano era.
- Freeman looked an awful lot like 2011′s lumbering, timid, slow-armed patsy. Awful being the operative word. He stared down receivers, threw into coverage, and seemed reluctant to scramble. His only saving grace? Dan Orlovsky looked even worse.
- Quincy Black must have one hell of a handshake to still have a job in the NFL. He impresses the coaching staff during every training camp, then deflates when the season rolls around. He’s the Michael Clayton of linebackers, but without the exciting rookie year.
Those are, of course, three pessimistic notes from a night rife with positivity. For the second consecutive week, Doug Martin and Lavonte David showed the athleticism and instincts required to excel in the NFL. Ahmad Black and his 4.7 40-yard dash were all over the Titans’ starting offense and special teams; the diminutive safety returned an interception to the two-yard line (setting up Tampa’s only touchdown), then saved a touchdown by snagging Tennessee’s Darius Reynaud from behind on a long punt return. Situational pass-rusher Dekoda Watson and his explosive speed proved a handful for Tennessee’s blockers, and despite only one career sack, has been one of the few Buccaneers to produce consistent pressure on opposing passers since 2010.
Sometimes the bad outweighs the good — as was the case against the Titans. But half the fun of a new era is watching the team rebound from adversity.
Six days to kickoff. We await their rebuttal.