NFL Nation: Josh McCown

TAMPA, Fla. – ESPN draft expert Mel Kiper Jr. said Wednesday that a team drafting Oregon’s Marcus Mariota would need a “bridge" quarterback.

“You have that in Tampa," Kiper said in a conference call with the national media. “You have that at Tennessee."

The Bucs hold the No. 1 overall pick in the draft. Kiper has Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston going to the Bucs in his mock draft, but he isn’t ruling out the possibility of Mariota going first.

“I don’t think it would preclude you from taking him if you’re one of those teams, but you have to develop him," Kiper said. “If you want him to play right away and be an impactful rookie and second-year guy, that would probably be asking too much."

Kiper’s logic is simple. Mariota played in a spread offense in college. The Bucs – and most NFL teams – run a pro-style offense. Kiper said Mariota would take time to develop in a pro-style system.

“He’s a runner," Kiper said. “You’ve got to take that running aspect out and just call it mobility. He’s got the arm, the size, the work ethic, the intelligence – all the things you need to fit into pretty much any offense down the road. But if you want to force-feed him, he’s not going to be ready."

In theory, the Bucs have that bridge in place. Veteran Josh McCown was last year’s starter and could stay in that role for the short term in Kiper’s scenario. But Kiper still believes Winston is likely to be the better fit for the Bucs.

“From a pro-style, NFL-ready standpoint, it would be Winston," Kiper said. “But there’s basically some work on him from an intangible standpoint with the off-the-field issues that he had. I think it just gets down to if Winston checks out between now and late April and you can reconcile all that that’s all behind him and he’s matured and it’s not going to happen again, then he goes No. 1 and Mariota goes second, sixth, somewhere in the top 10. Maybe Philadelphia and Chip Kelly (who coached Mariota for two years in college) try to trade up to get him."

Could Buccaneers pass on a QB?

January, 14, 2015
Jan 14
TAMPA, Fla. -- There are an assortment of reasons why Buccaneers coach Lovie Smith hired Dirk Koetter as his offensive coordinator.

But let's break it down to one common belief.

"I do think in the NFL it's easier to win when you have a franchise quarterback, but I don't think it's a necessity that you have a franchise quarterback," Koetter said in a Tuesday conference call with the Tampa Bay media.

Let's keep that in mind for the next few months. The Bucs hold the first pick in the draft and the common belief is they'll take a quarterback -- either Oregon's Marcus Mariota or Florida State's Jameis Winston. That seems likely, maybe even certain. I'd take one of them because you (theoretically) should only get the No. 1 pick once every generation or so.

But let's say the Bucs aren't sold on Mariota's ability to convert from a spread offense into a more conventional pro-style system. Or let's say they're scared off by what might be red flags in Winston's background.

Maybe they don't even draft a quarterback. Would that decision, coming from Smith, surprise you?

Smith has said several times over that you win in the NFL with defense. He has said you can get to eight or 10 wins with strong defense and good special teams and whatever you get from the offense is a bonus.

Let's keep in mind that one of Smith's first moves as Tampa Bay's coach was to bring in veteran Josh McCown. He'll never be confused with a franchise quarterback. McCown is a very good backup and a border-line starter if you have a very good team around him.

The Bucs don't have a very good team. Maybe that's why they went 2-14, although McCown did miss five games with a thumb injury. But Smith has a stubborn strength (let's all remember he believes the Tampa 2 defense still works) and it's not impossible to imagine him skipping the quarterbacks and going with a defensive end or offensive tackle with the top draft pick.

Koetter's first comments didn't shoot down the possibility of passing on a quarterback.

"I mean, other people have won a lot of games and they didn't necessarily have a franchise quarterback," Koetter said. "The thing is, people have to remember, those guys aren't just out there walking around on the street. Franchise quarterbacks are hard to come by and they're few and far between. I do think it's definitely possible to win without it. But I do think your odds go up if you have one."
TAMPA, Fla. -- The new offensive coordinator of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers has no better idea who the team’s quarterback will be than you or I.

“Who the Bucs are going to pick with the first pick, I’m the last guy to ask that question to right now," Dirk Koetter said Tuesday afternoon. “I have no idea."

Koetter was speaking with the Tampa Bay media via conference call and made his first public comments since being hired last week. There already is a lot of speculation about whether the Bucs will take Oregon’s Marcus Mariota or Florida State’s Jameis Winston with the first pick in the 2015 NFL draft. There even is some speculation the Bucs could stick with incumbents Josh McCown and Mike Glennon and go in a different direction with the draft pick.

But Koetter wasn’t shedding any light on who the quarterback will be in 2015.

"You’re going to be disappointed in the answer because I have no idea," Koetter said. “That’s somebody else. (General manager) Jason (Licht) and coach (Lovie) Smith will be in charge of making that decision."

Despite his early dancing, there’s no question Koetter will have plenty of say in what happens at quarterback. He knows a fair amount about McCown and Glennon, but give him a little time to get up to speed on the draft prospects. As Koetter pointed out, Mariota hasn’t declared himself eligible for the draft yet, so he can’t be commented on.

“When you’re coaching in the NFL, you’re watching college football in the distance," Koetter said. “I watch college football for fun. Once we get started and we’re focusing on guys you’re going to draft, now you drill down and really watch guys and put grades on them and that sort of thing. But until then, heck, I watch college football for fun. I wouldn’t even be able to tell you."

But Koetter will have some opinions by the time the draft rolls around. He has several months to watch tape of Mariota, Winston, McCown and Glennon. Koetter is correct in saying the decision will be up to Licht and Smith, but he’s going to have a big voice in this decision.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers season report card

December, 31, 2014
video » AFC: East | West | North | South » NFC: East | West | North | South

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers came into the 2014 season talking optimistically about a fast turnaround under new coach Lovie Smith. The Bucs were aggressive in free agency, and the company line was the team didn't want to ask fans to be patient any longer.

In reality, the patience of the fans was put to a strong test during a 2-14 season.

Smith's system didn't take hold right away and defeats piled up. Blowout losses to Atlanta and Baltimore were ugly, and there were painful, close losses along the way. The defense showed signs of improvement as the season went on, but this team didn't do much to build optimism for the future. Major personnel moves will have to come in the offseason.

Team MVP: Gerald McCoy. The defensive tackle was a constant on a team that didn't have much consistency. He finished with 8.5 sacks in a season cut short by a knee injury. McCoy was strong against the run and pass, and he also provided strong leadership. The team rewarded him with a big contract extension at midseason. That assures the team has at least one building block in place for the long term. The Bucs could use a bunch of other pieces as solid as McCoy.

Best moment: This season didn't have many highlights, but the Week 4 victory at Pittsburgh definitely was the shining moment. It came with second-year pro Mike Glennon filling in for an injured Josh McCown at quarterback and provided early-season hope. It showed Smith's system could work. The Bucs weren't able to build anything positive off the Pittsburgh win, but it showed they could be competitive on the road against a good team.

Worst moment: You could go in any number of directions on this one, but I think there's a hands-down winner. That was the Nov. 30 home game against Cincinnati. The Bucs seemed to do everything they needed to get a win. They drove the ball into field-goal range in the closing seconds for what seemed like a certain victory. But the play was called back because the Bucs were penalized for having 12 men in the huddle. They wound up losing 14-13.

2015 outlook: The good news is things probably can't get worse. The honeymoon is over for Smith, who needs to show positive results quickly. Despite the losing, Smith talked repeatedly about how his team was improving. You could see that in small portions, particularly on the defense. But the improvement needs to become much more obvious in Smith's second season. His team has the No. 1 overall draft pick and is likely to be active in free agency, and the Bucs need to start winning games or else Smith will end up on the hot seat.

Josh McCown realistic about his future

December, 28, 2014
TAMPA, Fla. -- At the conclusion of a 2-14 season, Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Josh McCown had no illusions about his future.

With a 23-20 loss to the New Orleans Saints, the Bucs secured the No. 1 overall pick in the 2015 draft. That means there’s a good chance the Bucs will draft a quarterback.

“You guys know my history and where I’ve been in this league,’’ said McCown, who has been in the NFL for 12 years.

I wouldn’t expect any other answer from McCown, who has been a starter and a backup while bouncing around the league. He’s a team player and he realizes that his age (he’ll turn 36 before next season) prevents him from being a long-term option.

Especially for a team that has a chance to get a franchise quarterback. McCown said he supports whatever coach Lovie Smith and general manager Jason Licht elect to do at quarterback.

“Whatever we decide to do, I trust those guys,’’ McCown said. “I trusted them when they brought me here. You can’t all of the sudden when they make a decision that doesn’t favor you go, 'I don’t trust them anymore.' I know that they’re going to make a great decision to help this team moving forward. Regardless of what that is, I want to help that guy help our team win football games.

“If that’s a defensive tackle, whatever I can do to help him. ... If it’s a quarterback, so be it. My mindset doesn’t change. I said when I got here that I want to see the Tampa Bay Buccaneers be successful. That’s my goal and I want to see the quarterback position play efficient football and we didn’t get that done this year. That’s what my five months will be about is how can I improve that as a player for myself and then help our group do that as well.’’

McCown’s bright enough to know that Oregon’s Marcus Mariota and Florida State’s Jameis Winston are the two highest-rated quarterbacks in this year’s draft and there’s a chance the Bucs will take one of them.

“There’s a whole crop of guys coming and then the next year there’s going to be a whole crop of guys coming again and again and again,’’ McCown said. “That’s just part of this game. How you approach the game and being a pro is what keeps you in this game. I don’t really get caught up in where we’re picking and all those things. I know this: You’ve got to build your team through the draft and you’ve got to hit on your picks.’’

Bucs need franchise QB with No. 1 pick

December, 28, 2014
WinstonUSA TODAY SportsJameis Winston and Marcus Mariota haven't announced plans to enter the draft, but they likely will.
TAMPA, Fla. -- The most important game for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this week might not be their season-ending 23-20 loss to the New Orleans Saints on Sunday.

Instead, it might be the Rose Bowl on New Year's Day.

General manager Jason Licht will be there. Coach Lovie Smith might join him. More importantly, Oregon's Marcus Mariota and Florida State’s Jameis Winston will be playing in Pasadena, California.

Those are the two quarterbacks the Bucs might be choosing between in May. That much became certain Sunday as the Bucs secured the No. 1 overall pick in the 2015 draft with a loss to the Saints at Raymond James Stadium.

The way the Bucs cemented the pick is up for conversation. They had a 20-7 lead heading into the fourth quarter. Then they inserted a whole bunch of young players. That led to questions about the Bucs trying to "tank" the game in order to get the No. 1 pick.

"In the second half, we wanted to look at some more football players," Smith said. "We're not going to the playoffs and we have a comfortable lead and we're going to run the football. The guys we had out there fought right up until the end. [The Saints] made some plays to win the game at the end."

In the final analysis, debate of whether the Bucs were playing for the No. 1 pick doesn't matter. What does matter is they have the No. 1 pick, and the debate about Mariota and Winston is only beginning.

More than anything the Bucs have done in years, they have to make the right call with this pick. Sure, there's a chance they could decide to go with a defensive end or an offensive tackle. But the Bucs, who finished 2-14 and were dismal on offense, have to at least consider a quarterback with the first pick.

"Right now, we’re going to evaluate it all," Smith said. "Our play at the quarterback position hasn't been good enough, as it hasn't been good enough at any position, starting with my position. It's a total evaluation of everything."

It's pretty obvious the Bucs already have evaluated their current quarterbacks, Josh McCown and Mike Glennon. It also is pretty obvious that neither one of those guys is the long-term answer. McCown will turn 36 before next season starts and the coaching staff's refusal to take another look at Glennon late in the season shows he is not in the plans.

The Bucs have a chance at a potential franchise quarterback in Mariota or Winston. In theory, you shouldn't have a chance at a franchise quarterback too often because you shouldn't always be at the top of the draft.

Even the Bucs, who have a .385 winning percentage all-time, haven't held the No. 1 overall pick since 1987. That year, they drafted quarterback Vinny Testaverde. Things didn't work out as planned, but that had more to do with the shortcomings of Testaverde's supporting cast than it did with the quarterback.

This situation is different. The Bucs have a defense that showed promise as the season went on. They also have an excellent pair of receivers in Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans.

It's not much of a leap to say all the Bucs need to turn things around is a quarterback. They just have to pick the right one.
TAMPA, Fla. -- Observed and heard in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' locker room after their 23-20 loss to the New Orleans Saints on Sunday:

Coach Lovie Smith and multiple players took offense to suggestions the Bucs might have tanked to make sure they secured the No. 1 pick. But the Bucs did squander a 13-point lead during a fourth quarter in which they were playing a lot of backups, so that's going to lead to questions.

"I don't think anybody tanked it," quarterback Josh McCown said.

As he came off the field, wide receiver Vincent Jackson gave the No. 1 sign to fans. I don't think he was saying the Bucs were No. 1, since they finished their season 2-14. It's obvious Jackson was making reference to the draft, which could bring him a new quarterback.

Smith said he is eager to put 2014 behind him and pledged that it won't be long before the Bucs are winners.

He also said linebacker Danny Lansanah did not start because he violated an unspecified team rule.

Saints at Buccaneers preview

December, 26, 2014
When: Sunday, 1 p.m. Where: Raymond James Stadium, Tampa TV: Fox

While the Carolina Panthers and Atlanta Falcons play for the NFC South championship Sunday, there’s another division game that means absolutely nothing.

The New Orleans Saints play the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the season finale for both teams. The Saints were eliminated from playoff contention with a loss to Atlanta last Sunday. The 2-13 Bucs were out of contention long ago.

ESPN Saints writer Mike Triplett and Buccaneers reporter Pat Yasinskas preview Sunday’s game.

Yasinskas: Mike, with the playoffs out of the question, how will coach Sean Payton approach this game? Will he play his starters, and how motivated will they be?

Triplett: Payton said the starters will play and that they’ll approach it like any other game that counts. But the motivation is obviously tough to predict. Players have insisted that there are plenty of reasons to play, from their pride and competitive nature to the fact everyone is being evaluated for the future. But this will be a tough week for them since they had realistic playoff hopes up until last Sunday. This game will definitely have an “Outback Bowl” feel to it -- to use terms that Tampa fans can appreciate.

I’ll ask you the same question. I’m guessing 100 percent of Buccaneers fans would love to see them “tank” for the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft. But it seems like NFL teams have never embraced that approach.

Yasinskas: Yes, Tampa Bay fans are rooting for the first overall pick, even if it comes at the expense of the Bucs' win-loss record. But coach Lovie Smith has made it clear the Bucs are playing to win. I wouldn’t expect anything else. Teams don’t tank in the NFL, and the Bucs aren’t about to break the trend. We’re talking about professional athletes with a lot of pride, so they’re going to play hard. Besides, the Bucs have some incentive in this one. They’re trying to avoid going winless at home. The only other time the Bucs didn’t win a home game was 1976, their expansion season.

Back in the preseason, I viewed the Saints as a playoff team and maybe even a Super Bowl contender. They have a ton of talent. But, obviously, things haven’t gone well. What’s been the biggest problem for the Saints this year?

Triplett: Do we have a word limit? The problems have obviously been widespread to reach this point. The biggest was their defensive collapse. They went from fourth in yards allowed last year to 31st this year. They blew coverage assignments, missed tackles, didn’t force enough turnovers, didn’t get enough pressure. It’s stunning because they had most of the same core players as last year, plus they added safety Jairus Byrd (who struggled before suffering a season-ending knee injury).

In general, I’d chalk it up to a “sophomore slump.” They were counting on a lot of young guys, and I think a lot of them expected to just naturally take that next step. Either they weren’t as motivated or offenses had a better plan for them, etc. I still think it can be salvaged, but we’ll see.

Meanwhile, the offense also underachieved on a smaller scale with Drew Brees forcing way too many passes that turned into crucial interceptions in big moments and Jimmy Graham not making as big of an impact as he should have on a consistent basis.

Again, I’ll throw the same idea back at you. I predicted the Buccaneers to finish second in the NFC South because I think they have so much talent on defense, and I thought the veteran coach and QB would stabilize them. Is there still hope this team can contend in the division as early as next year?

Yasinskas: I predicted the Bucs would go 8-8 and thought they might even be able to get a win or two more. I thought the arrival of Lovie Smith, combined with some good defensive talent already in place, would be enough to fuel a quick turnaround.

Obviously, I was very wrong. Like you, I could write a book about everything that has gone wrong for the Bucs. But we don’t have room for a book, so I’ll try to sum it up quickly. Things got off to a rocky start in the preseason when offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford had a heart procedure. He took a leave of absence and eventually left the team. I don’t think the offense ever recovered from that. Tedford was supposed to install an up-tempo, innovative offense. We never saw that and the offense never got into any sort of rhythm.

Despite Smith’s reputation as a defensive guru, the defense struggled early in the season. It took some time to learn the Tampa 2 scheme. The defense did improve pretty dramatically in the second half of the season, but it wasn’t enough to compensate for the lack of offense.

I do think the Bucs can turn things around next season. But they’ve got to find a good offensive coordinator and they have to be a lot better on offense.

You mentioned Brees forcing a lot of throws. That’s what I think I’ve seen from a distance. But I’ve had personnel people around the league tell me that Brees is on the downside of his career. What’s your take on his season?

Triplett: I honestly don’t think we’ve seen major signs of regression, Pat. I think he has at least two or three more high-level years in him. But it has been a really weird season for Brees. He leads the NFL in passing yards (4,671) and ranks second in completion percentage (69.6, which ranks seventh in NFL history). But those interceptions have been really bad -- especially considering some of the situations. This last one against Atlanta with a chance to win the game in the final minutes was one of a few real stunners this year.

Those interceptions have always been a part of Brees’ game, though -- especially in years when the defense has been bad and he feels like he needs to do it all himself. This season has been an exact replica of 2012 in that sense.

The other thing that’s disappearing is the downfield passing game. Brees’ arm strength doesn’t seem much different than past years, and his completion percentage on deep throws is still among the league’s best. But he’s not taking as many shots down the field, constantly settling for checkdown throws. I’m not sure if that’s because of defenses changing or his receivers getting older or because he has lost some of that deep-ball accuracy. I’m sure it’s a combination of all three -- but that’s probably not an area that will improve as he gets older.

What’s the Bucs’ future at quarterback? Could next year’s starter be gearing up for the College Football Playoff right now?

Yasinskas: It’s very possible that Marcus Mariota or Jameis Winston could end up with the Bucs next season. The Bucs have been dismal on offense and they need to make major changes. Why not start with the quarterback position? Josh McCown is 35 and he probably is best suited to be a backup. Second-year pro Mike Glennon got a five-game look when McCown was hurt earlier this year. But it doesn’t appear that Glennon won over the coaching staff. With a high draft pick, it’s time for the Bucs to find their quarterback for the long term.

METAIRIE, La. -- When asked what he hopes New Orleans Saints fans will see this Sunday, Drew Brees said:

“For us to play well and for us to win. Pretty simple, right? Keep it simple.”

It was an awkward question. But then again, it’s an awkward week for the 6-9 Saints, who were eliminated from playoff contention on Sunday.

[+] EnlargeDrew Brees
Derick E. Hingle/USA TODAY SportsDrew Brees said that the Saints have worked hard in practice despite being bounced from the playoff hunt.
They’ve missed the playoffs before -- including just two years ago in 2012. But as outside linebacker Junior Galette pointed out, they saw that elimination coming for weeks. This year, they genuinely believed they had a good shot at winning the NFC South until their 30-14 loss to the Atlanta Falcons in Week 16.

So in one sense, the feeling is similar to a playoff loss. But this time, the Saints have to muster up whatever desire or competitiveness or just plain professionalism is required to go back out and give it their all for one more week.

Coach Sean Payton and players insisted that’s possible due to the competitive nature of players, in general -- especially the ones who know they’re putting weekly auditions on tape for next year.

“I have that desire,” Galette said. “And I feel like guys came out here and practiced their tails off [Wednesday]. They didn’t just show up.”

“I see guys handling it well,” said Brees, who also said it wasn’t hard to come back to work from an emotional standpoint. “I know for me, you can’t change anything about the past. The more that you dwell on it, the more negativity you allow to kind of hang around. And that’s certainly not gonna do anything for us this week.

“So I think this is an opportunity for us to go out with a bang, and that’s what we plan on doing.”

The Buccaneers (2-13) have had to dig even deeper for that motivation this season. They were eliminated from playoff contention weeks ago and have lost five straight games.

Coach Lovie Smith and veteran quarterback Josh McCown insisted that guys are taking the right approach, though -- and McCown acknowledged that hasn’t always been the case everywhere he’s been in a journeyman 12-year career.

“I think we’ve been awesome with the ways guys work at practice, and it’s a reflection of our leadership, Lovie and the coaches and the way that their approach is. We’re getting after it,” McCown said. “It’s hard, because you know at the end of the day, regardless of what you do on Sunday, you’re not going to be rewarded. … But at the same time, I think when you look back at the times like this in your life, you’ll be glad that even when there was nothing to play for, so to speak as far as playoffs, you’ll be glad that you gave back some of that and you worked hard and you tried hard. Because I think that’s a true testament of a guy’s character is how they work and prepare right now.”

Winning can actually be counter-productive for teams like the Buccaneers -- who would secure the No. 1 pick in next year’s draft with a loss on Sunday. But NFL teams have never traditionally “tanked” for better draft picks. And Smith insisted that won’t be the case with his team.

“To me there’s no balance involved,” Smith said. “If you’re a competitor, you go out there to win. I can’t think of anybody that goes into a game not wanting to win. …

“We do a lot of ones versus ones [in practice], and it’s as competitive as you would see it could get. There’s nothing on the line. We aren’t going to get a prize or anything like that. But I think when you have one team in one color and the other in another, they’ll do anything they can to win each individual play. I know a lot of people are talking about that, but I don’t quite get that part. We’ll end up with a good pick.”

QB snapshot: Josh McCown

December, 23, 2014
A quick observation of quarterback Josh McCown and how he played in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ 20-3 loss to the Green Bay Packers in Week 16:

 In a season in which he has had some bad outings, McCown had his worst yet. He completed 12 of 26 passes for 147 yards with an interception. But you can’t put all the blame on McCown.

The Bucs had virtually no running game, gaining only 16 yards on the ground. The offensive line continued to struggle in run and pass blocking. McCown was sacked seven times.

Tampa Bay went three-and-out on its first five possessions and never got into any sort of offensive rhythm. Some fans have been clamoring for the Bucs to play second-year pro Mike Glennon in place of McCown. But the way the offensive line is playing, I don’t think the results would be any better for Glennon, who is not as mobile as McCown.
TAMPA, Fla. – All season, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have been downplaying the fact they don’t have an offensive coordinator.

But after Sunday’s 20-3 loss to the Green Bay Packers, quarterback Josh McCown admitted the lack of a coordinator has been detrimental. The Bucs managed only 109 yards of offense and didn’t get near the end zone.

“There are no excuses," McCown said. “But there’s a reason why 31 other teams have an offensive coordinator. It does matter. It does make a difference. We’ve done the best we could to pull ourselves out of it. Everybody has fought and fought hard, but we just haven’t been good enough to get ourselves out of it."

It’s refreshing that someone finally has spoken out about the coordinator situation. Tampa Bay’s offense has appeared to be in disarray most of the season. It’s no coincidence that Jeff Tedford, who was hired to be the offensive coordinator, has been missing. Tedford had heart surgery at the end of the preseason.

He took a leave of absence and eventually he and the Bucs agreed to part ways in early December. Tedford since has taken a job as a head coach in the Canadian Football League. Quarterbacks coach Marcus Arroyo has called the plays all season with input from the rest of the offensive staff.

“It’s not an excuse, but we lost a coordinator at the start of the season," McCown said. “We’ve fought all through that for 16 weeks now. Just that, in and of itself, can help a team. Just an extra guy working with those guys. We don’t make excuses, but there are things we can point to and say just that alone may help us improve."

Coach Lovie Smith didn’t want to talk about Tedford, saying he was ready to return to coaching two months ago.

“I’m not even going to go down that road anymore," Smith said. “We need help on the offensive side. We have needed help for a while. I’m not talking about coaching; I’m just talking about our play overall."
TAMPA, Fla. -- Last January, when he was hired to coach the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Lovie Smith shared one of his most basic philosophies of football. He said if you play strong defense and are solid on special teams, you basically are starting out with an 8-8 record.

It sounded good at the time, but Sunday's 20-3 loss to the Green Bay Packers at Raymond James Stadium ran roughshod over Smith's theory.

The Bucs (2-13) played good defense -- like they've done for a good chunk of the season -- and still didn't stand a chance. Even Smith was adjusting his philosophy after the game.

"This just goes to prove you need more than an OK defense," Smith said. "Defensively, when it's a day like that, you've got to do something and try to jump start the offense. A few more takeaways or something with the special teams. When one part is that bad, you need others to step up their game even more."

Against Aaron Rodgers and a high-powered offense, the Bucs held the Packers to 10 points in the first three quarters.

"[The defense] kept us in it," Smith said. "It was a 10-3 game for a long period of time with very little offensive production. This is where we are right now. We're not always going to be down like this."

Smith's optimism is nice. But there is little basis for it from an offensive perspective. And, despite Smith's philosophy, it takes a lot more than good defense.

"To see the defense play the way they played, it's frustrating," quarterback Josh McCown said. "We have to be better than that."

It's hard to be any worse than the Bucs were on offense. They went three-and-out on their first five offensive possessions. They finished with just 109 yards of total offense. They were 4-for-14 (29 percent) on third-down conversions.

"Offensively there was nothing," McCown said.

That's not an understatement. The Bucs finished with 16 yards rushing. Standout receivers Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson were kept in check. McCown was sacked seven times.

"Who is it?" Smith said when asked what's wrong with the offense. "Who's the culprit? It's all of the above."

Smith is right. Tampa Bay's problems can be blamed on the entire offense. The play of the line has been poor all year. The running game rarely has gotten on track. And McCown (12-for-26, 147 yards) has been struggling to complete 50 percent of his passes.

"It's a combination," Smith said. "We're not playing good enough football up front, pass blocking or running. It's tough when you have less than 20 yards rushing. Of course, when you pass and you can't really protect, and quarterback-wise there's some decisions we'd like to have back. It's a combination of all right now. To blame it all on one particular area wouldn't be right."

Aside from Evans and Jackson, the Bucs need to overhaul their offense in the offseason. The defense is fine. But, as Smith has found out this season, it takes a lot more than defense to win.

Packers vs. Buccaneers preview

December, 18, 2014
When: 1 p.m. ET Sunday Where: Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, Florida TV: Fox

For five straight weeks, the Green Bay Packers looked like they might have been the best team in football.

They seemed to be in cruise control for home-field advantage in the NFC playoffs. Then the Packers went to Buffalo, and a strange thing happened. Playing what might have been their worst game of the season, the Packers lost to the Bills.

Consider that proof that anything is possible in the NFL. Consider that proof that it’s not out of the question that the 2-12 Tampa Bay Buccaneers have a chance against the Packers on Sunday. That may seem like a long shot, but last week showed nothing is guaranteed.

ESPN Buccaneers reporter Pat Yasinskas and ESPN Packers reporter Rob Demovsky break down Sunday's game:

Yasinskas: Rob, what the heck happened to the Packers in Buffalo? I didn't see that one coming.

Demovsky: I don't think anyone did, Pat. But in hindsight, the Bills have just the kind of defense that could give -- and has given -- Aaron Rodgers and Co. trouble. They have a great front four that allows them to drop the maximum number of defenders into coverage. It's the same reason the Seahawks and Lions had been successful against the Packers. But if Rodgers and his receivers had even played an average game, that wouldn't have happened. Sometimes the stats lie, but in this case, they didn't. It was indeed one of the worst games I've ever seen Rodgers play, and I've seen all of them. He was out of sync from the get-go. He would read a play one way and his receivers would read it another. That's a bad recipe for an offense that relies on timing and reading the defense.

With that in mind, Pat, Lovie Smith's defenses gave Rodgers some trouble back in Chicago. Is there any reason to think the Buccaneers can come close to replicating what the Bills did?

Yasinskas: Probably not, especially with defensive tackle Gerald McCoy now out for the rest of the season with a knee injury. But if Tampa Bay does have a bright spot, it's the defense, which has been respectable since the bye week. The pass rush has been decent and the linebackers have played well. The secondary hasn't been great, but it has been better than it was in the first half of the season. This defense is improving steadily, but it still isn't as good as what Smith had in Chicago. The Bucs would have to play a perfect game to stop the Packers, and this defense is far from perfect. I don't think the Bucs have what it takes to pull off what Buffalo did.

Did that one bad game cost Rodgers the MVP award?

Demovsky: It shouldn't, but he probably needs to bounce back with one more of those three-plus-touchdown/no-interception games. It's human nature for the voters to remember what they've seen most recently, and of all the MVP candidates, Rodgers is probably the one whose bad game has come the latest in the season. Nevertheless, his efficiency this season has been off the charts. If 35 touchdowns and only five interceptions isn't an MVP pace, I don't know what is.

I know the Bucs have tried Josh McCown and Mike Glennon at various times this season at quarterback. Have they seen enough to know whether they can count on or rule out either one or both as their starter next season?

Yasinskas: I think the only thing that has been settled is that Glennon is not viewed as the long-term answer by the coaching staff. Although he was referred to as the quarterback of the future, he has been benched in favor of McCown twice -- once upon McCown's arrival and again when McCown returned from a thumb injury. That tells me Glennon has no future here. And McCown is no long-term answer. He's 35 and he hasn't played like the savvy veteran the Bucs expected. He has turned the ball over too much and been inconsistent. Whether it's through the draft or free agency, the Bucs need to make a move at quarterback this offseason.

I read where Packers coach Mike McCarthy was quoted as saying there would be some change on special teams this week. What's that all about?

Demovsky: When you've had six kicks blocked (two punts, two field goals and two extra points), you know you have a problem. And then the Bills returned a punt 75 yards for a touchdown. McCarthy said this week that "the personnel is not right." Fifteen weeks into the season, it was shocking to hear, but it's a sure sign that there will be some new players or old players in different roles on those units this week.

I'm sure plenty of Packers fans are already chalking this one up in the win column, but what's the most likely way the Bucs could pull off an upset Sunday?

Yasinskas: It's a long shot any way you look at it. But the best chance for Tampa Bay would be if the defense plays a great game. That's going to be tough without McCoy, but there still is enough individual talent on this defense to have a good outing. To win, though, the defense has to be more than good. It has to be outstanding, and it would have to produce points, because Tampa Bay's offense isn't explosive enough to stay with the Packers. Like I said, it's a long shot, but you never know what you're going to get with the Bucs.

QB snapshot: Josh McCown

December, 16, 2014
A quick observation of quarterback Josh McCown and how he played in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ 19-17 loss to the Carolina Panthers in Week 15:

McCown was brought in to be an efficient, veteran presence. But he hasn’t been playing very efficiently lately. He had his third straight game in which he completed fewer than 50 percent of his passes. He completed 13 of 28 passes for 154 yards with one touchdown and one interception; he was sacked three times and lost two fumbles.

One of those fumbles was especially costly as it set up an easy Carolina touchdown that put the Panthers ahead to stay. McCown admitted to pressing too much earlier in the season. It looks like he’s doing it again in recent weeks.

If McCown was playing the type of turnover-free football he did in Chicago last year, the Bucs would have a much better record.

Buccaneers need offensive overhaul

December, 14, 2014
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Take a look at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' first four possessions of Sunday's second half. They tell the story of the season.

After taking a 10-9 lead into halftime, the Bucs came out firing blanks in the third quarter. They went three-and-out on four straight possessions.

"I think that's what tilted the game was the third quarter, the slow start," quarterback Josh McCown said. "The third quarter killed us."

Tampa Bay's offense went cold when it mattered most and it cost the Bucs dearly in a 19-17 loss to the Carolina Panthers. That should come as no surprise. It has been happening all season.

[+] EnlargeJosh McCown
AP Photo/Bob LeveroneJosh McCown hasn't shown he's good enough to be part of the Bucs' long-term plans.
The only good thing you can say about Tampa Bay's offense is that we only have to watch it for two more games. After that, the Bucs need to blow it up and start from scratch next year. The offense just hasn't worked and it's time for an overhaul. New offensive coordinator. New scheme. New quarterback.

"We started Day 1 in the offseason talking about being balanced and being able to do both," McCown said of running and passing. "It feels like we've done both effectively at times. But we've got to be able to do it in the same game. We just have not done that."

Early in the year, you could cut the Bucs some slack because they were without offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford. He had heart surgery at the end of the preseason and took a leave of absence that eventually turned into a permanent departure from the team.

Quarterbacks coach Marcus Arroyo was thrust into a tough spot as the new playcaller. But this season is 14 games old and the offense hasn't shown any signs of improvement. Arroyo might be fine as a quarterbacks coach, but the Bucs need a new coordinator for next year. A new scheme also would help. Arroyo still is using the outline of what Tedford put in, but that's not working. That's largely because the plays aren't being called properly.

The Bucs ran the ball well in the first half against Carolina; Doug Martin ran for 92 of his 96 yards, including a 63-yarder, before halftime. But they went away from the running game in the second half. The passing game didn't come to the rescue: McCown completed less than 50 percent of his passes, going 13-for-28 for 154 yards with one touchdown, one interception, three sacks and two fumbles lost.

Those aren't the type of numbers you would expect from a guy who was brought in to deliver a savvy, veteran presence. But McCown, 35, hasn't been playing like a savvy veteran. He has been turning the ball over way too much, with 11 interceptions in the nine games in which he has played.

No turnover was more costly than the sack/fumble of McCown early in the third quarter. It gave Carolina the ball on Tampa Bay's 4-yard line. Two plays later, the Panthers punched in a touchdown to take the lead for good.

"It was unfortunate," McCown said. "It hurt us bad."

The Bucs (2-12) have put themselves in position to have a very early draft pick. They need to use it on a quarterback, such as Marcus Mariota. This season has shown McCown isn't the long-term answer and the coaching staff already has given up on Mike Glennon.

McCown can stick around as a veteran mentor and backup. But this offense needs a fresh start all the way around, and that includes a new quarterback.