Monday, March 15, 2010

Yeah, But Whose Gonna Coach Em?

For months now there has been speculation about which defensive tackle the Tampa Bay Buccaneers might select with the 3rd pick in the draft. While early on it looked as if they wouldn't get the chance at Ndamukong Suh or Gerald McCoy, here lately with reports that the Rams or a trading partner of theirs might take Sam Bradford with the 1st pick in the draft, the prospect of having one or both guys still on the board at 3 is looking a lot more realistic. Now most pundits have gone back and forth with each guy, some thinking Suh is just too talented to pass up while others noting (rightly in my opinion) that McCoy is a better fit for our defense. But here's the thing, while the anticipation grows as draft weekend approaches, there is a question that Buccaneers fans should have in the back of their mind in addition to which defensive tackle we will take. And that question should be "who is going coach them"?

It seems like a simple question, and a quite important one to boot, yet I don't know about you but I haven't heard many pundits in the Tampa Bay area asking it. I guess the assumption is that if you draft Suh or McCoy they will just magically turn into Pro Bowlers without any coaching. Of course we know that history has shown us that's hardly ever the case. So who IS going to coach them and how much should it matter?

Well the first part of the question is pretty simple. Todd Wash is the Buccaneers defensive line coach, you can see it right there at their website. And who is Todd Wash? Well from his bio it appears that he was a pretty good linebacker in college and he is pretty smart too as he has two degrees. Also from his bio we see that he started his coaching career in 1996 and worked his way up in the college ranks before becoming a quality control coach here in 2007 and then working his way up to head defensive line coach last year and sole defensive line coach going into the 2010 season.

The first thing I noticed when reading up on Wash is that this is his first NFL job. Nothing wrong with that of course, Rod Marinelli got his first NFL gig here in Tampa as well after all. But the fact that he has been in coaching at all just a bit over 10 years combined with the fact that this is his first NFL job is a bit worrisome to me. I don't want to make it seem as if I am throwing Wash under the bus because I don't know him and I have personally never seen him in action at practice or during the game but there are some things that can't be ignored. And the biggest fact that gives me pause is that we haven't had a defensive lineman have double digit sacks in the 3 seasons that he has been here.

Now I would try to give him a pass on that first season since after all he wasn't a position coach but a quality control guy. However in his bio he takes credit for Gaines Adams getting 6 sacks that year as a rookie and so I feel like that year is fair game as well.

So what's the closest a defensive lineman has gotten to double digit sacks during his tenure?
That would be the 8 that Greg (Stylez) White got in his first season as a Buccaneer in 07.

The most by a defensive tackle?

That would be the 6 that Jovan Haye got ALSO in 07.

In the last two years the most sacks any defensive end has gotten in a season is 6.5 and the most any defensive tackle has gotten is 2.

And please keep in mind that this will be Wash's first stint coaching the entire defensive line by himself. Last year he handled defensive ends while the now departed Coach Robert Nunn handled the defensive tackles.

Now obviously after the way our defensive tackles performed most of the year I don't think anybody is shedding many tears over Nunn's departure. But what does it say about the Buccaneers that they didn't even attempt to replace him going into what may be the most important draft in team history looking to draft a franchise defensive tackle?* Considering how important most people think it will be that draft Suh or McCoy, why hasn't anybody asked this question before now?

Listen, for all I know Todd Wash is going to turn one of those guys into the next Reggie White next year and erase any doubt about his prowess as a defensive line coach. I for one would be the first to salute him if he does. But what has he shown in his career thus far that would inspire that kind of faith in him and his abilities? You can discard last year's performance all you want but then you still have to acknowledge 2008 where Ryan Sims led all defensive tackles with 1.5 sacks on the season and Gaines led all ends with 6.5. I don't know that Coach Marinelli EVER went through a season where the highest sack total for one of his interior lineman was 2 or less let alone allow that for two years straight, and he is the type of guy that Wash is going to need to try to emulate.

I saw enough head scratching calls on the defensive line this year to further make me skeptical of what we are going to get from Suh or McCoy if we draft one of them. Time and time again we either didn't run any pass rush games or the ones we ran were harry high school type stuff. Not only that but to this day I am still trying to understand why in the game where White was hurt we moved Jimmy Wilkerson from his starting position at left end over to right end, and then allowed Tim Crowder who backs up both starts to start at left end which didn't take advantage of either of their strengths.

You put that all together and you have a recipe for disappointment. Again I could be wrong and I hope I am, but put me on record right now saying that if we draft Suh or McCoy neither guy will have more than 5 sacks next year. That's not hating that's being realistic based on the evidence at hand.

Just one more thing for you to consider heading into next season.
* I don't really wanna have to go there but did the Bucs let Nunn go without replacing because they had so much faith in Wash, or was it just another instance of them trying to save money? Its not an easy question and I don't have the answer but I think it has to be asked and addressed

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