Mike Smith has been the Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive coordinator for two-plus seasons, but it’s time for him to go. He had a great finish to his first season, but since then, his defense has been one of the worst in the NFL.
While Dirk Koetter has practically flat out said he is not going to fire Mike Smith, there are many reasons why he should. This last game against the Chicago Bears is one of many embarrassments in his tenure with Tampa Bay Buccaneers. At this point, many of you may have heard or read some of the mind-blowing statistics on how bad Mike Smith has been, but if not, here you go.
In 19 of 36 games, 53% of games, the Buccaneers have allowed 400+ yards, they are 4-15 in those games. In 13 games the Bucs have allowed 30 or more points, 36% of games, and they are 1-12. (Per Greg Auman) The lone win coming in the shootout against New Orleans week one of this season.
The Buccaneers have given up 139 points this season, most in the league. They’ve surrendered 35 explosive plays. Explosives are categorized as run plays of 12 or more yards and pass plays of 16 or more yards. The Bucs are tied for giving up the fifth-most in the league. They are giving up a league-worst 34.8 points per game, 2nd worst in yards per game at 446, and worst in quarterback rating (QBR) allowed at 84. Quarterbacks are going to love seeing the Bucs on the schedule because the Bucs allow a league-worst 77% completion to opposing quarterbacks.
But wait… There’s more!
The defense is allowing opponents to score touchdowns on 92.3% of their red-zone opportunities. Only Carolina is worse. The league’s best are Titans 20% and Jaguars 25% while the league average is 54%. (Per Greg Auman)
To add another gut punch, coming into the game Mitchell Trubisky had thrown for 9 touchdowns in 15 games. Against Mike Smiths defense he went for 6 touchdowns, 5 in the 1st half.
This isn’t isolated to just the Tampa Bay Buccaneers either. When Mike Smith was the head coach of the Atlanta Falcons, the Falcons defense was not great. During his seven seasons of calling defensive plays, the Falcons averaged 22nd overall defensively, with a high of 12th in 2011 and low of 32 in his final season. Mike Smith was a solid defensive coordinator when he was in Jacksonville in the early 2000s, but defensive-minded head coach Jack Del Rio was calling plays.
What do the Bucs have to lose?
Dirk Koetter is not only Mike Smiths boss but he has a long-term friendship with the guy. In his recent press conference, Koetter defended Smith:
“I think, for those people who think that snapping your fingers and changing your coordinator a quarter of the way through the season. Ok, well what would you do after that? If we fire Mike Smith, then what would the next move be……..We as coaches have to coach better and that starts with me. But Mike Smith didn’t miss any tackles, did not rush the passer, he didn’t blow any coverages, he didn’t have any communication errors.”
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There were clearly issues with players on the field. Many have blamed the young guys, but it wasn’t only them. Defensive captain Lavonte David and Kwon Alexander had really bad days with miscommunication and missing assignments. That is on coaching, not just the players. The Bucs have been playing a non-aggressive cover two, with few blitzes, and a bend don’t break strategy that clearly has not worked. It feels like the coaching staff is afraid to be aggressive with the lack of experience in the secondary. Well, if you giving up touchdowns for other reasons, why not try anything different than what you are doing?
Hypothetically, what’s next?
So who could the Bucs replace him with? The team can’t go outside because a completely new scheme would take too long. So who in-house could be used? Right now there are two clear favorites Brentson Buckner and Mark Duffner.
Brentson is an eleven year veteran of the league from 94-05 and was the Arizona Cardinals defensive line coach from 2013-2017. The Cardinals have had recent success on the line with players like Chandler Jones, Calais Campbell, and even an older Dwight Freeney racking up at least eight sacks in a season under Buck. Currently, Jason Pierre Paul has four sacks already, on pace for more than 10 which hasn’t happened for the Bucs since Simeon Rice. While he’s a very popular coach among players, he has never called a play in the NFL, he was a high school head coach in 2008. It will be a learning curve, but if there is one guy that’s aggressive on this team, it’s Coach Buck.
The other option for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers is Mark Duffner. While he never played in the NFL he has almost 30 years of coaching experience. Duffner has head coaching coaching experience in college. He has been a defensive coordinator in college and the NFL, but more recently has spent 20 years as an NFL linebackers coach. His record as a head coach is a solid 80-40-1 as well. Duffner isn’t the most popular name floating around, but he seems to have the experience to step in smoothly.
I would honestly pick either of them because they can’t be any worse than what they are now. For Dirk Koetter and even Jason Licht, what do they have to lose? If their defense remains this bad there is no way they can make the playoffs. If the Tampa Bay Buccaneers miss the playoffs and continue to look this bad on defense, they are going to get fired anyway.
The Bucs defense is hard to watch
I, as a fan, hate this team right now. There was so much excitement after the first two weeks but the defense has crushed my soul. It’s understandable to give up yards to future Hall of Famers Ben Roethlisberger and Drew Brees, and even Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles didn’t shock me, but Mitchell Trubisky, REALLY? I want to see a change but it’s not going to happen. I hate saying that, but what about this game gave you hope for future success? The ONLY way to turn the defense around is to try something different.
Mike Smith, what you just coached was one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever seen. At no point in your rambling, incoherent play calling were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Every fan of the Bucs is now depressed for having seen it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.