A couple things come to mind when watching this final episode of Hard Knocks for 2017. First of all, I want to go back to something I have mentioned many times this series – and in past years. How come players are not showing up for extra work?
A young athlete will often get lessons to help them improve their skills. Students will go tutors for extra help with their schoolwork. There are some obvious examples of players on the Buc’s who need extra help. Is this help offered? Do the players feel comfortable asking for extra help? Clearly it is expected they know what they need to do. However, at most jobs, someone helps train a new employee. I had a client who said that at their company if they hire someone and it does not work out, they bring in the manager and ask why things didn’t work out? They do not bring in the employee, though they may do an exit interview, but they question the manager. At this company they point out to the manager that they were responsible for hiring this employee – and then ask – where did things go wrong? Why weren’t they able to get things to work for this employee? What could they have done better as a manager to make things work?
With the Buc’s clearly quarterback Sefo Liufau does not understand the defensive formations he is facing. He does not know what plays to call. Jameis Winston tries to encourage him to study the defensive fronts and the pass protection the defense is showing. Even when he is cut, head coach Dirk Koetter tells him: “You scare the hell out of me every day in practice – you don’t know half the stuff you are doing, but you get in a game and you seem to be able to put it all together.” Koetter adds: “My advice is to take it faster from the meeting room to the practice field.” Could the Buc’s have had someone meet with him before or after practice to help him learn the things he needs to learn – so he can take it from the meeting room to the practice field faster? What was their role in this situation?
The same is true with the Jeremy McNichols situation. A few weeks ago, running backs coach Tim Spencer, was telling McNichols how important it was for him to study and learn the playbook. Last week McNichols was missing his assignments. He seemed confused and did not now what he was suppose to be doing in practice and in the game. Where was his extra help? When telling McNichols he did not make the 53 man roster, Dirk Koetter says: “You are good enough to play in the NFL, but something is not clicking right now – what do you think that is?” McNichols says: “It’s grasping the playbook, knowing the NFL defenses.” McNichols was a fifth round draft pick – now that pick was totally wasted. McNichols decided to sign with San Francisco’s practice squad instead of the Buc’s.
The Buc’s really need to look at this situation. Could they have been able to tell before they drafted McNichols that he was not capable of learning the playbook quickly? Were there any indications that he was overly emotionally sensitive? He seemed upset that they yelled at him and then he decided to go to another team. I feel there is something that the Buc’s could have done differently in this situation. Could they have hired a tutor? Perhaps a retired running back could have come in and worked one on one with McNichols and helped him learn the things he needed to learn. Tom Brady was drafted in the 6th round, the 199th pick. McNichols was drafted in the fifth round, the 162nd pick. There is a lesson that needs to be learned here.
Speaking of extra help. When Koetter is telling Riley Bullough that he did not make the 53 man roster he tells Bullough that he needs to get better playing the pass. Once again, this is great information, but these players have been on the team for about four months. Are their drills Bullough could have been doing? Could someone have been working with him individually to help him with his pass protection? Does Koetter go to the position coach and the coordinator and ask them why a particular player has not learned what they need to learn?
I don’t want to make this seem like this is a Tampa Bay Buc’s problem. This is something we see each year on Hard Knocks. Last year it was Jared Geoff who was not learning the system fast enough. Coaching is teaching. Every good coach should be a good teacher. A coach should ask why a player has not learned what they need to learn. I really like how Koetter asks players: “What are your thoughts?” Or, “What is not working?” Perhaps the position coaches and coordinators need to be asked the same questions.
As far as the Bobo Wilson situation. When the coaches told everyone to stick around and Bobo went to Miami, I feel the Buc’s should have let him go. Koetter told Donte’ Dye that Bobo was not as good as Dye. Dye had been hurt and missed some practice. Bobo did well in the final preseason game against the Redskins. Koetter is clearly concerned with Bobo’s attitude. Each week, Bobo showed zero insight into his role in any situation – nothing was ever his fault. I do not think Bobo will make it through the season with the Buc’s. He will do something, on or off the field, that will lead to his departure. As I watched the Bobo situation unfold, I thought of the saying: “If you let someone borrow $20 and you never see them again – it was probably worth it.” The Buc’s should have let Bobo go, signed Dye, or brought in someone else, and moved forward.
Final thoughts: I was really impressed this whole series with Dirk Koetter. I would say pretty much all the coaches, except defensive coordinator, Mike Smith, did a really good job at communicating and teaching. I think this team will win between nine and eleven games. They will probably make the playoff’s and may even win the first game they play in the playoff’s. Of course, injuries to key players will play a role here. As I write this, today 9/6/17, it was announced that their first game against the Dolphins will now be played in week 11 due to hurricane Irma. The lack of having a week off could impact the Buc’s. Overall, Koetter has created a really great atmosphere for both the players and coaches – this will pay off.