Welcome to the best NFL offseason series you'll ever read -- that is, if you're like me, and you want nothing more than the blissful lie that your team will be good in 2019. How Your Team Won Super Bowl 54 will take you through each NFL franchise with one goal in mind: convincing you that there's at least one universe in which Your Team wins it all. I'm Doctor Strange, you're Tony Stark, the Avengers are Your Team, Thanos is...Bill Belichick? I've lost the metaphor.
One thing's for sure:
You'll die in the end. Your Team is going to win Super Bowl 54.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
How to go Full Arians
I'm still unsure how the Buccaneers fell backwards into Bruce Arians as their head coach, but I do know that it potentially justifies two full seasons of Dirk Koetter being the opposite of fired.
But, in order for Arians to deliver to Tampa what Dirk Koetter never, ever, possibly, what in God's name were you thinking, could...there needs to be a full buy-in. Fortunately, Arians is an easy coach to buy-in-on -- dynamic personality, great offensive philosophy, cool hats.
Now, it's not as easy as taking on the Arians mantle -- not when you were so mired in Koetter Swamp. The only offensive bright spots of the Koetter era came when he was decidedly not involved in the offense -- like the first few weeks of the 2018 season, when offensive coordinator Todd Monken was calling the plays. Once Koetter took control back, the offense flatlined once again.
Koetter was the head coach for three seasons and the team wasn't good the whole time -- and that may not even be the worst part of the Koetter era! When you look at Jason Licht's draft classes over that time, it's no wonder the team has struggled: 5 of the 21 draft selections are no longer on the team, and only...4? are starters the Buccaneers actually want on the field.
The cupboards are bare in Tampa -- but that helps make the Full Arians possible. The team needs to be rebuilt, and it can be rebuilt in Arians' likeness. On his most successful offenses, Arians employed a downfield, dropback passing attack that demands speed and ball tracking -- that's why Scottie Miller was the pick in Round 6. On Todd Bowles' 3-4 defenses, the box safety has always had a critical role in run defense and box support -- that's why Mike Edwards was the pick in Round 3.
Bruce Arians has been successful in this league. The roster construction formula is in place. And it makes drafting easier.
And Tampa needs all the help it can get.
So go Full Arians. Build the draft, free agency, philosophy, and the daggum social content strategy around the coach. After totally bungling their head coach situation for multiple seasons, they were gifted Arians -- so slap on that Kangol and get ready for three -- no, four verts, brother. Here's Brucey!
How -- and let me be very clear about this -- the h*ck did you actually call this a secondary last year?
Listen, I liked Carlton Davis a fair bit coming out of Auburn. MJ Stewart was acceptable, and I thought Jordan Whitehead had promise.
They all ended up on a Mike Smith defense, which is highly unfortunate when you want a player to end up good. However, for as many excuses as I'd like to make on Davis and the others' behalves...behalfs?...behalves, this secondary was downright awful last year. The 260 passing yards they gave up per game was 6th-worst in the league, they gave up the 3rd-most passing touchdowns in the league, and their passes defensed and interceptions were both in the bottom quarter of the league.
No, the pass rush didn't help; no, the scheme didn't help; no, having a terrible offense didn't help. But when you have young talent on a secondary, you at least expect promise -- I'm not sure how much of that they got.
I don't think the new guard believes in this secondary either. They triple-dipped at DB in the first three rounds of the 2019 draft, despite major needs in both trenches. Vernon Hargreaves is almost undoubtedly out of a job, Jordan Whitehead is going to get a heavy push from Mike Edwards, and ideally, one of Sean Bunting or Jamel Dean would challenge Davis for his starting role as well.
Tampa Bay's Week 1 starters in the secondary last season were Justin Evans and Chris Conte at safety, Brent Grimes and Vernon Hargreaves at corner. Conte and Grimes are both already gone, and Hargreaves is hanging on by a thread. This secondary could indeed see four new starters, depending on how camp shakes out.
And thank goodness for that.
How The Buccaneers Won Super Bowl 54
Ronald Jones, who astutely read the tea leaves of Koetter's departure and Arians' arrival, shucks the act of being really bad at football and returns to being really good at football, rushing for 1600 yards and 14 touchdowns. He powers the Bucs to a dominant offensive performance against the Steelers/Browns/Colts in Super Bowl 54 (ex-Arians teams), 24-21. Vita Vea wins MVP for his 2.5 sacks, and we spend the entire offseason wondering if the next innovation in defensive football is 345 pound ex-running backs lining up at nose tackle.
Robert Aguayo hits the game-winner, by the way. For closure.
How many universes does this happen in?
1 out of 1000. How many Coach of the Years can Bruce win, exactly?
How does it all go wrong?
You notice how I didn't mention the starting QB in here at all? Yeah...