TAMPA, FL - NOVEMBER 8: Head coach Lovie Smith of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers talks to the referees during a timeout against the New York Giants in the third quarter at Raymond James Stadium on November 8, 2015 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Cliff McBride/Getty Images)
It started with 97 yards on 12 penalties against Tennessee and the flags haven’t stopped flying since.
Some questionable, most deserved, Tampa Bay has stormed through the season racking up infractions at a record-breaking pace since that Week 1 debacle. The Bucs have already eclipsed their previous high for total accepted penalties set a decade ago. They accomplished that in primetime Week 15 against St. Louis and will likely add to that 138 count Sunday in Carolina.
Barring a near-pristine performance in the penalty department this weekend, Tampa Bay will break a mark for penalty yardage that’s only stood since 2013. The Bucs have been docked 1,130 yards and need seven more to top the total achieved during head coach Greg Schiano’s final year patrolling the sidelines.
It’s a nagging problem that Bucs fans have become accustomed to for an extended period now. Tampa Bay teams have topped 100 penalties for six straight seasons, spanning three head coaches over that period. The 1,000-yards-ceded mark has been reached in three of those six (2015, 2013 and 2011).
The topic of discussion has arisen on a near-weekly basis and coaches and players did so again Wednesday at One Buc Place.
“We just have to keep addressing it,” head coach Lovie Smith said, repeating a common refrain when asked about the high penalty count. “The “how” is how you keep talking about it: you keep preaching it [and] players see the results that penalties cause. I think that goes along with where we are as a football team right now. Once we clean all this up we won’t be in the situation we’re in.”
For all the positive strides Tampa Bay has taken this season, that message of playing a smarter, more-legal brand of football is one that has not taken hold. The Bucs finished last year ranked 10th in total penalties committed (118) and the trend rolled right into 2015.
Offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter is wrapping up his first year in Tampa Bay. During his Wednesday press conference he targeted the recurring penalty issue as a key offseason focus.
“I’ve actually been thinking about that a lot lately,” he said. “When I came last year and looked at the procedural penalties on offense, I was thinking to myself, ‘Ah, that won’t be a problem. We’re not going to have that problem.’ But we have had that problem.
“There’s playing-hard penalties [but] procedural penalties, we had a couple of those [against Chicago] and those are inexcusable,” Koetter continued. “And that starts with me. I have to figure out a way in the offseason to be more demanding on our guys, to eliminate those penalties that contribute to getting you beat. That’s on my list. How much of those kinds of penalties falls on [the coaches] side? I’d say that has to fall on me on our side.”
Penalties are part of the game and no team is completely immune to officials’ wrath. Even the least-penalized team in the league this year, Minnesota, averages about 5 1/2 per game. But the pre-snap and post-whistle fouls began to wear on fans by midseason – of last year.
Tampa Bay is tied for the league-high in pre-snap penalties (52) with Miami and ranks second behind Baltimore with 13 unnecessary roughness calls. Whether those are primarily the fault of players or coaches is debatable and depends on the situation, but they’re likely a combination of both.
“I’ve got to learn how to play with my emotions the right way; not to get too carried away,” said defensive end William Gholston, the team’s leader in unnecessary roughness calls with four. “I play very passionate when it comes to football, but I have to be able to distinguish what’s a good decision and what’s a bad decision. That’s just me personally. As far as everybody else, I know my teammates play just as hard as me and I would assume that as long as we get everything in check we’ll be okay.”
Right tackle Demar Dotson also took part in shouldering the blame, saying it’s on players to execute game plans properly.
“It’s all the players,” the veteran lineman said. “Coaches don’t have anything to do with false starts or holding or lining up right. That’s all players, so we as players have to look in the mirror and realize that it’s on us. Coaches scheme, they put us in the best position to win, so when you go out there make bonehead choices like we’ve done all year they hurt this football team. That’s been our tendency all year that we’ve shot ourselves in the foot. We should’ve won so many games this year but when you turn the ball over and do silly mistakes you get to be a 6-9 football team.”
This has been a problem because of the constant do-overs and coaching changes by ownership. It seems like the Bucs are perpetually young and are constantly rebuilding. The players have had little time to build any continuity before the turnstile starts spin. This is a yet another young team that needs to grow. The penalties will start to diminish when there is stability and repetition on the field.
Some teams for years whether they win or lose seem to get breaks if they play the Bucs or a couple other teams. Just my opinion.
I agree w/Horse. But the continuity issues have also (imo) have been caused by the constant turnover of players since Lovie took over. Bringing “the Bears Two” in to supposedly make this team better.JMHO.
Pretty certain Holston summed it up best, Using your one size fits all I hate Lovie logic really doesn’t work here pitbullbuc.
Can’t remember the last time any of our ex-Bear players committed an off sides, illegal motion or formations, let alone a personal foul.
Is there some sort of subliminal messaging going on here? Why is Lovie’s unflattering picture in the headline instead of Gosder Cherilus? Right tackle Demar Dotson said it’s on players to execute game plans properly. “It’s all the players,” the veteran lineman said. “Coaches don’t have anything to do with false starts or holding or lining up right. That’s all players, so we as players have to look in the mirror and realize that it’s on us.
We all know PR’s position regarding Lovie, but is there some visceral obsession with this man? If you think the penalties are his fault, then say it. The players obviously don’t see it that way. Lovie isn’t the head of ISIS, he just hasn’t won enough games to be considered COTY! lol.
Agree MAc but some of the blame does fall on Lovie. Have you ever seen him lay into a guy for a stupid penalty? Have you ever seen him straight bench a guy or cut him for a stupid play?
I’ve seen winning organizations like the patriots cut a guy for a fumble. Here in Buc land he would continue to not only have his job but never hit the bench. Lovie is not responsible for the infractions , but him doing nothing about them is enabling the players to not give a crap if they do mess up. So it does go both ways in my opinion.
I am not a Lovie hater. I admire the man for his times here in the 90’s & early 2’s, I was commenting on E’s do overs & coaching changes excuse. But we were not the highest in penalties during the Dungy or Gruden eras, what’s up with that?
Regarding the blame for penalties; a kid in Pee Wee football knows to wait until the ball is snapped before moving, to line up properly, to snap the ball before 0:00 shows up on the clock, to keep their hands off the opponent’s facemask, to not toss the ball down the field in anger, to not taunt an opponent, and to not take a swing at an opponent. Surely, a player who has been coached in Pee Wee, high school, college and now the NFL knows this stuff and shouldn’t even need to be reminded at this stage of his career. For crying out loud, any junior bookkeeper knows the numbers need to add up without the CPA prodding him. Of course the responsibility for the penalties I’ve noted is on the players. None, when told how their repeated infractions are hurting the team’s chances to win can give the old Johnny Carson retort, “I did not know that.” My goodness people hate to accept responsibility for their own actions these days. Always someone else’ fault.
There seems to be no accountability for these mistakes be it coaches or players. Undisciplined play. Lovie is so passive I just don’t see his message getting across.
It would do my Buc’s sense good to see Lovie get really upset with the referee’s during the game. Maybe a little emotion towards these guys would help swing some calls our way.
Comes down to coaching, this team is not disciplined at all you saw when Akeem Spence had a personal foul penalty of a Giants Player late in the fourth quarter and countless times we have a big run or play in passing game only to called back for some stupid penalty by the offense. Lovie tolerates poor play and poor decisions only time I saw him hold somebody accountable was when he got into Akeems face other than that he looks puzzled and clueless it’s time for a new coach
Yes cgmaster, I have. In referencing jongrudens scenario where Akeem Spence committed a personal foul in the Giants game, Lovie took Spence out of the game.
Of course either jongruden has conveniently forgotten that to try to make an invalid point, or he was to busy reading about his favorite team the Cardinals, while the game was going on.
Lovie is damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t.
When Martin fumble he takes him out of the game for a series and everyone wails like hysterial children.
Dotson got it right and he should know.
Last season he led the Bucs in penalties so he is speaking from experience.
Well that n the instance you state I also said that week that I was proud of Lovie for showing some fire. But doing it once in the 509 or so stupid oenalti s this year doesn’t make it good. Lovie needs to do that every time someone messes up. That more my point. As for Dougie sitting, I think that’s more the flow of the game.
drdnest- I love how I get underneath your skin I must keep you up at night, ha If your going to reference me please be accurate and in the post I said “only time I saw him hold somebody accountable was when he got into Akeems face ” see I made it easy for you. I suggest Tylenol PM or a Lovie post game interview to help you sleep at night
Some are making a mountain out of a mole hill. Penalties do hurt, but not near what no pass rush hurts; high percentage of pass completions, and 3rd down conversions. Stay focus people, it’s the defensive coordinator coaching and leadership from Lovie. I’m no hater, but Lovie is not the answer.
You flatter yourself jongruden. I really think you need to get on some meds because now you getting delusional.
Nowhere in your post did you say Lovie got in Spence’s face. There was nothing about being held accountable, either.
Wow, dude, you can’t even quote yourself right.
BTW, I listen to Bill Belichek’s pressers to nod off to.
“only time I saw him hold somebody accountable was when he got into Akeems face ” are you to stubborn to read my post and see that line or to stupid? It has to be one of the two? wow man, you amaze me you really do, lol and yes absolutely “Go Cards”
As Bobby Bowden would say “boys will be boys”. Jongruden and Drdneast, let it go.
Don’t bother J.G., I really believe drd is Lovies agent.
Wow dude, chill. Take a Xanaax and get on those meds I suggested.
My bad. Sorry. Your sentences are as disjointed as your thoughts though.
Why you in such a grumpy mood? Your real favorite team the Cardinals are going to the playoffs.
So,let me get this straight. If, as a grown man, making a decent salary if I continue to fail to comply with procedures, rules and standard practices it’s my supervisors fault and I bear no culpability if said supervisor doesn’t yell at me enough? Wow! And some of you actually believe, because you didn’t witness Lovie or his staff reading the riot act to said unruly player it didn’t happen. How about chastising the player who doesn’t accept accountability for his own actions instead of the coach who may have little choice than to cut the player. A response that may be even more detrimental to the team. I guess it’s like when a government employee has tenure it doesn’t matter what he does or doesn’t do because termination is nearly impossible.
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