Thu, 09 Feb 2023

On to 2023 | S.S. Mailbag

Buccaneers
20 Jan 2023, 18:26 GMT+10

Tampa Bay BuccaneersThis week, Buccaneers fans have questions about the biggest changes coming for the Buccaneers, the team's positioning in the 2023 draft and moreScott Smith

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are out of the playoffs after a Monday night loss to Dallas and are already turning their attention to 2023. That business, which is not always enjoyable, begin on Thursday when the team parted ways with six assistant coaches, including offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich. Three other assistants elected to retire.

There is plenty for General Manager Jason Licht, Head Coach Todd Bowles and their respective staffs to do in the weeks and months ahead as they try to position the Buccaneers for another playoff run in 2023. Soon we'll be talking about the Combine, free agency, the draft and OTAs.

Still, this weekly mailbag intro is often about looking back, and I'm going to do that again today. In the aforementioned loss to Dallas on Monday night, two Buccaneers set new single-game franchise records for the postseason. Tom Brady threw 66 passes, not only the most ever by a Buc QB in a playoff game but the second most ever by any QB in a playoff game. And Chris Godwin hauled in 10 passes against the Cowboys, breaking the Bucs' old record of nine. Godwin now owns the team's single-game records for catches in both the regular season and the postseason, having snagged 15 passes in a game in Atlanta on Dec. 5 of 2021.

So I thought, I would look up a bunch of other single-game records for the Bucs in the postseason and share them here, with some context of the season and game in which they occurred.

Most Pass Attempts: 66 by Tom Brady, vs. Dallas, Jan. 16, 2023

Most Completions: 35 Tom Brady, vs. Dallas, Jan. 16, 2023

Most Passing Yards: 381 by Tom Brady, at Washington, Jan. 9, 2021

Most Touchdown Passes: 3 by Tom Brady, at Green Bay, Jan. 23, 2021 and vs. Kansas City, Feb. 7, 2021

Most Times Sacked: 5 by Shaun King, at St. Louis, Jan. 23, 2000

Most Interceptions Thrown: 4 by Brad Johnson, at Philadelphia, Jan. 12, 2002 and by Doug Williams, at Dallas, Jan. 2, 1982

Longest Completion: 75 by Doug Williams to Jimmie Giles, Jan. 2, 1982

Not surprisingly, the big counting numbers all belong to Tom Brady, who is playing in a much more prolific passing era than did, say, Doug Williams or even Brad Johnson. Also, Brady now has seven postseason starts as a Buccaneer, easily the most of any quarterback. Williams had four, Trent Dilfer had two, Shaun King had three, Johnson had four, Chris Simms had one and Jeff Garcia had one. The five sacks that King absorbed in St. Louis were part of that unforgettable NFC Championship Game in which the Bucs deflated The Greatest Show on Turf but the Rams defense held serve in an 11-6 final. Williams-to-Giles may be the Bucs' longest postseason throw but it came in a loss. The second-longest completion on the list was Johnson to Joe Jurevicius for 71 yards in the 2002 NFC Championship Game, a momentum-swinging play in what would become a dramatic Bucs victory in Philadelphia.

Most Rushing Attempts: 38 by Ricky Bell, vs. Philadelphia, 12/29/79

Most Rushing Yards: 142 by Ricky Bell, vs. Philadelphia, 12/29/79

Most Rushing Touchdowns: 2 three times, most recently by Leonard Fournette, vs. L.A. Rams, 1/23/22

Best Average Per Carry (min. 10): 6.6 by James Wilder, at Dallas, 1/9/83 (14 for 93)

Longest Run: 31t by Mike Alstott, vs. Detroit, Dec. 28, 1997

Ricky Bell's two records have stood the test of time; those both came in the very first Buccaneers playoff game ever, a win over Philadelphia in the Divisional Round. Bell's 38 carries in a game will probably never be broken. Since 2010, only one player (Le'Veon Bell) has had at least 38 carries in a game, and no one has done that in a playoff game since Lamar Smith with the Dolphins in 2000.

Alstott's 31-yard touchdown run was a joyous moment and I can still picture it in my brain. The Bucs were playing in a postseason game for the first time in 15 years and they were dominating Barry Sanders' Lions. It's true that Sanders spent much of his career torturing the Buccaneers (in objectively thrilling fashion), but on this day both Alstott (68) and Warrick Dunn (72) had more rushing yards than Sanders (65). The Bucs had a 13-0 lead at halftime but it was hard to feel too comfortable about a two-score edge with Sanders on the other sideline. Then Alstott broke the line five minutes into the second half and rumbled all the way to the end zone to make it 20-0. Detroit tacked on 10 meaningless fourth-quarter points but it was Alstott's run that kicked off the party.

Most Receptions: 10 by Chris Godwin

Most Receiving Yards: 119 by Mike Evans, vs. Washington, Jan. 9, 2021 AND vs. L.A. Rams, Jan. 23, 2022

Most Touchdown Receptions: 2 by Rob Gronkowski, vs. Kansas City, Feb. 7, 2021 and by Keenan McCardell, vs. Oakland, Jan. 26, 2003

It's interesting that the only two times a Buc has caught more than one touchdown pass in a playoff game both occurred in Super Bowls. McCardell only caught two passes in the entire Super Bowl XXXVII demolition of the Raiders, but one was a five-yard score just before halftime and the other was an eight-yard TD in the third quarter. Those two score pumped up the Bucs lead from a tenuous 13-3 to a dominant 27-3 as the Bucs were in the midst of scoring 34 unanswered points. Gronkowski's touchdowns were similarly back-to-back, the Bucs' first two scores in a 31-9 blowout of the Chiefs.

It's also interesting that Evans has hit the exact same record for yards twice. He also owns the third-highest total on the list, 117 against Philadelphia on Jan. 16, 2022.

Hopefully the Buccaneers can back to the playoffs in 2023 and some of these records will fall again. Now on to your questions.

A reminder that you can send questions to me anytime you want on Twitter (@ScottSBucs) and they're easier to find if you include the hashtag #SSMailbagBucs. We are also now soliciting questions each week on our Instagram page; look for that story on Wednesdays. As always, if you want to get a longer question into the mailbag and would prefer to email your question, you can do so to

tbbsocial@buccaneers.nfl.com.

Do we know our picks already for the draft?

- @leos99 (via Instagram)

Mostly, yes. The league will eventually add somewhere in the order of 35 to 40 compensatory picks, starting at the end of the third round. These are mostly awarded to teams for having a net loss in unrestricted free agency the previous offseason, though you can also now get them if a minority candidate is hired away from your team to be another team's head coach or general manager. Last year, these picks were announced on March 15. The Buccaneers anticipate possibly getting one of these, just as they did last year.

So I can tell you where the Buccaneers pick exactly in the first three rounds but their current slots in the subsequent rounds are going to change a little bit.

The Buccaneers spot in the first round of the draft was finalized on Monday night when they lost in the Wild Card round to the Dallas Cowboys. The first 18 spots had already been assigned to the teams that did not qualify for the postseason, starting with the Chicago Bears at number one and ending with the Detroit Lions in the 18th slot. The six teams that lost in the Wild Card round got the next spots, starting with the team that had the worst regular-season winning percentage among that group. That was the Buccaneers, who finished at 8-9 and thus got the 19th pick.

When teams end up in a tied "segment" in the first-round draft order, the tie is broken by strength of schedule (SOS), with the team with the lowest number (and thus the "easiest" schedule faced in 2022) getting the first pick in the segment, and so on. For example, the Falcons, Panthers, Saints, Titans, Browns and Jets all finished at 7-10 and are thus in a tied segment together. In the first round, they will pick in the order I just listed because Atlanta has the lowest SOS number (.467), Carolina is next (.474) and so on. In subsequent rounds, the teams in a tied segment rotate their picking order, with the team that went first in the first round dropping to the end of the segment and every other team moving up a spot.

Well, that's not an issue for the Buccaneers. They weren't the only team to finish 8-9, but the two others (New England and Green Bay) missed the playoffs and thus were slotted in picks 14 and 15. There were no other teams eliminated during the Wild Card round that had 8-9 records, so the Buccaneers are alone in the 19th pick. They will stay there throughout the draft.

That means Tampa Bay's second-round pick will be number 51 in the second round and number 83 in the third round. In reality, those are going to be the 50th and 82nd picks made, because Miami has forfeited its first round pick (number 21).

The Buccaneers do not have their fourth-round pick in the 2023 draft because they traded it during last year's draft to Jacksonville for fifth and seventh-round picks. They used the fifth-rounder to draft cornerback Zyon McCollum and used the seventh-rounder in a package to trade up into the sixth round and nab tight end Ko Kieft.

Without compensatory picks, the Buccaneers' fifth and sixth-round picks would be numbers 147 and 179, respectively. You can estimate about six or seven compensatory picks before the fifth round, so it will be more like 154. If there are 10 more comp picks after the fifth round, that would put the Bucs' sixth-rounder around 196. The Buccaneers also picked up the Colts' sixth-rounder in the Grant Stuard trade and that is the fourth pick of the round, or around number 181.

The Buccaneers do not have their own seventh-rounder, as that was also part of the Stuard trade. However, the last piece of the 2020 midseason trade for Steve McLendon is the Jets seventh-round pick going to the Bucs. That will be around number 232.

What does offseason look like for the players?

- @bucsfan121

Right now is a time for them to rest, recharge, get healthy, reconnect with friends and family and spend time on off-the-field pursuits. Players who are receiving treatment for injuries from the season still come into the AdventHealth Training Center for that but otherwise the players don't have to come back until the start of the voluntary offseason program, if they choose to take part in it. On Tuesday and Wednesday, the players all had individual "exit meetings" with Head Coach Todd Bowles and, either before or after that, took some time to clean out their lockers. Players actually use large plastic trash bags for that chore, lugging them out to their cars like Santa Claus.

As for football, Bowles and his crew have not finalized an official calendar for the offseason program yet, but they are generally pretty much the same each year. In 2022, the Bucs started that program on April 11; they were allowed to start one week earlier than most teams because they had a new head coach. That program concluded on June 9 at the end of a three-day mandatory mini-camp.

The 10-week program works its way through three phases, gradually ramping up what teams are allowed to have players do on the field and how long they can be in the building. It starts with strength and conditioning work exclusively. Later assistant coaches can join the players on the field and conduct individual position drills. Eventually, when OTAs began, teams can start running more structured practices, with offense going against defense and so on. At no point in the program is intentional contact allowed.

Once the final mini-camp practice is over, players are on their own again. There are usually six to seven weeks between that and the start of training camp, and this is one last chance for players (and coaches) to get away from football and relax. Then training camp opens, and the whole season cycle starts over again. I can tell you from experience (not on-field experience, of course), that it seems like the offseason goes by faster and faster every year.

What will the biggest change be next season, that you can predict?

- @geeta_s

Team Reporter Casey Phillips and I were talking about this after a shoot Thursday morning and she pointed out that every single question like this is going to have to be run through the lens of whether or not Tom Brady is back. How will the Bucs approach free agency? Could depend on if Tom Brady is still around or not. How will the Bucs' own free agents view a return to the team? Some of them may be swayed by Brady's presence or the lack thereof. What will the Bucs do in the draft? Well, will they have an answer at quarterback by then? Et cetera.

So let me start there. If Brady elects to retire or use free agency to find another NFL home, then the biggest change for the Buccaneers will be under center. Brady has started all 57 of Tampa Bay's games since his arrival, playoffs included, and even if there were some ups-and-downs for the Bucs' passing attack in 2022 the overall results of that three-year period were a rousing success. From 2020-22, Tampa Bay finished second in the NFL in passing yards (14,905), tied for third in touchdown passes (111) and third in completions of 25 yards or more (110). Without Brady, will the Bucs be able to replicate that success, or will they even try to structure their offense the same way? What if the Buccaneers end up with a different sort of quarterback, such as one who has plus mobility? The offense could look a lot different without Brady in 2022. Or, it could still be led by Tom Brady, which I'm sure would make a lot of Bucs fans (myself included) happy.

So let's set aside the Brady question for a second and answer this as if that decision wasn't hanging over everything else. We're actually not going to stray far from the same topic, though, because it's a guarantee the Buccaneers' offense will look different in 2023. That's because there will be a new person calling the plays.

One of the worst parts of working in the NFL is seeing coaches lose their jobs. The Buccaneers have had a lot of stability for the past four seasons, but staff changes are eventually inevitable and Head Coach Todd Bowles made what he called some "very difficult decisions" on Thursday. As noted above, that included parting ways with Offensive Coordinator Byron Leftwich.

Leftwich was the play-caller for the offense that produced all those numbers I mentioned above, and after the Bucs' outsized offensive success in the 2020 and 2021 seasons he was receiving some attention as a head coaching candidate. Bowles thanked Leftwich and the other departing assistants for all "the hard work and contributions that all of these coaches made to our successes over the past four seasons," and those were well-earned kudos. Leftwich and most of the others will be departing with a Super Bowl Championship ring.

But one way or another the Buccaneers will have a new play-caller in 2023, along with some new position coaches on offense. A team doesn't move on from one play-caller to another one for the purpose of running the exact same offense. Until we find out who the new offensive coordinator will be, we can't take much of a guess as to what the offense will look like. But it will be different, and probably the biggest difference between 2022 and 2023, Brady's future not withstanding.

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