Following a disastrous 2017 season in which they lost 11 games, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are receiving harsh criticism from one of the franchise’s most beloved personalities. Pro Football Hall of Famer Warren Sapp called out the team’s defense, referring to it as “absolutely disgraceful.”
The brash defensive tackle knows a thing or two about good defense given that he led Tamps Bay on that side of the ball for nine seasons. His tenure included a victory in the 2002 Super Bowl.
He most certainly has a right to be disgusted given that the Bucs were dead last in the NFL with just 22 sacks. Sapp himself notched 16.5 sacks during the 2000 season. In 2017, no member of Tampa Bay’s weak pass rush had more than 2.5 sacks.
Overall, the Bucs were at the bottom of the basement in the NFL in numerous defensive categories. For example, they allowed offenses the most total yards and most passing yards in the entire league.
Sapp’s frustration probably results from the fact that Tamps Bay’s offense, led by quarterback Jameis Winston, was actually quite good. Overall, the Bucs finished in the top 10 in the NFL in terms of offensive yards gained, and fourth overall with respect to passing yards.
The Buccaneers probably could have been a playoff contender if their defense had been even just average. Instead, Tampa Bay players had to stay at home and watch all of its NFC South rivals play in the postseason on television. The New Orleans Saints, the Carolina Panthers, and the Atlanta Falcons all made it to the playoffs.
As recently as 2015, Tampa Bay had a strong defensive identity. Despite not making the playoffs at that time either, the team at least had a defensive unit that ranked in the top 10 in terms of yards allowed.
Having drafted Winston first overall in 2015, expectations for the Bucs have been raised with each season that passes with him under center. While he has yet to live up to his promise, it is still early in his career, and he has shown some flashes of offensive greatness.
However, as Sapp’s harsh words suggest, a pathetic defensive can most certainly stymie a team’s success, regardless of how well the offense performs.