TAMPA, Fla. — Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive coordinator Todd Monken isn’t holding back his feelings on the Bucs’ red zone struggles in 2017.
“I got a chance to meet with the team and I don’t sugarcoat things very much and we absolutely chose to suck,” said Monken, now entering his third year with the team. “We made that decision as an offense to play poorly — we did.”
“We did enough things that you can’t do — you do if you’re a bad team,” Monken said. “Bad football loses before good football wins. We’re talking about quarterback/center exchanges, costly penalties, missed opportunities to put games away. But I do like the way our team finished at the end with that last five-game stretch.”
The Bucs averaged 272.9 passing yards per game — fourth-most in the league — and had the ninth-most total yards of offense (5,816). But they managed to score just 19.9 points on offense per game, which was 20th in the league. They had 53 red zone drives — eighth in the league — but their 49.1 red zone conversion percentage was ranked 24th.
The Bucs led the league last year with 26 fumbles, six of which happened in the red zone, also a league-high. Bucs receivers also had a 9-percent drop rate in the red zone, sixth-highest in the league. Their six drops in the red zone were tied for second-most.
“We have to be better in those critical areas,” Monken said. “How do we stop turning the ball over? How do we stay explosive? How do we score touchdowns in the red zone? We finished 24th in the league [in red zone scoring]. What’s interesting about that is it just would have taken five more touchdowns and then you jump from 24th to eighth because the sample size is so small.”
Quarterbacks coach Mike Bajakian doesn’t think they’re that far off.
“I can show you seven plays off of the top of my head where if we just played pitch and catch, we would have scored a touchdown,” Bajakian said. “Instead, maybe we don’t convert on third down or we take a sack and now it’s second-and-long and we end up kicking a field goal on both of those instead of scoring a touchdown. So, it doesn’t take a whole lot to improve. It’s just a matter of execution.”