Tampa Bay Buccaneers Eddie Goldman Jerseys 2019 , replaced by linebackers coach Mark Duffner.Riding a three-game losing streak and not showing any signs of being able to fix a porous unit that keeps undermining the team's chances of winning, the Bucs dismissed the former Atlanta Falcons coach Monday after yielding 92 points in the first half of consecutive losses to Pittsburgh, Chicago and Atlanta.Tampa Bay, which has the NFL's second-ranked offense and No. 1 passing attack, rallied to make two of those games close, however pressure on coach Dirk Koetter to make a change had been mounting since Mitchell Trubisky threw a career-best six touchdown passes in the Bears' 48-10 rout of the Bucs on Sept. 30.The day after the loss to Chicago, Koetter said he had no intentions of dismissing Smith because the defensive woes were not the fault of any one person.The Bucs had a bye after that game, but having an extra week to prepare for Atlanta didn't turn out to be an advantage. The Falcons gained 219 yards and scored touchdowns on their first three possessions to open a 21-6 lead before holding on late for a 34-29 victory that apparently sealed Smith's fate."I have the utmost respect for Mike Smith as a man and as a football coach," Koetter said. "These decisions are always difficult, but our top priority here is to ensure that we do everything possible to help this team succeed."Through five games, the Bucs (2-3) are 31st in total defense at 439.8 yards per game. They're last in pass defense (355.6), while also allowing a league-high 34.6 points per game.Opponents have scored 30 or more points four times, including 40-plus twice."I thought it was important that both sides of the ball be able to go through the self-scouting process during the bye week to see if we could make some adjustments that would help us play better as a football team," Koetter said White Kevin White Jerseys , explaining the decision to keep Smith after the loss to Chicago."I do think we had a good plan on defense for Atlanta. We did a lot of things we planned to do. We did some things differently. It just didn't work out that way," Koetter added. "This is a production business. We have to play better on defense. We have to play better as a football team."Smith coached the Falcons from 2008 to 2014. He sat out a year after being fired in Atlanta, where Koetter served as his offensive coordinator, and joined the Bucs when Koetter succeeded Lovie Smith as Bucs coach after the 2015 season."Mike and I worked together as coordinators in Jacksonville, and I worked for Mike in Atlanta. I didn't ever see this day coming, but it's here. We have to make decisions that give us the best chance moving forward. That's all you can do," Koetter said."It's a tough business," linebacker Lavonte David said, adding Smith was a "standup guy" who "never threw anyone under the bus.""Everybody in the locker room had a lot of respect for him," David said. "It's a tough situation he was in."Duffner, 65, was the logical choice as a mid-season replacement for Smith, primarily because of his experience. He's in his 22nd season as an NFL assistant, third with the Bucs.Duffner has also coached in Miami Kevin White Jerseys 2019 , Jacksonville, Green Bay and Cincinnati, where he was defensive coordinator for two years."When you change five games into the season ... it's not like you're going through a whole lot of options," Koetter said. "Duff has been a coordinator is this league. He's the most experienced coach on our staff, period, at any position." The 2018 season was a disaster, but the philosophy and the theme of the offseason isn’t unfamiliar."The Falcons have a style and a core philosophy under Dan Quinn, one that the front office and even ownership appear to have been on board with these past few years. That philosophy, boiled down to a mash, is that you should build your football team around your stars and your drafting capabilities, free agents should be either home runs or bricks and mortar around the very edges of the roster, and that when push comes to shove you should always bet on the men you’ve assembled on your roster to do the job they need to do.This is not a philosophy that should be lightly tossed aside, as it got the Falcons a Super Bowl berth in 2016, a very good if frustrating team in 2017 that nearly went to the NFC Conference Championship White Jonathan Bullard Jerseys , and if nothing else several great players. Teams like the Patriots, Steelers, and Packers have followed a similar philosophy over the years and have much to show for it.But the 2018 season, marred as it was by injuries and sharp declines by several key veterans, showed the limitations of that approach. There will be times when you have to make deep, painful cuts to the roster and bring in outside help to affect change, and the team did not do that. Instead, they largely held on for dear life, won their final three games, and saw enough Yet the Falcons are heading into 2019 with a very clear plan that is very clearly worrisome to fans: Bet on the talent and their own people again. They’ve made no move to cut ties with Ryan Schraeder, a hellaciously expensive backup right tackle if they don’t move him or Ty Sambrailo to guard. They’ve elected to keep Vic Beasley despite a $12.8 million price tag and the small fact that Beasley is coming off the worst season of his career. And they’ve carried out this offseason in such a way that their biggest moves certainly won’t be in free agency, not with Grady Jarrett and Julio Jones demanding contractual attention. That’s not to say they didn’t make cuts—Robert Alford and Matt Bryant were big-time contributors and big names—but they seem to truly believe that keeping the bulk of the roster together and infusing more young talent into the team will be a winning strategy in 2019.That makes sense when you remember that they have Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Devonta Freeman Jonathan Bullard Jerseys 2019 , Austin Hooper, Jake Matthews, Alex Mack, Grady Jarrett (please and thank you), Deion Jones, Desmond Trufant, Keanu Neal, Ricardo Allen, and Damontae Kazee. It makes less sense when you consider that they have problem spots at guard and potentially right tackle, a dearth of proven contributors along the defensive line, an unproven starter at cornerback in Isaiah Oliver, health questions for Free, and a potentially massive downgrade from one of the most reliable kickers in the NFL to a relative unknown with upside. There are holes and challenges here that probably would be impossible to fix in a single offseason, but they are almost certainly impossible to fix if you’re relying purely on the draft to do so. None of that seems to be rattling the Falcons White Cody Whitehair Jerseys , who were only too happy to bring back Matt Schaub and whistle their way merrily through their roster cuts. This team has circled the wagons in the way a team does when their backs are against the wall and they’re bristling at the criticism and questions that come with a lousy season, as is their right and frankly probably a benefit to them. But the questions and the criticisms are borne out of a concern that this team is betting hard on its own evaluative abilities and talent when last season suggests both need to be looked at with a wary eye, not trumpeted alongside a neat and tidy narrative about injuries. The Falcons can carry on like this because Arthur Blank is not a reactionary owner, but also because they are well aware that their top-flight talent is as good as anyone else’s in the league, and the best teams in the NFL tend to be the ones who build a core and keep it. It’s a gamble, full stop. Dan Quinn and Thomas Dimitroff both could be out of jobs if things go south, and nobody wants to be sitting here a year from now with a genuine roster shakeup looming because things went poorly again in 2019. But it’s a gamble that is very much in character for this football team, with staff and players who believe in themselves in a way that can win over cynics, and it’s a gamble we very much hope pays off handsomely.
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