TAMPA — You have no doubt heard it said a million times. The NFL has become a quarterback-driven league. Well, that might be so, but it’s turnovers that determine whether the driver takes his team where it wants to go.
Ask any coach in the NFL and he’ll tell you the best way to win a game is to win the turnover battle. But after last season, Buccaneers fans might have a hard time believing that adage.
The Bucs did an exceptional job of taking the ball away and securing it last year, either winning or drawing even in the turnover battle in 13 of their 16 games despite playing 13 of them with a rookie quarterback.
In fact, the Bucs were one of only seven teams to produce a plus-10 or better turnover ratio (they were plus-10), yet were the only one of those seven to finish with a losing record and miss the playoffs.
The reason, it seems, is quite simple. The Bucs struggled to capitalize on their takeaways.
Of those seven top takeaway teams — Seattle, Kansas City, Indianapolis, Philadelphia, San Francisco and Carolina were the others — only the Colts (79) scored fewer points off its takeaways than the Bucs (84).
And it’s not like the Bucs didn’t have a lot of opportunities. They were one of only nine teams to take the ball away at least 30 times (31), yet scored a touchdown after only 29 percent of those takeaways.
Only six teams had a lowe percentage of touchdowns scored following takeaways in 2013 and only seven teams averaged fewer than the 2.71 points after takeaways the Bucs did.
No wonder they were 4-12.
You make the call
Bucs offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford has never called a play in the NFL and it has been more than a year since he last called a play in college, where he sometimes gave up the duties to concentrate on other areas.
Still, Tedford is not apprehensive about taking on what might be the most important job facing any new member of coach Lovie Smith’s staff. He admits, though, that calling plays late in NFL games will provide a new challenge.
“As I’m watching a lot of the games in the NFL, a lot of it comes down to the last four minutes, two minutes,’’ Tedford said. “(There are) a lot of tight games, so clock management is a little bit different.
“But besides that, football is football. There are 11 guys on both sides and a lot of the same coverages and so on and so forth, but there are some minor rule differences that you have to make sure you’re on top of.
“But I’ve got a rule book on my desk and I’ve been reading through that to make sure I’ve got those covered. As for the play-calling – I’ve called plays my whole life. I don’t really have any apprehension about that whatsoever.”
Change of heart
The thought of taking a year or so off crossed Leslie Frazier’s mind shortly after he was fired as coach of the Vikings last month, but it was a fleeting one.
“Yes, I thought about it briefly, very briefly,’’ Frazier, the Bucs’ new defensive coordinator, said of getting away from the game for a bit. “But then Lovie called and it seemed like a great opportunity to work with him and to come to Tampa.
“I’ve always admired this organization form a distance and thought there were a lot of pluses here. So, it didn’t take me long to say, ‘You know what, I want to keep coaching, as opposed to taking a season off.’”