TAMPA, Fla. -- The season is 12 games old and one thing is very clear about the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' offense.
It still doesn't have an identity.
"That's what the tape says," quarterback Josh McCown said Wednesday. "That's what our season says. We're not there yet. I'd like to say that we are. But you just look at the tape. We're close and we feel that way but we certainly have not accomplished that."
Are they a running team? Are they a passing team? It's hard to tell from what has transpired this season.
The Bucs rank 29th in rushing offense and 18th in passing offense. They haven't done much well and they certainly haven't been consistent enough to even come close to establishing an identity.
That's not what coach Lovie Smith envisioned when he was out of football and sitting in his basement last year. Part of that time was spent meeting with Jeff Tedford and formulating an offensive plan. Smith was so impressed with Tedford's ideas that he hired the former University of California head coach as his offensive coordinator.
All throughout the offseason, we kept hearing how Tedford's offense was going to be up-tempo and innovative. In reality, it never has come close in either department.
There might be a reason for that that a lot of people are forgetting. Tedford left the team during the preseason to have a heart procedure. At first, it appeared as if Tedford would return quickly. But he hasn't returned at all. Tedford ended up taking a leave of absence.
"Given the circumstances and things that we've gone through and trying to put it together the best we can, I'm proud of the effort the coaches have put in and the guys to try to find that," McCown said. "It's certainly an unfortunate situation. That being said, we've still got to keep chasing that and finding out who we are and [finding] that balance."
I don't think you can take the impact of Tedford's absence lightly. He had his own playbook and experience calling plays. Without Tedford, the Bucs have handed 34-year-old Marcus Arroyo the play-calling duties.
Arroyo has done the best he can in a tough situation, but he isn't Tedford. With four games left, McCown wants the offense to find its identity and he has one goal in mind.
"Finish well," McCown said. "We've got a tough four games. Man, how good would we feel winning these games and playing well? And playing the type of football we've talked about all year. That's my goal. We've taken some lumps and it's been hard. But I think it has made us stronger and if we go out and finish this last quarter well and see what happens and build on that."