Expectations of a killer defense were on the rise after the hiring of an experienced, well known Defensive Minded Head Coach. Even the coach expected things to go a little smoother than they did. I’m talking about Tony Dungy in 1996, who brought his experience to a franchise with 13 straight losing seasons.
It would be 14 before the Bucs made a difference, because it takes players time to learn new systems, something Bucs fans in 2014 may have to learn the hard way.
Gerald McCoy said it at camp on Sunday, that fans are expecting greatness to return immediately now that the “Tampa” in “Tampa Two” is back. But while these Bucs may not be as green to the system as the Bucs were in 1996, the concept of time is still the same.
Dungy’s message to the team was the same as Lovie Smith’s, teaching with coaches, instructing on fundamentals, practicing doing all the right things the right way. In week 1, after a full camp and offseason and preseason of preaching “no excuses, no explanations”, Tampa Bay went out and faced the Green Bay Packers in week one at home.
The team was excited and ready to play, feeling they were better than any Bucs team in years, both fundamentally, Physically, and emotionally. It was a span of 72 seconds that killed the Bucs in their opener.
Mental meltdowns were in full effect; Instead of forcing the Packers to settle for a 13-3 lead on Chris Jacke’s FG with 1:51 left before halftime, rookie Regan Upshaw was called for defensive holding on the kick and gave Brett Favre another bullet in his gun. On the next play he fired a strike to Tight End Kieth Jackson for a TD and 17-3 lead.
The Bucs were unable to run out the clock, and gave the Packers back the ball at midfield with 49 seconds left. Favre would need only one play. A miscommunication between safeties Melvin Johnson and Todd Scott resulted in Jackson running free down the middle of the field, and Favre delivered a 51 yard pass for TD and 24-3 Packer HT lead.
The Packers would end up being SuperBowl champions, on the way off the field meanwhile, Tony Dungy would turn to DB Coach Herman Edwards and say “This may take longer than we thought”…something Bucs fans in 2014 may want to consider before raising expectations too high for the coming season.