Regardless of what happens between now and next Sunday when Bucs host the Panthers, The last 11 weeks of Tampa Bay Buccaneers football has returned us to the days of relevance. During this holiday season, the Bucs have given us something to be thankful for, and lots to look forward to for next year.
Every consistently good football team begins by showing a pattern of improvement over a couple seasons. Lets all remember this Bucs football franchise won only two games just two years ago. Just 2014, we were this years San Francisco 49ers, or the Cleveland Browns. Last year the Bucs won 6 games, including winning 3 of 4 to go 5-5, and pulled to 6-6, but it wasn’t enough improvement to save the Bucs coach his job, yet it created that job for Bucs OC Dirk Koetter who has improved through leaps and bounds since taking over this year.
Unlike last season, the Bucs in 2016 built on the improvements of last year with a little more depth that helped the team get through rough injury spots. With another year of service, last years rookie crop has taken over the hearts of Bucs fans.
Jameis Winston has had a couple of rough games, but lets not forget Jameis is supposed to be graduating with this Florida State classmates at the age of 22. Instead he’s tied the franchise record for Most TDs with 25, and still one game left. Bucs fans have forgotten the good when they feel the frustration of an interception or an over thrown pass, but consider this: how many NFL teams would LOVE a chance to win a 9th game…and the ones who can’t; would trade anything for Jameis Winston.
If your one of the people who think he’s the problem, you havn’t followed the team for very long, because I promise you, it’s never been better in the last 34 years. The Bucs have been trying to find a franchise QB since they let Doug Williams go in 1982.
This is a Bucs team that has given us one lopsided loss in the last 3 months, when thats been the norm for the last several years. Sure the Bucs and us fans can look back at several games and point to where we could have that 9th win already, but for every problem you find, a solution has been presented this season or is on the horizon.
Long term success in the NFL doesnt come out of nowhere. Yes some teams will have winning records a season after a 10 loss one, but it probably wasn’t very far back in time that team was winning last. There is more than just progress being made here, this Bucs team has arrived.
The Bucs have a two game losing streak in which it has lost two games by a total of 13 points. But unlike the 5 game winning streak where the defense was holding teams to 10, 17, 5, 21 and 11 points. The Cowboys scored 26 and the Saints 31, but the biggest difference was not just the defense, Jameis Winston did not turn the ball over.
No one will be harder on himself than Jameis. Next year we get the beginning of the best years for a Quarterback; in his third year in Koetter’s offensive system, the knowledge will be there. The question is, will better players?
Keep in mind, Cameron Brate broke the Bucs all time record to Touchdowns by a Tight End, beating Jimmy Giles. Next week Jameis will take the number 1 TD spot from Josh Freeman’s 2012 season. Mike Evans is an elite Wide Reciever and we’ve learned that Jameis can throw the ball around to more than just no. 13. But he needs a legit NO.2 WR to replace Vincent Jackson.
This week coach Koetter benched Doug Martin who has been ineffective running the ball. Jacquiz Rodgers ran the ball harder and more effective that Martin has, and the passing game opened up when the Saints had to respect the run.
The Bucs have not been eliminated from the playoff race, but its hopes are on life support and depend on so many other factors now. Even still the Bucs have learned what its like to be in a playoff race, and this experience will be valuable for the years to come; like next year.
Its no longer a dirty phrase around here!