Pardon the skepticism, but Buccaneers fans have been here before; so they want to know if its worth the heartache and heartbreak to invest all the way in once again. Bucs fans were burned only last year, when it appeared Lovie Smith had actually gotten the Bucs to turn the corner.
2015: Last year the Bucs were 3-5 at the midway point too, and the 2015 Bucs did what our 2016 Bucs did; Win two in a row over good competition (we thought) beating Dallas 10-6 and in Philadelphia taking down the Eagles 45-17 in an impressive win that had the national media talking about the BUCS! But they lost the next game 25-12 in Indianapolis when Bucs led 12-6 at the half (Connor Barth missed the extra point, for those who wanted Bucs to go back to Barth, and wondered why they didn’t). But then, in an emotional game that featured an amazing Jameis Winston play, the Bucs swept the Atlanta Falcons to even their record at 6-6.
Where did they fail? – The 2015 Bucs LOST the game after pulling to 5-5. Our 2016 Bucs Won it, over the Seahawks, and at 6-5 have an advantage on the playoff field by being a strong away team. Last years Bucs were 3-1 in the division after beating the Falcons (finished 3-3, currently 2-1), and 5-3 conference record to boot (same as today, but fell to 5-7). But the Bucs lost 4 games in a row when their offense and defense couldnt get on the same page, usually a result of a lack of talent. Key incompletions on offense, unable to get off the field on key 3rd downs.
THE VERDICT? NOT READY FOR PRIMETIME- Lacking Depth Talent, lacking Playing Talent. 3 Head Coaches in 5 years were too much of a drain on the talent pool.
Fast Forward to now, and 4 coaches in 6 years is still the reason this team had trouble against the Raiders and Falcons after showing promise against the Panthers and 49ers. But because Koetter was hired instead of a new face, Offensive and Defensive players were retained, and no further loss of talent happened. In fact, the level of talent is increasing, mostly because Bucs GM Jason Licht does not spend an eternity trying to prove on of his picks is a good one. After missing on Michael and George Johnson in 2014 and 2015, he went at it again, this time drafting Noah Spence. Compressing what some GMs would do in 7 years, the Bucs are ahead of the game because the GM is not afraid to say..”I was wrong”.
2012 – First year for new Head Coach Greg Schiano who slaughtered the roster (which is why firing coaches over and over is a bad thing), taught his defense to break a 100 year unwritten rule about playing live defense on kneel downs,dsds but the defense responded a litte and Josh Freeman had new weapon Vincent Jackson. The O line was a beast, and rookie Doug Martin was amazing. After starting 1-0, Bucs sunk to 1-3, 2-4, then climbed to 6-4. “So this is what an experienced coach is like?”…
WHERE DID THEY FAIL?- Josh Freeman was not a HE-MAN QB, he was a soft kid with a lot of talent, and that talent was all he needed to rely on. Most of the Bucs liked Freeman because he was a nice guy, friendly, the last guy on the team you would call an jerk. Problem? Greg Schiano felt his QB needed to be a jerk to get respect from the team. Josh Freeman would never be the same..
1996- The REAL TURNAROUND- Listen to this staff of assistant coaches Tony Dungy brought to Tampa Bay; Defensive Coordinator Monte Kiffin, Def Line coach Rod Marineli, Linebackers coach Lovie Smith, Secondary Coach Herm Edwards, Offensive Coordinator Mike Shula, TE coach Clyde Christensen, a virtual Who’s Who of future Head Coaches. Yet It took a Bucs team made up of future hall of famers Derrick Brooks, Warren Sapp, future Pro Bowlers John Lynch, Donnie Abraham, and Hardy Nickerson 5 games to learn the “Tampa 2” defense as it was being taught to them that year.
Coach Tony Dungy, another Hall of famer, thought he would take over the Bucs and turn the loser Bucs into winners almost immediately, and fans would come to Tampa Stadium and fill up the corners and cheer the team like it did in the Orange HeyDays of the 70s/early 80s. Opening day, Bucs were hosting the Packers in a close game, were down 10-3 and driving. One interception and one completion by Brett Favre later, it was 17-3, soon to be 34-3 and Dungy would learn what opening day in Tampa was like for the last 14 years.
But after 5 games, the Bucs defense started to limit opponents to 13 points a game. Problem is Bucs scored 9, 7, and 10 points themselves; that wont beat 13 points! Now you know why Lovie Smith drafted all offense first two years!
WHERE DID THEY FAIL? – They didn’t! They became Super Bowl Champs, the losing Buccaneers of the 70s and 80s, as the defense got better and better and offense…got out of the defense way. Bucs started 1996 0-5 and 1-8 while the Bucs today started 1-3, then 3-3, 3-5, now 6 and 5 after 3 wins in a row.
So have the Bucs turned it around? Or will 6-5 Turn into 6-10, 7-9? Did anyone notice the Bucs are one win away from the 7-9 record everything thought they would have!
OTHER TURNAROUNDS, REAL AND FALSE
2010– HC Raheem Morris called it a Race to 10- a Race to 10 wins. Warren Sapp on NFL Network called it a race to 6! Amazingly, starting 2-0, behind the running of Legarrette Blount, Passing of 2nd year QB Josh Freeman, Catching of rookie WR Mike Williams taking load off of TE Kellen Winslow Jr. The Defense was serviceable, getting rushes to the QB when it could, when not, the secondary had Aqib Talib and Tanard Jackson.
WHERE IT WENT WRONG– Didn’t really in 2010, the Bucs were 8-5 playing the upstart Detroit Lions coming out of the hibernation of the 90s and 2000s, and a TD pass to Kellen Winslow was called pass interference on K2 mostly based on his reputation. It was not pass interference. You Decide…
Bucs did not recover. They Smeared the Seahawks in the beginning of their current dynasty, and beat the Saints at the Superdome. But the Bucs lost out in tiebreakers, and Green Bay took the wild card spot…and took it to the Super Bowl. There is no telling where the Bucs would have gone in that 2010 playoffs with their powerful running game and Cadillac Williams to offset, Williams, Benn, K2, Young Connor Barth nailing 50+ yard FGs…the next year after starting 4-2 Bucs young team crashed in on itself.
1979- The ultimate WORST TO FIRST season…Tampa Bay was known as the team that was 0-26, a laughing stock of
a team. But Head Coach John McKay wasn’t concerned with offense like sister franchise Seattle was. The Bucs were putting together the college 3-4 defense of USC, which cracked up NFL fans even more. Bad enough McKay was bringing a college offense to the NFL in the i Formation, but defense too? By 1978 it was no joke as the Bucs had the #4 ranked defense. McKay accumulated many players from his USC days, David Lewis, Richard “Batman” Wood, but 1978 brought two key players; Doug Williams QB and TE Jimmy Giles. They came to the Bucs courtesy of a trade for Houston Oilers, who wanted the no.1 pick, Earl Campbell. The Bucs had Ricky Bell, didn’t need ANOTHER RB. These two added a new dimension to the Bucs offense, a chance to hit a big yardage play any time. The Bucs #1 defense shocked the NFL by going 5-0 to start the season, and 10-6 and Central Division Champs.
WHERE DID IT GO WRONG? – For a few years, it didn’t! 1980 was bad..the NFL was converting to a passing league like it is now from the Run Run Pass offense. McKay and DB coach Wayne Fontes adjusted their defense, and drafted a linebacker fast enough to cover a tight end, Hugh Green. In 1981 Bucs allowed the fewest TB passes, and in strike shortened 1982, Bucs started out 0-3 but won 5 of 6 to finish 5-4 and in the playoffs for the 3rd year in 4. But ownership allowed Doug Williams to leave to the USFL. Williams felt the Bucs ownership was racist, and wanted to be paid like a top QB. Perhaps Williams wanted a bit too much, but he was a franchise QB that the team would search for the next 30 years to replace. The Bucs would spend the next 14 years as an orange joke which they once were, never to wear the Orange uniforms as a winning team except once…in 2010. They lost to Atlanta in that game.
OTHER YEARS IT LOOKED LIKE A TURN AROUND…
1987- Bucs drafted Vinny Testeverde the Heisman Trophy winner, but opened up with veteran Steve Deberg. Bucs crushed Atlanta 48-10 setting scoring record, and by week 5 were 3-2 and had a 20-0 lead on the Bears who they’d lost to 10 games in a row. Bucs lost 27-26, won the next week, but then lost the rest of their games to resume their losing ways.
1989- It was almost a sure thing! Bucs finished 1988 with 2-1 record upsetting a Bucs opened with win on road at Green Bay, lost to Super Bowl 49ers by 4 points, then beat playoff Saints team for 2-1 record. After falling to 2-2, Bucs finally beat the Chicago Bears, winners of 12 straight games, and scored 42 points on them. Vinny Testaverde was coming into his own as an NFL QB, or so we thought. Bucs at 3-2 faced a weak Detroit team with a rookie QB and led 16-10. Bucs lost 17-16 and never recovered. After 4 losses, Bucs swept Chicago and beat the Cardinals on the road to pull to 5-7, but lost next two games by total of 4 points that could have put them at 7-7. Of course they were beaten the last two games to go 5-11. It was one of the best Bucs seasons during that 14 year stretch, almost as good as the next..
1995- Hands down the best season of the 14 year losing streak, 95 was the year the Bucs ended the Double Digit Losing
streak. Tampa Bay was at the lowest point in 1994, the team was threatening to move due to the franchise, and at 2-9 was circling the drain. Then Craig Erickson, and RB Errict Rhett went into BucMode..and won 1, 2, 3, 4 games in a row, most since 1979! Last game vs Packers was too much for Bucs, so they finished 6-10 instead of 2-14. Fans were excited about 1995. New ownership The Glazers took over the Bucs and started to spend money! Hey got Rich McKay and made him a GM. Tampa Bay Beat Philadelphia on the road to open season, and after losing next two, Bucs sealed itself a 5 dash 2 record! That is famous around here, as Head Coach Sam Wyche tried to stick it to everyone that his Bucs were 5 dash 2. Well three losses later and Bucs were 5 dash 5! A lucky game vs expansion Jaguars gave Bucs a win only went coach Tom Coughlin went for 2 after scoring a touchdown down 17-10 instead of going into overtime. Bucs held and won the game going 6-5, amazing for that era! Bucs lost next two and were 6-7 setting up SUNDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL GREEN BAY at BUCS! What a game it was, and Tampa Bay upset Brett Favre and ENDED the Double Digit Losing seasons. Bucs were in the Playoff Race. But they lost the last two games, and new owners the Glazers had plans to change Bucs uniforms and go with a new stadium and new coach; Tony Dungy.
LESSON TO BUCS FANS TOO QUICK TO FIRE COACHES.. The Bucs were competative under Sam Wyche in last year, but fired him and hired Dungy. Dungy went backwards at first, going 1-8 at one point the next year. There was NO Twitter, no Facebook, there was barely an internet! If SOCIAL MEDIA was around then, most Bucs fans would have called for Dungy to be fired! So take that as a lesson, wait out the situation and give a team a chance. Firing Dungy would have been a disaster to the franchise.