The Misery Index: Buccaneers
Let’s face it, being a fan of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers has never been easy or even all that fun. The organization didn’t have a win until week 13 of the 1977 NFL season, their second season in the league. They started 1-26, the worst record the league had ever seen. The laughingstock of football in their creamsicle uniforms with a pirate more laughed at than feared on their white helmets.
In a span of 45 seasons in the National Football League the Bucs have had just 13 winning seasons. They have participated in the postseason just 10 times and only winning three playoff games outside of the 2002 season which ended in a win in Super Bowl XXXVII.
The Bucs’ most recent berth, a wild card exit at home against the eventual Super Bowl Champion New York Giants was in 2007, and this is just some of the on-field misery of the Bucs.
Off the field, most notably in the draft, the Bucs have missed on player after player who they pushed as the face of the franchise and the man who would ‘right the ship’ (not the one in the North End Zone at Raymond James Stadium). In 1986 the Bucs used the first overall draft pick on Bo Jackson who famously said he would never play for the Buccaneers and opted to play baseball instead. Buccaneer fans who had watched Steve Young flop in Tampa Bay had to watch him emerge as Joe Montana’s replacement in San Francisco and win Super Bowl XXIX.
The most recent major disappointment in Tampa was the 2015 number one overall draft pick, Jameis Winston. ‘Famous Jameis’ won a national championship at Florida State University in 2013 and was going to be the one to turn the franchise around. The Bucs were finally going to win again. But the only thing turning was Winston the ball over to the opposing team. With 78 interceptions and 22 fumbles in five years the Buc,s had just one winning season at 9-7. The fell just short of the wild card spot. With so many losing seasons, coaching changes and ugly games being a fan of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers has never been easy.
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Change on The Horizon:
For Buccaneer fans this offseason already feels different. Season tickets for the Bucs home games have a waiting list in the thousands for the first time during the Bucs tenure at Raymond James Stadium. And, it’s all due to one name: Shaq Barrett. Okay, I’m kidding but the Bucs re-signing the 2019 NFL sack leader is big news that got lost in the shuffle of one of the biggest free-agent signings in the history of sports. The GOAT, the best to ever do it, the hardest working, most competitive quarterback of all time with the most Super Bowl wins of any player in football (six). Tom Brady.
With targets like 1,000-yard wide receivers Mike Evans (1,157 yds, 8 TDs) and Chris Godwin (1,333 yds, 9 TDs) it was an enticing destination. Add in tight ends O.J. Howard and Cam Brate, and running back Ronald Jones II and it’s no wonder Brady wanted to chase his favorite ring (“The next one”) in Tampa, home of Super Bowl 55.
Head coach Bruce Arians has worked with some of the best quarterbacks in league history. Names like Peyton Manning, Ben Roethlisberger, Carson Palmer, and Andrew Luck immediately jump out. Now he will get to run an offense centered around the greatest quarterback to ever do it. If that offense isn’t enough to make you wish the season started today the defense just might get you there.
As mentioned before, NFL sack leader Shaquille (Sack) Barrett is returning behind Jason Pierre-Paul, Vita Vea, and the improving Bucs defense. Opposite Barrett will be second-year stud Devin White and future Hall of Fame linebacker Lavonte David. A promising group of young defensive backs featuring Jamal Dean, Sean Murphy-Bunting and MJ Stewart will gain another year of experience. Without the disadvantage of defending a short field off of the 30 interceptions thrown last season, the defense is instantly improved.
This roster looks stacked and we haven’t even gotten to draft day yet. So yes, despite all the years of misery, falling short and low expectations there is hope for the 2020 season and beyond in Tampa. The white sails in the North End Zone are waiting to be unfurled. The cannons ready to fire and the fans ready to rock Ray Jay on gameday.
Hopefully, Buccaneer’s radio announcer Gene Deckerhoff is saving that golden voice because I have a feeling, he’ll be calling a lot of Buccaneer touchdowns this year, and as he says “Fire Them Cannons.”