Following the not so surprising loss in Green Bay, something even more disturbing was being posted on social media about this Bucs “team.” I wanted to spread the word even more because I feel that this kind of behavior is not only disheartening, but it should be unacceptable.
Despite playing like complete shit this season and winning only four games, this Buccaneers team has had a fairly good showing on the road from traveling fans. Green Bay was no different. A large group of devoted members of Bucs Nation flew up to Wisconsin to witness the debacle first hand. Before the game, a number of them, including my boss and editor of WhatTheBuc.net Derek “Old School” Fournier, were outside the stadium to welcome the team buses as they arrived at Lambeau Field. The excited group of Bucs fans were cheering and yelling their support as each player stepped off the bus, even calling each of them out by name. Sounds good so far, right? Well, here’s the discouraging part. Almost every single player walked right past the entire group without acknowledging them AT ALL.
Not a head nod. Not a wave. Not a thumbs up.
The only players that even looked in their general direction were backup QB Ryan Griffin, wide receiver Adam Humphries and guard/center Evan Smith who used to play for the Packers and only acknowledged a well known Packer fan standing amongst all of the Bucs fans there.
It was extremely disappointing to the fans there that spent their precious time and hard earned money to travel all the way up there to watch this team shit the bed once again. Those fans weren’t expecting much. They weren’t wanting autographs. They didn’t want pictures. They just wanted some type of acknowledgment. A nod or a wink saying “Hey, thanks for the support!” A wave to say “Good to see you and thanks for coming out!” Anything would’ve been better than just putting their Beats headphones on and their heads down and completely ignoring some of the most devoted fans that this franchise has. Anything!
What’s even worse is that many of those fans were members of WTB Really Matters, which works with many of these players on a regular basis supporting various local charities. Again, these fans weren’t expecting a lot from these players. Apparently, even that was asking too much.
This brings me to the original point of this article…CHANGE. This team needs it. This franchise needs it. This fan base needs it. This city needs it. And I’m not just talking a coaching change, even though that’s looking more and more inevitable. I’m talking a complete culture change. Someone needs to come in and shake things up. Someone needs to come in and adjust some attitudes. Someone needs to change the mindsets of these players. But who?
After 42 seasons, 30 of which have been losing, it seems almost acceptable and maybe even expected for this team to play bad football and lose games. Not just for the fans but for the players and coaches as well.
Week in, week out we hear the same sound bites and excuses from these guys like “We just have to be better” or “We didn’t play well enough to win” or “I have to do a better job”. I mean, why is it that we as fans take these losses harder than the players? When the Bucs lose a game, it pretty much ruins my night. The next day it’s still in the back of my mind causing my blood to boil. The whole week is spent re-watching the game pondering how and why they lost, who’s to blame and what could’ve been done differently. Finally, on Friday I’ll start getting hyped up about the next Sunday’s game and telling myself that this will be the week. This will be the week that something clicks with this team and they start playing the kind of football that we all expected them to play from Week 1 of the season. And of course, then the cycle starts all over again after yet another mind-boggling loss to a less talented team. Why do we do it to ourselves?
The team has a 24-hour rule after games. Win or lose, they have 24 hours to reflect on a game and then it’s on to the next opponent. I agree with that philosophy to an extent. After a win, yes. After a loss, no way. I want every single loss to be gut-wrenching, heartbreaking and nauseating. I want a loss to ruin these players weeks just like they do all of ours. I want these players to use every loss as fuel for the next game. I don’t want them to put it behind them. I want it to stew and eat a hole in their soul all week long. I want them to be so distraught after a loss that they can’t wait to get back on the football field to make up for the mistakes of the previous week. I just don’t see that from this team. Ever.
Yes, I realize that this is their “job” and that a “job” shouldn’t consume their lives that much. However, they’re not JUST paid to play the game. They’re paid to entertain the fans. They’re paid to put on a show. That’s not happening when they play shitty football. That’s not happening when they’re losing every week. Fans want to see their team playing hard, playing well and having fun. Fans want excitement. We want dancing during timeouts. We want touchdown celebrations. We want these players to act like kids on the field, not to actually play like kids out there.
Here’s a prime example. The week following an embarrassing loss in Atlanta where Julio Jones sodomized their secondary, a group of Bucs players were seen in Orlando watching the Magic take on the Warriors. Now, I know some of you will say “Well, these guys have lives outside of football” and I agree with you…somewhat. After a win, I have no problem at all with these guys taking a day off and catching a basketball game with the boys. After a loss, they shouldn’t even want to. They should be busy trying to figure out what they did wrong and how to fix it so that it doesn’t happen again. They should be so consumed with that feeling of losing that they don’t want it to happen again. They should be so devastated by a loss that they won’t let it happen again. Instead, it’s just brushed off. It’s laughed off. It’s forgotten about. That’s a problem. It’s THE problem.
This losing culture comes from a 256-402 all-time record (the worst in NFL history) that’s been built up over the last 42 years. In those 42 seasons, this team has played in 15 postseason games winning only six of them. It’s a culture that other teams like the Browns and Lions are all too familiar with. The Bucs are a much younger franchise than either one of those teams. There’s still time to turn things around for them and start a winning tradition. But how?
Where does it start? Who will start it?
Should this team and staff be dismantled and replaced? Should they start from scratch? Obviously, each one of these current players are a part of the problem. Can they change their mindsets? Will they? Are they willing? Or are they satisfied with playing bad and being losers since they’re still getting paid regardless of the team’s record?
It was painfully obvious how little this team cares about it’s die-hard fans last Sunday in Green Bay. If we didn’t know already, it proved once and for all that the relationship between this Buccaneers team and it’s fans is a one-way street. It’s NOT reciprocal at all. We give and give to this team with nothing in return. Actually, that’s not true. We get higher ticket prices despite the fact that the product on the field never gets better. We get higher beer prices in the stadium. Probably because they know the only way anyone can watch this team play football is to be intoxicated so they want to capitalize on the spiking alcohol sales. We get early picks in the draft every year (lotta good that’s done). And now we’re getting ignored and snubbed by our very own players on the road. Hell, I’ve seen it happen at home too as they’re arriving and departing from Raymond James.
So aggravating in fact, that some lifelong fans and season ticket holders are even considering giving up their seats. That’s what this team’s mentality has produced. That is what their attitudes have created. That’s what 10 years with no playoff appearances will do to a team and a fan base.
So what’s the answer?
Winning changes everything. Look how much fun the Eagles are having playing football this season.
So how do they start winning?
It starts with the owners. I can’t imagine that the Glazers enjoy losing. That’s why they tend to be impatient with head coaches. Next, the general manager needs to do his job and fill the roster with talent. Jason Licht seems to be doing a pretty good job of that over the last few years. The biggest obstacle seems to be coaching. Dirk Koetter and Mike Smith can’t figure out the best way to utilize all this talent. They’re not holding players responsible for lack of effort or lack of preparation. But then again, the players aren’t really taking responsibility for their lack of effort or lack of preparation either. Why should they? Like I said before, they’re still cashing game checks whether they actually earn them or not.
This team needs a movie coach like Denzel in Remember the Titans or Billy Bob Thornton in Friday Night Lights. A coach that demands perfection from his players. A coach that commands respect from his players. A coach that’s not afraid to discipline his players when they don’t do their jobs. Is that coach Jon Gruden? Man, I don’t know. But that guy is out there somewhere and the Bucs need to find him…quick. This franchise has got to change it’s ways before it does irreparable damage to its fan base. If it hasn’t done it already. This franchise needs to start appreciating the fans that do stick around through all this shitty football instead of jumping ship. They need to start showing their fans the same love and respect that we show them. The ultimate way to do that is to start playing FOR us fans. Start winning FOR us fans. Until then, a little acknowledgment would work too. Let us know that our undying love and neverending support is appreciated. A nod. A wave. A wink. A thumbs up. An autograph. A picture. A minute of your time. Anything. Just a small sign that you see us. That you recognize the sacrifices that we make daily and the ridicule that we endure year around for being a true Bucs fan. That’s all we ask. That’s all we need. Well, that and a winning football team. Hopefully, those winning ways are just around the corner. Hopefully, that culture change will come soon.
Until then, as always…GO BUCS!!!