As usual, Bucs fans entered into this 2016-17 season with eagerness, excitement and hope. Eagerness to see how this “more aggressive defense” would look under Coach Smith. Excitement to see the already successful offense in it’s second year under Coach Koetter. And hope that this team would FINALLY turn the corner towards becoming a consistent winner. I think it’s safe to say that all of the high expectations that any of us had for this team have been destroyed after losing their fourth straight home game of the season in a 43-28 rout by the Atlanta Falcons.
I’m not going to sugarcoat it, people…this team SUCKS! I’ve tried to stay optimistic during this first half of the season. Even after the embarrassing 40-7 loss to a struggling Cardinals team in Arizona. Even after losing to a not so good Rams team here at home. Even after getting dismantled by a decent Denver Broncos team here at home. I continued to be “optimistic” and “positive” and believe in this team.
Then came the Oakland Raiders game. The game where the offense could not move the ball against one of the worst defenses in the league. The game where the defense gave up over 600 yards of offense to third year quarterback Derek Carr. The game that went into overtime because of a boneheaded defensive holding penalty that had absolutely no effect on the outcome of the play on the other side of the field. The game where the defense played nearly two full games worth of snaps because of the inability of the offense to sustain any type of drive or rhythm. Even after that game, I still had to give them the benefit of the doubt…UNTIL last night.
The Falcons game was an eye opener for me. I don’t want to hear how Atlanta has the #1 offense in the league. I don’t want to hear how “tired” the defense still was after the Oakland game. I don’t want to hear about the quick turnaround after an overtime game. I don’t want to hear about how good Julio Jones is and how he’s “too tough for a rookie to cover one on one”. I don’t even want to hear about ridiculous list of injured players that plagues the Buccaneers roster. Those are all EXCUSES…and professional athletes and coaches don’t get to make excuses. They don’t get to blame the refs or the crowd or the field or the schedule or ANYTHING ELSE for that matter. They’re professionals. They get paid absurd amounts of money to be better at a sport than 99% of the population. They get paid to play games and hopefully win them. They get paid to entertain the fans. They get paid to keep their bodies in shape year around as to prevent injuries during the season. The one thing that they don’t get paid to do is make excuses!
Look here, I’m as die hard as you’ll find when it comes to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers…but I’m also a realist. I’m not a pessimist or an optimist. I thought that I could see the potential in this team and I’m still looking very hard to find it. But right now, this is not a very good football team. In fact, they suck! The second year offense is offensive. Yes, the backfield and receiving corps has been dismantled by injuries, but as I stated before that’s no excuse. And it’s not just the running game that’s suffered. Jameis Winston has been wildly inaccurate this season so far. He’s missing wide open windows, overthrowing receivers, throwing behind receivers…making rookie mistakes. Only he’s not a rookie anymore, he’s a second year starter in his second full season of the offense. He’ll be the first to say he needs to be better!
And the defense…OH BOY, the defense. Coach Smith said at the beginning of the season that he thought it would take these players four games to “get this defense down”. Here they are in games 7 and 8 of the season, giving up over 1,000 yards of offense and 73 points in the two home games. This defense that was supposed to be “easy for them to learn but hard for opposing QB’s to figure out” is getting shredded by those “confused” opposing QB’s. The combination of a lackluster pass rush and no decent safety help over the top is a recipe for disaster. Yes, the d-line has had injury issues as well…but guess what, IT’S NOT AN EXCUSE!
The third phase of the team is special teams, which hasn’t been so special. With the exception of the Bryan Anger, the punter (who just may be the MVP of the team so far this season!), special teams has been a disappointment. We knew coming into this season that the returner job was up for grabs. And the kicker…HOLY SHNIKES, the kicker! The college “phenom” that cost Jason Licht not only the second round pick but a fourth rounder as well, has been consistently inconsistent. After his stellar college career, nobody thought that he would come to Tampa and become known as Roberto “Ya Never Know” Aguayo. Every time he jogs out on to the field for a field goal or even an extra point, the entire crown crosses their fingers, bows their heads, rubs their rabbit’s foot or closes their eyes.
When healthy, their starting 22 players are as talented as any roster in the NFL. The problem is that half of those starting 22 players are still injured or have been injured at some point this season, leaving the Bucs playing the “next man up” game. By no means am I saying it’s an excuse. I’m a firm believer in that “next man up” mentality. If you’re an NFL player, then you’re a professional. If you’re a professional, then you’re getting paid to play. If you’re getting paid to play, then do the job you’re getting paid to do. If you do your job, then the team gets the job done. It seems like an easy concept…but apparently it’s not.
I’ve droned on and on in previous articles about “the 12th man” and how we need to help the team win games by being louder in RayJay and about how hard it is to be a true Bucs fan after so many disappointing seasons. The time for positivity is over. It’s time to be real. No more sugarcoating. No more optimistic outlooks. No more “being patient”. No more, no more, no more! I know that it’s only midway through the season, but it’s not looking good. This team has shown NO SIGNS of life. No sense of urgency. Nothing. As a matter of fact, they’ve gotten worse since Week 1.
The injuries continue to mount. Their injured players are getting injured. I don’t even know how that happens! The free agent guard J.R. Sweezy sustained some kind of mysterious “back injury” after signing his big free agent contract and still hasn’t recovered. Doug Martin has had a hamstring injury for like 6 weeks, so one can only assume that he either tore it or it completely fell out of his leg. Louis Murphy has been rehabbing his knee injury for a year and a half. Vincent Jackson went out on I.R. for a knee injury that doesn’t even require surgery. What gives??? I’m not saying that these players have a choice to play or not, but what is going on at One Buc? Is it a strength and conditioning issue? I realize that injuries are a part of the game, despite how much the NFL has tried to pussify it, but come on. Enough is enough! Anyway, injuries aren’t an excuse so allow me to get back on topic.
It’s time for Bucs fans to face reality. This is not a good football team. In fact, this is a historically bad football team. This franchise only had two winning seasons from 1976-1996, including an 0-26 stretch to start off the first two seasons. We did have a few successful years between the 1997-2001 seasons when they finished .500 or better in each year, but then it was right back to the cellar again from 2003-2015 when they only had four winning records. Their last winning season was in 2010, when they finished 10-6, however they were still only 4-4 at home. The home record is where it really gets depressing. Since 2009, they are 18-40 in Raymond James Stadium. That’s a disgraceful 45% winning percentage at home! The best home record in that time frame was 4-4 in the 2010 and 2013 seasons. And it includes an 0-8 record in 2014, which they’re half way to this season with an 0-4 record so far.
So, why should we be surprised when we’re walking out of RayJay with a loss and Raiders fans yelling in our face? Why should we be shocked when Atlanta fans are chanting F-A-L-C-O-N-S as we walk through the tunnels towards the exits? The answer is, we shouldn’t. This team has had 11 winning seasons in it’s 41 year existence. That’s 30 years of losing football that we’ve endured as Bucs fans. Yes, we have one Lombardi trophy which is more than some teams. But that doesn’t negate the fact that they’re the losingest (Yes, I know it’s not a word) franchise in NFL history! They suck, always have and from the looks of things, probably always will. It doesn’t matter who’s coaching. It doesn’t matter what offense they run. It doesn’t matter what defensive scheme they use. It doesn’t matter who’s playing quarterback. It doesn’t matter what free agents are brought in. It doesn’t matter how good a draft we think they have. Nothing EVER matters! I’m convinced that this team is cursed…believe it or don’t believe it.
The cold, hard truth is this…this “team” isn’t very good. They might even be bad. I don’t expect them to win another game this year. They have a very tough road ahead with remaining home games against the Bears, Seahawks, Saints and Panthers. They go on the road to play the Chiefs, Chargers and Saints. Unless some kind of drastic change occurs in that locker room and/or on the field, I’m not sure any of these games are winnable. Again, I’m not being “Doctor Doom-n-Gloom” here…I’m being realistic. This team has so many more problems other than injuries right now. The offense isn’t clicking. The defense isn’t sticking. The kicker isn’t kicking. Do not be surprised if they finish 3-13 this year. They’re that bad right now. Now don’t tell me I’m some kind of “fair weather fan”. I’m pewter and red til I’m cold and dead! And I’m not saying fire this coach or start this QB or anything of the sort. Quite the contrary, this team needs some stability.
All that we can do as fans is continue supporting and cheering on our Yuccaneers team and hope that this curse is eventually lifted. We’ll continue getting depressed at the end of every season and excited for the beginning of the next one. We’ll get hyped for free agency and work ourselves into a frenzy for the draft. We’ll get our hopes up to start the year, only to have them crushed by midseason when the chances to make the playoffs all but disappear. The endless cycle of being a Tampa Bay Buccaneers fan will continue on it’s rollercoaster like ways…and I’m sure that anyone who actually cares enough to actually read this entire article will be right there for the whole ride! GO BUCS!!!
This article was written less than 12 hours after the Falcons game, so the opinions of the author may have been influenced greatly by an overreaction to that terrible game. The author is currently in a fragile emotional state and reserves the right to claim “temporary insanity” should this team actually start playing decent football and winning games.