The Return Of Chucky?

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At the start, it looked like it was going to be a good season for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, as they won two of their first three games. Then, as it often does in recent years, the roof of reality caved in, with the Bucs losing to the Saints 30-10 for their fifth straight loss.

(Foot note: Yes, I actually watched the NFL yesterday. I went six weeks without over the whole kneeling controversy, plus week one here in Tampa Bay got wiped out by Hurricane Irma. I think it’s impossible the league didn’t notice, so it’s time to declare victory and move on with baseball season now over and done with.)

When a team underachieves, the sports punditry begins to speculate. Will this lead to the current head coach, Dirk Koetter, being forced out? If so, who will the Bucs hire next?

Since Jon Gruden was fired after the 2008 season, the Bucs have hired four head coaches. They tried the “capable assistant coach” approach with both Koetter and Raheem Morris. They tried the “proven college head coach” approach with Greg Schiano. They tried the “former Super Bowl coach” approach with Lovie Smith, all of which failed. (Six head coaches have taken two teams to the Super Bowl, but none have won the big game with two different teams.)

With the coaching carousel never ending here in Tampa, some got to wondering if Jon Gruden, the only Bucs head coach to make and win the Super Bowl fifteen seasons ago, would take the job in 2018. Gruden’s been in the booth for ESPN calling Monday Night Football games, with the hot rumor being he’d take the job if offered.

As good as the idea sounds and looks on paper, I think it’s a terrible idea. I’ve always argued that the Bucs winning it all in 2002-2003 was with a team Tony Dungy and Rich McKay had built, not Gruden, as he was just there to close the deal. It was a stroke of luck that they played Oakland in the Super Bowl that season, the team Gruden formerly coached. For whatever reason, the Bucs couldn’t parlay that success into a dynasty, as the Patriots have the last couple of decades.

Finally, it was my observations in the 2000’s that Gruden doesn’t mesh with his quarterbacks sometimes, seeming to micromanage them. Putting him back in as head coach with Jameis Winston as his quarterback could wind up being an absolute disaster. Winston is a capable hand who puts up good stats, but it seems to me he gets lost out there in key moments and winds up making bonehead plays. A taskmaster type coach like Gruden sounds like a good fit, but I think it’s more likely there could be a clash of personalities.

Hopefully, the Bucs get off the Gruden bandwagon, but knowing how the Glazers think, it’s possible the wagon has already left the station.

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The Bursting Bucs Bubble

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As many of you know by now, Tampa Bay’s winning streak ended last night, with the Dallas Cowboys beating them, 26-20. While moral victories are often ignored, it’s important to point out that the Bucs came within six points of defeating one of the best teams in the NFL right now.

Sometimes the development of an elite NFL team is not about wins or losses, but the experience gained in the process. I think they’ll learn from this and apply what they learned to use in the weeks ahead.

Playoff wise, Tampa Bay does not control its own destiny now. Winning their last two games (in New Orleans this Saturday afternoon, then at home against Carolina on New Year’s Day) gets them to 10-6. The Redskins can go to 10-5-1 (10.5 wins to Tampa’s 10) and make the playoffs should they win out. If the Bucs and Packers each win out tie at 10-6, the Packers currently own that tiebreaker, which likely would be the “strength of victory” criteria, combining the records of the teams the Bucs and Packers each defeated.

However, the Redskins have to play the Giants in two weeks, and the Packers have to beat the Vikings and Lions. So, there’s still hope. Even if the Bucs don’t make the “Super Bowl Tournament” this year, they are a team on the move, which is all local fans can hope for.

8-Dash-5!

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Did I mention I’m enjoying this little hot streak the local NFL team has been on?

Yesterday, the streak went to five in a row as the Bucs beat the New Orleans Saints 16-11. Yep, another odd score, only the second such score in NFL history. But as long as the Buccaneers keep winning, I wouldn’t mind if they won 4-2.

Next Sunday night is a big game, as Tampa Bay will be playing in prime time against the Dallas Cowboys. This was originally going to be a Sunday afternoon game, but NBC has a contract that allows them to ditch their scheduled game and bump a Sunday FOX or CBS game to their 8:15pm slot.

The way Tampa Bay has been playing, I think they’d have a chance against the Cowboys, who already know they are going to the playoffs. The only trouble is after losing to the New York Giants 10-7 last night to end an 11-game win streak, they will be playing with renewed focus.

Good. I want Dallas to bring their A-game. That way if the Bucs win, no one can complain.

The Future Is Now In Pewterland

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My local area of Tampa-St. Pete was a bit fired up over the Bucs 14-5 win over the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday. (Yes, 14-5 is a very rare score for an NFL game, with Sunday’s game only the 2nd such occurrence in NFL history.)

I was telling friends before the season that if the defense began to gel, the Tampa Bay squad had a very good chance at being a good team. I was recommending the defense as a fantasy pick early on in the season, but that was back when they were giving up a lot of points to their opponents.

A win against the Chargers in San Diego gets the Bucs to 7 wins and 5 losses with four games left in the regular season. If that happens, it’s not beyond the realm of possibility that Tampa Bay makes the playoffs THIS season, ending a nine season drought.

I think it’s a safe bet that most people didn’t see them making the playoffs this year, so the future might be here for them sooner than anyone thought.

United We Sit

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Number 13 is Mike Evans, a third year wide receiver, lining up against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

The latest controversy in the world of sports emanates from our area, as Tampa Bay Buccaneers player Mike Evans sat during the playing of the national anthem prior to the Bucs beating the Chicago Bears 36-10. Later, Evans told reporters he sat to protest Donald Trump being elected president the prior Tuesday.

What’s interesting about the gesture is that Evans, a third year pro out of Texas A&M, didn’t vote in the election.

Local politicians, such as Florida state senator Jack Latvala, have expressed outage, with Latvala vowing not to go to Bucs games until Evans is either removed from the team or apologizes.

Personally, I feel that Mr. Evans has the right to express himself as he chooses. I voted for Trump, but if someone wants to protest it, I’m fine with it as long as such a protest obeys the recognized laws wherever the protests take place. If the protests get disorderly, I feel law enforcement is absolutely within their rights to make arrests as needed.

My issue is with the Buccaneers team itself, who went on record Sunday night saying that they, as a team, support the gesture. I don’t think it’s the team’s place to make a stand one way or the other. A lot of veterans and members of the military go to these games, with Macdill Air Force Base just down the road a few miles from Raymond James Stadium. If the vets were to follow Latvala’s lead and boycott, that’s a lot of team revenue going out the door, causing the franchise to perhaps continue their malaise. That might lead to the Bucs calling another city their home some day, like St. Louis, Las Vegas, or maybe even London.

Divisiveness is now deeply entrenched in our society, and the events in the sporting world are an example of that.

(EDIT, 11/15, 10:38am: Evans released a statement right about the time I put this blog entry up saying that he will stand for the national anthem next week.)

Blowout In The Desert

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The Bucs got whipped like a government mule (as opposed to a mule not employed by the government), losing to the Arizona Cardinals 40-7 yesterday.

It’s bad the Bucs got beat that soundly, but Arizona’s no slouch. They were a game away from the Super Bowl last year before the Carolina Panthers blew them out, much the way the Cards beat Tampa yesterday. I’d rather see the Bucs lose bad early and learn from their errors as opposed to winning a bunch of games and then losing bad.

Does that make any sense? I don’t suppose it does. I had the Bucs going about .500 this season, then perhaps becoming an elite NFL team next year. They’re not there yet, but these are the kind of games that you learn from, and those kind of games are important, too.