If you’ve been a lifelong Tampa Bay Buccaneers fan, first we want to congratulate you for sticking with them. It can’t be easy most of the time being a Buccaneers fan.
I can recall going to Buccaneers games in the “Old Sombrero” and being laughed at by the people who worked at the stadium for being a Buccaneers fan.
The Buccaneers started off losing their first 26 games. That should have been a warning. They enjoyed a brief period of moderate success between 1979, their fourth year, and 1982. I went to a lot of games during that time. Those games were a lot of fun. The Buccaneers crowd was hungry for a winner and when they started to win a few games it was loud in that place.
Unfortunately, because the Buccaneers were owned by a man, Hugh Culverhouse, who made Charles Comiskey look like Adam” Pacman” Jones when it comes to throwing money around, it didn’t last long. Bucs fans had to endure season after season of double digit losses while they watched their quarterbacks go on to win Super Bowls elsewhere. Doug Williams would win one in Washington. Steve Young would win one in San Francisco. Trent Dilfer would win one in Baltimore.
The Buccaneers drafted Heisman Trophy winner Bo Jackson after the 1985 season. Jackson refused to play for them. Instead he decided to go play baseball for the Kansas City Royals. The Buccaneers then drafted the Heisman Trophy winner from the next season, Miami quarterback Vinny Testaverde. Vinny had a decent career, but was never a star. In Tampa Bay, he did nothing.
But it turned around when Tampa Bay hired Tony Dungy as head coach. Dungy got the Buccaneers back to playing defense, which was the team’s strong suit in the early ’80s. But Dungy could not get past the Philadelphia Eagles, and eventually it cost him his job.
Enter Jon Gruden. In his first season as Bucs Head Coach, Gruden finally got the Buccaneers past Philly, beating them in the NFC Championship Game in what was the greatest moment in Tampa Bay Buccaneer history. That is until the Bucs spanked the Oakland Raiders a week later in San Diego to take home the world championship.
But under Gruden, the Bucs went into a slow but steady decline. Eventually Gruden was forced out. The Bucs turned the reigns over to young defensive coach Raheem Morris. Morris was already set to replace Monte Kiffin, who made the Bucs defense into the league’s best, as the defensive coordinator. Now he would be the Head Coach.
At first it seemed he was equal to the task. In 2010, he turned the Buccaneers around from a 3-13 team in his first year to a 10-6 team in his second year. Tampa Bay holds the NFL record for rookie starters on a team that won at least 10 games. The future looked good. But the following year the Bucs plummeted to 4-12. And just like that, Morris was gone.
And that brings us to head coach Greg Schiano. Schiano turned Rutgers, who had been a college football doormat for their entire history, into a winner. Does this mean he can do the same thing in Tampa? We are about to find out.
One thing we know about Schiano is he is another defensive oriented coach. These guys have seemed to serve the Buccaneers well in the past, Morris notwithstanding. Gruden may have been an offensive coach, but with Monte Kiffin, the Bucs won games with defense even in his era. When the Buccaneers “went offense” with guys like Ray Perkins and Sam Wyche, they stunk.
The Bucs draft picks, safety Mark Barron form Alabama and running back Doug Martin from Boise State, would suggest that they are going to be a more run oriented, play defense kind of team. Buccaneers fans should be excited about that.
Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers come to town on opening week. If there is a stiffer test of a team’s defense than facing Newton, they are few and far between. So Bucs fans should know whether or not good times are ahead immediately. That’s not to say the Bucs have to win the game, but if Newton and the Panthers score at will, that will be a bad sign.