2019 is officially over; in much the same way as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 2019 season.
After the 2018 season and another 5-11 losing year, things had to change. Much to the delight of fans, a slew of changes created a new-look team. The best coaches available formed a “super team” of coaches. A change of culture would be introduced according to the new head coach, Bruce Arians. One of the biggest changes came to the defense with a new coordinator Todd Bowles introducing a new 3-4 scheme focusing on “aggression”. Over the off-season, fans were assured that the secondary was fixed, and this raised fan’s expectations. A 3-1 showing in the preseason further elevated these hopes.
Much Kool-Aid was consumed.
The Bucs secondary was far from fixed. Jameis Winston couldn’t go a game without turning the ball over. Often these interceptions and fumbles lead to the team losing games. Fans became frustrated as the epic road trip began taking its toll, and Tampa Bay was limping to yet another losing season. Questionable coaching calls and even worse referee calls were compounded by poor execution on offense and defense. 3-7 put the Buccaneers fully on the outside of the division race and far back in the wildcard picture. One of only THREE teams in all of North American professional sports not to make an appearance in the playoffs in the last decade would continue that trend.
But what is that on the horizon? Could it be hope?
After the 2nd defeat of the year to New Orleans, things began to change. Sure they’d been glimpses of the potential in this team, but this became consistent. Good play started to translate into wins. Wins that became a winning streak. In fact, the Buccaneers went fro 3-7 to 7-7! The playoffs were a pipe dream, but maybe, just maybe, this wouldn’t be a losing season? Many fans would have taken the technicality of 8-8.
Sadly that wasn’t to be as bad refereeing and a dropped 4th down conversion secured another defeat, and then the Buccaneers conspired to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory to lose out and finish yet another losing season 7-9.
Three losing seasons in a row and only two winning seasons in the last decade should be little basis for hope. So how far are the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from the promised land? Not far!
The defense has shown vast improvements in the pass rush, rushing defense, and even the secondary have shown signs of development. This should continue with an extra offseason, and the very young defensive backs will continue to grow together and develop chemistry. The offense is easily top three in the NFL, only one problem: If Winston is retained, this team lives and dies on his ability to protect the football.
Playing to their potential this team has shown glimpses that they are nearly unplayable. The offense scores points at will, and the defense is showing promise towards being shut down.
A lot of ifs, but I believe that this team isn’t a far as some might believe.