It's all about perception isn't it?
In 2008 the Tampa Bay Buccaneers finished with a winning record but out of the playoffs and the world as far as Buc fans knew it caught on fire. The Bucs asked John Gruden and Bruce Allen to not let the door hit them on the way out in a shockingly quick turn of events.
Gruden and Allen were replaced respectively by Raheem Morris and Mark Dominik, who, no disrespect meant, had the same level of cache with Buccaneer fans as the guy who scans your ticket at the gates of Raymond James Stadium.
The new regime instituted a paradigm shift in player personnel, choosing a youth movement built through the draft. This was in contrast to the previous regimes focus on veteran acquisition to plug holes on the fly through the free agent route.
This of course led to claims of the Glazers balancing their bank accounts on the backs of Buccaneer fans. When the Bucs limped to a 3-13 record in 2009, many fans, this one included, opined that Morris and Dominik were in way over their heads.
Now we stand at the conclusion of another winning season without a playoff payoff and quite frankly many Buccaneer fans couldnít be happier.
OK, maybe if the Bucs had beaten the dang Lions at home to get the all-important eleventh victory that could have gotten them in the playoffs, but other than that!
This non-playoff winner feels a lot better than 2008ís winning non-qualifier. However there is still much work for the Buccaneers to do to make 2011 a season of contention. Despite the excitement, the 2010 season was quite uneven.
The Bucs only beat one team with a winning record, although beating the Super Bowl champs on the road in a game the Saints wanted to win did provide many of us with a great deal of comfort. The Bucs also took the Falcons to the brink twice and played tough against Baltimore on the road.
Most of the time though the Bucs just didnít make the plays necessary to compete consistently with the NFLís elite. It is hoped the young Buc players (and coaches) will not view a winning record as some kind of grand prize and will focus on doing the little things necessary to beat the top tier teams.
Small things such as tackling! The Bucs need to get stronger up the middle and it is many fansí hope that Tampa Bay will bring in some added beef at the defensive tackle and linebacker positions. No job on defense should be considered safe right now and any holdovers should be forced to watch tape of the 1960ís Packers, the 1970ís Steelers and the late 1990ís-early 2000ís Buccaneers for examples of how to make a pure, form tackle. Itís all want-to and too often in 2010 it looked like no one on the Bucs defense wanted to.
Small things such as getting the plays off in the 30 seconds allotted! Enough with wasting time-outs because the play clock is running down and the Bucs arenít ready to snap the ball. Whether the problem is offensive coordinator Greg Olson being slow on the pulling the trigger for a play, Josh Freeman being too quick to make a time-consuming audible or too many members of the offensive unit just not getting properly lined up (or, all of the above) the Bucs must become more efficient in getting the play off on time. Time-outs are precious and given Freemanís excellent skill in the two-minute offense, having time-outs at the end of the first half or end of the game is even more critical.
All in all these quibbles of mine are pet peeves that I have with most football teams. Oh, Iím a real treat to watch a football game with. It could be a high school game and Iíll be the nimrod in the stands yelling, ďWrap up!!!!Ē whenever I see a bad tackle attempt or ďJust snap the dang ball!!!Ē when I feel an offense is trying to get too cute.
Thatís the problem with being a football historian. To me the best football is always what I saw in the 1970ís and 1980ís and I need to come to grips with the fact the game has changed. But if the Bucs do want to go far, they should do this graying fan a favorÖ.focus on these two fundamentals and I promise you will love the results.
So the Bucs are winners once again but sitting at home. In 2008 I watched the playoffs with a chip on my shoulder wondering what might have been. In 2010 I will watch the playoffs with a sense of wonder at what might be in 2011.
Itís all about perception isnít it? Have a wonderful off-season everyone.