You think it's bad now - it could get worse
So the Bucs are 0-3. Go back to the early days of the Bucs UK and this sort of record wouldn't cause anyone to bad an eyelid. "0-3 - pahh - wait until you're 0-8 mate, then you can start to worry".

But for Buccaneer fans in 2004, there really is reason to worry. Just over 18 months ago, I stood in Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego looking at the wild celebrations of the 37th Vince Lombardi Trophy being handed to Jon Gruden. Since then, the Bucs have gone 7-12 and things are going downhill faster than a Jamaican bobsleigh without a brake.

Everyone knows the current Tampa Bay team is old and slow. When your starting wide receivers are Tim Brown and Bill Schroeder, then you cannot really imagine opposing cornerbacks sititng in darkened film rooms quivering with fear over the deep ball. You'd have to have a quarterback who can at least throw a deep ball effectively first, not one who impersonates Josh Bidwell's punts when he goes long on a seven-step drop.

Just look at the defense. Still one of the best in the NFL but check out the ages. Derrick Brooks is in his 10th season, Shelton Quarles his 8th but add in two years in Canada to that and he's in double digits too. Ronde Barber is an eight-year veteran, Brian Kelly a year younger. Simeon Rice is no spring chicken either. Beginning to catch my drift?

This was a SuperBowl team that reached through its window of opportunity and grabbed the trophy before it began to close completely. It's totally locked now and within 12 months, it will be padlocked and bricked up for good. None of that quintet of defensive players is likely to be around in a couple of years, although the signing of Ian Gold to potentially replace Brooks in 2006 was a very good start.

But the offense is another kettle of fish altogether. The potential defensive re-building would be hard enough if you had an offensive machine that could outscore its opponents when necessary. But when you consider that the only three offensive starters left from San Diego are Brad Johnson (about to get benched for the second and last time), Mike Alstott (on his way to the sidings) and Cosey Coleman, you realise there is no continuity, development or much future on that side of the ball either.

So we could be looking at 4-12 this season and probably next season too. That will remove the bandwagon of all its most recent members, the ones who think the whole world revolves around Messrs Sapp and Lynch, and that January 2003 in San Diego was the start of a dynasty.

Of course it will never affect the loyalty of the likes of you and me, the sort of Buccaneer fan who remembers those days of Leeman Bennett and Ray Perkins all too well. We did think that those days were gone forever. Perhaps our assumption was a little premature.

September 2004