Back to reality
If the 2003 season had been a case of the post-Super Bowl hangover, then 2004 was a real case of waking up with a seriously bad headache and a dose of reality. A
number of players and pundits alike had said that the 2002 season was the final window of opportunity for the Buccaneers to win it all and they were right. But 2003
had seen a number of games carelessly slip away that should have been won. There were not many of them in 2004.
The re-making of the Buccaneers of course began in the off-season. Warren Sapp wanted a new big-money contract as a free agent and the Bucs made it very clear
from the outset that he was not going to get it in Tampa. Eventually he got the offer he wanted from the Raiders but quickly proved that he was on the same
downturn as the Bucs. Keyshawn Johnson was finally booted out of town in return for another malcontent, Joey Galloway, Other free agents to depart included
Thomas Jones, Nate Webster and Shaun King along with long-time return hero Karl "The Truth" Williams.
But it was the departure of fan favourite John Lynch which upset Buc fans more than any other. There was no question he was no longer the Pro Bowler he once had
been and was not worth the $4M cap hit for the 2004 season. But a re-negotiation of his contract to allow him to remain in Tampa was not considered and Lynch
moved on to Denver. If the fury over the release of a "good guy" was bad, then it reached new crescendos when NFL bad boy Darrell Russell signed a contract with
the Bucs. Thankfully his track record continued and he was cut before camp even started at DisneyWorld in July.
The draft saw the final piece of the price paid for Jon Gruden as a 2nd rounder went to the Raiders, but it did
mean we had a 1st round pick for the first time since 2001. And this pick was Michael Clayton who would have
walked away with NFL Rookie of the Year in any other year apart from 2004 which saw the emergence of Ben
Roethlisberger in Pittsburgh.
Free agency also saw significant arrivals on the offensive line with Derrick Deese, Matt Stinchcomb and Todd
Steussie all seemingly upgrading the offensive line. The latter turned out to be a bust, although the first two
started every game on the left side of the line. Former Bronco Ian Gold signed a one-year deal that allowed him
to prove his fitness and also gave the Bucs some Pro Bowl experience on the outside.
Any hopes of a good season went out of the window in the first month with a four-game losing streak that saw
the offense reach new lows in performance. Michael Pittman had been suspended for off-field problems and in
the third game, Charlie Garner went down with a season-ending knee injury. Brad Johnson's passing
performances dropped off the table and he was benched during the Seattle game in favour of second-year man
Chris Simms. The following week, Simms went to the sideline with a collarbone injury during his first start and
Brian Griese took over behind center.
Griese set a number of franchise records for passing during a mid-season revival that saw the Bucs win five of eight games, but there just wasn't enough talent on the
roster to compete and the season fizzled out with another four-game losing streak and the first double-digit losing season in ten years. The defense allowed a couple
of games to slip away in most uncharacteristic fashion, but the reality was that the defense was getting old and the great days of the Monte Kiffin Super Bowl defense
were beginning to disappear into the sunset.
It is strange to look at the NFL standings and see both the Super Bowl participants from two years earlier both sitting at the bottom of their divisions with 5-11
records. For the Raiders, the downturn would continue but the Bucs would bounce back in 2005 thanks to a really excellent draft class.
WR Reggie Barlow
FB Darian Barnes (Trade - DAL)
LS Ryan Benjamin
S Scott Frost
WR Keyshawn Johnson (Trade - DAL)
RB Thomas Jones (UFA - CHI)
C Austin King
QB Shaun King (UFA - ARI)
S John Lynch
WR Kennan McCardell (Trade - SD
T Roman Oben (Trade - SD)
DL Cleveland Pinkney
S Travaris Robinson
LB Dwayne Rudd
RB Aaron Stecker (UFA - NO)
P Tom Tupa (UFA - WAS)
CB Tim Wansley
G Jason Whittle (Trade - NYG)
WR Karl Williams (UFa - ARI)
TE Todd Yoder (UFA - JAX)
P Josh Bidwell (UFA - GB)
WR Tim Brown (FA)
LB Keith Burns (UFA - DEN)
FB Greg Comella (UFA - HOU)
T Derrick Deese (UFA - SF)
CB Mario Edwards (UFA - DAL)
WR Joey Galloway (Trade - DAL)
RB Charlie Garner (UFA - OAK)
LB Ian Gold (UFA - DEN)
LB Jeff Gooch (UFA - DET)
QB Brian Griese (UFA - MIA)
S Dexter Jackson
G Matt O’Dwyer (UFA - CIN)
WR Bill Schoreder
T Todd Steussie (FA - CAR)
G Matt Stinchcmb (UFA - OAK)
K Jay Taylor
RB Jamel White (UFA - CLE
Traded WR Keyshawn Johnson to
Dallas for WR Joey Galloway.
Traded a 2004 7th round pick and
FB Darian Barnes to Dallas for a 2004 7th round
Traded T Roman Oben to San
Diego for a 2005 5th round pick.
Traded G Jason Whittle to the NY
Giants for a 2005 7th round pick and a 2006 6th
Traded WR Keenan McCardell to
San Diego for 2005 3rd and 6th round picks.