Those never-say-die surprising Buccaneers
If the previous two seasons had been disappointing, then 2005 was totally the opposite for Tampa Bay fans. With no-one realistically expecting better than an 8-8
season, Jon Gruden led his team to a 4-0 opening and an 11-5 mark overall and the NFC South Division title. Once again play-off football came to Raymond James
Stadium as an influx of good new and more importantly, young talent, arrived at One Buc Place.
Free agency saw the usual array of comings and goings from One Buc Place, but unlike the previous two seasons, the net result was a better team overall. Long-time
Bucs Chartric Darby (Seattle), Cosey Coleman (Cleveland) and Dwight Smith (New Orleans) found pastures anew, whilst the likes of Joe Jurevicius, Brad Johnson and
Tim Brown were not offered new deals in Tampa.
Arrivals in the same method were a decent third receiver (Ike Hilliard), a strong blocking tight end (Anthony Becht) and a former golden boy on the defensive line in
Minnesota (Chris Hovan),
And then came the draft - picking fifth was higher than the Bucs had been in over a decade and they made it count. Top pick RB Carnell "Cadillac" Williams merely
became the NFL's Offensive Rookie of the Year, third pick TE Alex Smith became a main receiving threat and fourth pick G Dan Buenning started every game at right
guard. It was only that 2nd pick LB Barrett Ruud was up against two of the finest players at their positions in
Derrick Brooks and Shelton Quarles, that this was not a perfect four out of four in terms of selections.
The schedule at the outset looked daunting with trips to Minnesota and Green Bay in the first three weeks alone.
But the Vikings struggled coming out of the gate and the Packers' 2005 demise was more surprising than the
Bucs' own upturn. Coupled with a dominating defensive performance against Buffalo and a somewhat fortunate
escape against Detroit, Tampa Bay found itself at 4-0 and leading the NFC come the end of September.
Unexpected losses in New York and San Francisco caused a few people to jump off the bandwagon, and more
stepped off when QB Brian Griese was lost for the season to a knee injury. But the return of Cadillac Williams
from a two-week injury absence and the emergence of Chris Simms as a bona fide NFL starting quarterback, saw
the Buccaneers jump back into contention with a series of wild victories including an incredible 36-35 triumph
over Washington that saw Jon Gruden go for the win on a two-point conversion in the final minute.
Defeating each of their division rivals on the road put the Bucs in pole position for the NFC South title and thanks to another nerve-biting win (this one over Atlanta),
and then a steam-rollering of the hapless homeless Saints in the season finale, the Buccaneers found themselves back in the post-season for the first time since Super Bowl XXXVII.
But that was where the luck ran out on a fortunate season. Two defensive turnovers left the Bucs in a 14-0 hole early and although they fought back, the Redskins proved just too strong and the comeback fell
just short when Edell Shepherd dropped what would have been the game-tying touchdown late in the fourth quarter.
But this was a great season for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. After seasons of disappointment (2002 excepted), this was a season of surprise and optimism for the future. And one that Buc fans can look back
on with great satisfaction. Their team was back.
DL Chidi Ahanotu
WR Tim Brown
LB Keith Burns (UFA - DEN)
G Cosey Coleman (UFA - CLE)
FB Greg Comella
DL Chartric Darby (UFA - SEA)
T Derrick Deese
TE Ken Dilger
TE Rickey Dudley
CB Mario Edwards
RB Charlie Garner
LB Ian Gold
S John Howell
CB Corey Ivy
QB Brad Johnson
WR Joe Jurevicius
WR Charles Lee
G Matt O’Dwyer (UFA - GB)
DB Dwight Smith (UFA - NO)
TE Anthony Becht (UFA - NYJ)
K Matt Bryant (UFA - MIA)
WR Ike Hilliard (UFA - NYG)
DT Chris Hovan (UFA - MIN)
QB Luke McCown (Trade - CLE)
QB Tim Rattay (Trade - SF)
24 Apr Traded a 2005 5th round pick to the
St.Louis Rams for 2005 5th and 7th round picks.
24 Apr Traded a 2005 6th round pick to
Cleveland for QB Luke McCown.
19 Aug Traded a undisclosed conditional draft
pick to Dallas for T Sam Wilder.
18 Oct Traded a 2006 6th round pick to San
Francisco for QB Tim Rattay.