2012 - A turnaround in attitude and a turnaround in fortunes
The search for the ninth head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers lasted into mid-January and after initial overtures to Chip Kelly at Oregon, it was with some surprise to many that formers Rutgers' head coach Greg Schiano was introduced at One Buc Place to replace Raheem Morris. His credentials for turning around the fortunes of the Scarlet Knights and taking them to numerous bowl games was well known and his reputation as someone what of a displinarian coach was well known.
Some of the players on the Buccaneer roster quickly realised that it was going to be Greg's way or the highway and the likes of Tanard Jackson, Kellen Winslow and Dezmon Briscoe were all soon out of the door.
The Bucs made an immediate splash on the first day of free agency by signing former Pro Bowl WR Vincent Jackson and Pro Bowl G Carl Nicks to massive contracts and inked CB Eric Wright from Detroit as well to announce to the NFL that a serious upgrade of the roster was taking place alongside the coaching change. Veteran TE Dallas Clark arrived later in the off-season from Indianapolis and the Bucs lost no-one of any real value to the team from their 2011 roster.
Free agent departures|
Geno Hayes (Chicago), Josh Johnson (San Francisco), James Lee (Washington), Kregg Lumpkin (Seattle), Micheal Spurlock (San Diego)
Dezmon Briscoe (released), Jeff Faine (released), Earnest Graham (retired), Tanard Jackson (released), Sean Jones (released), Corey Lynch (released), Elbert Mack (released), Kellen Winslow (traded).
Free agent arrivals
Dallas Clark (Indianapolis), Vincent Jackson (San Diego), Jamon Meredith (Pittsburgh), Carl Nicks (New Orleans), Dan Orlovsky (Indianapolis), Tiquan Underwood (New England), DJ Ware (NY Giants), Eric Wright (Detroit).
Key rookie additions
Mark Barron (1), Lavonte David (2), Leonard Johnson (undrafted), Doug Martin (1).
After a win in their season opener against the Carolina Panthers, Schiano made national headlines during a loss to the Giants in Week 2 when he ordered his defense to challenge the kneeldown play at the end of the game. Although he had done this with limited success in college, it was as much an announcement of an attitude change in Tampa more than a realistic move to avoid defeat.
From a 1-3 start, the Bucs went on a 5-1 tear with high-scoring road wins in Minnesota and Oakland interrupted only by a narrow loss to the New Orleans Saints. The 6-4 mark saw them in the wild-card position and receiving rave reviews for a big play offense with Josh Freeman on his way to the first 4,000-yard passing season in 37 years of Buc football, and Doug Martin smashing the single-game rushing record with 251 yards and four touchdowns in the victory over the Raiders.
The narrow loss to division leading Atlanta proved the turning point however and a five-game losing streak ensued with Freeman throwing almost half his 17 interceptions in just two games and the defensive secondary getting repeatedly torched on its way to a 32nd ranking in NFL stats.
The season ended on a high with a win over the playoff bound Falcons in the Georgia Dome and a 7-9 mark that saw improvements on and off the field in the fortunes of the Buccaneers after their 10-game streak that ended the 2011 campaign. The top three draft picks all made the All-Rookie team with Doug Martin being named a Pro Bowl alternate, whilst Gerald McCoy and Vincent Jackson both made the trip to Hawaii for stellar seasons.
The offense wound up ranking 9th in total yardage, the best performance ever by a Tampa Bay team although there were still some questions being asked over Josh Freeman's position based on his two poor games at the tail end of the season.