Opposing teams keep passing the Bucs

by Gary Shelton on January 15, 2018 · 2 comments

in general, NFL, Tampa Bay Bucs

Why don't the Bucs made big strides?/CARMEN MANDATO

Why don't the Bucs made big strides?/CARMEN MANDATO

Monday, 3 a.m.

Other teams grow. Other teams improve. Other teams climb.

The Tampa Bay Bucs, alas, do not.

Other teams make the playoffs. Other teams find a coach. Other teams find a quarterback.

The Tampa Bay Bucs, alas, run in place. They watch. They talk about tomorrow.  One step up, two steps back. It seems to never be their turn at the deli window.

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Other teams have hope. Other teams have plans. Other teams surge.

I am sitting and watching the NFL playoffs, and it strikes me. Weren't the Bucs better than these guys five minutes ago? Weren't they better than those guys 10 minutes ago.

That's the way it's supposed to work in the NFL. Standings change, and fortunes rise, and dynasties crumble. Except for New England and maybe Pittsburgh. Except for Cleveland and maybe the Bucs at the other end of the smell. A team turns it around by drafting the right quarterback, or signing the right coach, or finding the right free agent. It doesn't just happen on its own.

Hey, it isn't just that the Bucs keep stumbling. It's that other teams don't.

It wasn't long ago, for instance, that Tennessee shared the same misery as the Bucs at 2-14. Yet, there they were in the playoffs on Saturday night. It wasn't long ago that the Bucs could look down on Jacksonville. Yet, there the Jags are, still alive. The Bucs are home again.

They are the slow car at Daytona. Everyone keeps passing them. This team gets hot. That team goes on a run. The other team starts winning the close games.

The Bucs? They talk about 2002, still. They build on false hope. They look forward to the draft.

You know the numbers. Only Cleveland has a longer streak of not making the playoffs, 15 years to 10 for the Bucs. It has been since the Super Bowl of 2003 (after the 2002 season) since the Bucs have won a playoff game. Too long.

In 2013, both Atlanta and the Bucs were 4-12. Atlanta lost to Philly in the playoffs. Maybe you heard.

In 2016, the Bucs were two games better than Buffalo. But the Bills went to this year's playoffs.

In 2015, the Bucs were ahead of Baltimore. No more.

In 2016, the Bucs were four games better than the Jets. This year, they had the same record.

In 2016, the Bengals won six games to the Bucs' nine. This year, Cincinnati was better.

In 2016, the Jags were 3-13, six games worse than the Bucs. They passed them standing still.

In 2015, the Titans were 3-13, three games worse than the Bucs. Again, standing still.

It goes on. In 2012, Kansas City was 2-14, five games worse than the Bucs. The Chiefs hired Andy Reid and that foolishness stopped.

In 2016, the Chargers were four games worse than the Bucs. No more.

In 2012, the Raiders were three games worse than the Bucs at 4-12. With Jon Gruden, it may be a while before Tampa Bay gets on the other side of them.

In 2015, the Cowboys were 4-12, two games worse than the Bucs. A good draft, and it changed.

The Bucs were better than the Vikings in 2016. Also, in 2010. Both times, Minnesota got better.

Chicago won one-third of the Bucs' games last year. They tied them this year.

The Rams were 4-12 a year ago. Sean McCoy came in as a coach, and things changed.

Carolina was three games worse than the Bucs last year, six game better this year.

New Orleans was two games worse last year, six games better this year.

San Franchisco won seven fewer games last year. It passed the Bucs this year.

Seattle was three games worse than Tampa Bay in 2010. Then Pete Carroll came in a turned off the lights.

It keeps happening. The league changes, but the Bucs are still on the other side of the post-season. Blame the coach. Blame the quarterback. Blame the front office. But even the Bucs' mini-surges don't last. The playoffs are forbidden ground. In most of their seasons, this is a franchise that is wasting everyone's time.

Think of the Green Bay Packers. The last time the Bucs were better than Green Bay, Aaron Rodgers was a rookie. The Chiefs were worse until Andy Reid took over. And so it goes. A team turns it around -- really turns it around -- when it has someone to believe in.

Of course, there are a lot of ways to get to the post-season. New England, Atlanta and New Orleans do it on the backs of their quarterbacks. New England, Los Angeles and Philadelphia can thank their coaches. Jacksonville has a talented. young team built through the draft. Pittsburgh gets there as an organization.

The Bucs? They stall in traffic.

It's been a hard existence for the Bucs, what with the searching for a franchise quarterback, a strong pass rush and a consistent offense. Still, if these playoffs teach us anything, it's that a team can get to the post-season without a great quarterback (See: Jacksonville, Tennessee).

Consider this, however. If you doubled the Bucs' sack total (22) from this year, they team still wouldn't be in the NFL's top five. That's staggering. The top-team in third-down percentage allowed (Minnesota) allowed a 25-percent success rate; Tampa Bay was almost double that at 48 percent.

So, yeah, the team has to get better. It has to find a way to make headway in a division where all three of the opponents made the post-season. It has to win close. It has to cut down on turnovers. It has to get some sacks.

Ask yourself: What, in particular, did the Bucs do well this season?

Well, there is this: They finished early.


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