What equals success for the Tampa Bay Bucs?

by Gary Shelton on May 10, 2020

in general

Can David, Pierre-Paul, lead the Bucs?/STEVEN MUNCIE

Sunday, 4 a.m.

You loved their free agent period. You liked their draft. You look at their schedule and, despite some tough games, you are not overwhelmed.

Now is the time you have to decide.

What, in your mind, constitutes a disappointment for the Tampa Bay Bucs?

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Hey, if you are a Bucs' fan, you know all about disappointment. You've seen it in the draft (Booker Reese, Keith McCants). You've seen in it free agency (Anthony Collins, Michael Johnson). You've seen it in losing seasons and disappointing coaches and lousy quarterbacks. You've seen in 17 straight seasons without a playoff win.

But this year, with newcomers Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski, with re-signed Shaq Barrett and Jason Pierre-Paul,with draftees Tristan Wirfs and Antoine Winfield Jr., the questions have changed. Frankly, a lot of people think the Bucs will make an honest-to-God Super Bowl run. In a lot of minds, this season will be a disappointment if they don't get there.

To tell the truth, it's kind of hard for a 7-9 team to reach the Super Bowl no matter how successful the off-season was. I know it's fashionable to treat the Bucs as if Jameis Winston was 0-9 last year and the rest of the squad was 7-0, but that's not quite factual. The Bucs had a poor running game, and a weak offensive line, and a vulnerable secondary. They turned it over too many times, and they committed too many penalties and they missed too many tackles.

So who do the Bucs have to be?

Option One: They can be Kansas City. Yeah, that would mean winning their second Super Bowl. That's going to be difficult with a shortened off-season. I predicted the Bucs to win 10 games the other day, which would be an improvement of three, which isn't bad. But fans want more than that. They saw their team invest heavily in improvement, and they'd like to see it. They want Bill Belichick to be wrong about Brady, and they want the secondary to continue its growth.

Option Two: They could turn out to be the Packers, or the Ravens, or last year's 49ers. They could have a fine year without dancing in the confetti. They could make the playoffs, and make a little noise, but fall just short. Would that be enough for you? After all these seasons of wandering aimlessly, would a very good season be enough? Or does it have to be a great one?

Option Three: They could be Buffalo, or Philadelphia. They could make the playoffs, barely, and then quickly disappear. That wouldn't satisfy very many for very long after the investments that ownership made in the off-season. No one wants a guest appearance in the post-season. What does the song say? That a taste of honey is worse than none at all?

Option Four: They could end up with egg on their faces. Shortened pre-season or not, the Bucs cannot afford to miss the playoffs again. They've missed the post-season for 12 straight years, and in eight of them, they were in last place. The playoffs seem like the minimum acceptable outcome for Tampa Bay.

Look, even with the pandemic, we know the exceptions of our other teams. The Rays need to make the post-season again, or it will be disappointing. The Lightning needs to reach the conference final (some would say the Cup final) or it's depressing. The USF Bulls need to reach a bowl game (doesn't everyone anymore?).

But the Bucs are like taking a half-dozen great musicians, throwing them into a studio and expecting music. They are talented. But can they come together in time to measure up to most of their expectations.

It's going to be fun to watch.

Won't it?

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