Is this wretched streak worse than the last one?

by Gary Shelton on February 14, 2018 · 2 comments

in general, NFL, Tampa Bay Bucs

Wednesday, 3 a.m.

The trouble with wandering in the desert is that the scenery never changes.

It's hot, and it's dry, and I could swear I saw that cactus a half-hour ago. It's sandy, and the camels are nasty, and one sand dune pretty much looks like another sand dune. What I wouldn't give for an oasis. One with air-conditioning.

Yeah, if you are a fan of the Tampa Bay Bucs, you've seen it all before. You've seen that glassy-eyed look from the front office, and

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that directionless glaze from the head coach. You've seen quarterbacks fumble and running backs stumble.

And you wonder: Is this era worse than the last one?

I'm serious. Are the last 15 seasons of non-playoff winning football (2003-2017) worse than the Bucs' other 15 seasons of non-playoff winning football (1982-1996)? Is the current conga line of Jon Gruden-Raheem Morris-Greg Schiano-Lovie Smith-Dirk Koetter worse than the former conga line of John McKay-Leeman Bennett-Ray Perkins-Richard Williamson-Sam Wyche and Tony Dungy? Could Vinny Testaverde, Trent Dilfer and Jack Thompson (plus others) underperform in a battle against Bruce Gradkowski, Josh Freeman and Josh McCown.

And, yuck. There are some questions where the answer is so homely you don't even want to consider it.

The truth is that, yes, this era is better. But not by a lot. Both streaks are embarrassing in a league that does so much to push every team toward 8-8. Everyone, except those in Cleveland, are telling Bucs' jokes.

Consider: In 15 seasons, the 82-96 Bucs won 69 games. In the last 15 seasons, the Bucs have won 95. Whee.

Consider: From 1983-1995, the Bucs won five or fewer games nine times. The last 15 years, they've won five or fewer six times. From 1983-1996, the Bucs had 12 straight seasons of double-digit losses. From 2003-2017, they lost double-digit games only six times. Yippee.

Consider: After the first bad 15 years, Tony Dungy won 55 games. Before the start of the second bad 15 years, Jon Gruden was off to a flying start in his 57 wins. Together, they coached in 11 of the team's 15 playoff games.

Consider: In 42 seasons, the Bucs have made the playoffs after just 10 of them. In six of those, they didn't win a playoff game.

Except for that, and some early years under John McKay, the Bucs have largely been bad.

But, yeah, these Bucs beat those Bucs.


Of course, the truth is that it's the same fan base who has endured two such fruitless streaks. The same franchise that brought you Ray Perkins brought you Greg Schiano. The same franchise that brought you Leeman Bennett brought you Lovie Smith. Booker Reese, meet Roberto Aguayo. Eric Curry, meet Gaines Adams. Trent, Josh. Alvin, Dexter. Toast, Vernon. And so on.

Perhaps it is time for the current ownership, the Glazers, to go back and examine how this was turned around last time.

It was turned around when the franchise finally got some leadership. No, Rich McKay didn't build a dynasty. But he did bring some direction that we haven't seen lately. He won a Super Bowl, and he drafted Sapp and Brooks (no, it wasn't Sam Wyche, as the popular fiction goes). The Glazers got lucky with their third choice of coaches in Tony Dungy, who led to Gruden, who won the Super Bowl.

Maybe it's time for a overseer, a Tom Coughlin-type who would guide this team out of the swampland. Maybe it's time for the Glazers to realize that the best coach in the world probably isn't on their staff (two of their last four have come from on-staff). Maybe it's time for star players on the defensive side of the ball, too.

There has been too much mediocrity in Tampa Bay. It's time for the Bucs to do something better than everyone else: They need to be faster, or stronger, or smarter, or better.

They need to get to the playoffs.

They need to win a game.

Later, we will ask for more. But is a single playoff game that much to ask?


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