Remembering the playoff games, so long ago

by Gary Shelton on February 25, 2019 · 0 comments

in general

Brooks is still waiting on a sequel./JEFFREY S. KING

Monday, 4 a.m.

Once, champions lived here. Once, every other team was underfoot.

Once, there was confetti in the air, and touchdown celebrations on the ground. Once, we could all strut alongside of our teams. Once, we were feared in the deep.

Oh, it has been a long time ago, and while success was here, it didn't last nearly long enough. One after another, we saw our teams self-destruct. But for a few golden moments, success was ours. There were parades in the street and trophies in the case.

Did we fully appreciate it? Does a fan ever? We thought the Bucs would last, and the Bolts would endure. We thought we owned college football, lock, stock and Heisman Trophies.

Content beyond this point is for members only.

Already a member? To view the rest of this column, sign in using the handy "Sign In" button located in the upper right corner of the blog (it's at the far right of the navigation bar under Gary's photo)!

Not a member? It's easy to subscribe so you can view the rest of this column and all other premium content on

Yet, the gold faded, and rust hit the trophy case. It has been a long time since a Florida team has danced to We Are the Champions. It has been longer for the fans who have watched and waited for the good times to come again.

Still, you remember, don't you? You remember Derrick Brooks and Marty St. Louis and Tim Tebow and Jameis Winston (in college) and Danny Wuerffel. You remember the raw speed of the defenses, and the daring of  the offenses, and the coaches who led them. You remember them humbling some very good teams along the way.

They were so good, so often.

And then they weren't. And we were left with our memories. We still talk of those days, naturally. We dig out the old t-shirts. We watch the old tapes of the game.

And we remember.

It has now been 16 years and 30 days since the Bucs won their title. It has been 14 years, eight months and 18 days since the Bolts won theirs. Miami hasn't won a title for 17 years, one month and 22 days.

Get the picture? FSU hasn't won a title for five years, one month and 19 days. For Florida, it has been 10 years, one month and 17 days. It's been 10 years, three months and 26 days since the Rays were beaten in their World Series. What's that they say? Time flies when you're being mediocre.

Who had the best of it while it lasted?

One man's recollections:

1. 2002 Tampa Bay Bucs

Record: 12-4. Best player: Derrick Brooks. Coach: Jon Gruden.

There has never been a title that meant more to a fan from Tampa Bay than this one. Bucs' fans had grown up the poor side of town, and one team after another had kicked dirt in their faces. But the Bucs came close several times under Tony Dungy. They lost to the Rams in the NFC title game. They missed a kick in Green Bay that cost them a bye week and home game. But under new coach Jon Gruden, the energy picked up, and the offense got better, and the Bucs swept through the playoffs, beating Oakland handily in the Super Bowl.

Aftermath: It didn't last. The Bucs fell to 7-9 the next year, and they still haven't won a playoff game since that long-ago Super Bowl. It has been 11 seasons since the Bucs even reached the post-season.

2. 2003-04 Tampa Bay Lightning

Record: 46-22-8.  Best player: Marty St. Louis. Coach: John Tortorella.

Like the Bucs, there was a time when the Lightning was considered the worst franchise of them all. But under Tortorella, the team found an identity with young players like St. Louis, Vinny Lecavalier and Brad Richards. They went 46-22-8 in the regular season on their way to the playoffs, then beat the Islanders, Canadiens, Flyers and Flames. Yes, they got some breaks in the post-season draw, but still, they did what they had to do to win. St. Louis' winning goal in Game Six forced the team back to Tampa, where Ruslan Fedotenko scored twice to win the Game Seven.

Aftermath: The Lightning never had a chance. The league took the next season off, and contracts were allowed to run out, which cost the team in its personnel. The Bolts have been close, playing for the cup in 2015 and making the final four two other times. But it's hard to win a Stanley Cup.

3. 2001 Miami Hurricanes

Record: 12-0. Best player: Ed Reed. Coach: Larry Coker.

The Hurricanes just came at opponents in waves to win their final national championship. Has it really been more than 15 years? Miami won with a deep offense (quarterback Ken Dorsey, running back Clinton Portis, receiver Andre Johnson, tight end Jeremy Shockey and tackle Bryant Kinney. On defense, they had Reed and Jonathan Vilma. It was one of the most talented rosters of all time.

Aftermath: Every time Miami wins a big game, the discussion is whether the Hurricanes are back. They aren't.

4. 2013 FSU Seminoles

Record: 14-0. Best player: Jameis Winston. Coach: Jimbo Fisher.

It's hard to separate the successes of FSU, Florida and Miami. But only FSU won 14 games on their way to a title. Jameis Winston threw for more than 4,000 yards, won the Heisman and conducted a drive late in the game to produce the winning touchdown. In their season, the Seminoles beat No. 3 Clemson 51-14 and No. 7 Miami 41-14. They won over Auburn 34-31.

Aftermath: The Seminoles haven't been the same for the last five years.

5. 1996 Florida Gators

Record: 12-1. Best player: Danny Weurffel. Coach: Steve Spurrier.

Some things are better than being undefeated. Beating your rival, which had just beaten you in the season, finale, is one of them. Before the game, Spurrier accused FSU of late hits, which may have been a bit of mental play to affect the referees. But Weurffel led the Gators to a 52-20 victory.

Aftermath: Spurrier is still revered by Florida fans more than 20 years later.

6. 1999 FSU Seminoles

Record: 12-0. Best player: Chris Weinke. Coach: Bobby Bowden.

In 1999, the Seminoles went wire-to-wire to win the title, beating Virginia Tech in the championship game. Bowden said later that the second title was important because "it proves that the first one isn't a fluke."

Aftermath: Bowden's final title.

7. 1987 Miami Hurricanes

Record: 12-0. Best player: Steve Walsh. Coach: Dennis Erickson.

Walsh didn't make much of a dent in the NFL, but in college, he was an efficient quarterback who led the Hurricanes to an undefeated season. Miami beat Oklahoma for the national title.

Aftermath: A very cohesive Miami team.

7. 2008 Florida Gators

Record: 13-1. Best player: Tim Tebow. Coach: Urban Meyer.

It was Tim Tebow's finest season, although he didn't win the Heisman Trophy. He did guide the Gators past No. 4 LSU, No. 8 Georgia, No. 1 Alabama and No 2 Oklahoma. Tebow finished in the top five of the Heisman voting three seasons.

Aftermath: It's been a long time since a Gators' title now, more than a decade.

8. 2006 Florida Gators

Record: 13-1. Best player: Derrick Harvey. Coach: Urban Meyer.

For the Gators, it was almost identical to the season they would have two years later. They wore out Ohio State, the nation's No. 1 team, in a 41-14 title game.

Aftermath: Tebow failed in the NFL, but he was a special college player.

9. 1993 FSU Seminoles

Record: 12-1. Best player: Charlie Ward. Coach: Bobby Bowden.

The Seminoles had been close, but Bowden finally sealed the deal in a close win over Nebraska. On their way to the title, the Seminoles beat two No. 2 teams (Notre Dame and Nebraska), No. 3 Miami and No. 7 Florida.

10. 1991 Miami Hurricanes

Record: 12-0. Best Player: Gino Torretta. Coach: Dennis Erickson.

The Hurricanes won the national title. You can give credit, if you wish, to Heisman Trophy winner Gino Torretta. They beat Nebraska 22-0 in the deciding game.

Aftermath: Dennis Erickson won't be remembered as one of the great Miami coaches, but he won two titles.

11. 1989 Miami Hurricanes

Record: 12-0. Best Player: Dale Dawkins. Coach: Dennis Erickson.

The Hurricanes beat Alabama for Dennis Erickson's first title. It wasn't the best UM team with Craig Erickson at quarterback, but it did beat No. 1 Notre Dame by 17 points during the regular season.

Aftermath: Not a great team by Miami standards.

12. 2007 Florida Gators basketball

Record: 35-5. Best player: Al Horford. Coach Billy Donovan.

No one repeats as an NCAA champion anymore. But the Gators did. That remarkable combo of Al Horford, Joakim Noah and Corey Brewer won their second straight national title, vexing the Ohio State Buckeyes on their way to the title.

Aftermath: It's been more than a decade since the Gators ruled college basketball. They've been good. They haven't been great.

13. 1983 Miami Hurricanes

Record: 11-1. Best player: Bernie Kosar. Coach: Howard Schnellenberger.

Give this title to Schenellenberger, who convinced voters his team could win the title from the No. 5 ranked position. Sure enough, it beat Nebraska by a point. That was enough for the voters, who saw Nebraska, Texas and Illinois fall and Auburn win less than impressively.

Aftermath: The Hurricanes' upset of Nebraska fueled the team into contention, and the changing of coaches and quarterbacks didn't affect it.

14. 2006 Florida basketball

Record: 33-6. Best Player: Al Horford. Coach: Billy Donovan.

The first national title for Florida was sweet enough as Donovan guided his young players to the championship. They beat storied UCLA in the finals.

Aftermath: The Florida players actually could have come back for one more go-round. They didn't, and the team hasn't been quite the same.

15. 2008 Tampa Bay Rays

Record: 97-65.  10-29-08. Best player: Evan Longoria. Manager: Joe Maddon.

No, the Rays didn't win the championship. But they did win the American League title before losing to the Phillies in five games of the World Series. That's a trophy, isn't it. Those with the Rays still think with a little less rain and a little more batting, the team would have pulled it off.

Aftermath: It has been more than 10 seasons since the Rays looked smarter than the world. Bad drafts and bad development hurt the team for a while, but after 90 wins last year, things may be looking up.

16. 2015 Tampa Bay Lightning

Record: 46-31-5. Best player: Steven Stamkos. Coach: Jon Cooper.

The Bolts made a run at it in 2015, taking Chicago to the Stanley Cup finals in six games. The final game ended 2-0, Chicago.

Aftermath: The Lightning had been good, but it still hasn't gotten over the hump. Could this be the year?

{ 0 comments… read it below or Subscriptions }

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: