Were we wrong for believing in the Bucs?

by Gary Shelton on October 25, 2017 · 5 comments

in general, NFL, Tampa Bay Bucs

Did the Bucs fool us into thinking they'd be better?/JEFFREY S. KING

Did the Bucs fool us into thinking they'd be better?/JEFFREY S. KING

Wednesday, 3 a.m.

They fooled us. Shame on them.

Foolishly, we thought there was something different about these Bucs, something better, something closer to the playoffs. We thought they were better on defense, dangerous on offense, solid in the kicking game. Shame on us.

The players were more familiar, largely because of Hard Knocks, and so we thought they were more accomplished. Last season had been promising, and so we thought they were ready for the next step. Hype fed the hype, and eager to see something different, we tried to buy in. Shame on everyone.

Instead, the Bucs are a rather familiar 2-4, and if you try to see the playoffs from here, it's like standing in the gulf and trying to see the Atlantic Ocean. There are things in the way.

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And so, like a guy who bought a bad car, we stand and try to figure out who is to blame. Us, for believing. Them, for not improving. Either way, it is not yet November, and we are consumed by buyer's remorse.

Odd. It seems that Tampa Bay, a scorched community, would be hardened against such disappointment by now. They've seen enough of it through the years. But that's not how a fanbase works. With every failure, the hunger for something better grows. We keep thinking the misery is over.

Were we wrong to believe? Were they wrong not to achieve? Sure, we lived through the winless 1976, and the Leeman Bennett era. We lived through Ray Perkins and Sam Wyche. We saw the backslide of 1998 and the falling on the face of 2003. And so many other years. We lived through Booker and Josh and Alvin and Sabby and the rest.

Then there was this year, one of the most disappointing of recent memory. Because it felt legit. A nine win team adds to its talent. What could go wrong?

Which leads to this question: Did the Bucs oversell their players? Or, at least, did they allow them to be oversold. Was this truth in advertising?

Vernon Hargreaves, we believed, was going to be better at corner. He was going to show us why he was a No. 1 draft pick. Instead, he has played his way out of the cornerback position and into the nickel, where he will be until quarterbacks find him again.

Chris Baker, we are told, was the Redskins' best lineman last year. So far, however, he has not been a force. So far, he has 10 tackles (three assists) and no sacks.

Robert Ayers is looked upon as a leader. But he hasn't been the same nine-sack guy he was in New York. But he's 12th on the team with seven tackles (eight assists). He got his first sack Sunday.

The offensive line: A world of experts has its problems with the Bucs line, especially left tackle Donovan Smith. But the Bucs think of the line as solid, and they praise Smith highly. But what if they aren't that good? The bunch protects fairly well, but in the running game, well, they're all playing ukuleles on the beach.

Doug Martin? He's been just another back this year. The Bucs look silly for not doing more to address the situation in the off-season.

T.J. Ward? When the Bucs paid him a ton, and the Broncos howled that he was released, perhaps we should have known better than to believe he could be an impact player. The guy was on the waiver wire and now he thinks he should be a star?

Jameis Winston? He has all the expectations on his shoulder. But, yes, he's been better. Perhaps not as much as you would like, but better. His completion percentage is up. His interceptions are the fewest of his career in a six-game set. His yardage is higher (although he missed much of the Arizona game). His rating is higher. Again, however, the Bucs always expect for Winston to be the best player on the field. Sometimes, he isn't.

It's hard to blame Dirk Koetter, of course. When the buzz builds for a team, it usually shows up at the ticket office. Who wants to throw cold water on the parade?

But Koetter is never going to say a bad thing about a player. It isn't in his nature. So if someone asks him about, say, a defensive back, he's probably going to praise some part of his game. Fans might misinterpret that as thinking that the player is farther along.

Then, there is regression. The Bucs' defense ended up last season as one of the finest in the league. But every week, it seems to get worse. This is a defense stuck in reverse, back-peddling its way downfield, passing first down markers so fast they must look like a blur.

They make stars of average players. Adrian Peterson evidently doesn't have a lot left. He looked like the same old back against the Bucs. Case Keenum was a star. Tyrod Taylor made the Bucs look as if they'd never seen a scrambling quarterback. Deonte Thompson came in off the street to star for Buffalo. Mike Glennon wouldn't hold his job long against the rest of the league; he threw for 300 against Tampa Bay.

And so the beating goes on. The Bucs again are sliding down the standings. They are no different.

Shame on them for thinking so.

Shame on us for believing it.

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