The popular saying of our times is “Man Up.” Politicians are using it. Commercials are using it. For God’s sake there is even a television sitcom series coming this fall called “Man Up.”
Well, our Buccaneers embodied the “Man Up” wave taking over the nation as they made a comeback of manhood and returned to Buc Ball.
Tampa Bay’s “Great Wall” offensive line, the great decision making of quarterback Josh Freeman, the running game sans LeGarrette Blount and starring Earnest Graham, the stingy nasty defense, and hello world … a passing game!
After a demeaning beating last week, where Bucs fans saw their team fatally force the issue and prove to the world they indeed had a passing game, Tampa Bay regrouped, buckled down, and came out swinging against the New Orleans Saints. Adjustments had to be made to the Buccaneers passing game. From preseason to the regular season the Bucs had struggled to create a true passing game. In Sunday’s 26-20 victory over the Saints, the Bucs found their passing game. But they also found much more. They found their swag again and they regained their manhood.
Football is a game that forces you to see what you are made of. Football is a sport that forces you to look into the mirror. Football is a culture that drives you to do gut checks. Our Buccaneers reached down and came out showing the world that punks they are not, and they ain’t nobody’s chump. When a team is beaten the belittling way the 49ers beat the Bucs last week, either they can fold up and feel sorry for themselves or they can take it personal and come out roaring. The Bucs roared.
Head coach Raheem Morris is a young man that has a chip on his shoulder, a cloud of ego over his head, and a confidence braggadocio that seeps out of his pores. These qualities give the Bucs swagger, a trait Morris learned from growing up in New Jersey and traits that peaked by being around gritty and proud coaches the like of Mike Tomlin, Rod Marinelli, and Jon Gruden. These coaches all beat on their chests and pounded on the ground with a calling cry that says, “I am man.”
Whether this show of prowess translated to wins all the time is moot. The point is that this is the only type of head coach that could lead a team out of the embarrassment of the loss against the San Francisco 49ers and come out snarling against the New Orleans Saints. And snarl they did.
The Bucs foamed at the mouth the entire game in a mad frenzy allowing no sacks, snatching four turnovers, and captured their fourth win to gain first place in the NFC South. More importantly, the Bucs let the world know, “don’t mess with us, don’t think we are a pushover, and don’t even think that we will lay down and stay down.”
This old defensive lineman likes what he sees, and it makes me proud to say I am a Buccaneer. Life and football is not about not falling down. It’s all about getting back up. To measure a man by his failings is a crime. But to measure a man by his successful rebuilding is a true gauge of the stuff that man is made of.
Morris refuses to quit, refuses to tap out, and refuses to accept anything but standing tall, chin up, and chest out. This attitude permeates throughout the Buccaneer locker room and its players. Man up? We got a team full of just that, men.
When I was drafted in 1993 to a losing Tampa Bay franchise, the key element that was missing was a certain swag. As we turned the Buccaneers around the key ingredient that enabled this dramatic turn around was exactly that, swag. This swag was given birth by the stoic Tony Dungy and rose from the ashes by leaders like Hardy Nickerson, Warren Sapp, John Lynch, Derrick Brooks and myself. The type of men that get in your face, don’t back down to anyone, say what’s on their minds and wear their emotions on their sleeves, right or wrong.
Our winning mantra continued to be fueled because of legendary coaches like Marinelli, Tomlin, Lovie Smith, Herman Edwards and Monte Kiffin. All of these coaches are men that stick their chin out, are accountable, and make no excuses – traits of true men. Morris is cut from this same cloth.
We Buccaneers and Buccaneer fans don’t ask or expect to win every game. But we do always expect to fight to the last man and if we have to lose then we go down swinging. That didn’t happen in San Francisco, but Morris made sure it happened against New Orleans.
This is the stuff that the Tampa community is made of. This is the stuff that Buccaneers are made of. This is the stuff that embodies the nation’s calling cry of “Man Up.”
With this type of fortitude and resilience shown by the way these young Bucs came out swinging to defeat a good Saints team, the Bucs have won my respect and have made this old warrior proud. Salut!
Chidi Ahanotu was an NFL defensive end for 12 seasons, including eight with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1993-2000). Ahanotu is the fifth all-time leading sacker in Buccaneers history with 34.5 QB captures. His career-high 10 sacks in 1997 helped the Bucs make the playoffs for the first time in 13 years and led to him being Tampa Bay's franchise player in 1998.
Aside from being a columnist for PewterReport.com, Ahanotu is the owner of Cigars of Soho, which is located at 212 S. Armenia Ave. in Tampa, Fla. To visit the Cigars of Soho Facebook page, click here. Cigars of Soho is open until midnight every night.
Cigars of Soho is the only South Tampa cigar lounge open after dinner to enjoy a nice cigar. Wednesday night is poker night at 9:00 p.m., and the lounge has NFL games on high definition TV on Sunday and Monday nights.