The 2013 Buccaneers enter the upcoming year with a ton of potential. With an exciting offense, a revamped defense and the second year of the Greg Schiano project, Mark Cook offers up five reasons why Tampa Bay fans should return to Raymond James Stadium in droves.
When looking ahead to 2013 many inside the Buccaneers organization have high expectations placed on them for the upcoming season.
Quarterback Josh Freeman is obviously the player most under the gun, as the Bucs signal caller is in the final year of his contract. Will cornerback Darrelle Revis and his surgically-repaired knee make a difference in the Bucs porous secondary?
While maybe not on the hot seat, head coach Greg Schiano and his coaching staff will be expected to have their football team show improvement and at the very least, be in contention for the postseason. Even general manager Mark Dominik, while still with another year left on his deal, is feeling some heat as the Buccaneers are a 24-40 during his tenure as chief talent evaluator and acquirer.
While you can easily make a case for the above mention players and front office personnel being under scrutiny, another group is also under the gun to do its part – the Tampa Bay community.
Will residents show up in droves to fill the stadium and avoid another year of blackouts? Below are five reasons why the Buccaneers deserve to have Raymond James Stadium filled for, at the very least, the eight home regular season games.1. Glazer Money Well Spent
Any insistence that the Glazer family is cheap or focused on Manchester United instead of the Buccaneers has been proven wrong for the second year in a row. After spending $55.5 million for wide receiver Vincent Jackson, $47.5 million for guard Carl Nicks and $37.5 million for cornerback Eric Wright in 2012, Tampa Bay went out and made Dashon Goldson the highest paid safety in the league with a five-year, $41.25 million dollar deal last March. Add in the trade-and-sign, nine-year, $96-million dollar Revis deal and that argument is beyond dead and buried.
The Glazers haven't stopped at just signing players, opting for the 85-percent capacity rule in hopes of generating more opportunities for getting games on television, while also reducing ticket prices throughout the stadium, including no-interest financing for those wanting to purchase season passes.
So not only have the Glazers spent money, they have also essentially taken revenue from their own pockets in hopes of making games more affordable. An argument could be made that they still came out smelling like roses with the stadium deal back in the 1990’s, but the fact is, they absolutely did not have to make any ticket price concessions. And while it isn’t football related, the Glazers also donate millions each year to the Tampa Bay community.2. Starry Skies Over Tampa Bay
With the above-mentioned players added over the past two seasons, in addition to some homegrown talent, the Buccaneers have more star power and nationally recognized players on this roster than perhaps any time in franchise history. Jackson, Nicks, running back Doug Martin, left tackle Donald Penn and right guard Davin Joseph are all current or former Pro Bowlers, and wide receiver Mike Williams and Josh Freeman could be on the cusp. Defensively, defensive tackle Gerald McCoy took his first league-honored trip to Honolulu last February, a place both Revis and Goldson are familiar with. With linebacker Lavonte David already getting some comparisons to Bucs all-time great Derrick Brooks and young talented defensive ends in Adrian Clayborn and Da’Quan Bowers poised to explode on the national scene, this Buccaneers team is loaded with exciting – and extremely talented – football players.3. Tampa Bay Area Economy Rebounds
There is no question that the Tampa Bay area was hit hard by the financial recession of 2008-2011 and most likely that, coupled with a stagnant and then disappointing football team, led to many giving up their season tickets. While the economy is still far from being at the early 2000’s level, there are encouraging signs. According to Robert Trigaux of the Tampa Bay Times, Tampa Bay's gross domestic product hit $112.4 billion in 2008, fell to $110.9 billion in 2009, then by 2010 clawed back to near '08 levels. But by 2011, the metro area GDP enjoyed a 3.3 percent bump, rising to $116.2 billion, says the Bureau of Economic Analysis.
More corporations means more jobs in the area, which means more disposable income and more fans that may be able to afford to come back to watch Buccaneers football on Sunday afternoons. While still in a bit of a slump, the Florida – and Tampa Bay area economy in particular – is rebounding ever so slightly, which is encouraging news for the Buccaneers organization.4. Something To Believe In
NFL cities can cope with mediocre football teams – even poor teams at times – if there are players that the community can identify with. But for a number of years the Buccaneers just didn’t have many football players that parents wanted to see their kids representing in jerseys. Jeramy Stevens, Tanard Jackson, Aqib Talib, Kellen Winslow and others, all seemed to generate negative headlines, thus turning off a large segment of the population. Couple that with the squeaky clean image of players from the Tampa Bay Lightning and Tampa Bay Rays and it is easy to look back and see where some of the loyalty was lost.
But that appears to be changing since the arrival of Schiano. Gone are most of the so-called trouble makers, and in came much higher character football players like Jackson who has a foundation working with military families, Revis who sponsors a summer football camp in Pennsylvania, and several members of the Buccaneers who shaved their heads at One Buc showing solidarity in support of pediatric cancer that recently took place.
Is the Bucs roster filled with choir boys? It certainly has its share, and you can expect the police blotter to be much quieter with Schiano running the show, similar to when Tony Dungy was the sheriff in Tampa Bay.5. Offensive Firepower
A number of cynical fans still give no credit to an offense that was statistically the best in franchise history last year. Were there flaws and periods of inconsistency? You bet. But regardless of who, where or why, the records are in the books. The team set a franchise record with 5,820 yards of total offense and 389 total points scored, Freeman set a franchise record with 4,065 passing yards and 27 TD passes. Martin set a rookie rushing mark with 1,454 yards behind a patchwork offensive line.
Regardless of the final score and record, this offense – and team in general – was the most exciting in franchise history. Anyone who left a Bucs game early was most likely kicking themselves listening to the final minutes on their car radio. Other than the Chiefs game and perhaps the late season loss to the Rams, every home game was decided in the final minutes, and not many people left Raymond James last year saying they didn’t get their money’s worth. With the return of Nicks and Joseph and the entire offense gearing up for their second year in Mike Sullivan’s complex offense, the best in most likely yet to come.
Most of the excuses have been put to rest as to why the Buccaneers can’t fill Raymond James Stadium. Certainly there are several thousands in the area who just can’t afford to attend a Bucs game, but with a population of 2.8 million residents in the immediate Tampa Bay area there isn’t a reason why 55,000 (85 percent of capacity) fans can't fill the seats and lift the blackout cloud that has been hovering over this franchise since 2010.
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