Sunday’s 15-10 win over the New York Jets was important for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

It might not end up being all that important for this season, and, in fact, it might end up giving them a worse draft pick when it’s all said and done. But, regardless of that, I think it was important – for a long rooted reason.

On the first “Victory Monday” in over a month, Tampa Bay head coach Dirk Koetter took to the podium for his scheduled press conference in a little better of a mood – as one would expect. Koetter’s main talking points were the changes that resulted in the Bucs finally getting a win for the first time in six weeks. He mentioned rookies Chris Godwin and Kendell Beckwith stepping up, he talked about some of the defensive adjustments the team made, and even referenced a more balanced offense, though one that still needs work.

But, what the real takeaway from Koetter’s press conference were his answers on one specific question.

The question was about what he said to the team this week that may have been different than weeks prior. There was no doubt that the team looked like it was more relaxed, stress-wise, while at the same time playing with more effort than they had been. Koetter answered the question by saying that he does change what he says to the guys a little bit, but what he says are just words; it’s more about how they’re received, and that sometimes in order for his message to be received, it can’t come from just him.

“I still think that the best leadership is internally from the players,” Koetter said. “We definitely played harder and faster this game.”

Bucs Head Coach Dirk Koetter addressing the media on Monday.

That part of his quote, which was just a section of a larger quote, is worthy of attention. He made sure to mention player leadership and then immediately said that the team played harder and faster this week. Did something with the players happen recently?

After Koetter’s press conference, the locker room was opened to the media for a brief period of time like it always is. There weren’t many Bucs players in there on Monday, as is the case for most Mondays – win or lose. But, there was one player that all the reporters wanted to talk to who was there, and that was defensive tackle Chris Baker.

Baker was asked basically the same question Koetter was with focus leading up to the game and what might have been different. Baker told us that earlier in the week, the players got together, just them, and had a meeting among one another. He said that their message was about accountability, and that ultimately it was up to them to go out and make plays. Baker said the message was about ownership and that it was the players who had to own their losses, and that it would be them who could own wins and perhaps a season-saving turnaround, too.

The talk behind closed doors among the players is likely what sparked their stellar defensive play on Sunday and also what likely moved normally soft spoken players like Lavonte David and DeSean Jackson to speak up before and after the game to give the team their thoughts and motivation.

Hearing all of that, from Koetter, Baker, Jackson, David and even the shouting match with Kwon Alexander and Robert Ayers on the sideline, all of that clicked as to why such a talented team got a win on Sunday. But, after that realization, it was natural to ask a follow up question.

Why did it take this long?

Why did it take this long for it all to click? Why did it take this long for a group of rookies, long-time Bucs and newly signed vets to slap each other in the face after five straight losses? Why didn’t these player-only talks of coming together, having focus and owning what you put out on the field happen sooner?

Here’s why in one word: culture.

Ex-Bucs LB Derrick Brooks and DT Warren Sapp douse former head coach Jon Gruden with Gatorade after beating the Eagles in the 2002 NFC Championship Game - Photo by: Getty Images
Ex-Bucs LB Derrick Brooks and DT Warren – Photo by: Getty Images

The “culture of losing” has been referenced before when referencing the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, especially their woes from this season, and it’s true; it’s real.

This is one of the least winningest franchises in the NFL. They have even been called the Cleveland Browns of the NFC not too long ago. If you take out the seven years around their Super Bowl run, this franchise’s history looks awful – Cleveland-like.

It doesn’t always have to be, but it always seems to be. In a league where we watch teams and franchise fire coaches, fire GMs, change owners, change cities and have quicker turnaround than the Buccaneers seem to do every time we think they’re “hitting the reset button,” you’re left asking yourself how it can be so.

Culture.

You know why it took this long for the players to snap into shape? You know why no one on the coaching staff could seem to stop the slide? You know why instead of snapping into shape, getting in people’s face and getting down to change players just hoped things would get better?

Culture.

You think the Bucs’ early-season losing streak (or even just certain struggles) would have lasted this long in New England or Pittsburgh or Denver or Seattle, if they were this talented? No.

Culture.

You think any of those teams would have relished in a 9-7 season that missed the playoff as if they’d accomplishing something like this roster clearly did? No.

Culture.

You think any of those teams would have just assumed the team would get better like this team did in the offseason and preseason? No.

Culture.

All of those teams I named have their struggles, but all of them actively fight to not only not be losers, but to not be mediocre; to get better and to not settle. It’s not just about the record, though that matters. It’s about the mindset of being on one of those franchises. It’s about going there and knowing you have to play your best or they won’t put up with you. No one goes to those cities to be losers.

Bucs QBs Jameis Winston and Ryan Fitzpatrick - Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Bucs QBs Jameis Winston and Ryan Fitzpatrick – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

That’s why their records are what they are. It starts with a mindset within the players. Knowing that coaches, quarterbacks and even GMs can come and go and those franchises still have the history they do, that tells you it’s a culture.

Tampa Bay has a history of settling, of underachieving, of expectedly being let-downs. Don’t believe it? Ask any fan. But, what happened in the locker room last week without Jameis Winston and Mike Evans, that meant something. That part is important for those two as well. It was time to sit back and watch the fire burn within players until it overflowed.

Winston has never been to the playoffs; neither has Evans. It had to come from the guys who have been that were pissed off that it wasn’t happening for them again. More so than a win, hearing those words from Baker and knowing how the team responded could make this team really become something over the next few seasons. It might not come this year, but you better believe that if this attitude from the players sticks, maybe it can make them into a team worthy of the playoffs on the field, not just in the offseason and in the media predictions.

Maybe it can even change the culture.

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19 COMMENTS

  1. It’s a little too late now. At this point, Bucs need to think about benching best players to keep them from further injuries and start getting a good look at 1st year players for next year. This season is a wash.

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    • F*ck no seat, that’s loser talk. Sh*t like that is the reason this stuff happens in the first place.

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      • Fitzpatrick is not going to be our back up next year. Winston is too valuable to risk. Same goes for Evans and Brate. Alexander, Grimes and McCoy on Defense. We would be better off putting in Griffin and see if he has a chance of being a reliable back up next year. Let Godwin play, Howard, Evans and Beckwith start, and start focusing on preserving what we know we have and seeing what we want to keep. There are 7 games left. We are rebuilding. It is foolish to think anything else.

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  2. I think some of us fans are reluctant now to get any kind of hope up for this season. How many times have we been to the same dance and to stumble over and over. I’m tired of being on this emotional up and down with this team season after season. It’s a matter of getting the right players to click together and then pass it on.

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  3. Culture starts at the top, period. Under culver house, the Bucs lined his pockets but the team was a perennial loser. Under Malcom, he hired dungy and the culture slowly changed. That would not have happened under culverhouse. It won’t happen under the glazer sons if they keep firing coaches every two years. Koetter has been a coordinator over 30 years. He knows how to coach. Let him. Bucs fans that want yet another coach deserve yet another decade of losing.

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    • Great points… but I want Koetter to be either a head coach (which I truly prefer) or a coordinator. But not both. There is no shame in him turning over play calling and the bulk of the game planning. This way, he can focus on being a head coach.

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    • Culture can start at the top, if the owners are of the type to establish a culture. The Glazer boys are about as invisible and plain vanilla as it gets, though. They have established a null culture with the Bucs. Their old man, Malcom, was a far more influential and powerful personality who did indeed establish a winning culture, as long as he was physically able (prior to his stroke).

      Having a null culture at the Bucs has effectively prevented the establishment any culture at all. Totally new regimes every couple of years, GMs, coaches, and players.

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  4. Nice to see that Chris Baker was in the building on his day off. Maybe he’s realizing his responsibility.

    It’s always been the culture here. It’s not just the Bucs……it’s the entire Tampa bay area………….it’s us. There’s a drastic difference between here and my hometown Pittsburgh. It’s fairly rare to see a fan wearing Bucs colors or bringing up the team in conversation. Even after a nine win exciting 2016, our “home stadium” is infested with Bears, Giants and Patriots fans.

    In the steel city, the Steeler colors are everywhere you look and eventually the conversation will turn to the Steelers. (Of course I get asked why I’m a Bucs fan. ) I’m sure players see that. Think it puts a little more pressure on them to live up to those far more lofty expectations? It all goes hand in hand. First the team needs to do it’s part. Will Bucs fans?

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  5. Baker should’ve been more accountable when they signed him to his contract. We all read how much he loafed during training camp, even saw on hard knocks how the players mocked him during their silly rookie show. Remember his response to that? He gave the mockers the finger. He’s been giving us all the finger since he was signed, now he wants to talk about accountability, please. Who’s fault it is he was allowed to loaf through training camp? That would be on coach Koetter, as has been written here several times this was the softest camp for the Bucs in years. Glad they all want to talk big after a useless win over a bad team. Seven more games to go, perhaps two more wins. When they finish 5-11, 4-12, lucky 6-10 the Glazers will hold them all accountable.

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    • 100 on Baker and his lazy efforts

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    • No win in the NFL is useless. If you’re a player and they tell you not to care, then you have to wonder what it’s all about. You play to win period. The draft is a crapshoot and besides many of these players will be gone. They’re playing for their jobs each and every week. Who is talking big. Pointing out why you may have won after you’ve lost five in a row is an effort to understand and perhaps to codify what it takes for the future. The soft camp is an effort to excuse the misperception that so many fans had before the season. Go back and look at last year. Four or five games were nailbiters that were won largely by turnovers. We weren’t blowing teams out–except for Chicago. The Jets have been competitive in every game they’ve played but one. Are they a bad team? The line is narrow between the good and the bad teams. The Glazers will be making a huge mistake if they fire Koetter and they likely will do what they did after Raheem. Cut costs and salaries. I understand the frutration of the fans. I’m one of them. But just replacing the coach every two years is not a solution; it’s one of the problems. Koetter deserves at least another year and I’ll be shocked if he doesn’t get it–and disappointed. He’s aware of the culture problem, but he can’t do much about BAD LUCK. No bye week. Losing your best pass rusher. David out two games; Kwon out four; Jamies injured; regression of your top choice cornerback. Look at Miami. They were a playoff team last year and have been devastated by injuries this year. Do you think they’re going to fire their coach? No, they aren’t even discussing it.

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  6. Losing begats losing. If last game of the season maybe then it makes sense but at this point we’d be better off trying hard as hell to establish a winning culture.

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  7. I’m skeptical of the notion of a Bucs culture of losing. It’s treating a symptom as causal.

    Firstly, don’t make too much of the win against the Jets. Just one game, the Jets have a mediocre team at best. our defense played well, but the offense didn’t. 15 points against a mediocre defense, that’s not enough to win most NFL games. A win is a win, but this one was, well, a mediocre win.

    Secondly, with the vast amount of turnover in both coaches and players year to year, it’s damn near impossible to establish any kind of culture at all. Continuity = culture.

    Now, it’s good that the players took it upon themselves to meet, talk and set standards for themselves. Perhaps the rest of the team has relied too much upon Jameis Winston’s supposed “leadership” (mostly cheerleading). In the old Bucs glory days, leadership was a group effort from a core of star players, Hall of Famers, and those who will at least be HOF candidates. We know who they are. The notion of a single player being the leader in the lockerroom would have been laughed at. If the current members of the roster are now stepping up and exerting leadership, without having to defer to that one player, then that is a much better, healthier situation.

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  8. Wow scubog, great insight and its good to see you become part of the community you live in by becoming a Bucs fan.
    How does someone expect to be a part of the community if they don’t become supporters of the home teams.
    Many of these people who move here and keep supporting their ex home teams are probably the same ones who deride immigrants who move here from other countries and don’t learn English, hitch their ex country’s flag to their rear view mirror and only celebrate July 4th because it’s a day off.
    I’m sick of hearing they grew up with those teams.
    So did I. I was a Cardinals fan until both the Bucs and the Rays came to town.
    A lot of other good points made out here.
    Justabuc, I agree whole heartedly with u. Winning an NFL game is never meaningless. You want to maintain a losing culture just continue losing games.
    Tnew, I agree Koetter needs to find a new offensive coordinator who will fit into the current scheme.
    I think if the Bucs finish 4-3 for the remainder of the season Koetter will definitely stay but you will see some changes in the coaching staff which won’t be the easiest positions to fill.
    We might even see a new GM who has no ties to Koetter. The drafting has been better, but instead of Ds and Fs we are more like C+. It needs to be better.
    Like the majority of you, listening to Baker talk about accountability is as unusual and annoying as listening to Michael Clayton talk about effort and work on the Buc radio shows.
    Although I’m sure Robert Ayres feels like this might be his last season in the league, maybe Baker woke up and realized he had maybe one or two more years left in the league and was putting some crummy work on tape for future teams to view.

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  9. Pewter Report Trevor; Right now I’m more leaning to giving the organization another year. Hopefully they know what they need in the draft by now. Just not sure why some of these players are playing in some of these positions they didn’t play in college? It seems to me this is a perfect time to go to the 3-4 defense and start working out the kinks? Our strength appears to be at LB so why not utilize the position? Your thoughts on this Trevor, please.

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    • I agree with you. I think I’ve changed my mind and after watching how they played versus the Jets, 3-4 defense might be the move. We’ll have to see against the rest of the teams they play this year, though.

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  10. Using Denver in your article isn’t great. And Seattle has had a great (short) run. I would’ve used the Packers, and even Vikings. Kansas City seems to have a culture as well. Culture comes from the players as well as the organization. Culture comes from the folks with talent within a system. Think San Antonio Spurs. Not the most talented, but get the most out of their talent because the PLAYERS “get over themselves” and play as a team. That’s the culture I want my organization to emulate. That is exactly what Golden State did as well as Oklahoma City. Those two franchises and somewhat the Atlanta Hawks, are using the Spurs as the model.

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  11. It’s hard to know what the right answer is. I’d take an experienced GM if one was available, as long as they had already gone through the process of making mistakes and learning from them and came from organizations with reasonable pedigrees.

    I do worry about the scouts in the field however, would love PR to dig into scouting turnover and backgrounds. Seems unlikely we are getting the best of the best, maybe not even the best of the worst.

    I would however be against a new head coach and offense for JW to learn. He needs to be focused on gaining better control over his emotions, his overall persona and decision making and what is happening on the field vs struggling to learn a new offense.

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    • I agree we could use some experience at GM. I think Light’s egomaniacal decision to use a second rounder on a kicker when this team isn’t in a situation to waste picks is still hurting.
      I do disagree on Coaching though. Koetter was promoted to aid in Jameis’ growth but I think Jameis was given too much too soon. As we saw last game, he isn’t mature enough in decision making on and off the field. Unfortunately it may be too late to “reel him in” And I don’t think Koetter could at this point😕

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