John Lynch’s earliest years as a Tampa Bay Buccaneer may have been filled with fond personal memories, but wins? Not so much.
During a Friday afternoon press conference announcing Lynch’s induction to the team’s Ring of Honor, the hard-hitting safety beloved by Bucs fans spoke about the lean years before Tampa Bay embarked on its best stretch of seasons in franchise history.
“I got to this level and I didn’t have that instant success, so you kind of start believing, ‘Well, maybe I am just a special teams guy,’ ” said Lynch, drafted by the Buccaneers in the third round in 1993. “Linda [Lynch’s wife] and I were talking this morning how, ‘Can you imagine when we first got here, we just said, ‘If we can just make three years. If we can just play this first contract out.’ Boy, [that] would have been a success. [But] your goals start changing. I started believing in myself a little bit, but a lot of that was created by Tony [Dungy] and them when they came down.”
Lynch, who was also drafted as a pitcher by the Florida Marlins in 1992, didn’t exactly hit the ground running as a Buccaneer. He started four of 15 games played as a rookie, zero of 16 in 1994 and six of nine in 1995.
It was 1996, however, when fortunes began to change for both Lynch and the Buccaneers.
While Introducing Lynch to the stage Friday, Bucs co-chairman Bryan Glazer recalled a specific moment when he sensed the transformation.
“In the 1996 season, under first-year head coach Tony Dungy, [Lynch] blossomed,” Glazer said. “One of my personal great memories of John was in the 1996 season when we played at San Diego. It was [Week 12], I actually was sitting in the stands with my friends and I remember John’s family had a box and it was a big deal – his whole family was at the game and they had a banner hanging outside the box and I know John wanted to perform well in front of his whole family there. We were down 14-0. Typically, up to that point, we had not performed very well on the west coast but in typical John Lynch fashion, a fourth-quarter interception turned the game around and that was the start – that game was the start of something very, very special.”
Lynch’s pick, one of 26 in his career, sealed victory that day and helped propel Tampa Bay to a 4-2 finish that season after stumbling to a 2-8 start. The Bucs’ 6-10 finish that year was its 14th straight losing season but Tampa Bay’s last for a six-year stretch.
Lynch said he too felt that 1996 Chargers game represented a special moment in the franchise’s turnaround and had a little fun with the recollection, as well.
“I was thinking as Bryan [Glazer] was talking up here. Bryan said that game in San Diego that we hadn’t been very good in the West Coast – Bryan, we hadn’t been good anywhere at that point,” Lynch said while getting a laugh from those in attendance, including a handful of former teammates.
“There were some lean years and we knew it. But at about that time, things started to swing. It started to be a belief amongst a lot of the younger players and the older players that had survived the previous regimes that we were onto something special. And I give so much credit to Coach Dungy who was there. He kind of created the vision for us in terms of what we could do and how we were going to go about doing that. It just took a lot of stubborn guys believing that we could undo a lot of tough and lean years and arrive at the top.”
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Congrats Lynch, you were one of the best players this franchise has ever had and you deserve to be in the Ring of Honor. but the days of dominant defense in Tampa appear to be over for good, and I for one am a little sad to see it go. However, its now time to embrace a new brand of football here in Tampa, and that’s a high powered offense that can score a lot of points! should be fun to watch.
Warren Sapp and Derrick Brooks cite the same game as being the point where the team started turning it around.
As they tell it, they were listening to ESPN disparage the Bucs on national TV calling them the Yuccaneers and both vowed to take their anger out on the Chargers.
The rest is history.
We may have had that same moment this year after Winston’s scramble in the Falcons game.
But alas, according to PR, a game rousing speech was ended by Lovie because of harsh language.
Thanks for throwing a bucket of cold water on what could have been a good season.
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