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The 2009 regular season is just four games old, but this year's Tampa Bay Buccaneers team is dangerously close to establishing itself as one of the worst in franchise history.
The Bucs have lost eight straight regular season games dating back to the 2008 season. Should Tampa Bay lose to Philadelphia Sunday, which is quite possible since the Pewter Pirates are 15-point underdogs, the Bucs will have lost nine straight games.
Former Bucs head coach Jon Gruden and general manager Bruce Allen, and their successors, Raheem Morris and Mark Dominik, each would have a hand in Tampa Bay's nine-game losing streak should it come to fruition.
The good news for Morris and Dominik is the Bucs still are nowhere close to establishing the longest losing streak in team history, a 0-26 record accomplished by the 1976-77 Buccaneers.
However, a loss in Philadelphia would give Tampa Bay nine straight losses, which would tie three different Bucs teams for second-longest losing streak in franchise history.
The 1983 and 1985 Bucs teams each lost nine straight games. They also produced 2-14 records.
The 1987-88 Bucs lost nine straight games over the course of two seasons. Those two teams combined for just nine regular season wins.
This year's Bucs team isn't interested in repeating history, but the only way to avoid it is by pulling off an upset in Philadelphia.
"The best way to rectify these losses is to go out and get a win," said Bucs defensive tackle Chris Hovan.
Tampa Bay lost its first three games of the season by a combined score of 91-41. On Sunday, the Bucs showed some improvement, but still lost to the Redskins, 16-13.
"I thought last week was our best game of the year as a team," said Bucs guard Davin Joseph. "We played well enough to win, but we didn't. So, the next step is playing well enough to win and winning."
But many pundits thought Tampa Bay's best chance of recording a regular season win was in Washington against a struggling Redskins team. The Bucs notched four turnovers, but the offense fell flat under second-year quarterback Josh Johnson and kicker Mike Nugent missed two field goals en route to the loss.
With each loss come more and more comparisons between this year's Bucs team and the 2008 Detroit Lions club, which produced the worst regular season record in NFL history (0-16).
Through the first quarter of the season, the Bucs have more in common with last year's Lions teams than they'd like.
The '08 Lions finished last year ranked 30th and 32nd in total offense and defense, respectively. Right now, the Bucs have the 27th-ranked offense and the 31st-ranked defense.
The Bucs have scored just one offensive touchdown in the past two games, and that TD came courtesy of Tampa Bay's defense, which sacked QB Jason Campbell and forced and recovered a fumble at Washington's 15-yard line last Sunday.
The offense, which is struggling at quarterback and currently is playing without starting center Jeff Faine, is in danger of finishing the 2009 season as one of the worst in franchise history.
The lowest the Bucs offense has ever finished a season ranked is 29th, which happened in 1997 and 2006. The '09 Bucs offense currently ranks 27th.
Defensively, the Bucs have never finished a season ranked lower than 28th, which came in 1986. Right now, the Bucs defense ranks second-to-last (31st) in the NFL.
It's hard to imagine the 2009 season could have started any worse for the Bucs, but Morris and Dominik remain optimistic.
"I don't know if [the players] are hanging. I think they're ready to deal," said Morris. "In every game we had an opportunity to win, even the Giants game. Maybe it wouldn't be realistic to say we could be 3-1 right now, but we certainly had a chance to win those football games. If we can just clean up some things and keep this going in the right direction I think we'll be okay.
"Every game right now could turn around your season. We're 0-4, and every game we play is our most important."
Morris has drawn comparisons between his own team and the 1996 Buccaneers on several occasions in an effort to explain how Tampa Bay is young and rebuilding. A loss in Philadelphia would give those two Bucs teams something else in common – a 0-5 start.
That's something the Bucs are desperately trying to avoid.
"We need a win," said Bucs running back Cadillac Williams. "We definitely need a win to get a better taste in our mouth. Everybody is walking around right now with a sour taste in our mouth."
Zuttah Showing Improvement Tampa Bay's offensive line was supposed to be a strength of the team heading into the 2009 season. But this unit has suffered two devastating losses in guard Arron Sears and center Jeff Faine.
Sears' situation still is a mystery. His absence has allowed second-year G Jeremy Zuttah to become a full-time starter.
Zuttah actually started five games as a rookie, playing at right guard due to Davin Joseph's injuries. However, Zuttah has noticed a difference in being a full-time starter as opposed to being a starter only when needed.
"It's a little different," said Zuttah. "Now I get play one position whereas last year I was playing three or four positions. I have the ability to focus on one position, so I think that's helping me grow more."
Even before Sears went AWOL, Zuttah prepared during the offseason as if he was going to start, hitting the weight room hard. At one point, Faine told him to dial it down a notch, stressing how long the football season is. But the 6-foot-4, 308-pound Zuttah said he's always hit the weight room hard, and felt the need to do that this offseason.
"That's my regular workout routine," said Zuttah. "I changed some things when I was working out for the Combine last year, so I lost a little bit of my overall strength. I feel like I'm getting that back with the weight room work."
Tampa Bay's offense started fast out of the gate, producing 450 yards, including 174 yards (5.6 avg.) on the ground vs. Dallas. But this unit has struggled mightily since then and currently ranks 27th in the NFL.
While Faine's absence due to a torn triceps has played a significant role in Tampa Bay's offensive woes, Zuttah, who had just five career starts compared to Sears' 31 starts heading into 2009, was inconsistent in losses to Buffalo and New York.
However, Zuttah had one of his better games against the Redskins last Sunday, where the Bucs rushed for 129 yards (4.3 avg.).
"I feel I've improved. That's the approach I take – get better each game," said Zuttah. "Even if I feel like I've played at a really high level, my goal still is to improve on that."
One of the reasons why the Bucs invested a 2008 third-round pick in Zuttah was because of his versatility. He started 40 games at Rutgers and spent time playing at all five positions along the O-line.
Prior to Sears' absence, the Bucs worked Zuttah mostly at center and right guard, but Sears' situation allowed the former Rutgers standout to start at left guard, a position he's still getting used to playing.
"There's a lot for me to improve on," said Zuttah. "I'm actually still getting comfortable at left guard. I played it a little bit sporadically before, but it's still somewhat new and I'm still trying to get more comfortable with it. That will come with experience.
"It would be difficult for me to pick one spot [that I'm most comfortable playing]. I'm really most comfortable with wherever I'm getting the most reps at the time. Right now that's left guard."
Penalties Are A Problem Tampa Bay has been penalized 27 times through the first four games of the 2009 season. The Bucs are on pace to have 108 penalties in '09, which would be the most by a Tampa Bay team since the 2005 season when the Bucs were penalized 131 times.
Penalties have been one of many problems the Bucs have had – and are currently trying to iron out in an effort to record their first win of the season and get back on track after a 0-4 start.
The Bucs players believe many problem areas on the team will get cleaned up as some of the younger players gain more experience on the football field.
"We have a really good team," said Bucs guard Davin Joseph. "We're just young in some spots and we're making some mistakes, me included. It's just a matter of everyone being accountable and making plays. We're getting better, but we're still not there yet."
Sure, the Bucs are young and inexperienced in several areas on the offensive and defensive sides of the football. But not all of Tampa Bay's woes can be attributed to youth and inexperience.
Those two circumstances certainly don't explain why wide receiver Michael Clayton and right tackle Jeremy Trueblood lead the league in dropped passes and false start penalties, respectively.
Clayton has four dropped passes and just seven receptions through four games, while Trueblood is tied for the league in false start penalties with four through as many games.
A 2004 first-round pick, Clayton has nearly 50 career starts and has played in almost 80 games. Trueblood, who entered the league as a second-round pick, has started 49 of the 51 games he's played in since entering the league in 2006.
The Bucs are young and inexperienced, and that's why this team can't afford to have its seasoned veterans making mistakes like the ones Clayton and Trueblood have committed through the first quarter of the season. Unfortunately, both players are repeat offenders. Clayton has had bouts with dropped passes throughout his career, and Trueblood led the Bucs in penalties last season.
As long as these types of gaffes continue the Bucs will be hard pressed to win a game.
Longest Current Losing Streaks In NFL The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have lost eight straight games dating back to the 2008 regular season. The Bucs are just 1-11 during that stretch if you count the team's 2009 preseason (1-3).
As promised, Pewter Report will keep this chart going as long as the Bucs remain winless in 2009. Tampa Bay currently ranks tied for third in the NFL for the longest losing streak in regular season play.
St. Louis – 14 Cleveland – 10 Kansas City – 8 Tampa Bay – 8