Last December, in the days leading up to the Week 17 game against Carolina, PewterReport.com wrote a story about how the Bucs were building their team in the Panthers’ image. From drafting a franchise quarterback No. 1 overall to finding an anchor at middle linebacker to keeping its coaching staff (kind of) intact, Tampa Bay’s hopeful rise, in many ways, reflects that of its NFC South rival.
Bucs HC Dirk Koetter – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Even Ron Rivera could see the clear similarities between the two clubs back then, particularly with their quarterbacks, and offered words of advise and encouragement from a head coach who understands the building process.
“Truth be told, the thing everyone has to do is be patient,” Rivera said over a conference call in December. “I mean this is a young football team with a young quarterback. We’re in our fifth season with our quarterback and look at where we are now. I look at Jameis [Winston] and see so many similarities between him and our guy.”
As reported by Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times recently, head coach Dirk Koetter reaffirmed Pewter Report’s early observation, outlining a few of the teams’ similarities as he sees it.
“I’ve said that multiple times,” Koetter said. “If you look, they drafted their quarterback, they drafted their middle linebacker. We’ve done the same thing. They’ve kept their coaching staff. I hope we keep our coaching staff. They’ve developed in the system, they’ve drafted well, and they’ve hit on their free agents. They’ve kept their guys.”
While the Bucs fired Lovie Smith after the season – a different approach than the one Carolina took with Rivera after Year 2 – ironically, the move still proved to be for the sake of continuity. It was about keeping Koetter with Jameis Winston and last year’s fifth-ranked offense. And to Koetter’s liking, the team also re-signed their own players while supplementing their roster with a few free agent additions, like J.R. Sweezy on offense and Brent Grimes on defense.
Over the years Carolina has made similar efforts, giving draft-hits like Luke Kuechly and Charles Johnson extensions while adding guys like Michael Oher and Ted Ginn through free agency, to name a few.
“Right now, Carolina has set the bar,” Koetter said. “Definitely they’re the team to beat and that’s why we added the players we did at the positions we did.”
In a division that no team won twice in a row until Carolina reclaimed the crown in 2014, it’s clear that the Panthers have found the recipe for sustained success and Tampa Bay is following their lead. The Bucs aren’t there yet, but Koetter is confident they’re on the right path and can “close the gap” even further with another good draft.
“There’s always somebody you’re chasing, whether they’re in your division or not,” Koetter said. “You’ve got to give them their credit and we’re going to do everything we can to knock them off.”
Zach is entering his 3rd year covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as a writer for PewterReport.com. Since 2014, he's handled a large part of the beat reporting responsibilities at PR, attending all media gatherings and publishing and promoting content daily. Zach is a native of Sarasota, FL, and a graduate of the University of Tampa. He has also covered high school football for the Tampa Tribune and the NFL for Pro Player Insiders.
Contact him at: [email protected]
We finally have the most important piece to the puzzle. No more searching for the “savior”. With Jameis in place, Licht can now focus on acquiring players with not only the physical ability to be able to do the job , but equally important, the mental approach that will lead to winning. Too often in the past the roster was made up of too many players who didn’t really seem to have the passion to do much more than line up, go through the motions and, as a player once said, “go to the bank on Monday”. Too often, when something bad would happen, their collective heads would go down. Too often they were bullied and intimidated. Even the idea of needing a “savior” can mean the masses don’t want to do what it takes themselves. We need more saviors who take the responsibility on their own shoulders. Licht seems to recognize this flaw and is seeking players whose approach is like Popeye’s, “I took all I could stand and I can’t stand no more”. He opened his can of spinach like Sapp would open his can of “whoop ass”.
I’ve always believed that NFL rosters are fairly equal but for a few “stars”, and the reason some seem to always win while others always seem to find a way to lose, is it’s psyche.
I’ll give the Panthers some credit for their success. But they have a flawed QB, who can do his Superman posses when things are going well, but when things unravel he pouts with a towel over his head. Ever see Manning, Brees or Brady do that? Think our own Winston would do that? And that folks, is why I preferred Licht’s choice(s) in the 2015 Draft.
Looking forward to watching the lichting of the fire.
scu, well said.
I’m not sure if it was a complete lack of passion, or being mentally tough Scu. I think some of it had to do with not believing in what they were coached to do. It’s obvious the Panthers follow Ron’s lead, Lovie staring up into space when things went wrong, not so much. Lovie chiding Sheppard for using some blue language during his pre game speech is a perfect example. Talk about taking the wind out of the players sails.
We’re not the Panthers nor are the Panthers like us. I actually like where we are and how we are going about it to get to the next level. If we pick up 3-4 quality players, I believe this coaching staff will take us to the next level. Go Bucs!
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