Three-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Gerald McCoy ended the season on injured reserve with a sprained knee, watching his Buccaneers finish 2-14 due to a 23-20 loss to the New Orleans Saints as Tampa Bay blew their sixth fourth quarter lead of the year on Sunday. Yet despite the disappointing end to an equally disappointing season, McCoy said that the end of the 2014 campaign isn’t as gloomy as it was a year ago when head coach Greg Schiano and general manager Mark Dominik were fired following a 4-12 finish.
“Last year was madness,” McCoy said. “This year we we’re just losing. Last year, everybody was walking through the locker room and nobody knew what was going to happen. I didn’t know my teammates were going to be. I didn’t know who my coach was going to be, my G.M. – nothing. This year I know all of that – for the most part. We just lost this year. Seriously, compared to last year – 2-14 ain’t bad.
“I’m optimistic, man. Just being in every game and knowing the vision our coach and our G.M. has. It’s going to be fun. As bad as I didn’t want to be in this situation – I would like to be watching tape right now and getting ready for a game this Sunday or next Sunday, it’s not happening. We have an opportunity to go first, take our pick of the litter and move forward.”
Having the first overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft is the lone bright spot after 2-14 finish, and McCoy, who led the team in sacks with 8.5 to go along with 35 tackles, 13 tackles for loss and a forced fumble, acknowledged that the team is probably better off in the driver’s seat of the draft.
“If you can get a high draft pick, make the best of it,” McCoy said. “Nobody wants it, but once it’s decided that you aren’t going to get into the playoffs or wherever you are going to be then just make the best of it. The draft is a hit or miss and you try your best to hit on it when you have the opportunity.”
Of course the draft is just one tool the Buccaneers will use to improve their roster and their record in 2015. Free agency, an area in which the team largely failed, is another. Bucs head coach Lovie Smith said that linebacker Lavonte David and McCoy will be instrumental in helping the team recruit and lure free agents to Tampa Bay.
His sales pitch to prospective free agents that the Bucs might be interested in?
“Things will change – I guarantee that,” McCoy said. “Enough said. Things will change. If you want to be a part of it, come get on board.”
McCoy has only been a part of one winning season in Tampa Bay, and that was in 2010 when the Bucs went 10-6 – albeit with McCoy on injured reserve for fair amount of that year. Since then it’s been four straight losing seasons and a record of 17-47 from 2011-14 for Tampa Bay’s franchise player, who adorned Oklahoma pajamas when addressing the media one final time this year.
“I had to grow up even more,” McCoy said. “I don’t like growing up, guys. I’m still in pajamas. You have to grow up even more and the leaders have to step up in times like this – with not just their play, but working every day and getting guys on board to help change the culture. Just showing guys how to deal with adversity. Not only has it helped the team moving forward, I think it’s helped me as a leader and as a professional.
“I know it’s going to change from here on out. I know how to handle losing. I don’t want to handle losing anymore. It’s time to start handling winning.”
Scott Reynolds is in his 25th year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds spent six years giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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