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FAB 1. What Will It Take For The Bucs To Win The Division?
I am dedicating this edition of SR’s Fab 5 to my late mother, Judy Ann Dunleavy, who died suddenly on Tuesday at the age of 77. I want to thank all of you Pewter Report readers and Bucs fans who reached out to me this week to express your condolences and support for me and for my family. It’s been a very tough week for me, but your support has meant the world. Please indulge me as I share a few words about Mom, as she inspired me to cover football for a living, and played a huge role in me starting a career with Buccaneer Magazine/Pewter Report 25 years ago. She loved me so well and was the best mother a son could ask for.
Scott Reynolds and Mom
Let’s start at the beginning where she – not my stepfather or my dad – fostered my love for football. We grew up Redskins fans while living in northern Virginia before switching our allegiances to the Chiefs after a move to Kansas City in 1979 when my mother remarried. Mom and Jim, my stepfather, took me to my first NFL game in the early 1980s, as we would go see one Chiefs game every year for over a decade. Mom and I would fight to see who would get to read the sports section of the Kansas City Star first each day.
When I suffered a knee injury playing high school football we went to the Chiefs’ team doctor for a consultation on a Monday after Kansas City’s loss to Seattle and I remember meeting running back Christian Okoye in the waiting room. I don’t know who was more excited to meet the “Nigerian Nightmare” – her or I.
When I enrolled at Kansas State she became a huge Wildcats fan, as this was right around the time Bill Snyder was turning K-State football around from 1990-95. I worked in the sports information department while in college and I was able to get her to meet Coach Snyder after one of the Wildcats’ wins, which was a real thrill for her.
I fell in love with the Tampa Bay area back in the 1980s and ’90s because we used to vacation every August in Madeira Beach when she would visit her dad – my grandfather – before school started. My stepfather took me to a Bucs training camp practice held at the old Tampa Stadium in 1993 under Sam Wyche and I grew quite fond of the lovable losers in creamsicle orange. So much so that it inspired me to get a subscription to Buccaneer Magazine that year, which led to an internship with the company in 1994 and full-time employment in 1995 when I moved to Tampa.
My parents moved from Kansas City to Lakeland a year later and my mom switched her allegiances to the Buccaneers for good. It’s kind of funny but every time she switched teams her new team suddenly won. That happened with the Chiefs in the late 1980s under Marty Schottenheimer, Snyder’s Wildcats in the 1990s, and the Bucs, who hired Tony Dungy in 1996, the year she and Jim retired to Florida.
Judy and Jim Dunleavy and Scott Reynolds
My daughter, Ellie, who is now at K-State, used to attend preschool with her friend Jade Dungy, Tony’s daughter, and my mom always thought it was so neat to be able to talk to Coach Dungy at Ellie’s birthday parties when he would bring Jade. Mom’s favorite Bucs player was Ronde Barber (mine, too), and I was able to arrange for her to meet him after a training camp practice in Orlando, which made her so happy.
Years later, I was having lunch with Barber and saw my mother call me on caller I.D. Sensing the moment for an opportunity to be funny, I handed the phone to Barber, who answered and said, “Hi, Judy! It’s Ronde Barber. I’m just having lunch with your son. How are you doing?” Oh, I would’ve loved to see the look on her face! She really enjoyed that surprise and the unexpected chance to talk to Barber.
I’ll miss my post-game chats with Mom. She was so excited that the Bucs trounced the Packers on Sunday night. She – like myself – loved defense. Don’t get me wrong. Mom liked Tom Brady joining the Bucs too, but she really loved a good pick-six and a sack – or five of them, as she saw against Green Bay.
My mother lived in constant physical pain over the last decade as she was diagnosed with cervical dystonia, a cruel, debilitating neck condition that affects just one percent of the population. And she lived in emotional pain from losing her husband nearly eight years ago, as they were married for 32 years. Tuesday, the day she died, was her and Jim’s wedding anniversary, as they were married on October 20, 1979 when I was seven years old. By God’s mercy she is now pain-free. By God’s grace she is reunited with her husband in heaven. I couldn’t think of a better anniversary gift for her from the Lord above.
Scott Reynolds and Mom
My mother was kind, strong, loving and was a great inspiration for me. I will always think of her every Saturday when K-State football is on and every day or night the Bucs play. I received a very comforting text from Bucs general manager Jason Licht, who said that my mom and his dad, Ron, who passed away last fall, now have the best seats in the house to watch all the Bucs games with a terrific view of all the action. He’s right, and I appreciate that text very much.
I love you, Mom, and I miss you.
Now, as my mother would say, “Let’s talk some football!”
We’re just days away from the Buccaneers are facing former head coach Jon Gruden this week when they travel to Las Vegas to take on the Raiders on Sunday Night Football. Not only was Gruden the lone head coach to win a Super Bowl in Tampa Bay, but he’s also the only head coach to win three division titles with the Bucs.
With Tampa Bay atop the NFC South with a 4-2 record heading to Las Vegas, let’s see if there are any common denominators from certain statistical categories from the 2002, 2005 and 2007 division-winning Buccaneers that can by applied to this year’s team. New Orleans is right behind at 3-2, while Carolina is 3-3 and Atlanta is 1-5.
12-4 record – 6-2 home record
346 points for (No. 18)
196 points against (No. 1)
Net points = Plus-150
Former Bucs head coach Jon Gruden – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Gruden won three division titles in Tampa Bay, so let’s see if we can extrapolate exactly what needs to occur from a statistical standpoint for the Bucs to once again win the NFC South. The first thing that stands out right of the bat is the home record, as Gruden’s divisional champions all had 6-2 home records.
The next factor is scoring at least 300 points, which shouldn’t be a problem for Bruce Arians’ Buccaneers to achieve, as the 2020 Bucs already have 177 points through six game and are on pace to score 472 points, which would be a new franchise record. Having a net points advantage of at least plus-26 is important.
That means having a good defense is also important. In all three of Tampa Bay’s divisional title years, the team had either the No. 1 or No. 2 ranked total defense and was in the Top 8 when it came to points allowed. It’s also worth noting that the Bucs had a pass defense ranked in the Top 6 – although offensive football was a little more balanced back in the early 2000s than it is now in the more pass-happy NFL.
Turnover margin is always key to winning in the NFL, and the Bucs had at least 30 takeaways on defense in those NFC South Championship years, in addition to having at least a plus-7 turnover margin. The Bucs NFC South champion teams had at least 16 interceptions on defense and 33 sacks, too.
Bucs OLB Jason Pierre-Paul and ILB Lavonte David – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
And no divisional championship Bucs team had more than 23 turnovers. In other words, those Tampa Bay squads didn’t beat themselves. The Bucs’ quarterbacks have to play a role in limiting turnovers too, and that means throwing no more than 14 interceptions in a divisional championship year.
So how do the current Buccaneers measure up so far during their 4-2 start? Here are the current applicable stats, followed by some important projections. Let’s see if they align with past NFC South champion Tampa Bay teams.
2020 BUCCANEERS – CURRENT
4-2 record – 3-0 home record
177 points for (No. 10)
122 points against (No. 7)
Net points = Plus-55
Defensive Big Plays Projection
21 INTs / 8 fumble recoveries / 58 sacks
37 touchdowns, 10 interceptions
Bucs HC Bruce Arians and QB Tom Brady – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
The only statistical area that falls out of alignment is the projection of the defense recording only 29 takeaways, whereas the three Gruden divisional championship teams all had at least 30 takeaways. But being pace to score a franchise-record 472 points with a plus-147 net point production, and being on pace to set franchise records with 58 sacks and 37 touchdowns should more than account for that missing takeaway.
At this pace, if the Bucs beat the Saints in their November rematch, Tampa Bay could be on its way to winning its sixth NFC South title in team history, and it’s first since Gruden roamed the sidelines in 2007.
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: email@example.com
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