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FAB 1. As Super Bowl Champs, Bucs Are Now The Hunted
Bucs legend and Hall of Famer Warren Sapp made news on Monday when he sacked Alabama’s Christian Barmore, who is widely regarded as the top defensive tackle prospect in the 2021 NFL Draft, during an appearance on the Pewter Report Podcast.
“Let’s wait for the evaluation,” Sapp said. “Because what I saw when I went over to the Yo Murphy Performance (Compound) was not even third-round material.”
The QB Killa went on to bet that Barmore, who has been regarded as a first-round pick in several media mock drafts, including a couple linking the Crimson Tide tackle to Tampa Bay, won’t be a Round 1 pick in a month.
“I won’t talk anymore football,” Sapp said. “If this kid’s a first round pick then I won’t talk football (on social media) for a full year. I won’t make a tweet or an Instagram post unless the kids are playing sports. It’s nothing personal, but I’ll take off a whole year if Barmore is a first-round pick.”
In addition to joining the Pewter Report Podcast, I also had the chance to interview Sapp by phone where we touched on a lot of interesting items that will make this edition of the SR’s Fab 5. One of the topics we discussed was just how hard it was for Sapp’s 2002 Bucs to repeat. Of course Sapp loved the fact that his former team brought home another Lombardi Trophy nearly two decades after Tampa Bay did it the first time.
“It was refreshing because when your franchise hasn’t won a championship in 18 years and hadn’t won a playoff game since you left it’s been slim picking around there,” Sapp said. “So when I saw Tom [Brady] had the boys all locked up and ready to go and you were going to need 35 to come anywhere close to beating us – oh yeah!”
While Brady and the high-powered Bucs offense was the headliner all season, Sapp was happy to see Todd Bowles’ defense steal the show in the 31-9 Super Bowl win over Kansas City. Was he surprised that the Bucs defense held the dangerous Chiefs offense out of the end zone?
“Not out of the end zone, but I knew we had a chance to kick their ass because they had no offensive line,” Sapp said. “When [the Chiefs] have two guys opt out at the beginning of the year and they don’t want anything to do with it, then Shaq [Barrett], JPP (Jason Pierre-Paul), Vita [Vea] came back and started getting good pressure up the middle. Him and [Ndamukong] Suh were working good together. I look at the front. You know me. I look at the front and I keep it 100. The front was ready to go, and we were ready to kick a little booty!”
As for the chances of the Bucs repeating as Super Bowl champions? Sapp would love to see it, but knows first-hand how hard it will be it to win it all again.
“I love all this hunky dory, ‘We’re going to come back and win it’ good feeling thing that’s going on,” Sapp said. “Sounds great – until you’re the hunted. Now your ass is the hunted. You don’t know what it’s like to be hunted until you are hunted. Trust me, the worst team in the league gives you their best. It was something we weren’t ready for in 2003. We were not ready for it in any way shape or form. Then the Keyshawn [Johnson] thing with [Jon] Gruden sunk us. It was over then and we had a couple of injuries. You get a 7-9 season out of it.”
The Bucs opened the season on the road with a 17-0 shutout of the Eagles on Monday Night Football, as Tampa Bay ruined the opening of Lincoln Financial Field at Philadelphia. A lackluster 12-9 overtime loss to Carolina at home the next week was followed by a 31-10 win at Atlanta. After the bye week, the Bucs lost at home on Monday Night Football to former head coach Tony Dungy and Indianapolis, blowing a 35-14 lead in the fourth quarter to lose 38-35 in overtime. Tampa Bay would finish 5-7 down the stretch and Johnson would be deactivated for the final seven games of the season.
The problem for the 2003 Buccaneers was that the confetti kept falling after the Super Bowl and didn’t stop. The team didn’t turn the page on the 2002 season after winning the championship.
“The worst three words in the NFL are ‘We got it” or ‘I got it,’” Sapp said. “You ain’t got shit because it keeps changing. The challenges keep changing and the games get more intense. When you’re the hunted, when you’re the world champion – oh, my God. Just go back and look at those two games we played against Carolina that year. What was the score, 12-9? Get the hell out of here! We haven’t played one of those in a long time.
“After we won the Super Bowl we were back in offseason conditioning again in 51 days,” Sapp said. “We didn’t have any rest. We were tired and the biggest thing I say contributed to the downfall was look how many player radio shows showed up after we won the championship. Everybody had a radio show, everybody had an answer and everybody was a superstar. Hell, Martin [Gramatica] is still parlaying it right now with his own show and his own Spanish channel. That championship got parlayed, chopped up, screwed up – none of us were ready for it. I didn’t see the challenge of being hunted because I always thought I was the hunter. Shit…I got a little satisfied.”
That’s the challenge of the 2021 Buccaneers – to turn the page and maintain the hunter mentality. But it’s hard to do, according to Sapp.
“Brett Favre got exactly how many championships?” Sapp said. “One. Exactly.”
Even the recently retired Drew Brees only won one Super Bowl during his 20-year career.
While Brady has won seven championships in his 11 Super Bowl appearances, he’s only repeated once, which came in 2003 and 2004, proving how hard it is to win back-to-back championships. Kansas City tried to accomplish that feat this year, but the Bucs weren’t having it.
In fact, after Brady’s first Super Bowl win in 2001, the Patriots finished 9-7 the next season and failed to make the playoffs. New England made it to three straight Super Bowls from 2016-18, winning the first year, losing the second year and then winning his last championship with New England in ‘18. The Patriots would go 12-4 and lose in the wild card round in 2019, which was Brady’s last year in New England.
Outside linebacker Jason Pierre-Paul, who beat Brady to win the Super Bowl in 2011, saw his Giants team finish 9-7 and fail to make it to the postseason the following year.
The same thing happened to outside linebacker Shaq Barrett in Denver in 2015 after helping Denver beat the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl 50. Quarterback Peyton Manning retired the next year and the Broncos finished 9-7, but didn’t make the playoffs the next year.
“I hadn’t been back to the playoffs,” Barrett said about the difficulty of repeating. “This was my first time back in the playoffs this past year since the Super Bowl year. It’s really hard. Teams are most definitely going to key in on you. Players probably want to watch extra film that week, trying to prepare for you because it feels good to be able to knock off the champs – even if it’s a regular season game. I know we’re going to have a lot of targets on our backs.”
Barrett said the biggest difference in Denver in 2016 was the lack of continuity on the roster, as opposed to Tampa Bay, which was able to re-sign almost every free agent this offseason.
“We also let a lot of people walk in free agency that year, too,” Barrett said. “We didn’t bring people back. I think we cut some people. I don’t see this team doing the same thing. We’re bringing a lot of the same people back. I don’t know about cuts, but cuts are always going to happen. But we’re going to have the majority of the same core guys back. We’re going to keep working and grinding. We have great leaders who won’t let us get complacent.”
Sapp is hopeful that the 2021 Bucs don’t come unraveled the way the 2003 team did.
“We were the first one to bring a championship to the division and we’re the first one to double it up,” Sapp said. “At least we’re not sitting around talking about one championship. We’re talking about trying to get our third. We’re talking about joining the Raiders with three. That is one of the most storied franchises in the whole damn NFL with three championships. That’s pretty damn good. Some teams are still scraping for one.”
With great leadership from players like Brady, Pierre-Paul, Barrett and tight end Rob Gronkowski that can speak from experience about how difficult it is to repeat, the Bucs will be as prepared as possible heading into 2021.
“It’s going to be hard for sure, but we’re ready to work and we’re ready to keep grinding,” Barrett said. “We’re still hungry. Nobody is settling for one Super Bowl. We know we have the potential to do it again, so we’re trying to make another run.”