FAB 4. An Open Letter To The 2019 Buccaneers
Tampa Bay’s 2019 training camp begins in just two weeks, and most have you, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, as the favorites for the NFC South cellar – again.
But it doesn’t have to be this way.
Despite coming off back-to-back 5-11 seasons, talent isn’t really the issue in Tampa Bay.
No, the Bucs roster isn’t perfect. The secondary is awfully young and inexperienced. The running back stable is far from being the envy of the league. The right side of the offensive line, especially the right guard position, looks to be the Achilles heel of the offense.
But former head coach Dirk Koetter said talent wasn’t the issue just an hour before being fired after the last game of the season in 2018, and new head coach Bruce Arians said talent isn’t the issue upon watching film from last year’s Tampa Bay team.
Keep in mind that this is a Tampa Bay squad that split games with New Orleans and Carolina last year, and lost both games to Atlanta by a combined seven points. The Bucs also had three-point losses to Pittsburgh, Cincinnati and the New York Giants, and lost by seven points at Dallas and by eight points at Baltimore.
Close losses – but losses just the same in a 5-11 season.
Tampa Bay was also competitive in a 16-3 loss at home to Washington, and actually had a halftime lead against New Orleans in what turned out to be a 28-14 home loss.
Believe it or not, Buccaneers, the division is there for the taking. Yes, I’m talking about the rough-and-tumble NFC South.
This Bucs team has to dare to be great.
You have the talent. Now you need the willpower.
Just ask the Tampa Bay Lightning, who have met their playoff demise the past two years – first at the hands of Alex Ovechkin, who willed the Capitals past the Lightning in the Eastern Conference Finals and then willed Washington to the Stanley Cup in 2018, and then at the hands of the upstart Columbus Blue Jackets, who had never won a playoff series before and swept the Lightning this past season in one of the biggest playoff upsets of any sport.
The Lightning proved to be one of the best NHL teams of all time – in the regular season – last year, winning a franchise-record 62 games, which was the second-most victories in NHL history. Yet the Blue Jackets had the will to win and proved to have the killer instinct that the Lightning lacked.
Will Arians instill a killer instinct and a will to win in the 2019 Buccaneers? He needs to.
A week ago, Americans celebrated their independence on the Fourth of July, remembering its forefathers, who were out-manned and out-gunned, yet defeated the world’s greatest army in the Amercian Revolutionary War with willpower, ingenuity and a burning desire to end England’s tyranny and to fight for freedom.
The Bucs appear to have the ingenuity with Arians and defensive coordinator Todd Bowles at the helm. Do you, the players, have the willpower to win and the burning desire to end a decade-long playoff drought and fight to make the playoffs?
Hey Bucs, let’s change the narrative.
I’m just as tired of writing about the same double-digit losing Buccaneers (with a couple of teases in 2010 and 2016 mixed in) as the fans are watching it.
Defensive tackle Gerald McCoy just left after nine years of pretty remarkable play – yet no playoff berths. Right tackle Demar Dotson has been in Tampa Bay for 10 years and has never experienced a playoff season.
You think this town goes crazy over the Lightning? You ain’t seen nothing yet.
Florida is a football state and Tampa is a football town.
If you weren’t following the Buccaneers in 1997 you don’t know about the magic that the Buccaneers brought to this area under Tony Dungy and the Super Bowl that Jon Gruden helped deliver a few years later. You didn’t see Dale Mabry Highway painted red and pewter in ’97 with Bucs car flags waving from so many vehicles.
To the Buccaneers players, I’m tired of seeing you underachieving. So are the Bucs fans.
You have to be tired of it too, especially the veterans.
Losing has to disgust you. It can’t be acceptable. It has to hurt like a pain you don’t want to experience again – even if it’s just a loss in Week 4.
There can no longer be a “Well, it’s a long season, we’ll get ‘em next week” mentality.
That can’t be tolerated anymore in Tampa Bay – not at One Buc Place. And I think that’s why Arians was brought in here and why he’ll eventually succeed at changing the losing culture.
But I’ve believed in this team’s talent too much over the past couple of years. I’ve predicted winning seasons only to be burned with your underachieving 5-11 results. That’s why I’ve adopted the Missouri state slogan when it comes to my Bucs coverage this year.
Buccaneers, I’m not saying you won’t rise up and make the playoffs this year, or that you can’t do it this year. Just show me.
Make me – and others – believe in you.
Impose your will on your opponents – and also on this Bucs fan base.
Make those fans fill the stands at Raymond James Stadium and want to cheer you on. Make them wear Bucs jerseys and red and pewter attire again. Make them break out the car flags once more.
Will yourselves to victory, Buccaneers.
It’s not as much about skill as it is about will in pro sports, especially the NFL where parity reigns. Willpower can’t be measured by analytics, nor does it show up on spreadsheets. Willpower isn’t data-driven.
It’s heart and belief.
Show me. Show us.