When you’re the top dog you become the hunted.

The Bucs found that out in 2003 following their Super Bowl win over the Raiders as they finished that season 7-9.

As great of a quarterback as Tom Brady is, and despite winning six Super Bowls with the Patriots during his 20 seasons in New England, he was only able to win them back-to-back once.

Bucs QB Tom Brady and Patriots owner Robert Kraft

Bucs QB Tom Brady and Patriots owner Robert Kraft – Photo by: USA Today

The NFL is a copycat league and teams try to copy a winning formula for their own success. The NFL is also set up to devalue dynasties and would prefer to see parity among the 32 teams. It is hard for a team to be drafting at the end of the first round year after year and maintain supremacy. That is what made New England’s successful run so incredible when you look back on it.

And the teams in your own division are all drafting higher – sometimes in the Top 10 or 15 – as the Falcons and Panthers have done the last two seasons. When you hit on a couple top 15 picks teams can – combined with a few other factors –  make a significant jump in the win column. Just look at the Buccaneers, who only two years ago drafted linebacker Devin White with the No. 5 pick in the draft and the year before traded back to select Vita Vea 12th overall. Those are two crucial pieces to the defensive turnaround that helped Tampa Bay win last year’s Super Bowl over the Chiefs.

The NFL wants bad teams to get good.

And the Bucs bad rival teams in the NFC South – particularly the Falcons – while not ready to challenge Tampa Bay quite yet, are making strides.

The good news is for Bucs fans is, their team is still the cream of the crop in the division.

The Falcons are a better football team today than they were a week ago and most certainly from a year ago. Adding tight end Kyle Pitts in the draft gives them another weapon on an already loaded offense. We talk about the weapons the Bucs have offensively, but the Falcons can make a case they have just as many. Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley, Russell Gage, Hayden Hurst and now Pitts looks to be on par with Mike Evan, Chris Godwin, Antonio Brown, Rob Gronkowski and O.J. Howard.

And while Matt Ryan is no Tom Brady, he’s no slouch at quarterback. The Falcons were fifth in the NFL is passing yards in 2020, just three spots behind the Buccaneers, averaging 272 yards per game compared to the Bucs 289. That is only a difference of 17 yards per game. Or one completion a game to Kyle Pitts.

However, the Buccaneers have a superior offensive line and their ability to protect Brady was one of the differences in the Buccaneers winning 11 regular season games and the Falcons wining just four in 2020.

QB Matt Ryan and QB Tom Brady

QB Matt Ryan and QB Tom Brady – Photo by: USA Today

But as mentioned previously, the NFL is a copycat league and the Falcons saw the Buccaneers emphasis on improving their offensive line last year with the addition of Tristan Wirfs. While Atlanta didn’t take a tackle with their first round pick, they did grab Jalen Mayfield in the third round and likely new starting center Drew Dalman in the fourth.

But the copy-catting didn’t stop there. The Buccaneers added outstanding safety Antoine Winfield Jr. in the second round last season and the confident rookie bolstered the backend of the Bucs defense with his play. The Falcons, who struggled at safety over the last few years with injuries and inconsistent play like the Bucs prior to Winfield, also went safety in Round 2, selecting Richie Grant out of UCF with the 40th pick in the draft.

Add in a handful of free agent signings like Mike Davis at running back, Barkevious Mingo at linebacker, Fabian Moreau at cornerback and pass rusher Brandon Copeland, now all of a sudden the Falcons are a much better football team than a year ago.

Ready to challenge the Buccaneers for NFC South supremacy? No, not yet. But they are better.

How long will the Buccaneers be the top dog in the NFC South? As long as Tom Brady chooses to go under center at Raymond James Stadium, things likely won’t change a whole lot in the near future. Of course injuries, bad luck, and off the field distractions can ruin a season in a hurry, but if Tampa Bay can avoid those things for the most part, they should take the NFC South title again with relative ease.

But the Panthers, Saints and the Falcons aren’t going to just sit idly by and hand the trophy to the Buccaneers year after year. The hunters become the hunted and the target is clearly on the backs of the Buccaneers in 2021 and beyond.


Cannon Blast

Table of Contents

• A week ago head coach Bruce Arians and Jason Licht could do no wrong in the eyes of Bucs fans. They won the Super Bowl, they re-signed the entire starting 22 back for another year and hit on a lot more draft picks than they missed over the last two years.

It was basically a loved fest. A Tampa Bay version of Woodstock. Flowers and parades and love spread around the city.

Groovy, man. Peace and love.

QB Tom Brady and HC Bruce Arians

QB Tom Brady and HC Bruce Arians – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

And then last Friday night, for many, it came to a screeching halt.

“With the 64th pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, the Buccaneers select Kyle Trask, quarterback, University of Florida.” 

Twitter exploded with the arm chair social media GMs ripping the organization for taking Trask. All of a sudden Arians and Licht became Leeman Bennett and Phil Kruger.

I have no idea if Trask pans out. No one does.

But who saw Tom Brady panning out back in 2000?

Who thought Drew Brees would be a first ballot Hall of Famer when he was drafted a year after Brady in 2001? What about Russell Wilson?

I mean Josh Rosen, Sam Darnold and Josh Allen were all taken in the Top 10 in the same draft three years ago. So far one of the three has had playoff success. And heck, Lamar Jackson might end up being the best of the class and he wasn’t taken until the 32nd pick.

My point is, saying a player is a bad pick minutes after he is drafted is ludicrous. And maybe Trask never sees the field and is a footnote in the lack of second round draft success the Bucs have had over the last decade.

No offense Twitter scouts and nerds, but I am rolling with Bruce Arians on this one. You know the guy who has worked with and succeeded with some of the best quarterbacks to ever play the game.

They don’t call him the “Quarterback Whisperer’ for nothing

Last Laugh

Looks about right for Duval County.

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About the Author: Mark Cook

Mark Cook currently is the director of editorial content and Bucs beat writer and has written for PewterReport.com since 2011. Cook has followed the Buccaneers since 1977 when he first began watching football with his Dad and is fond of the 1979 Bucs team that came within 10 points of going to a Super Bowl. His favorite Bucs game is still the 1979 divisional playoff win 24-17 over the Eagles. In his spare time Cook enjoys playing guitar, fishing, the beach and family time.Cook is a native of Pinecrest in Eastern Hillsborough County and has written for numerous publications including the Tampa Tribune, In the Field and Ya'll Magazine. Cook can be reached at mark@pewterreport.com
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8 months ago

agree with your analysis. JMO but the Bucs had far more obstacles to overcome than the majority of teams last year due to Covid. They spent 3/4ths the season adjusting to Brady. That won’t be the case this season with a training camp and pre season along with sell out crowds at RJ. Such an exciting time to be a Bucs fan!

8 months ago

MArk, I guess the fact that you wanted Trask drafted in the second round doesn’t have anything to do with your jaundiced view. If any of you Trask supporters could tell me how this team gets better with a player you hope stays on the bench for the next two years I will shut my mouth. But you can’t. In fact, unless you are a totally blinded Gator fan, of which there are many, you pray you don’t see Trask on the field for two year unless it is because the Bucs have built an insurmountable lead like they did… Read more »

Reply to  Mark Cook
8 months ago

Certainly he knows. He’s the next great GM waiting for his chance. But the NFL knows drdneast is too good to be an NFL GM, so they don’t even bother offering him and let him spew his expertise on blogs.

Reply to  drdneast
8 months ago

There is no end to your jerkiness. You are a self-supporter.

Reply to  Naplesfan
8 months ago

He’s a baby throwing tantrums.

Reply to  drdneast
8 months ago

I agree with Mark. It’s ludicrous to call Trask a bad pick at this point. Ludicrous I say.
Go Bucs!

Reply to  drdneast
8 months ago

Look….I actually agree with your premise on this. And I happen to think Trask has the chance to be a really good QB in the NFL. But I do agree that if we’ve got a two year window of WIN NOW….I’d rather not make a pick on a guy who we hope never sees the field in those two years. We’ve proven and the way the league is working the last few years…that there are always opportunities to grab a good veteran QB and win big (Russell Wilson/Rodgers may be available in the next year or two for example). BUT.… Read more »

Reply to  drdneast
8 months ago

Lol this is NOTHING compared to the Packers situation. Not even close. Your tantrums are funny though, keep it up. You’re good for at least ,3 horrible takes a day.

8 months ago

The Falcs appear to be somewhat better in 2021, but there has been so much wild swinging from year to year in the performance of both their offense and defense, it is really hard to figure out what they will ever be like year to year. As for draft position affecting team success, the truth of the matter is always that it does not matter where you pick, it only matters how well you pick. That is how the Pats managed to stay competitive year after year, decade after decade. Ditto with other perennially competitive teams like the Packers, Steelers,… Read more »

8 months ago

Win the NFC South again? The Saints won it for the last 4 years. Last time we won it was 2007.

8 months ago

The only inaccuracy in your article is when you said that the Bucs are poised to take the NFC South again. The Bucs did not win it, the Saints did. The Bucs did win the NFC title and the SuperBowl but had to take the long route thanks to two losses to the Saints. Yes, they should take the division, but it won’t be a repeat.

8 months ago

As one who experienced “Worst to First” in 1979 and the change in neighborhoods from the penthouse to the outhouse in 2003, I’m well aware of how quickly a team’s fortunes can change. As I recall, the Falcons, in spite of their record, hung in there with us until the end of the two games. It won’t surprise me if the Falcons more than double their win total from a year ago and come in 2nd in our Division. Likewise, I think the Panthers will be much better and perhaps be fending off the Saints for the 3rd spot. The… Read more »