I heard the rumour. We were going to get a coach that has been very successful in the past. He took a team to the Superbowl, and he knows how to run a powerful offense. I was so happy when we got that coach, because now it would all change.
Problem was, we didnt get Boomer Esiason and Icky Woods and Chris Collinsworth in their prime with him. Sam Wyche certainly looked like the real deal, but did he look any more the role than Ray Perkins did before him? Perkins, who started off the Giants Playoff run in the early 80s before handing the team off to his defensive coordinator Bill Parcells, never won more than 6 games in one season here. And the time he finally did, he was fired after that 6th win. The Bucs partied so hard the next week Vinny Testeverde ran in for a 48 yard QB Touchdown run.
Wasnt much different for Leeman Bennett either. He was selling RVs in Georgia (it was his own business now, give him a break) after getting fired for not getting far enough with his powerful Atlanta Falcons. He had guys like Steve Bartkowski and William Andrews playing for him. Leeman had Steve....DeBerg here, and an unpolished Steve Young. He won 4 games....in two years.
In fact the only argument for the case is Jon Gruden, who had some success and came here to energize a Bucs team with more juice and took them to the Superbowl. But Gruden had no championships to speak of, he was still an up and coming coach.
Bill Cowher would come in with all the numbers. The 10 division championships. All of the playoff appearances, all the AFC Championship games, and maybe most importantly, doing it with all bunch of different guys. There is no doubt the man can coach.
But will he repeat what he did in Pittsburgh here? Will he be given the 15 years here too, in a community that wouldn't give Raheem Morris 4 games before calling for his job? Does the past carry that much weight?
Keep in mind, in 1995 when the Glazers had decided enough is enough with ole Sammy Boy, they had their eyes on Bill Parcells, Jimmy Johnson, and Steve Spurrier. Oh how people wanted the 'ole Ball Coach here. Instead of Trent Dilfer we would have had Danny Wuerfful throwing to Reidel Anthony.
In the end, it was the guy who had been overlooked for 15 years who did the job just right. Tony Dungy, WITH a General Manager, Rich McKay, built the Bucs into the playoff contenders they were. ...and it didn't look good for him either at first.
The biggest draw to Bill Cowher, or Shanahan or any other big name coach, is that he will sell tickets. When we go see the latest movie, we want the theatre to ourselves. When we watch a Bucs game, we want every seat full; and full with a pewter and Red clad person. Too often lately we are seeing empty seats or ones filled with Green or Blue. But this problem wasnt solved in 1996/97 with the hiring of a big named coach. Tony Dungy may have sold about 50 extra tickets by himself, but thats not how he filled corners.
Corners you ask? Those familiar with Dungy's book, will know of his story on how he was told how to gauge if he was successful or not by checking out the corners of the stadium during the national anthem. When the corners are full, then you know you've done something, because the upper corners are the last places people want to sit in a stadium. Towards the end of 1996, the stadium started to do better. By 1997, Tampa Stadium, or Houlihans as it was called, filled up more and more, and with less and less of the opposing team.
The recipe for filling up the stadium? Wins, not Names. The 1996 team won 2 of their last 3 games, and started out 1997 with 5 straight wins. The successful atmosphere propelled the Stadium season ticket march for Raymond James, which sold out before the season, removing the option for opposing fans to purchase 30,000 tickets to see their beloved packers.
Raymond James will fill up again, when the wins become regular, even the Club seats will fill up. Right up to the corners.