The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are 0-4, have lost three close games and one blowout, and their team is surrounded by unnecessary drama. Greg Schiano seems to have lost a large portion of the fan base and there have been reports of locker room discontent. And yet, Bucs fans have reasons to be optimistic for the future.
The most talented 0-4 team in Bucs history
This Tampa Bay team has more talent than any of the other 0-4 teams in Bucs history, and there are a lot of those. Ten, to be precise. It obviously has more talent than the '76 and '77 expansion Buccaneers, and the mid-80s and early-90s Bucs teams who had been destroyed by a cheap owner and horrible drafting. That leaves four other teams: the 1996, 2004, 2006 and 2009 Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The 1996 Bucs are an interesting case, because they had a lot of the pieces of the team's soon-to-be-dominant defense. Derrick Brooks, Warren Sapp, Mike Alstott, Paul Gruber, Tony Mayberry, Chidi Ahanotu, Hardy Nickerson, Donnie Abraham, John Lynch, Errict Rhett -- this team had talent, but it was Tony Dungy's first year and it took a while for everything to come together. Of course, that team lacked some quality at the skill positions with Courtney Hawkins and Robb Thomas being the primary receivers. This team may give the 2013 Bucs a run for their money, but I think the current squad still wins out.
The three 2000s teams had some remnants of the great defense, but many of their top players were aging quickly and they all lacked talent on offense. The 2009 Buccaneers were just a sad, talentless group entering a rebuilding period that is finally coming to a close. The 2004 and 2006 teams were part of the Gruden/Allen era, filled with old teams held together by scotch tape and some great coaching.
On the one hand, that's not a compliment to Schiano's coaching: going 0-4 with such a talented squad. However, it does give us hope for the future. Talent is crucial, and the Buccaneers have the talent to start winning games tomorrow.
0-4 teams this century
Historically, 0-4 teams are extremely unlikely to make it to the playoffs. However, historically, 0-4 teams are extremely unlikely to go 0-16, too. The Buccaneers may be 0-4, but they're likely to go .500 the rest of the way. The Bucs have lost their past four games by just 26 combined points. Every NFL team this century to lose their first four games by 40 points or less has won at least three games the rest of the way.
Part of that is simple reversion to the mean: 0-4 teams are not likely to actually be so bad that they'd lose to every team in the league. Which is why we can expect the Buccaneers to win around six more games this season, apparently. A big tip of the hat to Kenneth Arthur of Field Gulls for gathering a lot of this data. Go check out his writing, like his weekly Un-Power Rankings.
|Team||Early record||Pt. Diff. 4 games||Final games|
On average, these teams won 5.6 games over their final 12 games, which means they effectively went .500 on the remainder of the season. While none of those teams went on to get to the playoffs that year, a few of them at least made a run for it and more than a few managed to look very good in the subsequent season. The 2000 Patriots won the Super Bowl the next year. The 2012 Saints are now 5-0. The 2004 Buccaneers started 4-0 and won their division the next season. The 2011 Vikings, 2010 Lions, 2008 Bengals, 2003 Jets and 2002 Rams all made it to the playoffs their next year.
Last year's Tampa Bay Buccaneers started 1-3, but were right in the playoff race by midseason. The worst pass defense in the league combined with a total collapse by Josh Freeman stopped them from going forward and actually getting there, but it's another illustration that the Buccaneers can go out and win a lot of games this year.
The season has twelve more games. Time to start winning some of them.