In Search of a Dynasty

Hope is not a strategy. Strategy, though, does bring in hope. The Glazers, owners of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, are hoping they have found the correct combination to not only be relevant, but fostering a foundation for something greater. Only time will tell if that something greater has come to fruition. None of that can occur without addressing the present.

Constant Relevancy

In 1993, Rich McKay was hired on to the Bucs to be its general manager.  Sam Wyche was the coach then.  After three consecutive losing seasons, in 1996, the organization took a chance on a defensive coordinator from the Minnesota Vikings, Tony Dungy.  And with Tony Dungy came his version of the Steel Curtain defense when he played for them called the Tampa 2, a variation of a cover 2 scheme.  The middle linebacker, in a Tampa 2, decides whether he should drop back in passing situations, thus making it a cover 3.  Lovie Smith was the linebacker coach under Dungy from 1996 to 2000.  The Glazers entered in as owners of the franchise in 1995.

Notable Drafts Under McKay 1993 - 2001

1993 Draft

Round

Player

Position

3

John Lynch

Safety

6

Chidi Ahanotu

DT

1994 Draft

Round

Player

Position

1

Trent Dilfer

Qb

2

Errict Rhett

Rb

7

Jim Pyne

C

1995 Draft

Round

Player

Position

1

Warren Sapp

DT

1

Derrick Brooks

LB

Tony Dungy Hired

1996 Draft

2

Mike Alstott

RB

3

Donnie Abraham

CB

4

Jason Odom

OT

1997 Draft

1

Warrick Dunn

RB

1

Reidel Anthony

WR

3

Frank Middleton

G

3

Ronde Barber

CB

1998 Draft (none)

1999 Draft

1

Booger McFarland

DT

2

Shaun King

QB

3

Martin Grammatica

Kicker

4

Dexter Jackson

Safety

2000 Draft (none)

2001 Draft (none)

A certain free agent was signed in 1993, one Hardy Nickerson, who is currently the Bucs' linebacker coach.  On April 12, 2000, the Bucs traded for WR Keyshawn Johnson at a cost of two first round picks, the 12th and 27th overall.  That is why there are not any notable draft picks in 2000 and 2001.

During this McKay-Dungy relationship, the Bucs only had one losing season in six seasons.

Tony Dungy, Bucs' Tenure

Year

W

L

Playoffs

Off Rank

Def Rank

Pts

Yds

Pts

Yds

1996

6

10

30

28

8

11

1997

10

6

Lost Div

23

29

2

3

1998

8

8

18

22

5

2

1999

11

5

Lost Conf

27

28

3

3

2000

10

6

Lost WC

6

21

7

9

2001

9

7

Lost WC

15

26

8

6

Div = Divisional, Conf = Conference, WC = Wild Card

Courtesy of http://www.pro-football-reference.com/teams/tam/

Championship... at a Cost

Simply making the playoffs was wearing thin for the organization and they wanted a Super Bowl trophy.  This eagerness prompted the Bucs to mortgage the future.  All it took was 2002 and 2003 first round picks along with 2002 and 2004 second round draft picks with $8 million to trade for Oakland Raiders' coach Jon Gruden.  That very first year under Gruden, the Bucs won the 2002 Super Bowl.

Trade happy depleted the future of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.  The last years of GM Rich McKay cost the Bucs a total of four first round picks and two second round picks.  Internal commotion led to McKay leaving the organization.  McKay's touch was in his early years; not so much later.  From Wikipedia:

During his tenure as general manager, McKay drafted players such as Warren SappJohn LynchMike AlstottRonde BarberDerrick Brooks, and Warrick Dunn. McKay constructed the 2002 Tampa Bay Buccaneersroster that featured seven Pro Bowlplayers. Also, the Buccaneers' 41 Pro Bowl selections between 1997 through 2002 were the most in the NFL.

Sapp and Brooks - both selected by McKay in the first round of the 1995 NFL Draft - are now both members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Sapp was enshrined in August 2013; Brooks is part of a seven-member 2014 Pro Football Hall of Fame class that was announced January February 1, 2014 in New York City. According to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, McKay is the only General Manager in 94-year history of the NFL to have his first two draft picks as a GM be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Notable Drafts Under McKay 2002 - 2003

2002 Draft (none)

2003 Draft (none)

Notable Drafts Under Allen 2004 - 2008

2004 Draft

Round

Player

Position

1

Michael Clayton

WR

2005 Draft

Round

Player

Position

1

Cadillac Williams

RB

2

Barrett Ruud

LB

2006 Draft

Round

Player

Position

1

Davin Joseph

G

2007 Draft (none)

2008 Draft

Round

Player

Position

1

Aqib Talib

CB

3

Jeremy Zuttah

G

Jon Gruden, Bucs' Tenure

Year

W

L

Playoffs

Off Rank

Def Rank

Pts

Yds

Pts

Yds

2002

12

4

Won SB

18

24

1

1

2003

7

9

18

10

4

5

2004

5

11

23

22

9

5

2005

11

5

Lost WC

20

23

8

1

2006

4

12

31

29

21

17

2007

9

7

Lost WC

18

18

3

2

2008

9

7

19

14

10

9

Div = Divisional, Conf = Conference, WC = Wild Card

Courtesy of http://www.pro-football-reference.com/teams/tam/

Jon Gruden was brought along as an offensive genius, but from further inspection it seemed as though it never came to fruition.  Also known as a QB coach, the Bucs never found anything consistent nor developed any QB worthwhile.  Here are some of the QB's who have started for the Bucs from 2002 to 2008: Brad Johnson, Rob Johnson, Shaun King, Brian Griese, Chris Simms, Bruce Gradkowski, Tim Rattay, Luke McCown, and Jeff Garcia.

In five seasons as GM, Allen had two losing seasons and two playoff berths.  Unfortunately, both times as first round fodder.

Growing Pains

Representing a weak division to only become first round fodder in the playoffs wore thin upon the Glazers.  The Glazers went clean slate and promoted from within, thinking they had the potential of a winning program - that or more control over the new hires as puppets.  With that stated, Raheem Morris and Mark Dominik stepped into the limelight.

Raheem Morris was hired in 2002 to be a defensive quality control coach.  The following season, Morris was promoted to defensive assistant.  In 2004 to 2005, again, he was promoted to be assistant defensive backs coach.  He continued his skyrocketing by taking the defensive coordinator position at Kansas State in 2006.  Not straying too far, Morris became the defensive backs coach in 2007.  Morris helped tremendously in improving the defense, going from double digit ranking to the tops of the league.

Mark Dominik began his career with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 1995 as a pro personnel assistant.  He worked his way up to become Director of Pro Personnel in 2001.  Eight years later, Dominik was promoted to become the general manager.

Notable Drafts Under Dominik 2009 - 2013

2009 Draft

Raheem Morris Era

Round

Player

Position

1

Josh Freeman

QB

3

Roy Miller

DT

2010 Draft

Round

Player

Position

1

Gerald McCoy

DT

4

Mike Williams

WR

7

Dekota Watson

LB

7

Erik Lorig

DE (FB)

2011 Draft

Round

Player

Position

1

Adrian Clayborn

DE

2

Da'Quan Bowers

DE

3

Mason Foster

LB

2012 Draft

Greg Schiano Era

Round

Player

Position

1

Mark Barron

Safety

1

Doug Martin

RB

2

Lavonte David

LB

2013 Draft

Round

Player

Position

2

Johnthan Banks

CB

3

Mike Glennon

QB

4

Akeem Spence

DT

4

William Gholston

DE

5

Steven Means

DE

6

Mike James

RB

Raheem Morris, Bucs' Tenure  (Youngry Era)

Year

W

L

Playoffs

Off Rank

Def Rank

Pts

Yds

Pts

Yds

2009

3

13

30

28

27

27

2010

10

6

20

19

9

17

2011

4

12

27

21

32

30

Greg Schiano, Bucs' Tenure

Year

W

L

Playoffs

Off Rank

Def Rank

Pts

Yds

Pts

Yds

2012

7

9

13

9

23

29

2013

4

12

30

32

21

17

Div = Divisional, Conf = Conference, WC = Wild Card

Courtesy of http://www.pro-football-reference.com/teams/tam/

Dominik and Morris started off with a bang by drafting QB Josh Freeman from Kansas State in the first round.  Morris' relationship with Freeman while at Kansas State had Morris predicting that Freeman is a franchise guy and a long-term answer.  Raheem's second year as coach skyrocketed aspirations after winning 10 games and a faux paus in diction created a term for his team and term, "Youngry".  Youngry is young and hungry.  His third year came crashing down and the team quit.

Intent on finding respectability, Dominik grabbed one of the best offensive minds in the NCAA's in Oregon's Chip Kelly.  Unfortunately, Kelly reneged and that sent the club scrambling.  On such short notice, the club settled upon Rugter's coach Greg Schiano.  Schiano is known for taking an unknown collegiate team and made them respectable.  A mini-Jim Harbaugh type, but lacking the superior success of a Jim Harbaugh at the collegiate level.

The Glazers finally felt like dispensing monies towards free agents at the same time.  Youngry experiment was a disaster and needed veteran leadership.  In 2012, the Bucs grabbed two of the best free agents in WR Vincent Jackson and OG Carl Nicks.  CB Eric Wright was considered the third big signing along with the two.  In 2013, the Bucs again looked like free agent winners in grabbing CB Darrelle Revis and S Dashon Goldson.

In the two years of Schiano, he weeded several players out of the system in order to develop a better culture such as TE Winslow, DT Price, CB Talib and CB Eric Wright, to name a few.  The players did not quit and, although the defensive did not vastly improve in the points allowed statistic, they did improve in defensive yards given up last season.

In Mark Dominik's five seasons as GM, he has had four losing seasons.  A great fiscal GM whose drafting abilities have grown, but free agent acquisitions seemed to look to be more splash than team fit.  2013 season exposed to the Glazers that the club was not improving, evidently, and lacked long term projection.

Going Back to What Works

Luck and perfect timing aligns for the Buccaneers organization.  Lovie Smith was out of the NFL last season.  Jason Licht has been bouncing around preparing to become a general manager, but has been associated with Lovie Smith.  The cornerback class in 2014 was deeper than 2013, where the Bucs aimed to improve vastly with the acquisition of Darrelle Revis.  The 2014 free agent class overall was deeper than 2013.  In one word to describe the 2014 offseason so far - Kismet.

Lovie is an established coach.  In nine years with the Chicago Bears, Lovie has had only three losing seasons.  He has had three playoff appearances, including one appearance in Super Bowl XLI.  His M.O. (Modus Operandi), or method of operation, is a simple one.  Strong defense and a strong running game lead to a better chance of having a successful season(s).  Here's a link to on that research: A Template for Success

Licht started off as an assistant scout for the Miami Dolphins in 1995.  Since then, he has moved up the ranks to national scout to many forms of director of player personnel for several franchises.  This is Licht's rookie season as a GM, but what makes Licht different is he has accrued different perspectives from different franchises like New England, Miami, Carolina, Philadelphia and Arizona.  The selling point of Licht is value.  He may have learned that trait from being a part of the Patriots.  On one of the many NFL films made about the Patriots and Bill Belechik is this one idea that they would rather cut a player one year early on their contract than to pay for a player one more year past their effectiveness.  That notion is evident in the acquisition of left tackle Anthony Collins and the release of former starting left tackle Donald Penn.

While Mark Dominik did not leave the Bucs' bare with rising stars in DT Gerald McCoy, LB Lavonte David, WR Vincent Jackson and RB Doug Martin, he did leave the Bucs with holes on the offensive line, a lack of quality depth, no real pass rush on the defensive line and $16 million on a cornerback where the highest paid cornerback at the time, Dallas Cowboys' Brandon Carr, was averaging $10 million per year.  Licht put his stamp on this team immediately through free agency.  And for the third year in a row, the Bucs are free agent winners.  Except this time, instead of a dribble of talent coming in a year at a time, the Bucs landed a huge haul.

2012 and 2013 Free Agent Signings

Player

Pos

Dollars

Years

Average

Vincent Jackson

WR

$55,550,000

5

$11,110,000

Carl Nicks

G

$47,500,000

5

$9,500,000

Eric Wright

CB

$37,500,000

5

$7,500,000

2013 FA

Darrelle Revis

CB

$96,000,000

6

$16,000,000

Dashon Goldson

S

$41,250,000

5

$8,250,000

Total

$52,360,000

This does not include re-signing Bucs' own FA's.

2014 Free Agent Signings

Player

Pos

Dollars

Years

Average

Michael Johnson

DE

$43,750,000

5

$8,750,000

Anthony Collins

LT

$30,000,000

5

$6,000,000

Alterraun Verner

CB

$25,750,000

4

$6,437,500

Evan Dietrich-Smith

C/G

$14,250,000

4

$3,562,500

Clinton McDonald

DT/NT

$12,000,000

4

$3,000,000

Josh McCown

QB

$10,000,000

2

$5,000,000

Brandon Myers

TE

$4,250,000

2

$2,125,000

Mike Jenkins

CB

$1,500,000

1

$1,500,000

Total

$36,375,000

This does not include re-signing Bucs' own FA's.

Licht spent less money, on average per year, than Dominik did.  Also, Licht released three players in order to recoup some cap space in Darrelle Revis, Davin Joseph and Donald Penn.  That saved about $31 million per year off the books.  As of right now, March 20,2014, the Bucs have about $7.9 million of cap space left.  The game plan for Licht is to shore up any necessary holes on the club in order not to be forced to draft for position in the draft.  Hopefully, that will enable the Bucs to draft the best players available in the first three rounds of the 2014 NFL draft.

In short order, the Buccaneers are going back to their roots of a time where they were once feared for their defense.  Lovie Smith was a part of that era.  He has a game plan.  A simple one.  Licht, too, has a game plan.  A simple one as well.  These moves, in all, have made Buc fans have a simple game plan also:  expect to be relevant... for a long time.  At least, that is the strategy for hope.

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