I was born in Houston, Texas but moved to Tampa before I finished elementary school. I vaguely remember watching Oilers' games with my Dad before my parents split, but like my parents' marriage, the Oilers didn't make it either. The same year the Oilers moved to Tennessee happened to be the same year I found interest in the Buccaneers.
I have been an avid Bucs fan since they ditched Bucco Bruce for the pewter and red back in 1997. I remember when they opened Raymond James, and the little boy that I was, absolutely fell in love with the pirate ship. I went to a couple of games, painted my face, wore a jersey, and had to buy the foam pirate ship hat. I watched the playoff runs, and cheered till my voice was hoarse when they lifted the Lombardi trophy in 2002. I grew up speaking the names of Brooks, Sapp, Dunn, Lynch, Barber, Alstott, and Gramatica with reverence. However, I have never had a quarterback to love, and cherish as my very own.
While other kids were blessed with Favre, Brady, or Brees, etc... I was left, stuck in a revolving door of mediocrity, constantly wondering when the spinning would stop. It was like watching Wheel of Fortune every couple of years. Would each new quarterback bring the payday we have all been hoping for, or would we merely end up bankrupt once again? Don't get me wrong... watching my team trounce the Raiders to win the Super Bowl is one of my fondest memories, but even then, it felt like we were missing something.
Two years after that trip to the "mountain", I finished school and left for the Army. During the past decade, it has been a challenge to keep up to date with my beloved Buccaneers, and not all of that has been due to my geographical displacement. Granted, I'm pretty sure I can count on one hand how many games I watched during the two and half years I spent in South Korea, or the year I spent in Afghanistan, but the continual changing of the guard, i.e. new quarterbacks, head coaches, GM's etc... has kept me off balance in a way that, at times, made it so that it really didn't matter who was playing or who was in charge, because the end was always the same: a loss on Sunday, and no chance of the playoffs.
I remember calling home to ask how the game was going, only to find out that my parents could not watch it, because it was blacked out locally. Apparently, these fluctuations with the team have affected more fans than just myself. Being in the military, you get used to moving around a lot. Change can be exciting, but over time it can also be a hindrance. I believe the latter is accurate in this case.
I got back from Afghanistan in 2012, and found myself in a situation with relative stability, and both the financial means, as well as the desire to switch to Direct TV for the sole purpose of watching my Bucs every week. For the past two years, I have slowly found my way back into the fold.
I'm not going to lie... last year hurt. The worst part, for me at least, was that you could see it coming. It was like watching a train coming down the tracks, but being unable to open the car door to get out of the way. There was discord between Schiano and the players, Freeman missed meetings and team photos, and then preseason hit. Day one, I knew Glennon should have been the starter. Freeman could be the comeback king, but he was always inconsistent. I watched Glennon play, and while he wasn't perfect, I liked him a heck of a lot better than Freeman.
The close losses at the beginning of the season were heartbreaking. From there, things just went downhill. It was like a perfect storm brewed in the Gulf, took a right turn, and settled over Raymond James. It became a disastrous hurricane of proportions not seen in Florida since Andrew came ashore. The mid-season wins saved us, and brought back a glimmer of hope, but the end of the season left us huddled in a corner, licking our wounds.
Since the offseason, however, something strange has happened. Normally, football would drop off the radar for me until at least July, but this year something is different. I feel static in the air (and I currently reside in Kentucky). I have not been able to read enough articles, or glean enough information on the Bucs. Moving the Draft back two weeks later this year has been absolute torture. Something is happening...
It could be the hiring of Lovie and Licht. It could be the massive roster changes in free agency. It most likely isn't the new uniforms, although I'm going to buy one anyways. It could be that I am moving back home, and have tickets to the first game of the season. Or, it could be that I am getting out of the Army, and facing an uncertain future, have decided to pin my hopes onto the team I love so dearly.
I may not agree with all of the roster moves, however, I definitely think we are moving in the right direction. The ship has been righted, where it goes from here, only time will tell. I feel as if a lot of the pieces are falling into place. There are holes at wide receiver and offensive guard. We need all-around depth. Neither of those statements is particularly debatable.
This Thursday I'll be watching the draft with a beer in my hand, a Bucs shirt on, and will most likely be wearing my Bucs pajama pants as well (it doesn't hurt to be comfy). Every website out there has multiple articles about the draft as well as mock draft picks, (trust me, I've read them all) and none of them matter because conjecture is simply that. I may not have mentioned this earlier, but I have spent my entire time in the Army working in intelligence, primarily as an intelligence analyst. Now, football and terrorism may not be linked, but analysis is the same process regardless of the subject matter.
I think Glennon is going to be traded for draft picks. I don't dislike the guy, but I think the organization has decided to go in a different direction. I also think this is the perfect time to draft a quarterback. I personally hope to not see a top ten first round draft pick for at least the next five years, which makes this a pivotal year to find a franchise quarterback. Are the QBs in this class ready to start in the NFL? Maybe not, but that's the beauty of this situation for the Bucs... they won't have to.
There are a few quarterbacks in this draft that I like, but the analyst in me has picked a specific one. The fact that the fan in me likes the choice, either means that I'm going to be incredibly happy on draft day, or that my emotions have clouded my judgment. For me, the best quarterback for the Bucs is Fresno State's Derek Carr.
Now, I could quote stats, bring up yardage, touchdowns, completion ratings, the whole nine yards, but I won't. Suffice it to say that Carr could be a really good quarterback. What interests me the most is not what he has shown on film, or even his intangibles, but the possibilities that open up by bringing him to Tampa.
We've got McCown for two years. That is two years for Carr to develop. Tedford has been named the offensive coordinator, and he's almost family with Derek and his family. Before Tedford was hired by the Bucs, he was training Carr in the offseason. Carr would have two years to develop into a scheme custom tailored by Tedford, to ensure Carr's success.
Derek grew up watching and experiencing what his brother David went through. Some might knock that relation as being a disadvantage, but I'm not one of them. David was drafted to an expansion team (I root for the Texans when I'm not cheering for the Bucs) without an offensive line to speak of, and none of the tools he needed for success. I don't blame David. Not to mention that in ten years in the Army, I've had more leaders demonstrate how not to lead, than leaders who have led by example. Trust me, you can learn from both situations, and I think Derek has.
Also, I've seen some incredible things happen in service to my country. I've seen teams of mediocre soldiers mesh together and become amazing. I've seen troops, properly utilized by command, achieve great things, not because of their inherent and intrinsic value, but because they were set up for success, and correctly implemented in the scheme of things. I think the Buccaneers are headed in a similar direction.
I don't know how draft day will play out. We may end up trading back a few slots to gain more picks, but I definitely hope we draft Carr in the first round. There will be plenty of time in the second and third rounds to pick up a receiver and an offensive guard. I've been watching Licht, and he's a pretty shrewd character. I highly doubt we will stay with the number of picks we have now.
There are certain trends I have noticed which lead me to believe the draft will turn out a certain way, but there is still a good chance that the conclusions I have come to will fail to hit their mark on Thursday night. Regardless of how the draft unfolds, I think the Bucs are in good hands, and I trust the judgment of our leadership. However, I think the important takeaway from the run-up to this year's draft is not specifically whom the Bucs will pick, but the excitement that has found it's way back into the Buccaneers' community.
I'm excited. I think we have the opportunity to be great again. I think we can win again. Most importantly, I see the possibility of solidarity for the first time in a long time. Thursday night, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers could draft a franchise quarterback. I'm looking forward to coming home.