When Jon Gruden was fired, when Derrick Brooks was released, and when it became evident that the Bucs would not approach the salary cap limit, the Bucs officially went into rebuilding mode. But what does that mean? We hear this term thrown around, usually by the media as most teams try to avoid that phrasing as they think it sends out a negative vibe about the program or organization.
Truth be told, that's where the Bucs are right now. I discussed this pretty heavily last year, both in print and with anyone who would listen. The general consensus seems to be that if indeed a team is rebuilding, the plan should unfold in 3 years.
Year 1 is spent establishing systems, relationships and foundations. Usually the team does not have the talent to make a run at anything significant, thus a poor record ensues.
Year 2 is used by building on the foundations, winning a game or two they weren't supposed to, and stringing together a few wins.
Year 3 is the payoff year. This should be the year when you win all the games you are supposed to and a few others that were coin flips.
In my 3 year lookahead for the Bucs, I targeted a 4-12 year 1, 7-9 year 2, and a 10-6 year 3 with a playoff berth happening. Year 1 (2009) has come and gone, and while they didn't hit my initial target, they did come close. The Bucs brought in players they felt would fit their system, mainly through the draft, and the foundation should have been established. It looks like it has been, though there is still some groundwork to go.
What can we expect for Year 2 and beyond? Well, the negativity seems to be outweighing optimism now, and I can certainly understand why. To expect or call for an 10+ win season next year probably isn't feasible. I'd enjoy it as much as the next person, but continued progress and staying the course, assuming the course is true, is the way to achieve the goal. I look for 2010 to be an improvement of 2009, but not quite where we want to be in the long run. Complicating the matters are the lack of a CBA and the looming 2011 non-season.
As we enter Year 2 of the rebuilding phase, it's important to remember that Rome wasn't built in a day, but they did lay stones and progress each day. Lets hope we see that same progress in 2010.