The Tampa Bay Buccaneers haven't made the playoffs since 2007. That season, they won the division with a 9-7 record, a mediocre offense and a traditionally-solid defense -- and immediately lost to the later Super Bowl champions in the Wild Card Round.
Since then, the Bucs have had two winning seasons, neither good enough to make the playoffs. And last year, they went 2-14 leading to their now holding the first overall pick in the draft. That's not a very good basis for making the playoffs in 2015, but ESPN's Mike Sando thinks they have a long shot to make it in, anyway.
They were so much worse than anticipated last season after making a series of personnel moves that went over well with some of our analysts, notably Bill Polian. Were the analysts completely wrong, or is this a situation where a strong-enough foundation is in place for Tampa Bay to take a giant step forward in a potentially weak division? Having an actual offensive coordinator could help this team make the leap, especially if it finds success with a rookie QB at No. 1 overall.
Getting a good quarterback would kind of help, there. The Bucs have many other needs and holes to fill, one not-incompetent quarterback can make up for a lot of deficiencies elsewhere. The other thing the Bucs have to do: fix. the. offensive. line. We're going to bang that drum throughout the offseason, simply because Tampa Bay had the worst offensive line in the NFL.
If they do those things, the Bucs certainly have the talent to make the playoffs. Mike Evans, Charles Sims, Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Vincent Jackson -- these are not slouches. And the defense played well for the second half of the season -- well enough to make the playoffs, though more talent is needed if they're to become the dominant unit that Lovie Smith wants them to be.
Making the playoffs isn't as much of a pipe dream as it may seen, but it will require a lot of things to go right. A lot more than went right last year.