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The Buccaneers should be more than just a contender by 2017

NFL: Tampa Bay Buccaneers-Minicamp Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Every year (except maybe 2009), the Tampa Bay Buccaneers say they want to make the playoffs. And almost every year, the Bucs disappoint. It’s now been nearly a decade since the team has last entered the playoffs, and it’s about time they get there again. ESPN’s John Clayton thinks Bucs fans will have to wait just a little bit longer, though.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers should be a playoff contender in 2017. The offensive rebuild is almost done. Upgrades at cornerback and defensive end make them more competitive. One more draft should get them over the top.

Apparently “over the top” now means “contending for a playoff spot”. My how standards have slipped. The Bucs were playoff contenders last year, until they lost four straight to end the season, and were a tiebreaker removed from making it into the playoffs in 2010 — but contending in 2017 is now what we should be hoping for.

Nope. The Bucs have the talent to make the playoffs this year. Not just contend, but win. As I keep saying: this is the NFL, quick turnarounds happen all the time, especially with teams that have competent quarterbacks — especially teams where the coach was, supposedly, the problem.

Here’s another fact: if the Bucs don’t even contend for the playoffs this year, we can probably conclude that firing Lovie Smith for Dirk Koetter was the wrong move. Assuming the lack of competitiveness isn’t because Jameis Winston was injured for most of the season, because coaches almost always get mulligans when their quarterbacks disappear. Lovie Smith had the Bucs competitive, until the final four games of the season, and that was with a rookie quarterback. If Koetter can’t do better than that with a more experienced version of the same quarterback, as well as more overall talent, then what is he even here for?

That seems unlikely, though. I’d expect the Bucs to at least be competing for a playoff spot this year, though they may miss out because of a rough schedule. And they should definitely be in the playoffs in 2017. Yes, they have a few holes on the roster, but so do most teams. They still have almost everything they need to be a good team. Now’s the time to finally show it.