As the 2018 season approaches, the Buccaneers are hoping to rebound from a tough 2017. Tampa Bay finished 5-11 last year, so there was work to be done this offseason. General manager Jason Licht had roster changes to make, while the players and coaches had work to do in terms of bringing individual talent together for a better overall performance as a team.
The Bucs have been mediocre-to-awful since 2007, failing to make the playoffs in each year. But 2017 was supposed to be different. Everything was supposed to come together, which was a sentiment echoed by many NFL analysts that picked Tampa Bay to either earn a wild card spot or even win the NFC South.
HBO’s “Hard Knocks” series only added to the hype, featuring lines like “this is a team ready for launch.” Things were great for the Bucs last year until they weren’t. They had two separate five-game losing streaks and finished last in the division for the sixth time in seven years.
Fast forward to Wednesday, which featured the team’s final training camp practice. Offensive coordinator Todd Monken appeared to confirm that attitude was an issue last year. From Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times:
Bucs OC Todd Monken on '17: "Everyone drank the Kool-Aid, and now Hard Knocks is rolling in and we’ve added some pieces – all of a sudden we think we’re just going to take the field against grown men, the best in the world, and just think it’s going to happen.— Rick Stroud (@NFLSTROUD) August 22, 2018
While Monken’s ability to be so straight-forward is refreshing, the quote itself is very telling. There were plenty of reasons for Tampa Bay’s 11 losses last year. Quarterback Jameis Winston struggled with an injury for much of the year, Doug Martin failed to return to his 2015 self, the team still had issues in the kicking game and the complete absence of a pass rush led to a defense that ranked dead last in passing defense.
Despite all of that, it’s reasonable to believe that an overarching issue was the team’s overall attitude and approach. That’s where things have to change this year. Every team in the NFL has professional talent and most have good-to-great coaching. The Bucs have to get their minds right for 2018 and not take that for granted. It will surely fall on head coach Dirk Koetter and the extensive number of leaders on the team to make sure they don’t repeat the letdown that was 2017. Adding veterans like Jason Pierre-Paul, Vinny Curry and Beau Allen should help that effort.
Things are a bit different this year, as Winston’s suspension and a brutal schedule have lowered expectations for many in the national media and the fan base. Even still, there’s an unreal amount of talent in Tampa Bay’s locker room. There’s no telling if it will truly come together and translate to victories. Schemes and execution are highly important, but a certain mentality is needed to be successful. After failing in that aspect last year, the Bucs seem aware that they need the right outlook heading into the 2018 season.