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Buccaneers Countdown to Kickoff: 9 Weeks

We are nine weeks away from Tampa Bay kicking off its 2019 season. With that in mind, we’re rewinding things back to the team’s 2009 season.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v New Orleans Saints Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images

The Buccaneers open up their 2019 season against the San Francisco 49ers at Raymond James Stadium NINE weeks from today. That’s right, the countdown clock is into single-digit weeks.

Every Sunday leading up to kickoff of the new season, we’ll be taking a look back at old Bucs seasons, correlating with how many weeks are left in the countdown. Last week, we returned to the 2010 season. So, with nine weeks to go now, we’re taking a look back at Tampa Bay’s 2009 season.

2009 Season in Review

The 2009 season was the start of a new era for Tampa Bay. It was the Bucs’ first season since 2001 without Jon Gruden as their head coach. He and general manager Bruce Allen were fired in January of 2009, leading to big changes up top. Defensive backs coach Raheem Morris was set to become the team’s defensive coordinator, but was instead promoted to be the head coach. Mark Dominik became the new general manager.

Morris and Dominik led a youth movement for the Bucs, parting ways with a number of proven veterans. Derrick Brooks, Ike Hilliard, Cato June, Joey Galloway and Warrick Dunn were among those who were shown the door. If Morris’ first year at the helm was any indication, making the team younger was a move for the long-term. It definitely didn’t pay off in the short-term.

The team fired offensive coordinator Jeff Jagodzinski 10 days before the regular season got underway, seemingly indicating that tough times were ahead. Indeed, tough times came quick. The Bucs started the season 0-7, losing five games by 10-plus points. After a Week 8 bye, Tampa Bay found the win column, thanks in large part to the debut of 2009 first-round pick Josh Freeman.

However, it wasn’t the start of any prolonged success. The team went on to lose five straight after that, dropping to 1-12. Two surprising road victories followed, but the season finale ended with a return to the loss column. The Bucs went 3-13 in year one under Morris, down from a 9-7 record in Gruden’s final season in the Bay.

2009 Notes and Highlights

  • Week 1 featured the return of Carnell “Cadillac” Williams to the starting lineup after he suffered through torn patellar tendons in both of his knees (right in 2007, left in 2008). He ran for 97 yards and a score in the Bucs’ 34-21 home loss to the Cowboys. Despite the loss, it was good to see Williams back in action.
  • Byron Leftwich, who of course enters 2019 as the Bucs’ offensive coordinator, threw for 296 yards and three touchdowns in Week 2. However, 13 penalties for 112 yards killed the Bucs in a 33-20 loss to the Bills in Buffalo.
  • Tampa Bay was shut out 24-0 by the New York Giants in Week 3. It was the Bucs’ first shutout loss since the 2006 season opener. Leftwich struggled throughout before being replaced by Josh Johnson in the fourth quarter.
  • Johnson got his first career start in Week 4, but the Bucs stuck to their losing ways. A 10-0 halftime lead for Tampa Bay was erased by a 16-point third quarter for Washington. A 16-13 loss dropped the Bucs to 0-4 and marked their eighth straight loss (dating back to the end of 2008).
  • With their loss in Week 6, the Bucs fell to 0-6 for the first time since 1985.
  • Week 7 marked Tampa Bay’s first trip to London. The Bucs fell behind the Patriots 21-0 by halftime and eventually lost 35-7.
  • Week 9 was the end of an 11-game losing streak for the Buccaneers. In a throwback home game against the Packers, they started a new era at quarterback. Josh Freeman, who was the team’s first-round pick that year, got his first career start. Tampa Bay trailed 28-17 in the fourth quarter, but Freeman led a rally. A touchdown pass to Kellen Winslow cut the deficit to 28-23 before a fourth-down pass to Sammie Stroughter gave the Bucs a late lead. After a two-point conversion, the Bucs led 31-28. A 35-yard pick six by Tanard Jackson sealed the deal on the Bucs beating Aaron Rodgers and Green Bay to earn Raheem Morris’ first win as a head coach.
  • Freeman finished his debut 14-of-31 for 205 yards, three touchdowns and an interception. Ronde Barber scooped up a blocked punt and returned it for a touchdown early in the game, and Stylez G. White put up 1.5 sacks in the win. Here are highlights from the victory, if you can put up with the cringe-inducing commentary:
  • At halftime of the Week 9 win over Green Bay, Tampa Bay made Lee Roy Selmon the inaugural member of the Ring of Honor inside Raymond James Stadium.
  • The Bucs overcame a 19-9 second-half deficit in Week 10 to lead the Dolphins 23-22 with 1:14 to go, but failed to hold on. Miami came back to win it on a 25-yard field goal by Dan Carpenter with 14 seconds left.
  • Between Weeks 13 and 14, Freeman threw eight interceptions.
  • Tampa Bay picked up its second victory in Week 15, beating the Seahawks 24-7 on the road. An 18-point third quarter propelled the Bucs to a victory, their first on the road since November 2008 and their first on the West Coast since Super Bowl XXXVII in 2003.
  • As fun as the Week 9 win over the Packers was, the Bucs’ biggest win came in Week 16. After trailing 17-0, Tampa Bay fought its way back against 13-1 New Orleans. A Connor Barth field goal cut it to 17-3 by halftime, but it wasn’t until the fourth quarter that everything changed. Cadillac Williams ran for a 23-yard touchdown to make it 17-10 before a 77-yard punt return by Michael Spurlock tied the game with 2:41 left. Garrett Hartley missed a potential game-winning field goal to end regulation, then Barth connected from 47 in overtime to send the Bucs home with a win.
  • The victory over New Orleans was Tampa Bay’s first over an eventual Super Bowl champion.
  • Cadillac Williams ran for 129 yards and a touchdown in the win over the Saints. It was his first 100-yard rushing game since Nov. 19, 2006.
  • The Bucs had a chance to end the season on a three-game winning streak, but they fell short in Week 17. A 20-10 loss to the Falcons on a cold Tampa day led to a 3-13 finish.

2009 Buccaneers Player of the Year

Aqib Talib led the way on defense with 15 passes defended (first on the team) and five interceptions (tied for first). Kellen Winslow finished as the leading receiver, catching 77 passes for 884 yards and five touchdowns.

But the guy I’m going with here is Cadillac Williams. The 2005 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year came back from two tough injuries in 2007 and 2008 to put together a strong 2009 campaign. He ran for 823 yards and four touchdowns on 211 carries (3.9 YPC) while catching 28 passes for 217 yards and three touchdowns. He played a major role in Tampa Bay’s biggest win of the season. It’s hard to find an easy pick for something like this on a three-win team, but Williams’ strong season combined with the comeback story of it all is enough to give him the nod here. Plus, it was effectively the last time we got to see Cadillac in legit Cadillac form.

His career might always carry a “what could’ve been” feeling with it, but the fact that he had the 2009 season that he had after two major knee injuries is something we can always remember. Below, we have a tribute to what was a fun — although unfortunately short-lived — run for Williams in Tampa Bay.

Year one under Raheem Morris was a major step back, considering it was a six-win decrease from the year before. Josh Freeman showed flashes of potential that would become more prevalent in 2010. We got a great comeback year for Cadillac Williams. Aqib Talib was solid, as were Tanard Jackson, Ronde Barber and Stylez G. White. But truthfully, there wasn’t a lot to love about a season in which the Bucs were outscored 276-177 (including deficits of 71-24 and 57-17 in the first and third quarters, respectively). The 2009 Bucs didn’t show all that many signs that they were about to win 10 games in 2010.

We’re nine weeks away from kickoff, Bucs fans. Stay tuned to this rewind series every Sunday until Week 1 of the 2019 season.