Since their inaugural season in 1976, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have compiled a .387 winning percentage—the NFL’s worst mark among active franchises.
In 44 seasons, the team has finished .500 or better just 14 times. It made the playoffs in 10 of those seasons, with the last postseason appearance coming after a 9-7 record in 2007.
For the majority of their history, the Bucs have been downright bad. Outside of the golden years, which lasted from about 1997 through the Super Bowl season in 2002, they have largely been a laughingstock around the NFL. The current playoff drought, which is at 12 seasons, is the league’s second-longest.
So, it’s pretty safe to say that the Bucs have been underdogs for a long time. Even the recent years in which expectations for Tampa Bay were high, they were never really that high. Most folks only ever saw wild card potential in the Bucs, if they saw any playoff potential at all.
But now, in 2020? That is surely changing. This organization, even if it’s only for a couple of years, is shedding the title of “underdog.” In the past couple of months, the Bucs have added six-time Super Bowl champion quarterback Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski, who is one of the best—if not THE best—tight ends in NFL history. With those two on your roster, it’s hard to be looked at as underdogs.
Not to mention, Tampa Bay has a wealth of talent in its locker room even without Brady and Gronkowski. When you add those two future Hall of Famers to a team that has the likes of Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Ali Marpet, Ryan Jensen, Vita Vea, Shaquil Barrett, Jason Pierre-Paul, Lavonte David and Devin White leading the way, you’re bound to get a considerable amount of hype.
That hype has led to five prime-time games on the 2020 schedule and a lot of playoff, NFC South title, NFC Championship, and even Super Bowl talk on a national level. And yes, this team is no stranger to falling flat in the fall after a spring and summer full of excitement. But the hype has never been quite like this.
As it stands right now, the majority of football fans would probably be surprised if Tampa Bay DIDN’T make the playoffs. Many might even pick the Bucs to unseat the Saints at the top of the NFC South. Plenty are predicting double-digit wins. Even before having Gronk in the mix, they were favored in 13 of their 16 games, according to early odds from Vegas back in March. That number will likely go down a bit by the fall, but they’ll still be favored in the majority of their games, surely.
The funny thing is, this team hasn’t taken the field together since the overtime pick six that ended its 2019 season at a 7-9 record. Yet, here we are. The majority of the NFL world is now looking at Tampa as more than just the site of Super Bowl 55. It’s looking at this city as the home of a contender. It’s The Brady Effect. Or The Brady + Gronk Effect. Whichever it is for the Bucs, for the first time in a long time, they’re being looked at not as potential contenders, but legitimate contenders.
So, the Bucs are no longer underdogs. Weird.