It’s NFL Rivalry Week at SB Nation, so we over here at Bucs Nation have decided to do a feature on why we hate the other teams in the NFC South. Be sure to check back in later for the Falcons while you can see what Evan Winter wrote about the Panthers here.
And remember, this is all in good fun!
How it all began...
I remember vividly when the divisions were realigned. My dad was filling me in after he got home from work and he told me that the Buccaneers would no longer be in the same division as the Packers, Lions, Bears, and Vikings. Yes, the rivalry with Favre would cease as the Bucs were shipped out of the black-and-blue division to head to the new NFC South with the New Orleans Saints, Carolina Panthers, and Atlanta Falcons. At the time, all those teams were atrocious so he pointed out that the Bucs would probably win the division every year for the next decade.
Ooof. Swing and a miss on that one, dad...
Instead, the Buccaneers would take on the “Aints” in the first game of the 2002 season, their first meeting with their new division rival - and they got beat. At home. On an interception in the end zone thrown by the punter. That Saints team, led by Aaron Brooks, would go on and be the reason for half of the Buccaneers’ losses in that magical 12-4 Super Bowl season. The other two coming at the hands of teams from the state of Pennsylvania. It was then that the Saints established their role as the Bucs’ arch-nemesis.
Enter the Boogeyman
2006. It wasn’t as if the Saints hadn’t rostered solid players before this. Deuce McAllister, Donte Stallworth, Joe Horn. Aaron Brooks even had some flashes. But 2006 changed it all. It was that season that the Saints brought in a quarterback with a questionable medical issue who was ousted from San Diego in favor of the young gunslinger Philip Rivers. Yes, Drew Brees has come to New Orleans. Not only that, but they used the number two overall pick in the 2006 draft to take arguably the most electric college player we had seen up to that point - USC’s Reggie Bush. Oh, yeah - they also hired the always personable and level-headed Sean Payton that year.
In a flash, the Saints went from a 3-13 team to the NFC Championship game - an 11-7 loss to the Rex Grossman led Chicago Bears on their way to helping Peyton Manning win his first Lombardi Trophy.
However, it was shortly after that the New Orleans Saints would reach the pinnacle of the greatest sport on earth.
After two disappointing seasons, the Saints bounced back in 2009, finishing 13-3 and capping off a storybook season with a victory over the aforementioned Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts in Super Bowl XLIV. Drew Brees would be named MVP and be forever immortalized in New Orleans.
Meanwhile, that same season, the Buccaneers were finishing 3-13 and in last place in the NFC South. They thought they acquired their own future star in Byron Leftwich that previous off-season, but Leftwich’s time was short lived. He was replaced by Josh Johnson after three starts then the ship was handed over to a young rookie - Josh Freeman.
Things haven’t gotten much better.
Since the signing of Drew Brees in 2006, the Saints have won the NFC South six times. The Buccaneers? Once. The Saints have had eight postseason appearances and a Super Bowl championship. The Bucs? One playoff appearance, no wins.
Head to head, the Bucs are 10-18 against New Orleans since 2002 when the divisions realigned. However, their animosity can be dated all the way back to 1977.
December 11, 1977 to be exact. A day that will live in infamy. New Orleans Saints’ quarterback Archie Manning decided to say something that would come back to haunt him ahead of the Saints’ meeting with the then winless Buccaneers;
“I don’t want to be the laughing stock of the league, and that’s what we’ll be if we lose to Tampa Bay.”
Well, Archie, your Saints were the first team in the history of the National Football League to lose to the Buccaneers, snapping their 26-game losing streak to start their franchise. The next season, the Bucs would be in the NFC Championship game while the New Orleans Saints would go without a winning record until 1987, a run of 20 straight seasons starting at inception when the team wouldn’t go above .500.
Add to that the “close but no cigar” playoff runs of the Saints over the last few seasons and you know they very well could be on the cusp of their second Lombardi Trophy. Which brings me to my next point...
The Race To Two.
The Buccaneers’ and Saints’ fan-bases have one common ground which can unite them at times when debating with Panthers and Falcons fans on social media. They’re the only teams in the division to win a ring. Not only that, but each team won their only appearance in the game while both Atlanta and Carolina have had two cracks at immortality and have lost every time. (Well, the Falcons reached immortality by blowing the biggest lead in Super Bowl history and losing the only Super Bowl to reach overtime, but that’s neither here nor there.)
And although that camaraderie can be fun to put Panthers and Falcons fans in their place, it only intensifies the rivalry between the Bucs and Saints. It’s a race for the second ring, now. And as I illustrated above, the Saints have a massive head start. That is until the Buccaneers went all in on 2020 by bringing in Tom Brady - a guy that is responsible for that Falcon meltdown as well as one of Carolina’s two Super Bowl losses.
Yes, the addition of Brady not only gives the Bucs a chance at winning a championship, it puts them right in the crosshairs of Brees, Payton, and the rest of the Saints as the number one threat to their quest to send Brees off into the sunset with his second championship.
It’s not as if this rivalry wasn’t already heated enough between some of the players. The trash talk from Cam Jordan about Donovan Smith, the fight between Mike Evans and Marshon Lattimore, and Michael Thomas somehow believing he’s an elite receiver (I’m not diving into the stats now, but just know my stance on Thomas is that he is overrated and leads the league in receptions because all Drew Brees does is throw him short slants and outs. Not saying he’s not good, but Mike Evans is better. Period.)
And of course to add another layer to all of this, the Bucs’ number one pick from 2015 and the man who was supposed to change their fortunes - Jameis Winston - has now gone to the Saints to learn under Brees in hopes that it will parlay into a starting gig for the team following Brees’ retirement and allow him to exact revenge at least twice a year.
So, at the end of the day, this rivalry has plenty of history and this season could be the most crucial in terms of who gets the advantage for the near future. The Saints have one more year of Brees. The Bucs have two years of Brady. It’s a two horse race for the NFC South and both teams are desperate to be the one to get their second ring before the other.
And as long as the crybaby, melodramatic, “it’s okay if I put a bounty on Kurt Warner and Brett Favre but I’m going to throw a hissy fit and protest the combine and grandstand to have pass interference a reviewable penalty because my team lost to the Rams,” juicy fruit chomping jerk-wad Sean Payton is still coaching in New Orleans, I can’t imagine not hating them the most.
Sean Payton is the worst. Michael Thomas is overrated. And I’m sick and tired of the Saints.
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