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. If you haven’t already, be sure to check out similar posts about the New Orleans Saints (by James Yarcho) and the Carolina Panthers (by Evan Winter).
And remember, this is all in good fun!
How it all began...
Alright, listen guys. I don’t hate the Atlanta Falcons, and I know Gil Arica and James Yarcho aren’t going to fire me for not faking it.
However, as a division rival we obviously want to see the Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat out the Falcons ever season, right? A season sweep of any rival is great, but for the Bucs, getting a season sweep of the Falcons tends to mean big things.
The Bucs have won the NFC South three times since the division’s creation in 2002 (2002, 2005, 2007). In each of those seasons they swept the Atlanta Falcons in their regular season match-ups. There’s only been one season where Tampa Bay swept Atlanta and didn’t win the division. That came in 2015.
So, while I don’t personally hate the Atlanta Falcons as much as some hate the New Orleans Saints and/or the Carolina Panthers, this is certainly a team we never want to see win against the Bucs.
The hate may not be similar, but there are some similar skeletons in this rivalry closet, just like there are with both of the other NFC South opponents.
External Drama, Made Internal
A hat tip to Scott Smith of Buccaneers.com is needed here. As I prowled the internet looking for nuggets of information worth including here, I stumbled upon a very in-depth series history piece by the Editor and Senior Writer for the team’s in-house media.
In it, he wrote about the games between head coach’s Sam Wyche and Jerry Glanville.
“Glanville and Wyche had already crossed paths for years in the old AFC Central,” Smith writes. “With Glanville piloting the Houston Oilers and Wyche at the helm of the Cincinnati Bengals, and there was apparently no love lost between the two. Wyche’s Bengals running up the score in a 61-7 win over Glanvilles’ Oilers in 1989 may have had something to do with that. Glanville’s Falcons drubbed (Richard) Williamson’s Buccaneers, 43-7, in 1991, and then poured it on again the next year in a 35-7 victory in Tampa. That was Wyche’s first year as head coach in Tampa, and during the offseason he had cut linebacker Jesse Solomon, who took the move personally. Solomon ended up with the Falcons and Glanville fanned the flames of the rivalry by letting Solomon play on offense late in the blowout, even giving him two handoffs that he turned into 12 yards.”
Of course, those games came in the early 1990s, not when the two teams were divisional rivals. We can only wonder in amazement just how intense the rivalry between these two teams might have gotten, if they were divisional opponents during the tenures of those two head coaches.
Rivalry of Coaches
In fact, this rivalry could be summed up as the rivalry of the sideline more than on the field and in the fan base. The two teams share a lot of recent coaching relationships.
Raheem Morris was perhaps the surprise head coach hiring of the 2009 off-season coming just one day after the Bucs fired Jon Gruden. He lasted just three seasons before being fired himself following a loss to the - well - Atlanta Falcons, 45-24, to end the 2011 campaign.
There are a lot of reasons to point to as to why Morris’ time as the head coach in Tampa didn’t work out, including mismanagement of player personalities and the team’s commitment to bringing in the talent necessary to win.
Morris then moved on to the Washington Redskins before eventually landing with the Falcons in 2015, where he has been ever since. With Dan Quinn’s seat hotter than ever entering the 2020 NFL Season there are some, me, who believe Morris could be on the path to getting a second try as an NFL head coach, and it could very well come with this divisional rival.
It wouldn’t be the first time an NFC South coach were to walk the sidelines of a divisional opponent. Mike Smith was the head coach in Atlanta for a period time before joining Dirk Koetter in Tampa during his reign as the team’s top coach. Koetter of course, was an offensive coordinator under Smith in Atlanta among some of his other coaching stops.
Now, after being fired himself from the Bucs’ franchise, Koetter has landed back in Atlanta entering his second-season as the team’s offensive coordinator after accepting the position in 2019.
There’s plenty of coaching history between these two teams, and last year, we all witnessed as much of the conversation leading into these divisional games focused on not letting Koetter get the win over the Bucs. Of course, the team split the series in 2019, with the Falcons walking off in Week 17 with an overtime pick-six to end each of their seasons.
Front Office Flip
Unlike many of you, I was not in the United States for the 2003-2004 NFL Season, so while many of you lived out the drama between head coach Jon Gruden and general manager Rich McKay, I only heard and/or read about it.
Evan Winter of this very site shared some of his thoughts on this time in Buccaneers history by telling me, “2003 was arguably the worst season I’ve witnessed as a fan. So much anger and disappointment from that season.”
Tampa Bay began the 2003 NFL Season as defending Super Bowl Champions, and got off to a 4-3 start. Not the greatest, but a winning record heading into November. Injury and tensions piled up however, and the team lost four of their five games that month, leading to a dramatic December which saw - among other things - McKay allowed to leave the franchise.
He did so in December, and before the season’s end he landed a new job with the Atlanta Falcons. His first game with his new franchise happened on December 20, 2003. A home game, against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Fans like Evan, and many of you, watched on as the Bucs lost that game 28-30, were eliminated from playoff contention, and had to watch as McKay celebrated with his new team’s owner, Arthur Blank.
From 2014 to this off-season the Tampa Bay Buccaneers competed annually for the unfortunate distinction of having the worst uniform in the NFL. With the change to their now cleaned-up, more classic look, the alarm clock numbers are gone and fans are loving every player reveal the Bucs are throwing onto social media.
Just as the Bucs are bringing the NFC South out of the worst uniform debate, the Atlanta Falcons swoop - pun intended - right in to ensure this division isn’t lost in any potential conversations happening at your local Buffalo Wild Wings establishment.
For our team.— Atlanta Falcons (@AtlantaFalcons) April 8, 2020
⁰Our city. pic.twitter.com/15e5ZX6EtE
These new uniforms were leaked ahead of the team’s plans to reveal them, leading to many Falcons fans hoping it was all a hoax. It wasn’t. Nice gradient bro.
Like all uniform changes, some like them and some don’t. They’ve been save a bit by the Los Angeles Rams’ own logo and uniform debacle, so I’m sure they appreciate the ‘California Love’ in that instance.
Either way, there isn’t a whole lot to get the blood pressure going. Perhaps if I lived in Georgia this team would stand out a bit more. But then, I’ve never lived in New Orleans or Charlotte, and those two present many more options for me to dislike about them.
In recent memory, the hit on Mike Evans is about all I can think of to spark any angst towards this team, but if I’ve got three reasons to hate the Falcons I’ve got about 28 more to enjoy most of the memories I have between these two teams.
Are the Atlanta Falcons your most hated rival of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers?
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