When it was announced in 2017 that Raymond James Stadium would be the site for Super Bowl LV in 2021, Twitter was full of bold predictions about the Buccaneers becoming the first team to win a Lombardi Trophy in its home stadium.
(Yours truly even joined in on the fun)...
Pretty cool that the #Bucs will get to win Super Bowl 55 in their own stadium.— Bailey Adams (@BaileyJAdams22) May 23, 2017
Well, fast forward just under four years and here we are. Tampa Bay is now one win away from getting a chance to do exactly that. How did we get here?
At the time that this year’s Super Bowl location was moved from Los Angeles to Tampa, the Bucs were coming off of a 9-7 season led by head coach Dirk Koetter and quarterback Jameis Winston, as well as Mike Smith’s dominant defense. After back-to-back 5-11 seasons and a 7-9 finish last year, Tampa Bay put together a massive offseason that saw it swap out Winston for Brady, the six-time Super Bowl champion entering his 21st NFL season. And considering the team has reached the NFC Championship Game for the first time since the 2002 season, it’s safe to say that things have gone according to plan for general manager Jason Licht.
As the Bucs are preparing for Sunday’s game against the Packers, Raymond James Stadium has already been set up for Feb. 7’s Super Bowl. As ESPN’s Jenna Laine pointed out on Wednesday, Tampa Bay’s players, coaches and personnel can see their stadium outfitted in Super Bowl LV banners and signage from their own practice field. And you know the majority of them are probably driving by and seeing it every day. But, as head coach Bruce Arians said Wednesday, his team knows it can’t be looking ahead:
“We don’t play that game this week – that’s the message to everybody. We play the Packers in the NFC Championship game. If you start thinking about the Super Bowl, you get beat and [will] be packing your bags on Monday.”
That’s the mentality the Bucs need to have as they wrap up their preparations for this weekend’s trip to Lambeau Field. Tampa Bay may have beaten Green Bay 38-10 back in Week 6, but everyone knows not to expect the same kind of game. There’s too much on the line and the Packers are too good of a team for the Bucs to think they’ll be cruising their way through the Frozen Tundra before making a return trip to play in a Super Bowl at home.
But just think about it: If the Buccaneers play a complete 60 minutes on Sunday, they very well could be another 60 minutes away from making all of those 2017 maybe-joking-but-possibly-not tweets into a reality.