It wasn’t long ago that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were perennial bottom-feeders. In fact, just three seasons ago, they finished dead last in the NFC South at 5-11—and it was the second consecutive year they had done so with that record.
Well, a good head coaching hire, some smart drafting and some major free agency moves turned things around in a hurry. The Bucs are, of course, fresh off of becoming Super Bowl champions for the second time ever. They’ve very clearly come a long way in a short period of time, and we’re getting reminders of that fact very frequently leading up to the 2021 season.
Take recent comments from Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, for example. On NFL Network’s Back Together Saturday, he had this to say about his Cowboys visiting Raymond James Stadium on Sept. 9 to kick off the 2021 NFL season:
“We’re going to have a lot of prayer, so we could get the courage to show up. Let me tell you this: world-champion Tom Brady, Tampa, great atmosphere — what a better opportunity to step up there and be David against Goliath.”
Consider the reaction you would’ve gotten if you were to tell a Buccaneers fan on Jan. 1, 2020 that, in a year and a half, the owner of the Dallas Cowboys would refer to Tampa Bay as “Goliath.” Now, even if there’s a little hyperbole involved here, it doesn’t sound like such a crazy thing. That’s how quickly the Bucs have risen to the top of the NFL.
While branding the Bucs as Goliath is fair enough considering the talent they have and the fact that they’re the defending champions, billing the Bucs vs. the Cowboys season-opening matchup as “David vs. Goliath” feels like a bit of a stretch. While Tampa Bay enters 2021 as the better team, it’s not as if the Bucs and Cowboys are worlds apart. Between Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott, Amari Cooper, CeeDee Lamb, Michael Gallup and a strong offensive line, Dallas’ offense has the potential to be one of the league’s scariest. There are big questions on the defense, but even still, it’s hard to think of the Cowboys, “America’s Team” and one of the most famous franchises in the NFL, as David in just about any context. In fact, Tampa Bay is currently favored by less than a touchdown just over one month away from kickoff.
Perhaps making the Cowboys out to be such a massive underdog is Jones’ way of motivating his team ahead of its opener. After all, this is someone who recently said he would “do anything known to man” for a Super Bowl appearance. Regardless, for someone who has been around the game as long as Jones to view the Bucs as such a giant really does show how far the team has come since being a perennial disappointment.