I grew up, and still live, in central Florida. Lakeland to be exact. Sundays during the fall were spent in front of the television at 1 P.M. watching my favorite football franchise, The Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The front door would be open, the sight of sycamore trees losing their leaves could be seen through the screen door. I vaguely remember Tampa winning the Super Bowl in '02, I was 9 years old. My dad bought me that visor with the leather bill that Jon Gruden wore to celebrate. However, after topping the pinnacle of the NFL, Tampa slowly, but surely, decayed to irrelevance. Gruden and journeymen quarterbacks led us to playoffs berths every other year it seemed, but, we never reclaimed that magic of 2002.
Being young, I didn't fully comprehend what I was watching when it came to the intricacies of NFL football. I just knew the good guys were in red & pewter with the skull & bones on the side of the helmet. Come 2012, I was hooked, I was 18. Josh Freeman was QB1, Doug 'Muscle Hamster' Martin was a rookie, and we just snagged Vincent Jackson (R.I.P) from the then San Diego Chargers. The season started and we were mediocre like usual but I still watched because that what you do when you love something, you suffer and watch helplessly on the couch. Fast forward to week 7. Bucs Vs. Vikings. Tampa had just come off a loss to The Saints when the refs said Mike Williams went out of bounds and came back in to grab the touchdown.
I distinctly remember Doug Martin and Adrian Peterson taking over that game. That was a blast to watch. Then next week, Bucs Vs. Raiders, week 8. Mr. Muscle Hamster left his mark on O.co Coliseum that day. 251 rushing yards. NOICE. After this, Tampa had small spurts of success that year but ultimately we were sunk by losing five of our last six games.
Following that season, I was paying close attention. I felt like we were primed and ready to make noise in the NFL. The draft came and went. Aside from us drafting *gag* Mike Glennon, in my mind the Bucs did well drafting. Insert 'Trump saying WRONG' GIF here. the 2013 off-season had us winning the Darelle Revis sweepstakes and in my naive mind, we were winning the Super Bowl. HA. We proceeded to stumble to 4-12, not notching a victory until Revis picked off a last second heave by Tannehill to beat the Dolphins on MNF in week 8. WOOF.
Following that season, Schitano and Mark Dominic (thank you for drafting Lavonte David) was given the boot and Tampa brought in Lovie Smith and Jason Licht. Again, I thought that was the fix. A good defensive coach that was apart of coaching staff when the Tampa 2 was being popularized in Tampa. I even bought season tickets for the next two seasons, 2014 & 2015, in anticipation of being there when we righted the *pirate* ship and finally started winning. We brought in Josh McCown. Between him and Mike Glennon, me and my late father, had the distinct honor to be there in person when they lost every home game and go 2-14. #Don'tWinforWinston.
Enter the 2015 draft. Instead of Marcus Mariota, Tampa Bay employed the services of one, Jameis Winston. I had the nerve to believe Winston would at least help us to sniff the playoffs. I mean he had 'Win' in his name. With a name like Winston, it has to be good. Right. Right? After months of praying that the regular season would get here, it finally came, giggity. Week 1, the Jameis Winston led Tampa Bay Bucs vs. the Marcus Mariota led Tennessee Titans. The #1 overall pick vs. #2. So, my father and I grab our concessions and take our seats. Titans get the ball first. Mariota proceeds to lead his offense to an opening drive touchdown. Cool. Well, now it's time for Winston to follow suit. Doug Martin run followed by Doug Martin run. 3rd down. Jameis lines up to throw. Here we go. The Bucs set up across from the Titans and Jameis motions for the ball. He drops back and I stand and cheer only to watch as Winston's first NFL pass finds its way into Cotey Sensabaugh's grimy mitts and he promptly ran it to our end zone . I don't love that. Tampa proceeds to get blown out and at this point i'm starting to think I could of found a less gut-wrenching way to spend my 2500 dollars.
2015 proved to be an improvement on 2014. However, 6-10 wasn't ideal. It was the last year I would have season tickets. 2016 was the first winning season we'd have since 2010. We gave ole' Lovie the boot in favor of OC Dirk Koetter that offseason. He was supposed to be able to mold Jameis into a true weapon. 2017, we got the lie detector results back and determined THAT WAS A LIE. 2018 started with Fitzmagic as QB1 because Winston got handsy with an Über driver and notched himself a nice little suspension. Not cool. Well, turned out, Fitzmagic was actually able to complete a deep ball and properly utilize Desean Jackson and Mike Evans. Winston came back and Koetter couldn't make up his mind on who to go with as QB1 so we limped to a 5-11 finish.
This is where I actually start to get to the point of this post. Its Offseason 2019, Jason Licht pulled the trigger on the move that would eventually in culminate in a Super Bowl victory. Licht lured Bruce Arians out of retirement and signed a contract to coach my Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Arians stuck with Winston at QB1 for 2019. The season came and went. Jameis decided to direct his own 30-for-30. 33 TD'S and 30 interceptions. Congratulations! Jameis, you just won yourself an all expenses paid trip to the Saints roster. During the 2020 offseason, you could hear all the northeastern snow bird's jaws collectively hit the ground as Tom Brady signed with the Tampa Bay Bucs.
Which finally brings me to my point, since Brady signed and turned us into a playoff contender, i'm experiencing something I can't say I've ever experienced. All at the same time, The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are led by a excellent front office that works cap magic, borderline voodoo witchcraft, they have a great GM in Jason Licht that has been instrumental in building a roster that is talented enough compete with the upper echelon of NFL teams and even be favored to win more times than not. Tampa Bay has a new head coach in former D.C. Todd Bowles who led a defense that shut DOWN Patrick Mahomes and the K.C. offense in the 2020 Super Bowl. Our offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich, has great rapport with Brady and could very well be poached to coach an NFL team in the very near future.
From top to bottom, Tampa is prospering and winning. We've gone from lovable losers to a formidable foe. Now, I understand that a lot of our recent success has come at the hands of #12. However, I've learned to enjoy prosperous times as a Bucs fan because they are few and F A R between.
thanks for indulging me. Go Bucs.