The “what if” game is always a fun one, especially when there is not a ton going on in the football world right now, so let’s play it.
As with every team, the Bucs have a lot of things that if they went a certain way, history would have been changed and some thins could have a ripple effect. Let’s get into what some of the biggest “what ifs” are for Tampa Bay.
What if Bo Jackson never refused to play for the Bucs?
This is one that many old school Bucs fans will remember with a lot of anger and disappointment. In the 1986 draft, the Buccaneers held the number one overall pick and there was no doubt who the best player in the class was. Running back Bo Jackson was a star at Auburn, recording 1,786 rushing yards along with 17 rushing touchdowns in his final season and the Bucs who were coming off of a miserable 2-14 season could have really used a game breaking talent like that.
However, Jackson refused to sign with Tampa Bay if they drafted him and he made that clear to the team. A struggling franchise starved for a star at the time, Tampa Bay called Jackson’s bluff and drafted him anyway. He stayed true to his word and never signed with Tampa Bay and went on to pursue baseball. He would be a 7th round pick the following year by the Los Angeles Raiders. In his four seasons in the NFL, Jackson never achieved a thousand rushing yards in a season as injuries derailed his career.
So, what would have happened had Jackson decided to play for Tampa Bay? There is no way to predict an injury to any player, but it would have given the Bucs a marketable player and save the franchise from a lot more embarrassment than what was already on the field at that time.
What if Jon Gruden returned to the Bucs in 2018?
A lot of people talk about what would have happened if Gruden had never been fired after the 2008 season, but I’m going take a different approach. What if instead of returning to the Raiders, Gruden returned to the team he won the Super Bowl with?
Taking a look at what Gruden did shortly after taking the Raiders job, I don’t think Bucs fans would be too happy. Gruden traded players like Khalil Mack and Amari Cooper while signing aging vets like Jason Witten in free agency. Would the nostalgia of having Gruden as the coach again be worth potentially saying goodbye to a player like Mike Evans? If he traded away Cooper, have to imagine Evans could have had the same fate.
Instead, the Bucs kept Dirk Koetter for another season before firing him after the 2018 season and hired Bruce Arians to replace him and well, the rest is history. Gruden had a very controversial exit from Vegas as well. Safe to say the Bucs dodged a huge bullet when they passed on bringing Gruden back in January of 2018.
What if the Bucs kept Jameis Winston after 2019?
This one will surely bring a lot of different opinions on it. Jameis Winston was a very polarizing player during his time in Tampa Bay and for good reason. There would be 10 plays that Winston would make that would have fans wowing and then three or four plays that gave fans headaches. He was the ultimate boom or bust player and that is what made the decision on whether to keep him or not in the 2020 offseason even more difficult.
We all know the story. The Bucs decided to move on and signed Tom Brady and that resulted in a Super Bowl win. But what if the team decide to retain Jameis Winston? Let me get this out of the way, for all of Jameis Winston’s faults and turnovers, there was still tremendous upside in Arians’ offense. Winston threw 30 interceptions in 2019 and that simply was not likely to happen again. Does Winston cut down the turnovers while still being productive enough to lead the Bucs to a championship? Probably not in 2020, but the team may not have been in such a terrible spot at the quarterback position.
There are many, many more what ifs, but these ones are pretty big both for the past and the present. Let us know what you think in the comment section below!