What a difference five months make.
Coming off a 4-12 season, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have brought on a new head coach, have spent big bucks on new players and, as a result, have a better outlook heading into their 36th season in the NFL.
So while it's clear that there has been a top-down culture change at One Buc Place, what exactly have we learned about the team and the direction they're hoping to go?
1. They've replaced "swagger" with "attitude"
If all goes as planned, that new attitude will lead to a better, more competitive team this season and beyond. Let's be honest, coach Raheem Morris fostered an atmosphere more fit for a college campus than an NFL organization, which is by and large the reason he is once again coaching defensive backs and no longer running a franchise.
New coach Greg Schiano has emphasized the importance of focusing on the details, with multiple reports coming out of One Buc that his style is a stark contrast to that of Morris'. Not that it should come as any surprise, because frankly, the Bucs lacked any sort of structure under the Morris regime.
2. The front office is trying to do right by the fans
For years, it seemed the Buccaneers had little interest in competing for talent on the open market. So free agency would come and go, and the Bucs would have little to nothing to show for it.
That all changed this year.
Within the span of 24 hours, the Bucs spent in excess of $140 million to sign receiver Vincent Jackson, guard Carl Nicks and cornerback Eric Wright to multi-year deals. The moves were lauded by the national media and suddenly, many in the league took notice that big things were happening in Tampa Bay.
But more importantly, Bucs fans were starting to have faith that their organization was (finally) committed to returning to their winning ways. Have the Bucs won back all of their disenfranchised fans? No, but they have certainly taken great strides in regaining their trust.
3. Vincent Jackson will help the entire offense improve
Jackson is a big-bodied, sure-handed receiver who will not only help fellow receivers Mike Williams, Arrelious Benn and Preston Parker but will also equally impact the running game, as well.
Jackson, 6'5", 230 lbs, is a more-than-capable blocker in the run game, which only further suits what the Bucs want to accomplish by establishing a run-first offense.
That said, his biggest impact will undoubtedly come by helping his young quarterback Josh Freeman, further develop his skill set. In fact, Tampa Bay Times' Rick Stroud tweeted this about the Freeman-to-Jackson connection a few days ago:
WR Vincent Jackson looks big, fast and in synch with QB Josh Freeman— Rick Stroud (@NFLSTROUD) May 15, 2012
Jackson is said to look comfortable with his new teammates and has even taken on the role as mentor to several of them. All of that bodes well for the offense this season.
4. Accountability is paramount
With the recent departures of safety Tanard Jackson and tight end Kellen Winslow, the Bucs' coaching staff demonstrated their belief in holding players accountable for actively participating in the improvement of the organization. After all, accountability is paramount to the success of any organization—sports or otherwise.
This renewed focus has undoubtedly gotten the attention of the remaining Bucs players, who, thanks to the Winslow trade, are reminded that no one is guaranteed a roster spot with the new guy in town.
Whether Schiano intended it to be interpreted that way or not is really irrelevant, because the fact of the matter is, every player and coach now fully understands what is expected of them and what the outcome will be if they fail to meet those expectations.
Mission accomplished, coach.