Photo Credit: SportsChump.net
The arrival of Greg Schiano certainly turned things around for the franchise, and for the first time in a while, the fans have hope. The immediately-preceding Raheem Morris Era should be remembered purely for two awful seasons (the first and third), and the second season, which saw the Bucs reach a 10-6 record, should be regarded as a statistical anomaly. Chaos ruled One Buc Place.
But some pundits are getting a little bit carried away with the change. They seem to forget that the Bucs play in the brutal NFC South, home to three very good, if not great quarterbacks, none of whom play in Tampa.
Beyond the division, the 2012 schedule is borderline malicious, pitting the Bucs against the defending Super Bowl champion, the much-improved Dallas Cowboys, the star-studded Philadelphia Eagles, the Romeo Crennel-led Kansas City Chiefs, the desperate San Diego Chargers and perhaps worst of all, the Denver Broncos, now with Peyton Manning.
Looking at the actual roster, it's hard to imagine this team making any playoff games. The defense does not have as many holes as last year, but frankly, that does not say much. The overall quality of the defense is still extremely low, among the NFL's worst.
The offense is shrouded in mist. No one knows which Josh Freeman we'll see in 2012. Will it be the one who threw 22 interceptions in 15 games, or the one who led his team to 10 wins? He has a new weapon in Vincent Jackson and a better offensive line, but the improvement is really up to Freeman.
In a pass-first league, the quarterback is the key to his team's success. Without a decent signal-caller, even the most talented team is as much a playoff contender as a penguin is a thumbtack. Which is to say, not at all.
John Clayton of ESPN may have the hit the nail on the head with the prediction of 6-10.
Look, I want to be wrong about this.
I really, really, want to be wrong.
But I just don't see any way that the Bucs could make the playoffs in 2012.
Now 2013, that's a completely different story...