Squandered Trust Is the Biggest Loss of 2013 for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers

J.J. RodriguezContributor IIDecember 28, 2013

TAMPA, FL - OCTOBER 13:  Tampa Bay Buccaneers fans look on during a game against the Philadelphia Eagles at Raymond James Stadium on October 13, 2013 in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

The bitter taste of defeat that fans of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have endured all season is trumped only by the emptiness of despair and disappointment they've been left to deal with for the next nine months.

You know, that sensation one feels after having watched what was supposed to be a memorable season filled with postseason chatter and accolades, crumble into a smoldering shipwreck at the corner of Dale Mabry Highway and Tampa Bay Boulevard.

The Glazer family, who owns the franchise, spent a shipload of money the last two offseasons to supplement the young, inexperienced talent in hopes of turning around their struggling club and returning to what once was a proud and prosperous organization.

And for good reason: the fans rebelled.

Attendance at Raymond James Stadium has been scarce at best for the better part of five seasons. Not coincidentally, the Bucs haven't made the postseason in, you guessed it, five seasons. The failure that is the 2013 season marks their sixth consecutive non-playoff season in a row, their second-longest playoff drought in team history ('83-'96).

TAMPA, FL -  NOVEMBER 17:  Few fans are in the stands in the 4th quarter as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers play against the Atlanta Falcons  November 17, 2013 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida. The Bucs won 41  - 28. (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Im
Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

Add in the realization that, quite frankly, the Bucs have failed to defend home-field advantage the past four seasons, compiling a woeful 13-19 record during the span, including three consecutive five-loss seasons, and it's been a recipe for attendance disaster.

Worse yet, one could make the argument that 2013 is the most disappointing season in franchise history.

Yes, more so than the nine-loss post-Super Bowl season of 2003, and worse than Jon Gruden's final campaign in 2008, when they dropped four straight to end the season and miss the playoffs after beginning the year 9-3.

2013 is not worse because of the heart-wrenching losses and head-scratching moments that will ultimately define the season, but rather, because of the trust lost between the fans and the franchise after the latter promised the world and delivered nothing more than the neighborhood.

I mean, that is what happened, isn't it?

Why else would they have spent upwards of a quarter-billion dollars in free agency the last two springs? Why else would they have flooded the local airwaves with advertising and drape the outside of Ray Jay with larger-than-life images of Darrelle Revis, Gerald McCoy and Co.?

Why? Because they wanted fans to believe the good ol' days were back, and everything was going to return to normal.

Suffice it to say, it wasn't. And looking back at it now, it was destined for failure from the start.

After all, the head coach and the starting quarterback didn't mesh for reasons we may never fully understand, and as a result, Josh Freeman was very publicly and unceremoniously benched after just three starts and released shortly thereafter.

ST. LOUIS, MO - DECEMBER 22: Mike Glennon #8 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers is sacked in the fourth quarter by Robert Quinn #94 of the St. Louis Rams at the Edward Jones Dome on December 22, 2013 in St. Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Michael Thomas/Getty Images
Michael Thomas/Getty Images

Rookie quarterback Mike Glennon, a third-round pick, was thrust under center in Week 4 and lost his first five starts, leading the Bucs to an 0-8 start and washing away any realistic chance of being in the playoff discussion.

Throw in the numerous cases of poor game management, a lack of in-game adjustments by the seemingly overwhelmed coaching staff and a questionable stubborn streak from Greg Schiano, and 2013 has been disappointment personified.

That's because instead of talking about what did happen, we're left to discuss what didn't happen: playing meaningful games in front of capacity crowds and debating the value of playoff seeding, among others.

Granted, most of the attention is focused on the double-digits in the loss column, and for good reason. The bigger loss is something much harder to calculate and even harder to regain: trust.

Look at it this way: Trust is akin to the fiber that weaves the fan-franchise dynamic in every community. It's the foundation every conceivable relationship, personally and professionally, is built upon.

So, while the Bucs have tried (in vain) to buy their way back into respectability by ripping a page out of Dan Snyder's book and splurging on high-dollar free agents, trust is something that has no price tag—it cannot be bought or bartered.

And, as they're sure to find out, it's not to be overlooked either.