When I think of this season for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, I think of what would constitute a successful season for them.
Is it winning the Super Bowl, like all teams say they think of? Is it making the playoffs? Or maybe the question I should ask is what should be expected from a rebuilding team?
That last question is a good one because I’m sure the Miami Dolphins and Atlanta Falcons, both rebuilding teams heading into last season, would say they focused on a successful season as making the playoffs.
So maybe I’ll look into these seasons for those teams as a template for which to look at the Bucs' season this year.
Instead of focusing on winning the division or a wild card slot, I’ll look at some of the key underlying factors in what made the Fins and Falcons successful in a rebuilding year.
First thing to take notice of would be that the Bucs are entering the season with a new coaching staff headed by Raheem Morris. Much like the Fins and Falcons had to buy into Sparano’s and Smith’s philosophies, the Bucs have to buy into Morris’.
As a young coach Morris has to get his team to buy into his beliefs and demand a certain kind of respect. With a roster of fifty three men behind you willing to give their all out effort, wonders can be made. Without that desire or passion for one another as a team, they’ll be lucky to make it out of the tunnel.
As far as personnel goes, finding a solution at quarterback should be the number one priority. Last season the Fins addressed that position by signing Chad Pennington and drafting QB of the future Chad Henne. As did the Falcons by drafting their franchises quarterback Matt Ryan.
The Bucs hope to have done the same thing as either of those teams by signing Byron Leftwich and drafting Josh Freeman. In a perfect world Freeman is this years Matt Ryan but I’m sure that the Bucs will not be mad if Leftwich is this years Pennington.
The next thing that seemed to be a key ingredient to the recipe of success is a strong running game. The Fins and Falcons relied heavily on the legs of pro bowlers Ronnie Brown and Michael Turner. So look for the Bucs to do the same on the legs of prized free agent signing Derrick Ward from the Giants.
By stabilizing the QB position and providing him with a strong running game, this allows the Bucs to control the clock and minimize mistakes. This will go a long way in helping their chances of winning games in the end because they won’t be able to out talent teams.
Defensively the Bucs will have to be able to rush the passer and create turnovers in the way that Atlanta and Miami succeeded in doing last season. Strong seasons rushing the passer from John Abraham and Joey Porter fueled the defense to play well enough to close out victories.
The hope in Tampa Bay is the Bucs can get a breakout season from Gaines Adams. Adams is entering his third season in the league and it is extra important for him to begin capitalizing on his immense talents.
Its looks good considering this is his first off season actually spent strengthening his legs and will be in a system that defensive ends of his attributes have thrived in.
By being able to put pressure on the quarterback, the Bucs will be able to be more aggressive in coverage and get teams off the field on third downs. By getting teams off the field consistently on thirds downs, the Bucs will kill opponents drives and negate possible advantages they might have running the football on them.
So in all honesty the outlook for this upcoming Buccaneers season shouldn’t be so much about winning divisions, making playoffs, or going to super bowls. It should be about answering the key ingredients of coach-team relationship, quarterback stability, strong running game, and strong pass rush.
Mix those ingredients together and with some gelling of the team, some games will be won. Playoffs, not necessarily but at least the Bucs will be headed in the right direction in their rebuilding effort if they put together those four ingredients.