Their coach said they were the best team in the league. They found an answer to the "Who Dat?" chants. The young Buccaneers went from a last-place finish to a respectable 10-6 record.
Their quarterback, Josh Freeman, also established himself as the best quarterback from the 2009 NFL Draft.
2010 was a good year for the pewter and red (and sometimes creamsicle orange, but that's not the point), and it seems as though their quarterback and coach have developed a strong rapport with one another.
Josh Freeman is a young star in the NFL, and the Buccaneers had great foresight when they made a full-court press to both draft him and sell him to the fan base.
The Buccaneers should be lauded for putting Freeman in position to lead the inexperienced Buccaneers to a playoff berth.
They came up just short, but don't let that fool you.
Josh Freeman is the best quarterback out of the first round triumvirate of himself, Matt Stafford, and Mark Sanchez, as well as assorted ne'er-do-wells from other rounds such as Stephen McGee.
It's true that just recently, the 6'6" Kansas State product was labeled a developmental quarterback. It came as a surprise to some that he even saw the field in his rookie season, but when Freeman got his opportunity, the young project made the best of what he was given.
Who is the best quarterback from the 2009 NFL Draft?
Freeman's prodigious performance was rewarded with a strong welcome from Buccaneers fans, many of whom were skeptical about him after the quarterback was drafted.
What Tampa Bay's following didn't realize was that Freeman represented the perfect balance for coach Raheem Morris. Morris is a hot-headed, fiery, passionate coach who manages the game with emotion. Freeman is the cool, collected type, never afraid to take a deep breath and settle back into the game. The two complement one another marvelously.
Compared to Matt Stafford, Freeman may come up short in talent as a quarterback. Certainly, the two are good quarterbacks in their own right, and many general managers in the league would have no problem building a team around either one of these two signal callers.
The only difference is, Freeman has stayed on the field and helped his team win ballgames. Stafford has been on an operating table.
While the Georgia graduate Stafford can lead his team down the field, keep in mind that Stafford has had many weapons. Stafford has had one of the game's best receivers in Calvin Johnson Jr. for as long as the former has been an NFL pro. Don't underrate the effect of Tony Scheffler, either, as the tight end is one of the most underrated at his position at catching the football.
Stafford has also had a nice running back, Jahvid Best, to check the ball down to in space.
Freeman has LeGarrette Blount, a midseason revelation, reliable old Kellen Winslow, and that's about it.
While Mike Williams is a talented pass catcher, Josh Freeman has transformed Williams from a complementary piece to a starting wideout. Watch the tape, and one will see the Tampa quarterback put the ball where only Williams can catch it. People can salivate over Williams talent and athleticism, but Freeman is behind the scenes with Williams' success.
Stafford has much better weapons all around, and hasn't been able to stay healthy. Freeman is a better quarterback, all-around, than Matt Stafford.
Of course, the Jets specifically moved up in the draft to nab another young signal caller, this one by the name of Mark Sanchez. Sanchez, out of USC, has been the quarterback on two AFC Championship game teams in his first two years.
Not too shabby.
But one who watches the Jets is well aware that Gang Green wins not thanks to Sanchez, but rather in spite of him. Brian Schottenheimer, the Jets offensive coordinator, doles out minimal responsibility to Sanchez, relying on the USC product to do little more than manage the game, keep 8 guys out of the box, and not cause turnovers.
While Pat Shurmur was able to make Sam Bradford an effective quarterback within half a year of the Shurmur "game management" system for rookies, Sanchez is still learning to be an asset to his team after two years in the league.
Obviously, the same can not be said for Josh Freeman.
Freeman has had to be the guy to right the ship for the Buccaneers (no pun intended). Freeman hasn't had to just manage a game, but rather he has had to help the Buccaneers have a legitimate shot of winning the game every time out.
Sanchez, with his lock-down defense and game management offense, couldn't hold a candle when comparing the responsibility placed on him versus the responsibility placed on Freeman by respective offensive coordinators.
There is a reason Schottenheimer doesn't trust Mark Sanchez with the offense just yet. Sanchez is not a good enough passer, and the Jets will need to keep winning despite their liability at the quarterback position.
Sanchez may have moxie, guts, and an impressive playoff resume, but Sanchez was fortunate enough to be put in charge of a Super Bowl caliber team. Freeman got a 2-14 team.
If a general manager was to start a franchise, Josh Freeman would have to be the choice when comparing signal-callers from the 2009 draft. Stafford hasn't been able to stay on the field, and no one can be certain how that shoulder will perform when Stafford makes his return.
Also, Mark Sanchez needs a top rushing attack and a shutdown defense to have success. In most other situations, he'd be labeled a bust. But the Jets are winning, so Sanchez' ineptitude is overlooked as the normal transgressions of a young quarterback.
For those who continue to make excuses for Matt Stafford's injuries or Mark Sanchez' inability to be an effective passer for the first three and a half quarters of a game, I invite you to watch Josh Freeman, the best quarterback from the 2009 NFL Draft.