As you’ve noticed all week we’ve been recounting the top ten achievements from the Buccaneers’ 2010 season. Few expected anything more than a whimper from the Bucs as the rest of the NFL ran roughshod over them. Most expected no more than three or four wins, so going 10-6 and being in playoff contention until the last week of the season could be qualified as an immensely successful season. And given the fact the Bucs are the NFL’s youngest team (and very well may be next year too), there’s a lot of exciting potential to build on.
So here’s the compilation of our top ten list, each entry has the link to the full story as well as a synopsis of why we chose it. Congratulations to the Bucs on a great year and thanks to all of you for supporting The Pewter Plank. Make sure to give us your thoughts and some of you favorite moments in the comments.
Throughout the year the Bucs saw contributions from tons of players, with 14 players out (13 on IR and one suspended) by the end of the year and with the youngest team in the league already, Raheem Morris was able to successfully impart in every one of his players a sense of opportunism and a level of preparation that allowed them to be successful when called into action. Guys like Ted Larsen, James Lee, Erik Lorig, LeGarrette Blount and Cody Grimm were the next men up at their respective positions and all were able to make great contributions when called on.
The Buccaneers had heard all year that they couldn’t beat a good team. In week 17 with their playoff hopes hanging by a thread they proved their detractors wrong by beating the defending Superbowl Champion Saints in the Superdome. The game was far from perfect with the Saints more or less conceding down ten in the fourth quarter. But more than anything, it got the Bucs to ten wins and established confidence in the Bucs that they can win in New Orleans (Freeman is now 2-0 in the Superdome), something that will be useful in seasons to come.
In week 16 with the Bucs reeling after dropping a game (and their ability to control their own playoff destiny) to the Lions Josh Freeman was unflappable. He completed over 80 percent of his passes and three five touchdowns, two to Mike Williams, two to Kellen Winslow and one to Maurice Stovall. It was a record-breaking day for Freeman and flash of the massive potential that the 23 year-old signal-caller is just beginning to scratch at.
After falling to the 4th round Mike Williams came to Tampa with a considerable chip on his shoulder. He quickly developed into the top rookie receiver in the league, leading all rookies in receptions (65), yards (964) and touchdowns (11) the last of which was a Bucs franchise record. Williams has all the makings of a true number one receiver and will only get better as he develops more.
When Raheem Morris said the Bucs were the best team in the NFL back in week seven it took a lot of people by surprise and failed to convince anyone outside of Tampa. But it also put the Bucs backs against the wall, to lose would be embarrassment. And thus Raheem Morris was able to inspire the Buccaneers and continue to culture a sense of confidence within the team that would help carry them to ten wins. It may have looked brash and crazy, but it worked.
LeGarrette Blount was a force and an absolute God-send. After being plucked from the Titans after waivers and allowed to learn the Bucs offense the first six weeks of the season, it wasn’t until week seven that Blount saw his first significant action. All he did was reinvigorate the Bucs rushing attack taking it from 27th to 8th and giving the Bucs a powerful new weapon in the process. By year’s end he had rushed for 1,007 yards despite making just seven starts and finished the year averaging over 100 yards a game the last five weeks.
It’s impressive to get one rookie off waivers who comes in and contributes in his first season, Mark Dominik got three. The aforementioned work of LeGarrette Blount is well documented. Dezmon Briscoe saw only limited action but caught 6 passes for 91 yards and touchdown in the final two weeks. More impressively, Ted Larsen was snagged off the Patriots roster after being taken by them in the sixth round and went on to start 11 games at left guard. Larsen’s entry to the line-up corresponds directly with the Bucs second half turn-around on the ground. Impressive use of the waiver wire by Mark Dominik gave the Bucs a solid reserve, a solid starter and a potential rookie of the year. Nice haul.
There was one player that failed to contribute from the 2010 draft, a sixth round pick spent on a punter failed to pan out. Other than that the Bucs added four starters and four quality reserves. Cody Grimm, Gerald McCoy, Arrelious Benn and Mike Williams all made substantial contributions as starters while Brian Price, Myron Lewis, Dekoda Watson and Erik Lorig all contributed in reserve roles. Consider the caliber of tackle McCoy looks to be, the promise Cody Grimm showed and Mike Williams rookie-of-the-year-caliber season and this was about as good a draft as anyone else in the league had.
Josh Freeman came into his first full year as a starter with a lot of question marks surrounding him, but he was also well prepared. Having spent the off-season immersing himself in football, building chemistry with teammates and learning his offense inside out, Freeman had the type of growth in his second season you can only dream of. At just 22 years of age Freeman completed 61 percent of his passes for 3,451 yards, 25 touchdowns and just six picks. He led seven comebacks, he looked other-worldly at times. Josh Freeman is the best quarterback the NFL hasn’t seen.
The Race to Ten is less about the Bucs actual success reaching ten wins in the 2010 season and more about the way a group of young men can come together and buy into a concept and accomplish something everyone else in the country thought was impossible. No one gave the Bucs a chance to get to ten, their own fan-base was skeptical. But from within the walls at One Buc Place Raheem Morris cultured and an attitude, a swagger that convinced the Bucs that age was irrelevant and that they should expect to win every Sunday. And they played like it all season. It takes some cojones to call your shot, Raheem Morris did. He predicted ten wins and then got his team there.
Nobody expect the Bucs to go 10-6 this season, which makes it all the sweeter. Missing the playoffs hurt but this team is so far ahead of schedule that it’s tough to stay too upset. If next season gets here, the Bucs are going to have a lot to say.