In addition, I think it’s fair to say that the Buccaneers had the opportunity to make this year quite special. Fourth quarter comebacks and late game antics have been the Buccaneers undoing, and if the team was able to take advantage of the opportunities to win earlier this season, the talk this week would be about playoff seeding and not draft profiles. Consider the 4 NFC East games. The Cowboys did everything they could to hand Tampa Bay the game, and the Bucs decided to run the ball and take no chances, and let Dallas hold onto a slim victory. The Redskins gave the Bucs an opportunity at the end of the game, and another first down before a Connor Barth field goal to leave less time on the clock for RGIII would have been the different between a win and a loss. The Giants game was a defensive implosion, and some defensive scheming to stop Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz from breaking huge plays over and over just ONCE would have led to a Buccaneers victory, as the Giants needed almost the entire fourth quarter to overcome the Buccaneers offensive outburst. My thoughts on the Eagles game have been made clear, and that’s a game the Bucs should have won. Just two or three of these games going the Buccaneers way, combined with pulling out a win in the Atlanta or New Orleans games, and the Buccaneers are not only squarely in playoff position, but have tiebreaker advantage over key opposition.
I suppose that I do understand Josh’s point, and hopefully the Buccaneers can learn from the disappointment of this season and become a stronger team next season. But consider for a moment the Seattle Seahawks two seasons ago. A team that seemed average at best in the regular season that stumbles into the playoffs, and comes up against the Saints in the first round. The Seahawks get a victory for the ages, and two short years later, are a contender for a playoff spot once again, and this time have fewer detractors and more confidence.
They were able to build confidence and experience with a playoff run, and while they have certainly made personnel moves since then, the foundation was built for future success. The Denver Broncos are in a similar situation, with a roster full of players who helped turn around a subpar Denver team into a contender that upset the Steelers in the playoffs. They’re now led by Peyton Manning and have a potent combination of confidence, experience, and talent.
The Buccaneers had an opportunity to be that kind of team going into 2013, but instead they will have to spend an offseason at home, hoping to improve enough to make the next step. While I do believe the Buccaneers could come back next season and make a playoff run, I think that we can’t chalk up 2012 as just a speed bump, and I hope that the missed opportunity is something that provides inspiration, and not discouragement. This young team has potential, but potential is only worthwhile if it is realized. Let’s hope that the 2013 Buccaneers realize that potential.
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