Tampa Tribune writer Roy Cummings posted an article this week pointing out that the “NFL does not grade on a curve” and defending the streak of wins the Buccaneers have put together over the past few weeks.
Cummings then quotes Adam Hayward, who believes defeating the 49ers would be a statement from the team that the wins they have achieved are not a fluke.
But the article focuses on the wrong things. The Buccaneers aren’t playoff contenders, and the win/loss record doesn’t mean anything. They need to show they’re capable of improving as players and as coaches, because jobs are on the line for 2014.
As Cummings points out in his article, the Buccaneers have only defeated one team with a winning record at the time of the victory, and have largely seemed to benefit from a perfect storm of circumstances to rack up wins.
The Dolphins were in disarray over the bullying situation, the Falcons are historically bad on defense and hurt on offense, the Lions made a boatload of mistakes, and the Bills somehow managed to make even more mistakes with even less talent.
Still, wins over those teams are better than losses, but the performance of the team has left questions rather than answers, despite the winning margins on the scoreboard.
When Lavonte David, Darrelle Revis, Gerald McCoy and Vincent Jackson are the reason the Buccaneers win football games, it does nothing to prove the team is improving, or capable of being a playoff contender in the future.
The talent of the superstar players for the Buccaneers is often enough to power the team to victory over lesser opponents. But to beat a team like the 49ers, it will take a well-coached team with contributions from lesser players.
For instance, against the Lions (the most impressive team the Buccaneers have defeated this year), it was Johnthan Banks who stepped up to cover Calvin Johnson and help keep the Detroit offense under wraps as the Bucs held on to win.
And against the Dolphins and Falcons it was the offensive line and running game which helped set the table for a victory.
So can the Buccaneers get consistent performances from their players and coaches on Sunday against San Francisco? That’s the question that fans should be asking, rather than simply begging for a win in a meaningless game which does nothing but affect draft position.
Because the coaches and players don’t need the approval of fans and media types who solely judge a team by its win/loss record. They need to be focused on showing as much improvement as they can over the final weeks of the season.
Improvement doesn’t mean winning at this stage of the season. To date, the most meaningful and impressive half of football the Buccaneers have played was the first half against Seattle. And even though that game ended in a loss, it proved that the talent on the roster can stack up against any opponent.
So against a tough opponent like San Francisco, fans and media members should be watching for positive progress from the coaches and the fringe players, because they’re the ones fighting for jobs.