This 2016 Buccaneers season may be the most important one over the last decade. For a team that has been in flux since their Super Bowl run, the time for results is far overdue.
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Think about it: since winning the Super Bowl, the Buccaneers have won the division only twice, the last time coming in 2007 when they were promptly eliminated from the playoffs by eventual Super Bowl champions and Patriot perfection spoilers, the New York Giants. Since that playoff appearance, they’re on their fifth head coach and had just two winning seasons, their last of course coming in 2010 when Josh Freeman appeared to be the franchise quarterback Bucs fans had been dreaming of.
The pressure and responsibility to restore this team, this fan base, to prominence rests on the shoulders of rookie head coach Dirk Koetter and his good friend Mike Smith who has taken over the defense. The fans are done being patient, they’re done waiting for the rebuilding to be done, and they’re done watching the rest of the NFC South fight for division titles year after year while their team is trapped in the cellar. The time for patience and understanding is long past gone. They want results.
Anything less than a winning record and, at the very least, being in the playoff hunt in late December will be another failure on the part of the Bucs brass. Yes, I will be the first to say Koetter needs some time. He can’t be another head coach on a two year leash. Changing coaches every other season isn’t helping matters, it simply starts the whole process over again. In the cases of the three previous coaches, everyone knew they weren’t the right guys. Raheem Morris was in way over his head, Greg Schiano was a terrible coach and even worse person, and Lovie Smith’s vision and scheme had long since been passed by with the style of the NFL today. Dirk Koetter might just be the first legitimate coach this team has had since Jon Gruden.
We still have no clue what the defense is going to look like. Mike Smith wants to run a hybrid, multiple look scheme with exotic blitzes and utilizing the strengths of the players he has to put them in a situation to succeed. What a concept, huh? We know the secondary has improved with the additions of Brent Grimes and Vernon Hargreaves III. We hope the pass rush has improved with Robert Ayers and Noah Spence, since pass rush is what will allow corners to create plays and turnovers. This Bucs defense for years have left their corners on an island that was rapidly sinking into the ocean. Quarterbacks would have all day to throw and could easily pick apart the secondary and the zone looks the defense was in. Those days are over.
There was drastic improvement and records being set by the offense last season and Bucs fans should expect more of the same in 2016. There is a healthy Vincent Jackson and a healthy Austin Seferian-Jenkins returning, Jameis Winston and Mike Evans working on their chemistry in an attempt to be one of the best quarterback/wide receiver combos in the league, Doug Martin is back after a breakout season, and a young offensive line that truly began to gel together last season. With Koetter still calling the shots for the offense and implementing his vision, the Bucs might be a high-powered scoring machine.
This team has a lot of talent on both sides of the ball. Far more than what they get credit for. It’s been a matter of finding the right man to utilize the talent properly, finding coaches and coordinators to use that talent properly. I have all the faith in the world that Jason Licht found that guy in Dirk Koetter and that having Koetter take over was in the plans all along. There is no more of this “fit a round peg in a square hole” nonsense in schemes. No more benching Pro Bowlers for “system guys”. No more Bears and Rutgers rejects that the coaches are familiar with. It is simply putting the best eleven guys on the field on both sides of the ball and using them in whatever ways makes them, thus the team, successful.
If the Bucs finish at .500 or worse, this season will be viewed by the majority of the fan base as a failure, despite a .500 record meaning a two game improvement in the win column. Bucs fans aren’t just looking for improvement anymore. They’re looking for contention. Playoff contention, division contention, and sooner rather than later, Super Bowl contention. Jason Licht and the Glazer family believe Dirk Koetter is the man to do that. Personally, I agree. Do you?
Let us know what your thought and expectations are for 2016 in the comment section below!