Tampa Bay Buccaneers: What if Bert Emanuel’s catch wasn’t overturned?

Bert Emanuel, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (ELECTRONIC IMAGE) AFP PHOTO/Don EMMERT (Photo by Don EMMERT / AFP) (Photo by DON EMMERT/AFP via Getty Images)
Bert Emanuel, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (ELECTRONIC IMAGE) AFP PHOTO/Don EMMERT (Photo by Don EMMERT / AFP) (Photo by DON EMMERT/AFP via Getty Images) /
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Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Tony Dungy, Shaun King, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Photo by PETER MUHLY/AFP via Getty Images) /

Let’s see how things would change for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers had the catch not been overturned.

The drive that ultimately, and unfairly, stalled was the first time the Buccaneers had any rhythm on offense. At the rate they were going, they were certainly capable of picking up 10 yards in two plays. In this universe, the Buccaneers score, and advance to Super Bowl XXXIV against the Tennessee Titans. It’s here in the first (and only) Super Bowl battle of black quarterbacks that the Buccaneers are victorious. It’s safe to say if this defense was able to hold the Greatest Show on Turf to 11 points, then they were capable of beating Steve McNair and company. Just for kicks let’s say the Titans do still come up one yard short, but instead of Mike Jones making the heroic tackle, it’s Hardy Nickerson. Most significantly, the Buccaneers get their first Super Bowl in 1999 with Tony Dungy as their coach.

In the season that follows, the Buccaneers, riding a wave of momentum and walking with a different swagger from the previous year’s Super Bowl, get past the Philadelphia Eagles and advance to Super Bowl XXXV where the Baltimore Ravens await them. In reality, Super Bowl XXXV was one of the least entertaining Super Bowls due to the quarterback matchup of Trent Dilfer vs. Kerry Collins and the blowout nature of the game. In this universe, it’s still one of the least entertaining due to the low-scoring affair thanks to these two legendary defenses. King vs. Dilfer isn’t exactly a clash of the quarterback titans either. Much like in the real world, the Buccaneers benefitted from knowing Rich Gannon so well, and in this reality, the same applies for Dungy and Dilfer. Dilfer doesn’t get his revenge against the Buccaneers as the Buccaneers go back to back, and King becomes the quarterback with the most confusing legacy since Jim Plunkett, and until Nick Foles. Sidenote, 2000 is the season where the Buccaneers become the first team to host a Super Bowl, not 2020.

Come 2001, there’s no reason for the Buccaneers to go out and get Brad Johnson, as King has been the quarterback for two straight Super Bowl titles despite his limitations and the defense and running game more less carrying him. King still regresses, as he did in the real world and the Buccaneers fall to the Eagles this time around. However, Dungy is never fired after this season since he has two Super Bowl wins on his resume. In 2002, Dungy and King do get back to the NFC Championship thanks to the legendary defense which still scores nine touchdowns themselves. The Buccaneers fall to the Eagles this time around as the defense can’t overcome the offensive woes, and the Eagles close out Veteran Stadium by ultimately defeat Jon Gruden’s Oakland Raiders in Super Bowl XXXVII, ending the suffering of that fanbase early.

Going forward, the Buccaneers do unfortunately start to slide as they did in real life after 2002 with Gruden. The team still unravels thanks to inconsistent quarterback play and Warren Sapp jumping pirate ships to the Raiders for example, but there’s a little more to this story when it comes to the rest of the NFL.