It’s always been a battle over how best to build a potential SB-winning lineup: the draft vs free agency. The Buccaneers chose both.
For years, it’s been a battle between loyalists on how best to build a potential SuperBowl winning lineup. Like those old Miller Light commercials, it’s the difference between less filling and tastes great, so to speak. Yes, that’s a metaphor, sorry.
For the most part, the two camps sit in their own pile of dung and pontificate about the value and all sorts of other supposed markers. But, with our dearly beloved Buccaneers, our two, both successful, trips to the top of the dirt pile that is the National Football League playoffs, have come via the draft.
Yes, there were some key FA acquisitions, most notably the Jon Gruden trade, but, in reality, it was a run of key draft picks that made both teams successful. Even last season’s team was mostly draft-heavy with a smattering of key FA acquisitions.
Let’s talk about the 2003 Buccaneers. Let’s look at the key draft acquisitions for that team. Everyone who thinks they are Bucs fans should be able to cite this like an M-16 on full auto: Warren Sapp, Derrick Brooks, John Lynch, and Ronde Barber. Three of them are already in Canton, and Barber is only a few more turns through the mill away from joining his cohorts.
Ironically, it wasn’t all draft, just mostly draft. They still needed a spritz of FA-whipped cream to top it off. First outside acquisition was Jon Gruden, the former coach of the Oakland Raiders. Another name, who also should be booked into Canton, was none other than Simeon Rice. Gruden also sought out and captured an offensive juggernaut in Joe Jurevicius.
Just a note from the memory bank about Rice. When Defensive Coordinator Monte Kiffin had a chance to coach him in the 2002 ProBowl, a bone for teams that lost the conference championship game, Kiffin had a chance to see Rice in action. What Kiffin learned from that trip was just how good Simeon Rice really was.
Immediately, Kiffin came back to Tampa touting Rice as the finishing piece to Tampa’s vaunted D. An edge rusher with 4.3 speed and arms as long longer than Stretch Armstrong’s. In that magical defensive gem that 2003 was, Rice had two official sacks, and another that won’t be counted on one of the Raiders’ three failed two-point conversion attempts.
Now, let’s contrast that team with the one the Bucs just dominated SB LV with. The key draft picks start with Mike Evans, followed by Chris Godwin, Vita Vea Devin White, and a string of other defensive names. And, the following year, we get Tristan Wirfs and Antoine Winfield Jr.
The key FA acquisitions for that team, include, of course, Tom “Terrific” Brady, Rob Gronkowski, Jason Pierre-Paul, Shaquil Barrett, Leonard Fournette, and Antonio Brown.
Considering the talent, it’s no wonder that the Bucs won Super Bowl LV in a dominating fashion.
What the 2003 edition was not able to do was hold onto its key players. They got the band together for that one season, and then it disbanded (pardon the pun, ha-ha). They did not fare very well thereafter. Contrast that with what the Buccaneers’ management pulled off this season in bringing back everyone from the team who meant something, and the thought leaves one scratching their head.
How is it that this team doesn’t get to another SB? With what’s on the table already, not including some key “backup” draft picks, it’s hard not to see the opportunity. Understanding that it’s a bad thing to contemplate something that hasn’t happened, we can trust Tom and Bruce to keep the team hungry and motivated to make another run at it. It starts by playing every game as if the season depends on it. And, when you really sit down and think about it, the season will depend on every game. Go Bucs!
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