THE OPTIMIST: Bucs To Overcome History In 2011July 14th, 2011
THE OPTIMIST is Nick Houllis, a Bucs fan and an accomplished writer whose steadfast allegiance to the team goes back to the 1970s. Houllis is the founder, creator and guru of BucStop.com, a place Joe goes to get lost in time via Houllis’ stunning video collection.
THE OPTIMIST will shine that positive light in your eyes. Some will love it. Some won’t.
Every time the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have tasted success after prolonged agony, the next season turns out to be a major disappointment.
The start of it goes back to 1980, when the Bucs sold out almost every home game following one of the greatest sports seasons in Tampa Bay history. It was the year after 1979, when the Bucs shocked the world and won 10 games when only 16 games before that the Bucs had won their first two games EVER — to the tune of a 2-26 lifetime record.
Ending up 10 points short of the Super Bowl, everyone expected the Bucs to make a serious run for the Big Game in ’80. Instead, Bucs fans got a team that surprised no one, and felt the move from an easy schedule to a much tougher one.
The ’80 Bucs defense was passed on repeatedly and its linebackers were exposed for being poor at covering receivers and speedy runners out of the backfield. Add to the mix rumors of drug use, and 10-6 turned into a 5-10-1 disappointment. The Bucs bounced back to make the playoffs the next two years.
Fast forward to 1998. The second year of Pewter Power had the Bucs expecting a playoff push to the Super Bowl following the breakthrough playoff season in ’97 with new uniforms and a new day in Tampa Bay. Instead, an inconsistent Tony Dungy team made more mental mistakes than ever, and it wasn’t until proper focus in 1999 and beyond were the Bucs perennially playoff bound.
I could go on and on … the Super Bowl victory was followed up with a 7-9 season. Take away a blocked extra point vs Carolina and that ridiculous LEAPING game with Colts on MNF (and the 21 straight points Indy Scored) and the Bucs start out 2003 with a 5-0 record. Instead they were 3-2 and the wheels were ready to fall off. After two losing seasons, Jon Gruden put together a solid defense and durable running attack in 2005. The next year, the QB’s spleen and the rest of the 2006 season were outta here.
This time it’s different; so don’t expect the 2011 Bucs to have a down year before resurfacing in 2012. There are just too many reasons why it won’t happen, and we’ll all be happy campers, lining up overnight for playoff tickets this coming January.
1) Nothing was really won in 2010: All the other examples show the Bucs winning something tangible, and when you win something, sometimes your fight goes away for a bit until it comes back. The Bucs won nothing; no division title, no playoff position, they simply had a winning record. If anything, that should make the team even hungrier, because they were ‘robbed’ of something.
2)The schedule does not get tougher: Granted we don’t play the NFC West this year, instead we get the NFC North, which does have two tough teams but two easier ones as well. Even the AFC division we play, the South, has Titans, Jaguars and Texans teams with weaknesses. The Colts are no longer the powerhouses they once were. The Bucs are going from the easiest schedule to the 15th-easiest, right in the middle, so there should be no complaining. There are only TWO GAMES each year that match your position in the division standings anyway. And this year it’s third place.
3) The Bucs have potentially nine games against teams with new coaching staffs and/or rookie QBs. That alone is an advantage in any normal season, but coupled with the lockout, a team like the Bucs returning its core group of players and coaching staff with the same offense is going to have a major advantage over teams whose players will be learning terminology only a few weeks before the start of camp.
So I’m pretty sure the outcome is going to be something special in 2011 and beyond, a result you don’t have to be a real optimist to see.