THE OPTIMIST: Believers Are Everywhere

January 10th, 2011

You’ve all read THE PESSIMIST, who spews his Bucs-related anger like no other. But Joe also wants you to know THE OPTIMIST

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, 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.

I’ve always been amazed by how the first game of the season sets the tempo for what kind of a year it’s going to be. Think about what kind of team we had here in Tampa Bay;

A bunch of young guys that came out and started a little slow, but usually scored before the half. Then the Bucs would come out and play better in the second half and either put points on the board and put a team away in the third quarter, or they would squander some chances but get it all together for a final drive and win the in the last two minutes.

Week 1 saw Ronde Barber step in front of a Jake Delhomme pass and return it to Cleveland 3 yard line. The Bucs scored to come within 14-10 of the Browns. Bucs won the game in the 4th quarter. It was a recipe the Bucs would re-create pretty much all year.

Equally remarkable is how the final game can sometimes be a bookend to the first game. Ronde Barber having key plays in both and in between.

So the question is, where do we go from here? One of my fondest memories of the offseason last year was during on-air draft coverage by Justin Pawlowski of WDAE-AM 620. I was at work listening when he went absolutely nuts announcing the Bucs fourth-round pick Mike Williams. I did not know who Williams was, so I had to look him up, and I joined “The Commish” and his exuberance.

The bookend to that moment was something Pawlowski said after the season ended when talking about the 2011 drafting.

He said judging on the moves the Bucs made in 2010, he had nothing but trust that Mark Dominik and Raheem Morris would make the right picks in the upcoming draft, and that he had complete confidence in their ability to do so.

What a contrast that is from a year ago when perhaps incorrectly we did not trust this organization to draft responsibly after its dismal history over the last decade!

To me that statement meant more than anything I had heard all year; in a season of blackouts and pessimism even after a 2-0 start, someone admitted this was moving in the right direction.

On my blog the day the Bucs beat the Saints, after 4:30 until midnight, I had three times more hits than any full day since I’ve been in operation. Closer analysis shows that 95 percent of visitors came from Google searches using the following key words;

Can Bucs make playoffs?

Did Bucs make the playoffs?

What do the Bucs need to do to make the playoffs?

It was almost as if all of a sudden, a proverbial light switch came on around Tampa Bay, perhaps once the Bucs finally beat a winning team, or maybe it was just because the win was over the Saints. Either way, it was nice to see the recognition.

In a few months, if CBA’s and other offseason distractions go the right way, the Bucs will be practicing with a host of players who did not get to finish off their 2010 seasons. Players like Aqib Talib, Cody Grimm, Brian Price, Gerald McCoy, Arrelious Benn, and Davin Joseph to name a few will be adding serious depth to a Bucs roster that never really had that before, at least not to this extent. The schedule won’t be overly daunting with games against the NFC North and AFC South and a couple of equal third-place finishers in the Dallas Cowboys and San Francisco 49ers.

The biggest difference will be what the players read — if they do pay attention — to what we all say about them. There won’t be any more Peter Kings talking about two wins, in fact there will be some who talk about 12 victories, and playoff appearances instead.

How they handle that attention, how they deal with that pressure, will be equally important as how they dealt with the adversities of 2010, and will end up being directly responsible for the library of work they put up between next year’s bookends — games we will scrutinize that much closer.

4 Responses to “THE OPTIMIST: Believers Are Everywhere”

  1. Matt Says:

    Very well said.

  2. SkookumSmitty Says:

    I felt the same way, Nick. Even early in the season, the Bucs were never panicky or mentally unprepared. They came to play every week, and by late in the season, if they got behind, there was NO reason to worry.

    Of course they blew a few opportunities, and suffered some strain from coaching the ‘Next man up’, but I couldn’t be much happier with/for the team.

  3. rob Says:

    I, for one, am more pragmatist than either optimist or pessimist… There have been many NFL teams in the last few years that showed a ton of promise before disappointing their fans… Coach of the Year Marvin Lewis anyone? Wasn’t San Fran supposed to sweep into the playoffs this year? How about the Titans this year?

    Let’s see how this offseason progresses.. I am not among those who think we need to sign big name FAs (did the Patriots do that during their run? No- they only signed high value guys that nobody else wanted, while letting their big names sign elsewhere- Branch, Milloy, Vrabel, Curtis Martin, etc.).

    I just want to see the players continue their commitment and not lose their hunger. I don’t want to see Raheem and Dominik get overly cocky like Gruden and Allen did. I want to see the CBA situation resolved. I want to see how the Bucs recover when their assistant coaches are courted by other teams.

    This coming season (if it happens) will be the one that tells us the real character of the Bucs… was this season a fluke?

    I am really routing for the Bucs to go 16-0 next year (or 18-0) and really REALLY hope they are great for the next decade…

  4. McBuc Says:

    Rob…I have thought the same thing at times, but those teams do not have a QN playing like Freeman, and that makes a huge difference. A great QB will elevate the play of the entire team.