Sweet Music To The Long-Suffering

September 4th, 2017


Nobody’s checking birth certificates at One Buc Place anymore. If you can play, you can stay.

If you can’t, neither your draft status nor your contract will keep you around.

There was a time not long ago when age was a major factor in shaping Tampa Bay’s interest in any available player. Jason Licht has changed that approach, with the consent of the guys who sign the checks.

Three years ago, the Glazers would probably have told Licht to pass on 30-year-old T.J. Ward. Instead, the Bucs pounced on a three-time Pro Bowl safety who was an integral component of Denver’s imposing defense.

And while Bronco fans were in shock about Ward’s release on cutdown day, Licht held an emergency meeting with Dirk Koetter. I’d venture there wasn’t much debate because Ward is a heck of a player.

The Broncos balked at Ward’s salary, so the Bucs quickly showed him the money while showing Mike Smith the love. With Ward in place, J.J. Wilcox was promptly jettisoned to Pittsburgh.

Why? Because Ward’s a better player.

As former Bucs secondary coach Mike Tomlin used to say, we’ll tolerate you until we can replace you.

Consider yourself replaced, Mr. Wilcox. Tomlin’s Steelers are making moves to upgrade their secondary, with an eventual playoff meeting with Tom Brady in mind.

Sweet Music

The Bucs aren’t thinking that far ahead. They are simply trying to meet the elevated expectations of their fans and themselves … and Ward will help.

Chris Conte and Keith Tandy still sit atop the depth chart at safety, but you can bet Smith is determined to turn Ward into a difference-maker in Tampa.

If you’re wondering about a lengthy learning curve before Ward makes an impact, I refer you to a 1963 ditty recorded by John, Paul, George and Ringo:

It Won’t Be Long.

The Bucs are in an aggressive mode, and that’s sweet music to the ears of their long-suffering fans.

Everywhere you look, at every position, there’s a veteran –. Ryan Fitzpatrick, DeSean Jackson, Luke Stocker, Demar Dotson, Jacquizz Rodgers, Robert Ayers, Lavonte David, Ward, Brent Grimes.

Ward turns 31 on Dec. 12, only 11 days after Jackson reaches that age. Suddenly, the Bucs are among the oldest teams in the league, with key veterans mixing in with the kids, spreading knowledge in meeting rooms and showing how it’s done on the field.

Like Chucky Loves To Say

Now we know what the Glazers meant when they talked about football cycles. One phase came to a close in 2009, when Jon Gruden was fired and a veteran purge began.

The rebuilding plan took a lot longer than expected because of a series of lousy draft picks and the shocking fall of Josh Freeman. Licht arrived in 2014, and a new cycle of long-term success now appears possible, perhaps even probable, given that core leaders like Jameis Winston, Mike Evans and Kwon Alexander are still developing.

You don’t add a veteran like DeSean Jackson unless you think you’re close. You don’t shake up the secondary with a 30-year-old safety unless you believe this is your time.

The Bucs are healthy heading into Sunday’s season opener in Miami, where the heat will be on in more ways than one. Tampa Bay looked lethargic for much of the preseason and Koetter is obviously relieved that pretend football is over.

He can take comfort with the knowledge that his general manager and his owners believe in this roster and this head coach. Gruden loves to say that you either get better or you get worse in the NFL.

The Bucs just got better.

Ira Kaufman is the most beloved, revered and esteemed Buccaneers columnist in town. He has hung his hat at JoeBucsFan.com world headquarters since July 2016. Tampa Bay’s only Pro Football Hall of Fame voter, Ira busts out columns here every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and his award winning podcasts fire Tuesdays and Thursdays.

20 Responses to “Sweet Music To The Long-Suffering”

  1. nate123456 Says:

    Lets go Bucs!

  2. Mike Says:

    YES- excited about week 1

  3. MagicMarpet Says:

    Looove the Ward move! That is what teams that want to win now do. This team has done nothing but improve over the offseason and it WILL translate to wins starting this Sunday. I’ve never been this excited for a season. Go Bucs!!!

  4. LifeOfABucFan Says:

    Love it!! Got me pumped up!!

  5. '79Defense Says:

    Love the Beatles reference, Ira. Great song.

  6. Dreambig Says:

    Only question is how is Wards hamstring? He missed the entire preseason for the Broncos.

  7. richbucsfan Says:

    reality will bite come the real season…we’ll see if this is fool’s gold or the real thing…time will tell…cautiously skeptical at this point


    I think the hammy will be fine since he is getting paid the salary he wants.

  9. RayJameisStadium Says:

    Another one over the fence IRAAAAA!!!!

    The wolf pack is ready. Now lets see what the pack leader brings to the table. No I’m not talking about Winston. Koetter holds the key. Licht has done a fabulous job. Now Koetter must win his battles against the opposing coaches.

    In Koetter we trust!!!

    Go Bucs!!!

  10. R.O. Says:

    It’s going to be hilarious to see the overreaction whatever the result to a week 1 game. The sky will be falling or we’re going to the SB.

  11. darin Says:

    I think if they were all in they wouldve held onto wilcox for now. He was the nickle in the big package. Plus ward is just now starting to practice, from a torn hammy. Not sure bout everyone else but that doesnt sound like all in to me. Not to mention shipping out wilcox salary for wards means they are hardly spending more. I do like the signing tho, IF he is healthy. The hammies tho….turn to moons over sometimes. Go Bucs

  12. Defense Rules Says:

    I’m also ‘cautiously skeptical at this point’ richbucsfan (or maybe that’s ‘cautiously optimistic). No question that TJ Ward has the resume (3 ProBowls), but hamstring issues are nothing to sneeze at & not playing at all in the preseason still concerns me. Plus no secondary is ‘plug & play’; it takes some time to get on the same page with the rest of the secondary. Personally don’t expect to see him on the field until Game 3 or so (unless Conte or Tandy get injured of course). By the way, lots of fans talk about Conte as being oft-injured, but in 6 seasons he’s averaged 14 games per season & has 13 INTs. TJ Ward has averaged 13.5 games per season over 7 seasons & has 8 INTs over that time. IOW, Chris Conte is a pretty good safety in his own right. Wouldn’t be at all surprised to see a lot of secondary packages this year that have Ward, Conte, Tandy, VHIII & Grimes all on the field at the same time (Keith Tandy was a pretty good CB as I remember).

  13. Broy34 Says:

    Aaaaand cue the clueless

  14. Bob in Valrico Says:

    Looking at the numbers Defense put up, it appears our incumbent safeties might be better in coverage where Wilcox mightl be used in the 8 men in a box and blitzing situations.Another thing I have noticed is that whatever path MCCoy takes to the QB,teams often run to area he has vacated,so a good run stuffing safety will be an asset.

  15. Dusthty Rhothdes Says:

    Dont know about hamstring injury but if that is a real issue no way he is physically conditioned to play in the s florida heat week 1

  16. Bob in Valrico Says:

    Also have to credit both Conte and Tandy for turning the momentum of some games with their coverage in the second half of the season.Seemed to be a lot of trust that everybody in the secondary was going to execute during that very good defensive stretch. And it was sorely needed because we were not scoring a lot of points in some those games.

  17. stpetebucsfan Says:

    I’m the optimist here so I’m very happy with all of these moves.

    My main questions involve two areas. If our OL is as good as I hope it might be our offense will be golden.

    We have some talent on Defense but it seems personnel are better suited for a 3-4 than a 4-3. I love Noah and believe he could wreck some opposing offenses but not from a down stance trying to go up head to head with NFL LT’s that will be 50-75 lbs heavier and generally the best and most experienced player on their respective lines. Just have to trust Smitty I guess.

  18. DoNUTS Says:

    Ward is a great add and will help VH3. The better the backend coverage the more sacks this team will get.

  19. orlbucfan Says:

    R.O. Says:
    September 4th, 2017 at 6:49 am
    It’s going to be hilarious to see the overreaction whatever the result to a week 1 game. The sky will be falling or we’re going to the SB.
    Written thoughts of many long time, long suffering fans. 🙂 Hopefully, Irma won’t blow up south Florida. My one complaint is the backup QB who stinks!! Go Bucs and go away Irma!!

  20. jb Says: