Reasons To Believe

January 19th, 2018


Jason Licht says the NFL is a pass-fail league, and he’s right.

The grades are in for the 2017 Buccaneers and they get a big, fat “F.” Virtually nothing went right after a 2-1 start and Buc fans are naturally worried this slide will continue under the same braintrust.

There is plenty of cause for concern. Tampa Bay plays in the league’s premier division, and that’s not likely to change as long as Drew Brees, Cam Newton and Matt Ryan are flinging footballs in the NFC South.

The Saints, Panthers and Falcons combined for a 32-16 record last year in the only division to feature three teams with winning records. The surest way to earn a playoff berth is to win your division, so the road to the postseason remains treacherous for the Bucs.

But less than two months from free agency, there are several factors that could play in Tampa Bay’s favor this time around.

Here are some reasons to believe:


Winston had reeled off 40 consecutive starts since he was the first overall pick of the 2015 draft before a shoulder problem sidelined him for three weeks at midseason. I have compelling reasons to believe Winston was first injured in Week 2 at Minnesota, but he played on because he’s a competitor to his core.

It was critical for Winston’s confidence that he came back strong after Ryan Fitzpatrick filled in admirably. In the final five games, Winston’s completion rate was a sizzling 67 percent, with 9 touchdown passes and 5 interceptions.

He did lose 5 fumbles in that span, so ball security remains an issue, but nobody at One Buc Place — including the owners — doubts Winston will be a big-time player.

“He’s as tough as they come,” says Fitzpatrick. “Playing through what he did and not wanting anybody to feel sorry for him, that’s Jameis. He’s got all the right qualities.”


After last year’s steep decline, everybody is on notice. One more bad season and the Glazers figure to make a clean sweep, starting with the GM and the coaching staff. Even some of the team’s marquee players would be in jeopardy at that point because a new regime wouldn’t have any ties to them.

Unlike 2017, there won’t be a mulligan issued by ownership if things go awry and the Bucs land once again in the division basement.

With a renewed focus and the realization that this is their final shot for success, Licht and Dirk Koetter enter the offseason knowing they have to get this right.

A 10-year playoff drought has stretched the patience of Buc fans. Even the Stick Carriers are close to jumping off the pirate ship.


In two of his six pro seasons, Doug Martin was an elite running back.

The past two years, he’s been awful That sounds harsh, but the numbers don’t lie.

In each of the last two seasons, Martin averaged 2.9 yards per carry. How bad is bad? That’s the worst average for any back who had at least 70 carries in 2017. The year before, Martin’s average ranked last for any back in the league with at least 90 carries.

Now the Bucs are moving on, and I wish Martin success on his next NFL stop. But now that the Bucs have moved past their steadfast loyalty to Martin, their ground game has a chance to grow into a vibrant force.

Adding a speedy complement to Peyton Barber in free agency or the draft would give Tampa Bay an opportunity to balance Koetter’s offense.


Although Patrick Murray needs to improve his long-range kicks and his kickoffs, he did provide the reliability Tampa Bay has been seeking at a nightmarish position.

Murray converted 17-of-18 FG tries from inside the 50, and that’s a huge upgrade from what Buc fans are used to seeing. Nick Folk missed four attempts from inside the 50 before he was jettisoned, and those lost points are critical in a league where most games are close.

In 2016, Roberto Aguayo went 22-for-30 from inside the 50 and Buc fans cringed whenever he would line up seven yards back from the line of scrimmage. Murray will face competition in training camp, but it’s hard to believe whoever wins the kicking job won’t be a marked improvement on Aguayo and Folk.


Except for a pending NFL investigation into Winston’s conduct in an Uber vehicle almost two years ago, the Bucs should enter training camp with a laser focus.

No “Hard Knocks” cameras lurking about, no weight of big expectations coming off a 9-7 season. Even the locker room chemistry should be better if a couple of players aren’t invited back.

There you have it, Buc fans. Every season, at least one NFL club makes the leap from the basement to the division penthouse.

I can hear you now: Why not us?

Ira Kaufman is the most revered sports personality and writer in town. He has hung his hat at 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. You can also hear Ira every Wednesday on SiriusXM Mad Dog Radio at 5 p.m., and see him Mondays and Fridays at 10:30 p.m. on Spectrum Sports 360.

59 Responses to “Reasons To Believe”

  1. LakeLand Says:

    Why not us?

    There’s too many reasons, it will take me 3-4 hours to write the reasons.

  2. Wausa Says:

    I agree Ira there is room to be optimistic. The Bucs have a QB that will be elite for a very long time in my opinion. However, the Bucs have the NFL’s worst defensive line and the NFL’s worst group of running backs along with needing help at guard, safety and corner.

    That’s a lot of holes to fill in one offseason.

  3. JonBuc Says:

    Don’t go soft on us, Ira! At this rate you’ll replace Dante the dog with a couple of cats and start taking long baths with ice cubes in your Riesling. 🙂

  4. ManzielMadness Says:

    “Even the locker room chemistry should be better if a couple of players aren’t invited back.”

    Hmmm….. somehow TJ Ward and “Swaggy” Baker come to mind. Toss out Sweezy and most of the DLine to the curb with them. #BuildTheTrenches

  5. DanBucsFan Says:

    Drafting the LG from the fighting Irish will be a GREAT start at filling those holes. Of coarse De is a bigger need but no reason to draft someone not worthy of a top 10 pick a De just cuz we are in desperate need. If Chubb not on board at 7 PLZ BUCS FOR THE LOVE OF GOD TAKE NELSON.

  6. DanBucsFan Says:

    DAMN RIGHT EYE- Rah… Why not us !?!?!! Im a firm believer that every season is clean slate and opportunity for team to create a new identity. Go Bucs handle your business this off season and POUND THAT ROCK

  7. Dusthty Rhothdes Says:

    Well stated Irv, problem in most places where the result is FAILING, there are changes made to insure it doesnt repeat but not at one buc which is why being a bucs fan is CRAXY!!!

  8. uckinator Says:

    Wausa – With nearly 80 million in cap space available, those holes should be fill in. Add this year’s draft picks leaning toward the defense and you won’t recognize a fully 1/3 of the team. The staff has only 1 year to right this ship so I doubt you’ll see any “reaches” this time around. Free agents will include 2 in the DL, 2 in the OL, a corner, and a running back. With that kind of money available, those selected should be elite.

  9. Mike Johnson Says:

    Go ahead IRA. I like your..SPIN. Optimism is great. I..Just don’t have it. Not with the teams in our division already being very good and needing only few tweekings. I’m just not confident with Mike Smith. I’m all for giving Koetter another year. Somehow though, I think we will be right back here again next year lamenting and giving excuses. I see very good teams firing Coaches, making adjustments to get to where..THEY KNOW..they are going. US? We are just hoping and wishing we turn around. Glazers need to surround themselves with football know how. Bring in an Experienced VP coach who has won before in this league. But they won’t. So we are stuck with..moving forward with what we have. I’m cautiously optimistic. But I won’t hold my breathe on these Bucs. I’ve seen to much disappointment over the years.

  10. darin Says:

    I agree with speedy back. Dion lewis if he gets out of NE would be a great signing, assuming dirk learned his lesson last year. I was wrong about doug needing another chance. Bad play and bad effort, adios. 9 of the top 10 rushing teams made the playoffs. That doesnt take into account their defense. So considering smith is coming back its imperative this team gets olinemen who are nasty run blockers, another rb, and stick to the run. Take the accountability out of mike smiths hands. Smiths 10 yards and a cloud of nothing defense is unwatchable. And Dan…Nelson might not be there at 7 either. Its early and anything can happen on draft night. Lets hope licht stops trading away picks for needs.

  11. StPeteBucsFan Says:

    I see the momentum building today for Nelson. I understand it because many draft sites claim Nelson is elite and a top five talent…the only thing holding him back is a reluctance to spend a top five pick on a guard.

    Some sites have him going to SF at 9…he should NOT get past us at 7!!!

    Sites have been projecting three QB’s taken before us at 7. If that happens there is a great chance we’ll be choosing between Arden Key at DE and Nelson.

    Key has character issues…some of which are still be researched…while Nelson is called a generational talent at guard and a great locker room presence.

    So give Licht some help guys. If both Key and Nelson are on the board at 7 which of these guys do you pick?

  12. Mike Johnson Says:

    4 of the NFL’s top 5 DEFENSES remain in the Playoffs. So much for having a cute offense with a No 1 drafted QB. And out of the remaining QB’s in the playoffs, Who was a top 5 pick? I rest my case.

  13. 813bucboi Says:

    so the road to the postseason remains treacherous for the Bucs.

    not really… 2016 only the falcon made the postseason….its still very possible that we could have that same situation repeat itself in 2018….GO BUCS!!!!

  14. ManzielMadness Says:

    Probably Nelson but what exactly are Key’s off field issues (just curious)? All I’ve read about it is he had weight issues from when he took off from football for a short period of time. I’ve also read that he’s an incredible athlete a la Clowney and Myles Garrett. I’d have to see how he does at the combine and team interviews but for now I’d take Nelson.

  15. Lamarcus Says:

    We are closer than ppl think. Get a pass rush and a true rb and there we go

  16. DanBucsFan Says:

    @stpete…Nelson imo. Would love a not sexy but cant miss OL pick.

  17. DanBucsFan Says:

    If we can pry Quinn DE from rams away with lets say a 3rd or 4th round pick that would be super helpful with our DE search. Im no GM…but I did stay at a holiday inn last night lol

  18. LakeLand Says:

    The Bucs had $ 80 million in cap space in 2017, and they could have created $20-30 million more with cuts. What good is having money, when you waste it?

    There’s an old saying

    It ain’t how much money you make

    It’s what you do with it.

  19. Buccaneer Bonzai Says:

    “Even the Stick Carriers are close to jumping off the pirate ship.”

    Hah! They were the first to do so! Frauds!

  20. DanBucsFan Says:

    Amen Lakeland

  21. Buccaneer Bonzai Says:

    Isn’t Patrick Murray a free agent? After his performance, he could be offered a better opportunity than the team that cast him aside once already.

    I suspect Jameis will be suspended for 4 weeks, which isn’t really fair given the lack of proof and the conflictions in the Uber drivers story, but Goodell doesn’t care about proof. He’ll suspend without it.

    That;s why the Cowboys were up in arms this year.

  22. Defense Rules Says:

    StPete … “If both Key and Nelson are on the board at 7 which of these guys do you pick?” Neither StPete. Bucs need a LASER FOCUS ON THE DLINE. There are several excellent Guards available in FA; Licht needs to grab one of them. Nelson might be a generational talent, but Licht has to stay focused on our PRIORITY NEEDS.

    Key is an interesting prospect (6’5″ & 260 lbs & blazing speed), but reported off-field issues and past shoulder & knee injuries make me really reluctant to spend a #7 pick on him (I’d grab him IF he were there in the 2nd round). Our 1st Round pick has to be a sure-thing on the DLine, and I’m not sure that Key is that guy.

  23. StPeteBucsFan Says:


    There is lack of proof and lack of proof but in this case there is proof!!!!

    This should be a slam dunk! The girl reported #3 immediately to Uber. Uber immediately notified #3 and even rescinded his use of their app. She did not go to the police because she does not want the publicity….#3 has some very vocal fans…who wants that abuse.

    However…both #3 and the girl are ON THE RECORD…the girls says #3 was the only player in the car…#3 says there were three in the car. So far he’s produced his homeboy but where is the 3rd person?

    I do not give a rat’s patootie if that 3rd player has his own career at stake I’m a Bucs fan. He’s also jeopardizing #3’s first four games. This is not a he said- she said argument like Zeke’s case. He says one thing she says another but there are clear facts in this case. If #3 was alone it’s going to be hard to give him the benefit of the doubt. If there were three in the Uber then her story is bogus.

    The ONLY reason I can imagine this is dragging out is the 3rd guy is still in the playoffs and simply does not want to bring all that distraction to his team. Completely understandable. But immediately after the SB passenger three needs to step up!!!!

  24. Defense Rules Says:

    Lakeland … $80 mil plus whatever we free up sounds like a lot, until we start matching it against (1) our own FAs who we have to re-sign this year & next; (2) our Priority Needs (DEs, DTs, CBs, SS, RB, G or OT); (3) Rookie signings. With everything on the line for Licht & Koetter this season, my suspicion is they’ll go whole hog on fixing this thing. If they get it wrong, there is no tomorrow for the two of them.

  25. Pickgrin Says:

    Nice piece Ira

  26. Pickgrin Says:

    DR says:
    “Nelson might be a generational talent, but Licht has to stay focused on our PRIORITY NEEDS.”

    SMH – So now that Marpet is at Center – significantly better Guard play is not a “priority need”??

  27. Bobby M. Says:

    We’ll bounce back….but miss the playoffs…have renewed hope…then whiff again screaming for firings and 20/20 hindsight on should have hired Gruden.

    That’s the Buc way….just enough to keep you hopeful but never actually delivering.

  28. LakeLand Says:

    I watched Bradley Chubb play 3 times against Clemson, and he didn’t show me anything. It wasn’t like he didn’t get the opportunities. Clemson threw the ball 120 times against them during those 3 games. Chubb has zero sacks against Clemson and more assists than solo tackles.

    I like Notre Dame LT Mike McGlinchey, he can play LT or RT. I thought he should have came out last season.

  29. Buccaneer Bonzai Says:


    My wife was accused of something by an Uber driver that she didn’t do, and even provided photo evidence to prove she was innocent, and they still rescinded her account.

    Never believe Uber.

    And here’s the thing…its not up to Winston to reveal the third person in the car. It’s up to that person to step forward unless criminal charges are made, and there won’t be. Even so…it is the word of one Uber driver against at least two passengers. Who should we believe? The one with no witnesses who lied about there being other passengers, or the one who had at least one witness step forward?

    Just how much proof is required in the court of public opinion these days?

  30. Buccaneer Bonzai Says:

    If it is considered assault, then there would have been criminal charges. The police never even considered charges.

  31. Tampabaybucfan Says:

    St. Pete

    If you are right and there are three QBs chosen in the first 6….then all three…

    Chubb, Barkley, Minkah would have to be taken before we pick at 7 or one of those three will be available…..that should be the case and if one of those three are there, we should pick one. If all three are gone, I would try to trade down. If there is no trade down partner then Nelson would be a good pick there but I think Key should be available after a trade down…..I don’t see him going until the middle of round 1.

  32. Buccaneer Bonzai Says:

    Pickgrin Says:
    “So now that Marpet is at Center – significantly better Guard play is not a “priority need”??”

    Sweezy was out almost two years. Even Joe said before the season that it was unlikely he would make an impact his first year back. The offensive line was getting better before the IRs. And I believe both could have kept playing had there been a point to it.

  33. Mike Johnson Says:

    TampaBayBucFan..Best idea put forward on this threas all day. Barkley and Chubb wiill be gone by our Pick. The Colts just said today, Chubb’s our man!. If I were the Bucs, I’d stay focused on what we need. TRADE DOWN..There is plenty of value in this draft. Get 2 for 1 in the 1st rd. Thats would be the smart thing to do for us with all of our O and D line needs.

  34. LakeLand Says:

    Mike Johnson

    Trade down is the only move that make sense to me

  35. Tampabaybucfan Says:

    Now as for the optimism….I was burnt too badly last year to have much going forward…..but, I’ll add some.

    We are built with plenty of younger players…..they will have another year of development.

    Also, we have Noah Spence healthy. We essentially were without him last year.

    And, picking at 7 we’ll get a high impact player……DE, RB, CB, Oline…..all are needs.

  36. Broy34 Says:

    Lakeland – give it a damn rest. I remember you whining after the bears game. U changed ur name from Lakeland Bucs to Lakeland. Now an article about ops and you’re already bashing the team. It must truly suck to be you

  37. LakeLand Says:


    They sucks,

    What do you expect? Accolades?

  38. SB Says:

    Jeesh…………All of Clemson’s 1st rd DL prospects decided to forego the Draft. Christian Wilkins, Clelin Ferrel, and Austin Bryant will all go back to school.
    Watch out for Clemson next yr.

  39. LakeLand Says:

    Actually I changed my name after the Giants game. I wasn’t on board with them celebrating like they had won the Super Bowl. They beat the winless Giants, then came the 5 game losing streak.

  40. Joe in Michigan Says:

    Your positivity is greatly appreciated, Mr. Kaufman! We have long, cold winters in Michigan, and I needed something to warm my heart.

  41. LakeLand Says:

    Joe in Michigan

    What do you think of Michigan State RB LJ Scott?
    I think he could be a value pick

  42. Clw JB Says:

    Better load up that dline,secondary, and oline if we are to have any chance at all. Don’t waste high pick on a RB – I’d settle for FA add- if we beef up the line, most nfl level backs can exploit 5-7 yd runs consistently
    Need C and LG starters- move Marpet back to RG

    Now on the D side-we need 3 to 4 starter level players just for the DLine – Two starting corners and a starting SS

    Ira, there is just little chance this is gonna happen

    The staff should get their resumes ready, might be the first in season firing in Glazer history

  43. LakeLand Says:

    He’s returning to school.

  44. Defense Rules Says:

    @Pickgrin … “So now that Marpet is at Center – significantly better Guard play is not a “priority need”??” I’ve stated before Pickgrin that the Bucs need to move Marpet back to Guard. Pick up a LG to replace Pamphile (somebody like Norwell), and keep Donovan at LT (for now at least) & Dots at RT (another 1-2 years). Use either Hawley or Evan Smith at Center, or (preferably) find one in FA or in the latter part of the draft (Rounds 4-6).

    And oh ya, cut Sweezy & put the savings towards signing a much better starting RG. I’d only re-sign Pamphile if he came at a reasonable price & only for 2 years. He’s got good flexibility, but I’ve seen enough of him starting for 2 years.

  45. LakeLand Says:

    Defense Rules

    What do you think of Notre Dame OT, Mike McGlinchey?
    I believe he will be solid in the NFL at Left or Right Tackle.

  46. SailorJerry Says:

    Biggest concern running around my head is the possible suspension of Winston. Ira, have you heard anything about the progress of the investigation?

  47. Rod Munch Says:

    I just look back the 4-1 record versus teams under .500 as a sign of hope. The team beat teams they should have beat, but they played an incredibly hard schedule. If they simply play an easier schedule, they should automatically get more wins. Also if Dirk coaches offense like he coached when his job was on the line in the final weeks of the season, as opposed to the ultra conservative Dirk that was there in 2016 and most of 2017, then that too is a big upgrade. Also there is the mathicitally side of things that say it’s very unlikely the Bucs once again have the worst D in football and it’s unlikely the Bucs again lose almost every close game. Combine all those things together and you get…. 7-9.

  48. StPeteBucsFan Says:


    You do not get to call that girl a liar WITHOUT A SINGLE SCINTILLA proof anymore than the girl gets to air her accusation.

    You were NOT there that night. You have NO way of knowing what actually happened. This is EXACTLY why the girl didn’t go to the cops or come forward.

    She realized that there would be Jameis lovers that didn’t care squat about proof and would simpy call her a liar with NO PROOF.

    Sorry for what happened to your wife. Regrettable. But ONE incident does not mean an entire company is corrupt. It’s not Uber it’s the drivers IF indeed all this stuff has happened.

    Jameis has a record that at minimum casts “some” doubt. Why not get to the bottom of this. Why did Jameis wait more than an entire year to fix this?

    I like #3 as much as anyone….but I’m not a sycophant…let him clear his name…it’s so freaking easy…produce the third passenger and this goes away.

  49. Rod Munch Says:

    StPeteBucsFan you say “let him clear his name”…

    That is exactly what’s wrong in this case, you are presuming that he is guilty and has to clear his name. That’s not how it works, she needs to prove he did something.

    As for Winston’s past… what does that mean? The girl who yelled rape yet the case was heard three separate times and none of the three hearing the evidence even thought there was enough evidence to even charge Winston with anything.

    How about this… there are people out there that look for an easy buck, that are willing to yell anything if it means getting a payday. Take for example the girl that yelled raped, she got her aunt lawyer involved and offered to silently go away in exchange for millions of dollars early on – Jameis and FSU both told her to buzz off. Go read up on that railroading of Winston story, see how the woman changed her story multiple times, claimed she was drugged, then when all tests said there was no drugs in her she changed her story. See how she changed her story on being manhandled, or how she claimed she wasn’t with any other men yet they found DNA from like 3 different men in her clothing and she admitted she lied about that as well.

    I have no idea what happened in any of this, but I will once again say Winston is innocent until proven otherwise, that’s the way it works.

  50. LUVMYBUCS Says:


    Bradley Chubb vs. Mike McGlinchey: 1-on-1 Series DL vs. OL 2016/2017

  51. LakeLand Says:


    I remember that game
    But he couldn’t do nothing against Clemson LT Mitch Hyatt in 3 games
    To bad, Hyatt is returning to Clemson

    I still believe Mike McGlinchey is the best OT in the draft

  52. LakeLand Says:

    Also Mike McGlinchey is a natural RT. He moved to LT after Ronnie Stanley went pro in 2016. But this season he had improved a lot at LT. But I think he’s a future Pro-Bowl RT in the NFL. He’s a great run-blocker, average pass protector.

  53. Defense Rules Says:

    Lakeland, Walter Football says that Notre Dame’s Mike McGlinchey will probably end up being the top rated OT in this draft. Good size, excellent at run blocking, but he still concerns me. Had a couple of rough games this past year and if you’re not consistent (and dominant) at the college level, how can folks expect him to be consistent at the pro level?

    I still can’t see Lakeland how we’ll squeeze in a draft pick for the OLine. Far too many defensive needs (DEs, DTs, CBs & SS) as well as RB should come before OLine. Plenty of experienced Guards & Centers in FA this year. Solve our OLine problem there with someone who’s just finishing his first hitch.

  54. DBS Says:

    @ Broy.
    I would not talk to anyone about changing their names. How many times did you change Yours this season alone?

  55. BringBucsBack Says:

    “No Distractions- Except a pending NFL investigation into Winston…”???

    Ira, you didn’t read this aloud to yourself before posting it, did you?

  56. LakeLand Says:

    I didn’t really changed my name, I only dropped the Buc from LakeLandBuc.

  57. James Walker Says:

    GO BUCS!

  58. teacherman777 Says:

    Trade back 2 or 3 times!

    I would rather have 4 or 5 2nd round picks than a 1st and a 2nd!

  59. Mike Johnson Says:

    I BELIEVE. I Believe The Tampa Bay Bucs will continue to mediocrity until..The organization changes its mindset. It will not..anytime soon. I Believe until we get in a couple of great football minds at the top in the form of advisors/VP’s, this team will continue to lose or reach the heights of..average. I also Believe this team is going nowhere under Koetter and Mike Smith. fellow Buc fans..I DO BELIEVE!!!