Predators In The Dark

July 13th, 2018


The sweet smell of success has a nasty habit of turning rancid at One Buc Place. This brain trust is hoping anonymity has its privileges.

It seems nobody outside of Tampa Bay is offering this franchise any sniff of respect. Even hordes of Buc fans are falling off a bandwagon that appeared crowded a year ago.

According to Vegas, the over-under win total for Tampa Bay is 6.5. Only the Browns, Cardinals, Dolphins and Jets are ranked lower.

Public perception of this team has flipped abruptly. From a rising young power, the Bucs are now a national afterthought.

That’s what a 5-11 season will do for an organization that eagerly said good riddance to those Hard Knocks cameras.

Ever since they were defending Super Bowl champs, the Bucs have been unable to handle success. Back in 2003, Jon Gruden bristled when some reporters were skeptical of the club’s staying power.

”People keep asking me these questions, like we’re just going to curl up in the fetal position and be kicked over on the street,” Gruden said. ”We know what it takes to win now. We like the taste. Hopefully that’s a great motivator.”

Then the Bucs went out and finished 7-9, never the same after Peyton Manning torched them on an unforgettable Monday night while Tony Dungy savored a stunning birthday present.

Stunted Progress

After Gruden regrouped to win the NFC South in 2005 under Chris Simms, the Bucs promptly went 4-12, allowing 142 points more than they scored.

Flash forward to 2010, when Josh Freeman led Tampa Bay to a 10-6 mark under second-year coach Raheem Morris. The Bucs sat on their wallets in the ensuing offseason, losing their final 10 games after a 4-2 start.

And lest we forget, a 9-7 record in 2016 raised expectations before this last mighty fall. Heck, the Bucs can’t even deal with success within a season.

They’ve won each of the past two openers under Dirk Koetter, only to go AWOL on the road the following week.

In 2016, after surprising an Atlanta team that would end up in the Super Bowl, the Bucs lost 40-7 at Arizona, buried by five turnovers.

Tampa Bay trounced Chicago in last year’s opener, then trailed 21-3 at the half in Minnesota before losing 34-17.

“Expectations were progress — I said that from the beginning,” Jason Licht lamented after the 2017 season. “The record doesn’t show that we made progress. We failed to meet those expectations.”

Even some Stick Carriers seem resigned to an 0-3 start this year. More than a few are already looking ahead to the 2019 draft.

Golden Silence?

Yes, this team is flying so low, the Bucs might collide with a few drones over Sun City.

“You don’t want people talking about you,” says Gerald McCoy. “That makes you that much more dangerous. You catch people off guard. You can be the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Buffalo Bills.”

If the Bucs tend to find the spotlight distracting, perhaps they can be predators in the dark. There’s enough talent on this roster to compete. What’s been missing is the mental toughness to focus each week on the challenge of a new opponent.

A guy by the name of Lombardi said it best.

“Winning is not a sometime thing; it’s an all-time thing,” Vince said. “You don’t win once in a while, you don’t do things right once in a while, you do them right all the time. Winning is habit. Unfortunately, so is losing.”

Time to break some bad habits, fellas.

Now in his 40th year covering the NFL , Ira Kaufman is the most revered sports personality and writer in the Tampa Bay area. He scored a full-time seat at world headquarters in July of 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 on SiriusXM Mad Dog Radio Wednesdays at 5 p.m. during football season. Also a TV start, see Ira now on Mondays at 10:30 p.m. on Spectrum Sports 360 (aka BayNews 9). Ira also is part of the FOX-13 Tailgate Sunday NFL show and enjoys beet salads, Riesling, Chiefs victories and needling Joe.

18 Responses to “Predators In The Dark”

  1. JMan5 Says:

    Oh I thought this was about Jameis’ FSU dorm exploits

  2. Bucsfanman Says:

    Ira does it again! The Lombardi quote is the icing on the cake.

    “Losers make excuses for losing”
    Bucsfanman circa 2018!

  3. AlteredEgo Says:

    Virtually all of the NFL has the next 2 weeks off…..why not JBF ? I am doing my best trying not to post…..kinda like Jameis trying to do his best to stay out of trouble…

  4. stpetebucsfan Says:


    Thanks for the perspective.

    “What’s been missing is the mental toughness to focus each week on the challenge of a new opponent.”

    Amen. I hope and believe we have fixed this problem. Notice as much as we talked about talent in FA and the draft people were talking a lot more about Licht bringing in a new ‘tude….and us heading in a new direction.

    JPP is a proven warrior. He’ll be a great team leader…leading by his effort and results.

    We took Jensen at center with some questions about his talent…he’s only had one really good year behind him…but everyone was talking about how mean and nasty he is.

  5. bucsfaninchina Says:

    o cool good thing you quoted yourself

  6. Pete I Says:

    Simply who the Bucs are historically. Except for a short period from the late 90’s to 2002 – otherwise it is as it is.

  7. Danati74 Says:

    its time to put it all together. Jason did a great job in the draft…all the maneuvering and grabbing extra picks. We will see how those picks do this year. Along with all the FA signings and already talent on the team. Now its time for the coaching staff to win us some games. No excuses. Even if Winston is out Ryan has enough talent to lead this full of talent offense. McCoy now has pieces along the DLine to give him some better matchups. J also like the drafting of out young DB’s. I hope they pan out. Go Bucs!!!!!

  8. 813bucboi Says:

    damn right we didn’t show any progress and this staff failed miserably….the mentally weak mindset starts at the top with the HC…..


  9. Dewey Selmon Says:

    Is the headline the name of Winston’s autobiography?

  10. mark2001 Says:

    As if Gruden didn’t have a pretty good idea that this is what he would be stepping into when he decided to use us to get the huge payday. We should have know this was coming down. We had our head in the sand…all of us. And as he likely felt or calculated this was in the wings, he used us to play Oakland. Well played Jon…. and all you lost in the deal was some TV commercials.

  11. Jolly Bucs Fan Says:

    you have to LOL @ that top comment

  12. Tampabaybucfan Says:

    Sorry to burst bubbles…..but we aren’t sneaking up on any NFL team…..even last year with our record, we played many close games only to shoot ourselves in the foot.
    We have great talent and have many notable additions…..we will have to win each week against opponents who will not be looking past us.

  13. Fartman Says:

    From “America’s Quarterback” to “Predator in the Dark” I think its an apt new nickname for Jamies.

  14. Lamarcus Says:

    No Dewey

    It’s what GMC sees before he tries to make a clutch? play

  15. Dapostman Says:

    I’m very optimistic after the last 5 games of 2017. Could have easily packed it in after a 4-7 start and the season OVER. Players played hard except Palm Tree it seems and he is now gone. Last 5 games were competitive against good teams except GB (without Rodgers) Det, Atl, Car and N Orl. The guys who finished the season did not lay down and play the season out. They competed and that is more than half the battle. Looking forward to a very good 2018. Still sticking with my optimistic 10 – 6.

  16. JJV Says:

    A pat on the back is a few inches from a kick in the ass. It is so close and can change suddenly. After we shock the NFC South by winning the division, we will shock the entire NFL when we head to the Superbowl. Remember this post when it happens.

  17. Buccaneer Bonzai Says:

    “Only the Browns, Cardinals, Dolphins and Jets are ranked lower.” – IRA

    So you are saying we are NOT the Browns South!!!!!! Yay!

    (positive thoughts)

    But seriously…I don’t really care what Vegas says. What is their goal? To make money. So if they claim a team has a good chance of winning, people will bet on that team and Vegas loses money.

    So they have motive to say good teams are bad.

  18. Pickgrin Says:

    Very nicely written and conceived piece Ira. You are easily the best sports writer on Florida’s west coast and JBF is really fortunate to have you aboard.

    My take is that this team is loaded with young talent and will be a legit contender for years to come based on what Jason Licht has already done in 4 1/2 years since he walked in the door at OBP.

    Bucs will exceed expectation in 2018 and the future looks bright IMO.

    We shall see….