No Middle Ground

September 11th, 2020

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It’s go time.

The hay’s in the barn, the hype’s in the past and now it’s time to show what the 2020 Bucs are all about.

They are underdogs in Sunday’s opener at New Orleans, but the Bucs were the NFL’s offseason winners.

Go time, writes Ira Kaufman.

Tom Brady’s presence helped lure Leonard Fournette and LeSean McCoy to Tampa, and he personally delivered Rob Gronkowski to One Buc Place, bundling him up with all the efficiency of a FedEx package.

Buc fans can’t wait for Sunday’s matchup and it’s easy to see why. By any standard, this is the most talented roster this franchise has boasted since the 2003 club that was defending a Super Bowl championship.

That season ended miserably with a 7-9 finish that spelled the end of a golden era for Warren Sapp, John Lynch, Keyshawn Johnson, Keenan McCardell, Dexter Jackson and Rich McKay.

The only thing the 2020 Bucs plan to defend are the stratospheric expectations surrounding this group.

Funny thing about expectations. You can rise up to meet them or be swallowed up. The 2017 Bucs, coming off a winning season, couldn’t handle the hype.

“We’ve got a very diverse locker room,” Jason Licht said Friday, noting the enviable blend of youth and experience. “Expectations with a younger team, you want to temper those down. With this team, expectations are welcome.”

Why not? When you push all your chips in, there’s no turning back. You can’t fold your cards and wait for the next deal.

If this all-in approach works, Bruce Arians will regain his reputation as one of the league’s elite coaches. Brady will add a unique page to a majestic scrapbook. Veterans like Lavonte David and Mike Evans will taste postseason play for the first time.

And like the great Jackie Gleason used to say: how sweet it is.

But make no mistake — if the Bucs don’t make the playoffs in an expanded field, this will be a disaster of the first order. The only out for Arians and his coaching staff would be a serious injury to the icon under center.

The Saints, seeking a fourth consecutive NFC South title, could care less about Tampa Bay’s hopes and dreams.

“As a defender, my focus is on how I can make Brady’s life miserable on Sunday,” says safety Malcolm Jenkins, beginning his second stint in New Orleans.

The Saints aren’t going away after winning the division by six games last year. They added vets like Jenkins and Emmanuel Sanders and their championship window might be even tighter than Tampa Bay’s because Drew Brees won’t commit past this season.

An underrated Saints defense is facing the great unknown on Sunday.

For five years, Jameis Winston has been the focal point for every opposing defensive coordinator. Now, Winston is a backup in New Orleans while Brady, in many ways the anti-Winston, leads the way for the Bucs.

Sean Payton politely threw shade at past Bucs run games

There’s no tape of Brady in a Tampa Bay uniform for Sean Payton and his staff to look at. Instead, the Saints have studied Brady’s tendencies in New England.

“Defensively, how’s the running back going to play a part in their passing game where in years past, maybe it hasn’t been as big of a threat,” Payton says. “And yet, wherever, you know, in Tom’s years at New England, it’s been a big part of what they do and so I’m giving a hypothetical here.

“There’s a LeSean McCoy offset on a second down, releasing into a pattern that we have seen before, we have seen from New England, and then very quickly, recognizing, alright, if he’s in the game, they’re in a package that might feature him not only as a runner, but a receiver.”

Now that he’s free from Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels, Brady has his own ideas about attacking defenses. He’s born again, yet he still retains the DNA of the No. 12 who loathes interceptions and hates to take a sack.

Make no mistake, this will be Brady’s offense. No Buc fan should have a problem with that concept because Byron Leftwich is down with it. You don’t sign the league’s ultimate winner and ask him to conform to your philosophy.

That would be stupid — and these Bucs don’t do stupid.

Any Buc fan who isn’t jazzed about this season needs a B-12 shot pronto. Everyone’s watching this team.

No matter how it turns out, a riveting story begins Sunday in America’s home of jazz. When the Saints go marching in, these Bucs will be ready.

Bill Currie Ford
5815 N. Dale Mabry Hwy.
Tampa, FL 33614

Ira Kaufman’s column is presented by Bill Currie Ford. Click on Ira to visit

12 Responses to “No Middle Ground”

  1. StatGuy Says:

    Brady hasn’t had less than 10 wins since 2002

  2. yeah Says:

    No podcast on game week?

  3. Tampabaybucfan Says:

    Many thought we wouldn’t have football….but here we are….$5billion said we would…..let the games begin.
    In this age of Covid misery, let’s enjoy the show!!!

  4. Lebron Winfrey Says:

    Will radio listeners be subjected to trying to out guess mean gene as to what has actually taken place on the field for another season?

  5. Buczilla Says:

    Great story! Gosh, I despise the saints. Football!

  6. ©MadMax Says:

    aints going down….by 2 touchdowns!

  7. ClwJB Says:

    Guardedly optimistic we win – ME13 playing is HUGE

  8. unbelievable Says:

    Goddamn Sunday can’t come soon enough!

  9. Howard Cosell Says:

    Tampabaybucfan Says:
    September 11th, 2020 at 4:56 pm

    Many thought we wouldn’t have football….but here we are….$5billion said we would…..let the games begin.
    In this age of Covid misery, let’s enjoy the show!!!

    That’s right! The trolls we’ve shrieking that there would be no season!

    As far as NFL football in the age of covid:
    Howard thought the CDC has said any kind of fun or happiness is dangerous breeding ground for covid, right?? The only way to beat
    covid is to stay miserable and poor! Don’t work, don’t drive and stay scared!!

  10. Buc1987 Says:

    Tampabaybucfan Says :

    “Many thought we wouldn’t have football….but here we are….”

    Looking at you OregonBucsFan, nice guy… but annoying as ef with all that there’s going to be no season BS. Go loot, riot and burn down some city of yours in the name of some dude that died 2,000 miles away from yours….

    Nice read as usual Ira!

  11. Buccfan37 Says:

    The anticipation for this Bucs opener is through the roof out into the stratosphere. Like every Christmas Eve as a child waiting out the next day.

  12. Brandon Says:

    Ira… the saying is, The Saints COULDN’T care less. Why do even legendary writers mess that up? Could care less implies that a person could care less but doesn’t. Couldn’t care less means that they it is the least thing they care about. You’re welcome. That will be 25 cents.