Hunger Games

May 31st, 2021

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Fifteen Super Bowl champions have tried and failed to repeat since Tom Brady turned the trick with the 2004 Patriots.

The old sports adage that it’s harder to stay at the top than get there has proven to be true in the NFL as Brady returns to lead the 2021 Bucs in their historical quest. Tampa Bay brings back the same 22 starters, but will the hunger be the same this fall?

On paper, this is the most balanced and talented roster in the league. Now, the Bucs must prove they are not paper champions.

The list of repeat champs during the Super Bowl era is impressive: the 1967 Packers, the ’73 Dolphins, the 1975 Steelers, the ’79 Steelers, the 1989 49ers, the ’93 Cowboys, the 1998 Broncos and those ’04 Pats, guided by Mr. Brady. Looking for a common denominator?

Each of those clubs was led by a Hall of Fame quarterback — Bart Starr, Bob Griese, Terry Bradshaw (twice), Joe Montana, Troy Aikman, John Elway and Brady, who will enter Canton five years after retirement.

These Bucs appear to be in great shape to join this noble group of repeat champs. The starters are back and the core of the coaching staff remains intact. Age isn’t a major issue … primarily because Brady is ageless.

Pete Carroll weighs in

Yet there are NFL sharks in the waters surrounding Tampa Bay.

“It’s just historically an enormous challenge for teams to come back, and there’s a lot of obvious reasons why,” says Seattle coach Pete Carroll.

Carroll almost pulled it off, but the 2014 Seahawks fell just short when New England’s Malcolm Butler intercepted a Russell Wilson pass at the goal line in the final seconds.

“You get everybody’s best shot,” says Hall of Fame tight end Shannon Sharpe, who played on Denver’s back-to-back title teams. “Maybe they aren’t going to the playoffs, but if they beat you, they feel good, real good. Some teams are just going to measure their season by if they can beat the defending Super Bowl champions. People don’t look past you. They look to you, they look for you.”

The three biggest stumbling blocks for defending Super Bowl champs are easy to identify.

First and foremost are key injuries. In Tampa Bay’s case, keeping Brady healthy is Job 1. With all due respect to Bruce Arians, Blaine Gabbert is not the league’s most underrated player. He’s a 31-year-old journeyman with a 13-35 career record.

If he’s forced into an extended starting role, the Bucs are in big trouble.

If either Shaq Barrett or Jason Pierre-Paul are sidelined for a long period, Tampa Bay’s pass rush off the edges would face a major challenge. Devin White’s blitzing skills are no longer a surprise to offensive coordinators.

There’s also the issue of complacency creeping in. According to Simeon Rice, too many members of the 2003 Bucs were still thinking about the Super Bowl confetti coming down at Qualcomm Stadium.

Still thirsty for Cam Newton’s Gatorade?

Players like Barrett and Chris Godwin were shown the big money. Let’s see how the hunger games play out.

“You think, we won one year; why wouldn’t you win the next year, too?,” Carroll says. “It’s almost easier to get there and win it than it is to come back and do it the second time around. It’s because of the shift that takes place once you win, and all that goes on through those months of the offseason and the buildup and then the anticipation going through the start of the year, all of the stories and the storylines and the scenarios and all of that, and the mentality of the players and what they’ve just accomplished.”

Another potential obstacle is grousing about playing time, especially after you’ve just contributed to a championship run.

Leonard Fournette was exceptional in the playoffs, but he needed a stern lecture from Arians during the regular season to get his mind right because Ronald Jones was clearly the No. 1 back. Who knows whether Antonio Brown can keep it together if he doesn’t get enough targets as part of a deep receiving corps?

So much can go wrong for a defending champion, but Brady has already proven he has the chops to repeat. His commanding presence alone can steer this pirate ship through choppy waters.

“I know that winning a Super Bowl is a big deal and all that,” says Carroll, “but winning two is really cool.”

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15 Responses to “Hunger Games”

  1. August 1976 Buc Says:

    It comes down to beating your man in front of you each play.

    If the Hunger is there then they will be fine. I know Player /Coach/ QB Brady is hungry.

    Again Beat the man in front of you 1 play at a time.

    1-2-3 DOMINATE GO BUCS!!!!!!

  2. capecodder Says:

    Do your job.

  3. Alanbucsfan Says:

    “I know that winning a Super Bowl is a big deal and all that,” says Carroll, “but winning two is really cool.”
    – Well you would have won 2 if you gave the ball to Beast Mode .

  4. Señor Harry in Costa Rica Says:

    “Winning two”. Would be “holy sh!t WOW”.

    if you are a player on the team who is boarder line HOF, it puts you in. Winning two gives you LEGACY; something to tell your grandkids about what YOU did WITH Tom Brady. And if you are TB, even a TB hater would have to admit that winning two back-to-back CLEARLY separates TB from ALL others, al la MJ

  5. lambeau Says:

    Disneyland begged Pete not to let Beast Mode score.

  6. rrsrq Says:

    Pete Carroll – it would have been cool to not overthink it… You would likely have a two piece

  7. Medicated Pete Says:

    I’m still savoring the Superbowl LV like a piece of Werther’s Original caramel candy melting in my mouth that i got from granny’s house

  8. Tampabaybucfan Says:

    This is by far the best team Gabbert has been on….if he’s forced into service for 3 or 4 games….I think he can go at least 2-2 with it.

    Don’t forget we have a defense also.

  9. Buc1987 Says:

    Oh we’re all going to do this again next season. The players, the coaches and the fans of Tampa Bay.

    Us fans deserve all this.

    I would have been happy with going to the playoffs, now I expect a SB repeat.

  10. Señor Harry in Costa Rica Says:

    ’87, lol, “3 peat” has been on my mind – and I am sure on TB’s – NEVER DONE! Don’t want to jinx us looking that far ahead.

  11. Pine Hills Says:

    I think we’ll get off to a better start this year.
    We should beat the boys and then extra rest before the birds. Beat the Rams and we’re sitting pretty.

  12. Buc1987 Says:

    Harry…oh don’t think I haven’t already thought about 3peat, but I’ll take the repeat for now..he he he.

  13. Buczilla Says:

    More great stuff from the venerable Ira Kaufman. You are awesome man.

  14. Iamabuc Says:

    I can read here some people talking about Gabert. I get it, he’s only a journeyman. But, what is preventing him from learning a thing or two from Brady and most probably be ready ; if God forbid, something happens to Brady?…Seeing the ” Brady effect” in action already makes me feel more comfortable if a situation like this arise, again, God forbid. Just Go Bucs and trust the process… seems to be working.

  15. Bush's Coke Spoon Says:

    Medicated Pete Says:
    “I’m still savoring the Superbowl LV like a piece of Werther’s Original caramel candy melting in my mouth that i got from granny’s house.”

    The bowl of caramels was always full when I got to Nana’s house. 🙂