The Talent Gap, The Streak & The Goal

July 10th, 2024

So many summer savings are flowing at Bill Currie Ford! That’s new and used vehicles, and don’t forget to ask GM Sean Sullivan for the Ira Kaufman discount. Pick-up, delivery and loaner vehicles are available for service appointments.


Can you win three consecutive division titles and still be in a rut?

The question appears ludicrous upon first glance.

NFL coaches always stress capturing the division and using the accompanying first playoff game at home as a springboard for a long run.

Bucs need more than No. 4, writes Ira Kaufman.

Todd Bowles is no different. As the Bucs approach the start of training camp, they are gunning for a fourth straight NFC South crown. That’s quite impressive considering that before 2022, this franchise had never repeated as a division champion since the league re-aligned in 2002.

Yet Tampa Bay’s 17-17 record in the past two seasons suggests there is much work to be done for the Bucs to be considered a serious threat to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl.

The Glazers know what it’s like to display the Vince Lombardi Trophy. They’ve done it twice since purchasing the team in 1995. There are still a dozen franchises — 37.5 percent of all clubs — that have yet to win a single Super Bowl.

Tampa Bay fans are enjoying a nice run, but is it enough? Even while winning the past three division titles, the Bucs haven’t advanced past the divisional playoff round.

They are 2-3 in the postseason since Tom Brady directed that Super Bowl rout against the Chiefs.

While winning another division title surely would enhance job security for Bowles, Buc fans were spolied by that 2020 championship season under Bruce Arians. They see a weakened NFC and wonder why Tampa Bay is 0-3 against the 49ers and Lions in the past two regular seasons while being outscored 82-27.

Winning four consecutive division titles isn’t easy. No NFC East club has done it since the 2004 Eagles. The last AFC North team to pull it off was the Steelers in 1997, when Baker Mayfield was a toddler.

Bucs GM Jason Licht.

Give the front office and coaching staff their due — the Bucs have remained relevant despite the departures of Brady, Rob Gronkowski, Ali Marpet, Ryan Jensen, Leonard Fournette, Antonio Brown, Jason-Pierre Paul and Ndamukong Suh. They’ve drafted well and signed some key free agents.

It’s a relatively young team, but there remains a tangible talent gap between the Bucs and the NFL elite. They don’t have a running back like Christian McCaffrey or a tight end like Sam LaPorta. Their pass rush can’t compare to Baltimore or Kansas City.

Getting a higher seed would help the cause. For each of the past two seasons, Tampa Bay finished as the NFC’s No. 4 playoff seed. That’s a difficult launching point to reach the Super Bowl, although the 2020 Bucs won it all as a No. 5 seed.

That team averaged 31 points. That team boasted three players with at least 8 sacks. That team won 11 games while outscoring opponents by 137 points.

That was then, this is now.

What we have now is a decent team that has capitalized on a very weak division. If the 2024 Bucs can reach double-digit wins, they can change the narrative, even if they don’t win the NFC South again.

No Buc fan wants to return to the purgatory days between 2008 and 2019, when Tampa Bay suffered through a 12-year playoff drought. There have been too many seasons when this franchise was realistically out of the postseason chase by Thanksgiving. Making the playoffs for a fifth consecutive year would be quite an accomplishment.

Still, the goal of a third Super Bowl title remains a longshot at One Buc Place. That’s the harsh truth — unless a lengthy playoff run can change the narrative.

Division titles are nice, but ask Buffalo fans if they’re satisfied with the current 4-year run of the Bills atop the AFC East.

It’s true that the NFC South crown appears wide open again this fall.

Let’s see if Tampa Bay’s reach exceeds its grasp.

22 Responses to “The Talent Gap, The Streak & The Goal”

  1. Alanbucsfan Says:

    Bucs were 6-1 last year , including playoffs, when they scored 26 points or more.

  2. Dude Says:

    Say what you want about 2019, but that was a career year for Godwin & Evans and our offense finished 3rd in ppg even with Winston throwing 30 INTs.

    FFWD to right now, it’d be a damn dream to score 28 point in a game let alone averaging that after a full season of production.

  3. gotbbucs Says:

    This is a 6 to 10 win roster. It’ll all depend how the ball bounces in some games.
    There’s not enough juice on either side of the ball to just downright dominate any games, even against bad teams, and other great teams could still potentially run away with a game against this team. There’s a serious lack of speed and quickness at the skill positions. Depth is still an issue at WR and defensive back… a passing league.

  4. Dave Pear Says:

    Good article Ira, pointing to why Todd is on a hot seat.

  5. Ed Says:

    “Serious lack of speed and quickness at skill positions”

    WR- Mike Evans may not be a burner but he is certainly quick and doesn’t have any issues beating one on one’s downfield. Trey Palmer is very fast. McMillan is quick and has good ability to get open.

    Defensive line- Kancey and Vea are very quick.

    Secondary- Jamel Dean is one of the fastest corners in the league.

    Tight end, linebacker positions don’t have the speed but Lavonte David can still run sideline to sideline and cover tight ends.

  6. Stanglassman Says:

    Don’t forget tight end Devin Culp runs an official 4.47-second 40-yard dash at the 2024 NFL Scouting Combine. McMillan 4.47 guy too. Anyone saying the Bucs depth at WR is thin isn’t paying attention. I think they have good CB depth too despite trading Davis. That’s a bit more debatable. We will know more by training camp how good the young DBs and FAs are doing. Tavierre Thomas, Funderburk, Tykee Smith and Whitehead are top of that list. A bit concerned about what I was hearing about Bryce Hallin OTAs. It could be just the learning curve of being in a new system.

  7. SlyPirate Says:

    Most NFCS Championships
    Saints 7
    Bucs 6

    Most Consecutive NFCS Championships
    Saints 4
    Bucs 3

    Bucs absolutely need to win the NFCS this year.

  8. Pickgrin Says:

    Considering the $55M dead cap hit this year ($53M next year) – the Bucs have done an amazing job at fielding a competitive team. That’s more than 20% of the “budget” gone – poof – doesn’t exist….. Could have bought 3 or 4 high end free agents with that $ this year – but the $ was already spent during the Brady years….

    Tampa Bay is in cap hell and the only way out is good drafting and good decision making regarding who to keep and big contracts.

    Licht and Co have done their part and then some. And the coaches seem to have done a good job at development with most all of these young players.

    Things could go south for various reasons in 2024 – but the higher likelihood from my perspective is that this young and quite talented Buccaneers team will ‘surprise’ a lot of people this year – win more games than expected – and become a dark horse Super Bowl contender by the time January gets here….

  9. SlyPirate Says:

    “There remains a tangible talent gap between the Bucs and the NFL elite.”

    1000% Disagree.

    NFC Elite: SFO, DET, PHI and who? Name a better roster.
    We crushed PHI. We almost beat Detroit. Bucs can go toe-to-toe with 49ers.

    “They don’t have a running back like Christian McCaffrey.”

    Again, 1000% Disagree.

    White was 59 yards from Top 5 rushing RB. He had identical receiving stats to Caff. White puts up the same stats as Caff with a competent OC and better IOL. Guess what the Bucs have this year?

    Stop selling the team short. The Bucs have THE LONGEST PLAYOFF STREAK IN THE NFC, 3x NFCS Champions, SB. The roster includes 10 players with Buccaneer Super Bowl rings. This is a championship pedigree and a Super Bowl culture. Old Bucs fans (Ira and Joe) are still living with PTSD. Y’all are stuck in the Winston era. You’re waiting for failure. Shed your skin. Level up.

  10. Dave Pear Says:

    Well said, Ed. Some opinions are hard to understand when facts are presented. The roster is plenty good.

    Hello, coaches.

  11. Buccos Says:

    The Bucs will once again field a highly competitive team that will be in every game and will be in the playoff hunt. To think anything else would be foolish based upon their history. Mayfield seems like a great QB in clutch situations. It will depend on injuries and how well the offense comes together by the end of the year. Bowles will assure a top 10 defense again. The only question is how dynamic the offense becomes as the season progresses and do we have a running game. I predict 10 wins

  12. View from 132 Says:

    The Bucs and Rays appear to be the same philosophy. Cheap, little to no major star power, hang around the middle of the pack. Make the playoffs with no threat of a title. Repeat.

  13. Jack Burton Mercer Says:

    I’m siding with Sly. Bucs will win the division before Christmas. We will need some sleight of hand to score with the top offenses, but we will have some very good days. The average I bet is in the 23-24 range. With that type of scoring we should win 10 games minimum but 17 is more like it.

  14. Craig Says:

    I have seen top ranked teams tank and bottom ranked teams shine.

    The Bucs are neither of those and there are questions. There are always questions, or they wouldn’t have to play the game.

    But on any given Sunday, wild things happen, so it might be better to not have too high of an expectation.

    The Bucs have more questions than answers right now.
    How will the defensive backfield work?
    Will there be any vestige of a running game?
    Can Mayfield string together two consecutive winning seasons? He has not been able to do that yet, and there might be reasons for that, reasons that might be proven this season.

  15. Stanglassman Says:

    132- Are you saying that making the all in push to win the 2020 Superbowl in the Brady era wasn’t worth it? Or not realize there was going to be a cost down the road? What’s your suggestion? I guess we could do the Saints do and just stay in cap hell as long as possible. It’s working out so well in New Orleans. You do understand that there are 31 other teams? The Bucs have won 2 SBs in less than 25 years. 12 of 32 teams have zero.

  16. Defense Rules Says:

    Sage … ‘It’s a relatively young team, but there remains a tangible talent gap between the Bucs and the NFL elite.’

    Part of me wants to agree with your statement Ira, but part of me agrees with SlyPirate & several others. Like Pickgrin says, ‘we’re in CAP he11’ and that’s been incredibly challenging since 2022 when we lost several big dogs. It’s hard to draft yourself to dominance without a stockpile of draft picks to start with and when picking in the 2nd half of each round.

    I like the decisions we’ve made in the front office these past several years. I’m also very impressed with what Todd Bowles has done as our DC starting in 2019, and am convinced that he’s matured a ton as a HC since taking over for BA (still don’t like dual-hatting but I’ll get over it). I love the coaching staff quality & stability, and am convinced that’s THE primary reason our youngsters have developed as well as they have.

    We’re a young, scrappy, competitive TEAM but we still lack what it takes to truly overwhelm even mid-tier teams & we seem to have lots of trouble in the regular season playing with the big dogs.

    o Bucs played 5 games last season against teams who ended the season with better records than us; we lost all 5.
    o Bucs played 5 games against teams who ended the season with a 9-8 record like we did; we won 3, lost 2.
    o Bucs played 7 games against teams who finished with worse records than us; we won 6, lost 1.

    That tells me that we weren’t capable of playing with the big dogs in the regular season last year, but we did quite well in games against mid-tier teams. BUT … we improved all season long, and come the playoffs, we held our own against the playoff teams. Philly beat us soundly in the regular season, but we more than returned the favor in the playoffs. The Lions have a solid young team, but we pretty much held our own with them (tied at the end of 3 qtrs) before losing in the 4th qtr.

    Good teams build on previous successes IMO. We were in a pretty deep hole to start 2022, even with Tom Brady at the helm, but we’ve steadily improved. We went from 8-9 to 9-8, and this is the year to take that next step to 10-7 or maybe even better. We’ve gained playoff experience for our youngsters, and this year (and next year) is when it should all come together … and pay dividends.

  17. ModHairKen Says:

    Every player cannot be an All Pro. Every player cannot have Top 5 speed at his position.

    All this whining by so-called experts about what they don’t have.


    Suit up. Play the games.

  18. Defense Rules Says:

    Buccos … ‘Mayfield seems like a great QB in clutch situations.’

    Lordy I wish I could agree with that Buccos, but that’s asking a lot. I consider Baker to be a solid mid-tier QB who can keep us in contention as long as he’s surrounded by a strong supporting staff. He’s not yet shown the capacity to put the team on his back and pull a rabbit out of the hat to win the ballgame. But interestingly he did show signs of that in his early years.

    Pro-Football-Reference keeps 2 stats that we rarely pay any attention to, yet both are quite telling.

    o 4th Quarter Comebacks (4QC): Defined as ‘Comebacks led by a QB that must be an offensive scoring drive in the 4th quarter, with the team trailing by 1 score, though not necessarily a drive to take the lead; only games ending in a win or a tie are included.’

    Baker had 1 in 2023; 1 in 2022; 0 in 2021; 2 in 2020; 1 in 2019; and 3 in 2018. Just focusing on the most recent past 3 years, he started 41 games, went 17-24, and totaled 2 4th Qtr comebacks. The good news is though that in the preceding 3 years, Baker started 45 games, went 23-22; and had 6 4th Qtr comebacks. Perhaps stability with the same team is the key here.

    o Game Winning Drives (GWD): Defined as ‘Game winning drives led by a QB that must be an offensive scoring drive in the 4th quarter or overtime that puts the winning team ahead for the last time’.

    Baker had 2 in 2023; 1 in 2022; 0 in 2021; 2 in 2020; 1 in 2019; and 4 in 2018. just focusing on the most recent past 3 years again, he went 17-24 and had 3 GWDs. More good news though in that in the preceding 3 years, he went 23-22 and had 7 GWDs. Hopefully stability with the Bucs is the key.

    BTW, Patrick Mahomes shines in 4QCs & GWDs. Over that same 6 year period, he had 14 4QCs and 15 GWDs. Baker had fewer (8 4QCs and 10 GWDs) over those same 6 years, but the quality of the TEAM surrounding each, and of their coaches, was considerably different.

    Oh and for those beating down Kirk Cousins, he had 14 4QCs and 16 GWDs over those same 6 years (yes, even more than Mahomes). BUT … over half of those (8 4QCs and 8 GWDs came in a single year (2022) when he led the Vikings to a 13-4 record, made the playoffs as a WILDCARD, then was beaten 31-24 by the Giants in Rnd 1. We’d better hope THAT’S not the Kirk Cousins that shows up for Atlanta this season.

  19. Bucs And Them Says:

    Excellent points Sage. I also agree with Pickgrin & Defense Rules in that, it’s impressive that we’ve done as well as we have these past two seasons with the dead cap issues, losing Marpet & Jensen to retirement and injury respectively. Brady retiring. Suh, JPP, & Cappa moving on. Devin White flaking out. You have to give Light/Bowles & Company a ton of credit, along with the players for hanging in there and digging deep to stay competitive through it all. I think we’ll keep improving this season as well. Baker did a lot better last year than I thought he would. I’ve always liked him as a player and never understood how people couldn’t see the uniquely messed up circumstances he was in when in Cleveland and unceremoniously dumped to Carolina with how many different coaches & coordinators? I don’t know if there’s an equivalent circumstance where a QB from his rookie year to his fifth year had so much to overcome. Our defense is going to ball out this year. If Coen can get Baker & this offense humming, we’re going to be a tough out. If we stay healthy, we’ll make some noise.

  20. Dave Pear Says:

    Baker blew the comeback in the playoffs against the Lions. But, Todd blew the Texans game, the first Falcons game, the Colts game, and was three yards from
    blowing the second Falcons game.

    Now maybe if the offense could score TDs on opening drives and more than 2.9 first quarter points, they would t need 4th quarter comebacks. The rate at which the defense was giving up passing yards, it’s highly likely an opponent can come down and kick a tying or winning FG.

    And then there was the Texans game, where the bend over and break defense gave up a touchdown in like three plays, really showed its ugly hind end. I was at that game. I wanted to strangle kittens.

  21. It's Corn Says:

    That 2020 team also had how many future Hall of Famers? Definitely 2, but you could argue possibly 7.

  22. heyjude Says:

    Excellent overview. Agreed, and am hoping for a SB this season. Long shots are great when they shock everyone for the win. Especially those negative sports analysts. Optimistically, we have a great roster and coaches and we can grasp it.

    Yes, Bills fans can tell you about the early 90s too, and disappointment. But always being all in as a fan till the end. Relocating here around that time, the Bucs became my team while the Bills remained close to my heart being my families team growing up in NY.

    Agreed, wouldn’t want to go back to difficult Buccaneer times and don’t think we will see that again. In the end, we are all in as fans no matter what happens this season. Go Bucs!!