When the Bucs beat the Falcons in overtime on Sunday, they moved to a very familiar record.
It has appeared as if the Glazers have tried to recreate the past in the hiring of Lovie Smith. The Tony Dungy disciple was brought in to stabilize a franchise that was left in complete chaos by Greg Schiano. Lovie Smith was supposed to have his Derrick Brooks in Lavonte David and his Warren Sapp in Gerald McCoy (nope).
As the Bucs now sit at 3-4 on the season, something in the back of my mind has been saying that this does sound familiar yet again. Could the bucs actually make a playoff run? Well, let's not be silly. Could they at least play some meaningful games in November and December? That may be possible.
During Tony Dungy's first three seasons as Bucs' head coach, it was all about building. In 1996, Warren Sapp and Derrick Brooks said they were done with the losing. In 1997, the Buccaneers returned to the playoffs and beat the Lions at the old Tampa Stadium. Starting in 1998, a weird consistency began.
For Dungy's final 4 years as head coach of the Buccaneers from 1998-2001, the Buccaneers started 3-4 in each of those seasons. In 1998, the Bucs would end 8-8 after winning 4 of their final 5 games. In 1999, the Buccaneers would end 11-5 and head to the NFC Championship Game against the Rams. In 2000, Martin Gramatica would miss a field goal at the end of the season against the Packers. The Bucs would lose that game, the division, a home playoff game, and have to go to Philadelphia in the first round of the playoffs with a 10-6 record. In 2001, the Bucs would end up 9-7, and their season would end in Philly again in the postseason.
I don't know if the Bucs have a playoff run in them this year. I don't even know if they will win this week against the Giants. What I do know is that with leadership like Jameis Winston and Kwon Alexander, the Bucs may have found their new "Sapp and Brooks" type leaders. With leadership like that, anything can happen.
I'm not greedy. I'm not asking for the playoffs this year...even though I think I'd be beside myself if that happened. I'd just love to see this current Bucs team do with a 3-4 record what Dungy's teams were able to do in the past.
The first step for this young franchise is playing in games of meaning in November. Then it will be to play meaningful games in December. Then we will move onto January and February.
It starts this week against the Giants.