When 2007 began most people expected the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to improve, but not to the extent that they did by the end of the year. A division championship was an unexpected gift to Buccaneers fans and the franchise. How did it happen?
In hindsight, there are signposts to a successful season. Here is No. 6 in our series of the most significant moments of the 2007 season and how they impacted Tampa Bay's run to a division championship.
6. TAMPA BAY SIGNS DE GREG WHITE, AUG. 4
At the time, this signing didn't come with a drum roll. Just a short release from the team saying that the Bucs had signed DE Greg White.
That prompted most of us in the press corps to say, "Who the heck is Greg White?"
It's hard to believe but at the time the signing of DE Tim Jones, who was from nearby Lakeland, earned more attention that White.
We later found out that he had a cup of coffee with the Bucs practice squad a few years ago. Some of the vets — including Brian Kelly — didn't believe him.
I doubt anyone could have fathomed what happened next. First, White excelled in preseason and made the team. That's was a victory unto itself. White had never made the active roster before and he admitted that he tip-toed through One Buc Place the morning after roster cuts until he could be sure he was on the team. Seemed he got as far as the meeting room in Chicago once before someone tapped him on the shoulder to let him know he was no longer a Bear.
Then White became more than just depth. He became part of the defensive end rotation. Then he briefly became a starter. Then he became the Bucs' best pass rusher of 2007.
He registered eight sacks and seven forced fumbles, the latter tying a team record. White's signature play was a speed rush from the quarterback's blind side, timing his rush perfectly to hit the quarterback as he threw, forcing a fumble. Ask Houston's Sage Rosenfels. Or Washington's Jason Campbell. Or Atlanta's Byron Leftwich.
By the end of the season White became indispensable — and famous. He sat down with Terry Bradshaw for an interview during Wild Card weekend.
And White did it all with a smile on his face and the same attitude he walked in with the first day he arrived. He never big-leagued the media as the attention on him became fierce. He still cracked jokes and maintained that positive attitude, one that endeared him to teammates and fans alike.
White's impact on this team was simple. Without him the pass rush the second half of the season would surely have suffered. Without him, the Bucs would have forced seven fewer turnovers and won fewer games. Without him, the Bucs may have failed to make the playoffs.
From unknown to indispensable in four months? Sometimes that's how it works.
Next: An unkind break galvanizes an entire team.
Matthew Postins covers the Buccaneers for BucsBlitz.com and the Charlotte Sun-Herald in Port Charlotte, Fla. An award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers Association, he appears frequently on Scot Brantley Show from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WHBO 1470-AM in Tampa-Clearwater.