Arians’ Call to Come Aboard
With a franchise marred by the stain of losing, it’s understandable why Bucs fans are hesitant to be all-in about their team…
Disregard that, says new Tampa Bay head coach Bruce Arians.
At the 2019 Owners Meetings on March 26th, the former 2X Coach of the Year sat down with the media and answered questions for over an hour. Arians was asked a variety of topics that included roster evaluations, team philosophy, and his free agency outlook. Throughout his entire sit down, Arians’ candor and frankness were on full display. With Arians disclosing that 3X All-Pro DT Gerald McCoy’s future with the team is anything but certain, to breaking down RT Demar Dotson’s strengths and weaknesses, “Bucco” Bruce minced no words. Arians is a straight shooter, and typically he will say strategically planned things to get the most out of his players.
Simply stated, when HC Bruce Arians says something, he means it.
What Arians would say next, however, would not be to get the most out of his players, but Bucs fans…
“We’re going to win, and we’re going to win now. Don’t be afraid of it. Everybody’s always riding the fence – jump in the pool. It’s going to be alright.”
Winning has not exactly been a kind friend to the Buccaneers franchise. An expansion team in 1976, the newest addition to the NFL lost it’s first 26 games in team history, which still stands as the worst losing streak in the League.
The John McKay Era
At the time, Buccaneers head coach John McKay was one of the best in the business. A 4X National Champion with USC, if anyone was equipped to bring the Buccaneers to greatness, it was McKay. With a witty, entertaining, and bitterly sarcastic personality, McKay used those qualities to cope with the unfamiliar territory of losing. Some examples of funny “McKay-Isms” include:
“We can’t win at home and we can’t win on the road. What we need is a neutral site.”
“We didn’t tackle well today, but we made up for it well by not blocking.”
“I’ll probably take a little time off and go hide somewhere. We will be back. Maybe not this century, but we will be back and we will be a better football team.“
After a tough loss, a team reporter asked McKay, “What do you think of your team’s execution, coach?” to which McKay hilariously replied, “I’m in favor of it.” Clearly, McKay possessed an infectious personality, one that got Tampa through its darkest years of Buccaneers football.
McKay, who now hangs in the Buccaneers Ring of Honor, also fast-tracked the team on a path of success. Just two years after securing the franchise’s first victory versus Archie Manning and the New Orleans Saints, in the second season of team history, the Buccaneers were in the playoffs under the leadership of McKay, only to be eliminated after hosting the NFC Championship. For a few seasons thereafter, the Buccaneers, especially their defense, was a feared unit. After a brief winning era in the late 70s and early 80s, the city of Tampa endured 14 consecutive seasons of losing. For the Bucs, it felt like they took one step forward, only to take two steps back.
The Tony Dungy Era
In 1996 Tony Dungy, the former Vikings defensive coordinator was charged to lead the Buccaneers back to it’s feared ways in the late 70s and early 80s. A defensive mastermind, it would be Dungy’s job to cultivate the unit’s talent and turn it into something special. The newly hired coach’s even-keeled attitude brought balance and order to a team that had a surplus of personality. Dungy’s hiring brought an end to Tampa’s losing habits, as well as the Creamsicle uniforms that marked that era.
Under Dungy’s leadership and his “Tampa 2” defensive scheme, the Buccaneers were contenders nearly every season. With a suffocating defense that included Ronde Barber, Warren Sapp, John Lynch, Derrick Brooks, Hardy Nickerson, and others, the expansion team from 1976 was beginning to become a serious threat to capture the Lombardi trophy.
At the turn of a new millennium, the Bucs had Championship aspirations for 2000 and 2001; both seasons, however, fell well short of the team’s goals. After back-to-back Wildcard matchup losses in Philadelphia, Tony Dungy was fired, and owner Malcolm Glazer searched for the next regime to take the team over the top.
The Jon Gruden Era
After a daring twilight-hour trade, the Buccaneers acquired Raiders head coach Jon Gruden. Gruden, an offensive guru, was exactly what many Bucs fans felt this team needed: offensive help. After implementing his own scheme and retooling a lackluster offense, Gruden set his personal brand on the team. Amid division realignment to the NFC South, Gruden led the Buccaneers team to a 12-4 record, behind the #1 ranked defense in the NFL and Defensive Player of the Year Derrick Brooks. After a deep playoff run, the rejuvenated Bucs would matchup with their foe, the Philadelphia Eagles, in the NFC Championship game. After taking a late lead, an interception by Pro Bowl CB Ronde Barber would seal the deal, sending the Buccaneers to the Super Bowl.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers would matchup with Gruden’s former team, the Oakland Raiders, in which was dubbed “The Pirate Bowl”. Under the bright lights at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, California, the Buccaneers would win their 1st Super Bowl in a rout, 48-21. The laughing stock expansion team was now World Champions.
The Aftermath and Years to Come
Following Tampa Bay’s pinnacle of success, the Super Bowl team slowly began to fall apart. During the offseason, GM Rich McKay left Tampa Bay to become the Falcons president and general manager. In 2004, the Buccaneers released future Hall of Famer Warren Sapp, as well as Pro Bowl safety John Lynch, which came to the surprise of many Bucs fans. Along with releasing the two team cornerstones, the regime also sidelined and traded WR Keyshawn Johnson.
The team had become a shell of its Championship squad, and that showed on the field. After multiple years of inconsistency and mediocrity, management fired coach Jon Gruden after the 2008 season.
Ever since the firing of Gruden, this has been is last place in the NFC South most of the time. From 2009-2018, the Buccaneers have enjoyed 2 winning seasons, coming in 2010 and 2016, yet no playoff appearances. Simply put, the Buccaneers have not been good consistently, if at all. Since Gruden’s departure, Tampa Bay fans have had to see the regimes of Raheem Morris, Greg Schiano, Lovie Smith, and most recently, Dirk Koetter, all fail because of a lack of on-the-field success. For far too long, Buccaneers fans have endured endless seasons of their team consistently losing and underachieving.
However, it appears times are changing in the Bay.
For the first time since trading for Gruden, the Buccaneers have a head coach with experience that truly knows what he’s doing. After making the splash hiring of Bruce Arians, Tampa Bay brings in a proven leader and coach to restore the Buccaneers back to the franchise’s glory days. With an all-star staff surrounding him that includes DC Todd Bowles, OC Byron Leftwich, ST coordinator Keith Armstrong, QBs coach Harold Goodwin, and many others, Arians has brought in a staff that knows how to win to a franchise that has seemingly forgotten how to.
The road to today for this franchise may have been one blemished with a deep stain of failure and lack of success, but the path ahead promises to be a brighter one.
“Jump in the pool,” urges Arians. “Don’t be afraid of it.” For Bucs fans, the era of doubt and hesitation is over.
It’s time to wear your red and pewter proudly once again.
It’s time to renew your season tickets.
It’s time to be proud of this team.
It’s time to #RaiseTheFlags once more.
It’s time to stand behind this team with everything the Bay has.
The tools and pieces are there. If Arians accomplishes everything he’s promised, it’ll be a beautiful day in Tampa Bay once again.
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