Welcome to our coverage of the NFC South! Peyton Manning doesn’t play in this division, so it’s unlikely that anyone gives a shit…but let’s do it anyway!
When a young team wins they are called hungry and energized, and when they lose they are immature and inexperienced. In 2011 the Buccaneers fell into the latter category for most of the season, which seems mystifying when you consider the impressive 10-6 season the year before. It was a team that seemed like it was ready to break through, but unfortunately momentum, hype, and ridiculous buzz words like “yungry” don’t win football games. What does win football games? Players on the other team, apparently. The Bucs were 27rd in points scored, and 32nd in points given up. When you frame it like that, it seems almost impressive that they won four games.
It has already been an interesting off-season for Tampa, as their list of head coaching candidates was honestly one of the most unimpressive I have ever seen. Wade Phillips? Mike Sherman? Seriously? But in the end the head man at Rutgers, Greg Schiano, came out of left field to take the job. The wisdom of this hiring has been debated, but one move that is being universally applauded is the free agent signing of Vincent Jackson. There are some character questions there, but he’s a wide receiver so I’ve already come to grips with the fact that he’s probably insane. There isn’t anyone happier about this move than Josh Freeman, who finally has a big time weapon to throw the ball to. (My apologies to Arrelious Benn and Preston Parker.)
2011 was a rough season for the Bucs, but they still have a solid young nucleus. And that kickass pirate ship! This is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers retrospective.
Team Highlight: In week 6 Tampa Bay hosted New Orleans and squeaked out a 26 to 20 victory. They forced 3 Drew Brees interceptions and Josh Freeman threw for over 300 yards in what was no doubt the peak of their season. It putTampa in first for a few moments, and got people to consider the idea that maybe the guard had changed in the NFC South. Spoiler alert: it had not.
Team Lowlight: Basically everything that happened after week 6, as the Buccaneers lost the remaining ten games of the season. It wasn’t like they were losing at the gun to great teams either; they were getting throttled by some very mediocre squads. During that time they lost two games to the Carolina Panthers by a combined score of 86 to 35 and got pounded by the hapless Jags 41-14. To say that this stretch was embarrassing is an understatement. I think if I was the guy in charge of the pirate ship cannon I would have been getting black out drunk and firing it off randomly by week 15, crying out for the stone feet of Brad Johnson. Originally I made the case on this very blog that Raheem Morris should get to stick around for another season, but when I take a look back at this debacle…well, dude had to go.
Team MVP: Josh Freeman had an absolutely abysmal season. LeGarrette Blount was injured and inconsistent. Mike Williams failed to improve on his impressive rookie year. No one really stood out on the defensive side of the ball. I guess I’m just going to go with Kellen Winslow Jr. After an injury plagued start to his career, Kellen has become a consistent performer and a reliable target. In the last three seasons he has averaged almost 800 yards a season and over ten yards a catch. I’m giving the team MVP to a tight end, that’s how bad this season really was.
Needs: The Bucs have already signed the best wide receiver and offensive lineman (Vincent Jackson and Carl Nicks respectively) of the free agent class, along with a solid corner in Eric Wright. Tampa Bay has already had an impressive offseason and it’s not over yet. Look for them to draft some impact players on defense, as they finished 31st in turnover margin in 2011.
What’s a Buccaneer fan drinking these days: I’m not sure what this drink is exactly, but I’d find out how to make it immediantly. This is a team on the rise, so enjoy yourself. But if Josh Freeman plays like he did this season just dump a bunch of Bacardi 151 in there too. It’ll still taste good, because just look at it.
Jango Scale of Scandal Likelihood:
The Straight Cash Homey meter was incredible, but it’s nice that it got to go out when it was on top and not stale, literally changing the face of football blogging forever. Anyway, I think the scandal likelihood is moderate because there’s always a chance that Vincent Jackson is going to hold out, demand the ball more, and drive drunk simultaneously.
Entirely Too Early Prediction for 2012: This is the probably the hardest one I’ve had to pick so far. You have a new coaching staff, high priced free agents, and a young team. Either way I think they will be better than last year, but I don’t think they’ll be winning the NFC South this year. I will say 8-8 because honestly I have no idea what this team is capable of.
Stop back tomorrow when Chris Dorsey tells us a thing or two about the Panthers season and posts his own shirtless combine photos!