I’m posting this as a bit of an irregular “Questions” article just in case the regular one doesn’t get published. I emailed Gil Arcia of Bucs Nation at the beginning of the week, but it sounds like he’s been swamped and I’m not sure if he’ll be able to get back to me in time for a Saturday game. So as insurance just in case he can’t get me answers in time, I called up one of my best friends, Will Martin, who just so happens to be a lifelong Bucs fan, for this Q&A. It’s a much more informal article since we’re friends and I’m reconstructing things from a phone call where I took notes, but hopefully, you guys find some useful information in it.
What has it been like being a Bucs fan?
Well, it’s been a bit of a roller coaster, but with more lows than highs most of the time. We were an expansion team, so we never got any respect early on. We also didn’t win much either. Then we really started to get respectable in the 90s, culminating in our Super Bowl win for the 2002 season. After that, I thought we’d finally arrived and we’d just build on that success and be a consistently good team going forward. Instead, we’ve only been “consistent” at being disappointing since then. My fandom kind of waned. Every offseason, it seemed like we’d make some great offseason moves to sign a big-name free agent or get high draft position to get some great player in the draft. Then for whatever reason, it just never worked out. That’s why I was skeptical of the hype this offseason, but the team’s been playing better than it has in a long time.
Why do you think the team’s been so disappointing since that Super Bowl win?
I don’t think there’s been just one reason. Part of it seems to be that we rely on a few star players to carry the team and they always seem to get injured. I think our best QB in the last 20 years (until Brady) was Jameis Winston, so that’s part of it too. Winston really had some amazing highlight-reel plays and he has the stats of an All Pro... if you just don’t count the interceptions (laughs). He gave us hope at first that if he could just keep up the good plays and start limiting the bad, he’d be great, but he never seemed to develop.
Another reason for our disappointing record over the last two decades is the division we play in. Between the Saints, Falcons, and Panthers, two of those teams seem to be good almost every year, which makes wins tough to come by and winning the division even tougher.
So what has signing Tom Brady meant for the team?
The most obvious thing is it gave us national relevance. National broadcasters never used to talk about the Bucs much and we rarely got primetime games. As soon as Brady was signed, the NFL shifted our schedule to give us several primetime games and the national media started talking about us as contenders. I have to imagine that mattered to the players’ confidence as well. It’s also because of him that we got free agents like Rob Gronkowski and Antonio Brown. I actually was against signing Brown; he didn’t fill a position of need and he had a lot of baggage that came with him, but it seems like the Bucs can’t help but have one suspected sex offender on the roster at any given time (laughs). Still, even though I didn’t think we should have signed Brown, it shows a focus on winning that the team has seemed to lack until recently.
What do you think about Bruce Arians as a head coach?
I think he’s been great. He has a really aggressive, tough, winning mindset that he’s instilled in the rest of the team. And he’s even forced his “no risk it, no biscuit” passing philosophy on Tom Brady. In New England, Brady was known for getting the ball out quickly on short, quick, high-percentage passes. In Tampa Bay, he’s been transformed into a deep passer who’s making lots of big plays and is taking more chances with his throws. He can only do it because he’s got a great offensive line blocking for him and really talented pass catchers who win 50/50 balls, but it’s been cool seeing Brady transform from a checkdown guy to a riskier, big-play guy under Arians.
What weaknesses do the Bucs have? How would you gameplan for them?
On defense, we have a really great defensive line and are the best run defense in the NFL, so I wouldn’t expect you to have much success running the ball against us. We’re also really aggressive about blitzing, so we get after the QB really successfully. However, we’ve struggled against teams that are good at picking up our blitzes. Short-passing teams and teams that use a lot of screens and quick passes to slant routes tend to do well against us if they can identify the blitz and throw behind it.
On offense, we rely heavily on deep throws to move downfield quickly. We’ve struggled running the ball consistently and haven’t done well with short passes, so we’re not built for a grind-it-out type game. We either make big plays or the offense stalls. If you can find a way to limit our deep passes and big plays, it’ll really hold the offense back. And Alex Smith on one leg is probably still more mobile than Brady. Brady’s known to prefer throwing the ball away and curling into the fetal position over taking a sack, so any consistent pressure he can’t easily avoid it will make him throw it away quickly. Generally, that means getting pressure from the interior defensive line, since he can’t simply step up into the pocket to avoid it (unlike pressure from the edge).
So how do you think this game will go?
Well, I should start by saying I know almost nothing about the Washington Football Team. I really only watch Bucs games, but I feel more confident about this Bucs team than any Bucs team in the last decade. If there’s anything my experience as a lifelong Bucs fan has taught me, it’s that my confidence means we’re going to lose in heartbreaking fashion this week. I predict the Bucs are winning 28-0 by halftime, then lose the game 28-30.
I’d like to again thank my friend Will Martin for sharing his thoughts on the Bucs.
Which of these fanbases ranks highest in the pain rankings over the last decade? I’m deliberately leaving out some obvious ones.
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Which do you think is the best of these NFC teams right now?
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