I don’t know why I let the Tampa Bay Buccaneers do this to me.
At every turn this year, I have been there to defend the team that for years has needed no help defending itself. But now, I look like an idiot for trying.
That team, one year after winning Super Bowl XXXVII, has fallen apart. Sunday night’s 17-10 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars, now 3-9, dropped the Bucs to 5-7 and virtually assures the defending champions will not be playing come January.
Every excuse imaginable has been used to defend the team, while fans waited for the Bucs to remember how dominant their defense is supposed to be. But no longer can I lie to myself. I have to come clean with a few facts I have refused to admit in the last 10 months.
When the Bucs lost Super Bowl MVP Dexter Jackson and starting linebacker Al Singleton to free agency, I said the team had such a deep roster it would easily overcome. Besides, I said, it was the genius of defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin that put together a run that gave the Tampa Bay defense mention with some of the greatest defensive units ever.I was wrong.
When the Bucs lost their home opener in overtime to Carolina because a potential game-winning extra point was blocked with no time left in regulation, I chalked it up to luck for the Panthers. After all, the team lost its first home game last season in overtime, and the Bucs went on to win the Super Bowl.
I was wrong.
When the Bucs lost three straight games, falling to 4-6 on the season, I was confident they could win out against a schedule that only had one game remaining against a team with a winning record. I mean, the Bucs for years have been a second-half team, at one point making the playoffs three straight seasons despite 3-4 records after seven games.
I was wrong.
I am left embarrassed and looking foolish because I had confidence in a team that finally was dealt more than it can handle.
Keyshawn Johnson thought he was invincible, and the Bucs taught him a hard lesson. But the Bucs are learning the same lesson. They have been exposed, and nobody is afraid of the big bad Bucs anymore. They aren’t killers anymore. Instead, other teams deliver the late, fatal blow to them on a regular basis.
I hate to jump on a bandwagon, especially after it has probably already filled beyond capacity, but I am ready to change. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have fallen from the ranks of the greats to the lows of failure faster than I could ever predict.