Yeah, I should’ve done this yesterday, but really…what was the rush?
Panthers 38 – Bucs 10
And so it was that another disappointing Tampa Bay Buccaneers season of football comes to a close. Once again, the ship is moored, its flag furled, and its cannons removed from their mountings as we await fresh crewe replacements during the coming respite. This is all a fancy way of saying the Bucs will be stuck at home watching the playoffs with the rest of us.
There’s no real point discussing the actual game. It was a pointless exercise for the Bucs, whereas the Panthers were able to secure the pole position in the NFC, earning a first-round bye and home field advantage throughout the playoffs.
Despite finishing 6-10 on the year–which includes dropping the last four games–it wasn’t all bummers for the Bucs. First, they won four more games than they did last year (yay?), and although he threw two interceptions in the game, rookie quarterback Jameis Winston still racked up more then 300 passing yards, and ended the year with more than 4,000. He’s only the third QB to do that, but such milestones aren’t worth much if the team’s staying home in January. However, it’s been fun to watch Winston work at improving his play throughout the year. His comments after the game made it plain that he’s not happy with the current state of the team, but also that he’s putting himself at the forefront of any solutions to be pursued during the off-season. You have to admire that attitude.
Running back Doug Martin, one of Tampa’s other offensive weapons, is up for free agency. Will he stay with the team? Will the Bucs move to make him their franchise player, insulating him from any other teams who might come calling? That remains to be seen. Meanwhile, Tampa needs to start getting Charles Sims or another running back ready to possibly move into Martin’s role. A new receiver or two wouldn’t hurt, either, given that perennial performer Vincent Jackson ended up being hampered by injuries all year.
Elsewhere, the defense has work to do, as well. Far too many opposing offenses were allowed to linger on the field for too long all season long. The Bucs defense failed to hold on Third Down nearly 50% of the time, and that’s just not going to get it done. You can be sure the secondary will be getting a hard look in the coming months.
Make no mistake: the raw material for a good team is already there in that locker room. There was evidence of that this year, despite what the final standings say. A few more pieces added to a pretty decent puzzle are all that are needed so far as actual game play is concerned, but there are other issues that demand addressing. Winston himself said it pretty bluntly yesterday: “We have to fix the ‘whys.’ Why are we playing football? We have too many different ‘whys’ right now. When we all have that same ‘why,’ that we want to win together and we become that true family, we’re going to be hell, now.”
Big words. I hope the actions can measure up.
So, I guess that’s it for this season. Now I need to figure out who I’m going to root for in the playoffs.
It’s a Bucs life, yo.