COMMENTARY | The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are the worst franchise in the NFL.
I know everyone will probably react to this by thinking, "but what about the Jacksonville Jaguars?!" Don't get me wrong, the Jaguars are a very bad football team. However, the issues with the Jaguars pale in comparison to those of the Tampa Bay Bucs. This season the Bucs have taken being a horrible franchise and football team to a whole new level as the organization is completely self-destructing, leaving fans feeling hopeless and angry.
Let's quickly recap how the Bucs ship has sunk this far underwater. It started with the poor play of quarterback Josh Freeman. Then it was the complete and utter mishandling of the Freeman situation by head coach Greg Schiano, which included the leak of confidential information about Josh Freeman's involvement in the NFL's drug program. The damage was irreparable and this ultimately led to Freeman being released by the Bucs and signed by the Minnesota Vikings. During this entire mess, there was constant talk of locker room turmoil and fans demanding that coach Schiano be fired immediately.
Questions about the atmosphere of the locker room were answered last week when superstar cornerback Darrelle Revis was asked by a local reporter if the Bucs players still supported coach Schiano. The veteran cornerback simply answered with, "I don't know". That answer says it all. Coach Schiano has lost the most important battle facing a head coach - the battle for the locker room and respect from his players.
On top of all of this, the Bucs recently suffered two key losses in running back Doug Martin and wide receiver Mike Williams who are out with a torn labrum and a hamstring injury, respectively. These are key injuries that have dealt Bucs fans another blow in this already dismal season. The Bucs ship is sinking quickly and fans have lost faith that the team will be able to stay afloat.
Of course, Jaguars fans would argue that they have suffered these same feelings of hopelessness for years. However, there is one key difference - the Jaguars were never expected to be a good team this season. From day one of the preseason, Jacksonville was considered the frontrunner for the first overall pick in the 2014 NFL draft, hopefully winning the sweepstakes to draft either Jadeveon Clowney or Teddy Bridgewater. In contrast, there was preseason talk about the Bucs possibly making a surprise run for the playoffs.
The Bucs finished the 2012 season with a 7-9 record and were last place in the NFC South. However, the season under then first year head coach Greg Schiano didn't seem all that bad when you evaluated other performance metrics for the team. Tampa Bay finished the season with the number one ranked run defense in the league and the highest scoring Buccaneer offense in franchise history. In addition, the Bucs had three players elected to the Pro Bowl, including defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, wide receiver Vincent Jackson, and rookie running back, Doug Martin, whose four touchdown performance against the Oakland Raiders was one of the highlights of the season.
Overall, the 2012 season left Bucs fans feeling positive about the new era under coach Schiano, and there was a belief that the team would improve to be a real contender in the NFC South in 2013. The combination of last season's accomplishments, the ongoing development of strong young players, and the acquisitions of star defensive backs Darrelle Revis and Dashon Goldson in the offseason gave Bucs fans a real feeling of optimism going into the 2013 season. But that was then and this is now. The fact is that all of their hopes have been dashed because the reality is that the Bucs are winless this season.
On the contrary, I think it's safe to say that going into the 2013 season, Jacksonville fans had nothing to really be enthusiastic about. Last season the Jags finished with the worst record in franchise history at 2-14, were last in the AFC South, and had zero players elected to the Pro Bowl for the first time since 2008. Perhaps the most excitement leading up to this season was the constant rumors that quarterback Tim Tebow might somehow end up playing in Jacksonville.
But it's not quite as bleak for Jags fans as it seems. The Jaguars have a star running back in Maurice Jones-Drew (if he can stay healthy), two rising star wide receivers, Cecil Shorts III and Justin Blackmon (if he can stay out of trouble), and a solid veteran tight end in 2010 Pro Bowler Mercedes Lewis. Oh, and let's not forget that the Jags were expected to lose nearly every game this season, likely giving the team the number one overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. It's obvious that from the beginning of this season, the Jaguars organization and fans have been willing to be patient while the building blocks of a solid foundation were laid for what could be a winning franchise in the very near future.
Bucs fans are so shell-shocked and disappointed that they can't even look ahead to the next season. They expected a winning season and they expected it in 2013, mostly because they were led to believe that the Bucs had all of the ingredients necessary for a winning season - a seasoned quarterback, a new coach, and a roster full of superstar talent on both offense and defense. Just compare the rosters of the two teams and it's obvious that the Bucs have far better talent than the Jags and were actually poised to win this season. Instead, here the Bucs are at 0-8. Factor in this week's heartbreaking overtime loss to the powerhouse Seattle Seahawks after leading 21-7 at halftime, and Bucs fans are feeling sick to their stomachs.
Every week, it seems to just get worse and worse for the Bucs. Along with the team's continued losing streak, there are constant headlines about mutiny against head coach Schiano, distrust in the locker room, and discontent within the organization. At least the Jaguars are losing quietly. Head coach Gus Bradley and new owner Shahid Khan have given the fans the decency of maintaining stability within the team despite the winless record. They are also promising to get better every week. Despite having a winless record, Bradley has maintained a sense of dignity and a positive outlook for the future.
In Tampa, just 200 miles southwest of Jacksonville, it's a completely different story. The Buccaneers have become the biggest disaster in professional sports. While Jaguars fans look to a possibly bright future, fans in Tampa are left with nothing to do but cringe as they watch their Buccaneers crash and burn. The failure to even remotely live up to expectations is bad enough. But throw in the media circus, the lack of trust within the team, and no clear direction as to how the Bucs can once again become a winning franchise and you quickly understand why the Bucs are the worst team in the NFL.
Michelle Sassouni lives in Tampa, FL and graduated from the University of South Florida with a B.A. in Communications. She has been involved in the Tampa Bay sports community for 18 years.
- Sports & Recreation
- American Football
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers
- Josh Freeman