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Capable leadership steadily steers Buccaneers’ ship: Fan’s view
Following a successful return to Monday Night Football, fans of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have numerous reasons for excitement, as the team sits tied atop the NFC's South Division with a record of 3-1.
Though it is a feeling familiar to Bucs' fans, it has certainly been a few years since this kind of positivity surrounded the Pewter Pirates.
From 1998-2008, Tampa Bay was featured on the nationally televised Monday Night Football a respectable 15 times. Those successful teams - guided by high profile coaches Tony Dungy and Jon Gruden and anchored by defensive stalwarts Warren Sapp and Derrick Brooks(notes) - were obviously camera friendly. Not only did the Bucs perform capably on the field, but their leaders embodied the kind of confidence that only comes from winning big games.
Recent times have not been as hospitable for pro football in Tampa Bay. Prior to the 24-17 home victory over the Indianapolis Colts on Monday, October 3, the Bucs had not enjoyed the bright spotlight of Monday night since a 38-23 shelling by the Carolina Panthers on December 8, 2008.
That loss began a season-ending four game losing streak, which ultimately led to the dismissal of Gruden as coach and the hiring of current leader, Raheem Morris.
Doubters criticized the hiring of Morris as an attempt to keep the seat warm until the team had the finances to rebuild completely under another big name coach, such as Bill Cowher.
However, the subsequent record has revealed that nothing could be further from the truth. Beginning with his first bold move to acquire franchise quarterback Josh Freeman(notes) in 2009 NFL Draft, Morris was clearly signed to return the Bucs to the winning ways of the past 15 years.
One of the few prominent local sports voices who correctly diagnosed the team's intentions was WDAE radio personality, Steve "The Big Dog" Duemig. While fans and media largely condemned the sacking of Gruden and the hiring of the inexperienced Morris, the longtime afternoon talk show host praised the move from the beginning.
I recently asked Duemig to reflect on how Raheem Morris has transformed the fortunes of Tampa Bay so quickly.
"It's simple," Duemig said, "He's been around this team longer than people think. And all 53 dudes in that locker room have his back."
Those attributes were certainly exposed with the victory on Monday night. With their boisterous former coach looking on from the broadcast booth, Morris' team hardly acted like an over-matched club during the win over Indianapolis.
The Bucs again got off to slow start and were victimized by two quick strike touchdowns from Colts' quarterback Curtis Painter(notes). Yet, in mounting the second fourth quarter comeback of the young season, there was no panic in the 35 year-old head coach or his 23 year-old quarterback. Instead, each acted like a veteran, knowing that there are no chemistry, trust, or confidence problems with the Buccaneers.
Perhaps the best example of this development came in the contest's final moments when the team once again attempted a game ending, fourth down conversion. Instead of dwelling on what can be lost, the Bucs' 53 man unit has a singular laser focus on what can be gained.
In a league filled with drama, these are qualities that cannot be underrated. Raheem Morris has built Tampa Bay into a young and hungry club that is ready for the magnifying glass, which comes with success.
And local sports fans took note. For the first time in nearly two years, Raymond James Stadium was sold out for the Monday night game and the broadcast was mercifully shown on Bay area television.
Supporters of the Buccaneers can rightfully look ahead to a challenging season that should be filled with many more victories. But this writer has already seen enough to be impressed by the leadership that now guides the franchise.
Yahoo! Sports, Pro-football-reference.com.
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Jeff Briscoe is a writer from Florida who covers sports for the Yahoo! Contributor Network and the Fort Myers Examiner. As a loyal Tampa Bay Bucs fan, his favorite sounds include the firing of the cannons at Raymond James Stadium on football Sundays.
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