GREEN BAY, Wisc. - On a day like this, the instinct is to pull out the verbal knives and carve the Bucs to pieces.
Same old Bucs. Bunch of good-for-nothings. Here we are again. Another lousy season to throw on the pile.
On a day like today, everyone wants to fire the coach, bench the quarterback and tear up their season tickets.
Why today? Because we now know that the Bucs will not finish with a winning record. Actually, we kind of knew that for a while, but now it’s official after a 26-20 overtime loss Sunday in Green Bay.
They’ll surely finish with a losing record and they’re going to miss the playoffs for the 10th straight season.
Fans are angry, and for good reason. Doesn’t matter who is coaching or who is quarterbacking, they continue to be an NFL bottom-feeder, right alongside the Browns and Bills — teams that can’t get out of their own way. Comparing them to the Browns and Bills. That’s a sobering thought, eh?
But there was moment following Sunday’s game when anger might have turned to pity. Watching the whole scene after Sunday’s game, you couldn’t help but feel a little sorry for them.
Maybe it was while watching coach Dirk Koetter helplessly struggle for answers. Or maybe it was this moment in the locker room, when wide receiver Mike Evans appeared to be reaching for a white flag.
"This just ain’t our year," Evans said.
He shook his head. He paused. Then he said: "Unlucky. Unfortunate."
Evans thought back to a play in Sunday’s game when Jameis Winston, back from missing three games with a shoulder injury, threw a near perfect pass down the sidelines. Evans jumped into the air, stretched his long arms above a Green Bay defender and snatched the ball into his big hands. He crashed to the ground with a spectacular catch.
"I finally catch a deep ball and what happens?" Evans said. "I land out of bounds. Man, just not our year."
Before you think Evans is going to give up, he’s quick to assert that won’t happen.
"First off, it’s our job," Evans said. "Second off, I love football. I love the game. I love competing against the best in the world no matter what. Even if it is a down year for this team and myself."
A down year. It is that, indeed. Sunday was another reminder with a twist.
The Bucs have lost plenty of games that they absolutely deserved to lose. On Sunday, they tried something new. They lost a game they deserved to win.
"The scoreboard is what the scoreboard is," Koetter muttered when asked if his team deserved better.
But, really, the Bucs did deserve better. Bruised, battered and beaten down, the Bucs outplayed a Packers team missing star quarterback Aaron Rodgers. For about two hours and 50 minutes, the Bucs were the better team in a game that lasted 2 hours and 59 minutes.
"It (stinks), I’m not going to lie," Bucs running back Peyton Barber said. "I definitely feel we should have won that game."
They managed to find a way to louse it up the way all losing teams find a way to give away games. They had a punt blocked. They messed up a simple center snap. They messed up a simple handoff. They committed costly penalties. They kicked field goals when they needed to be scoring touchdowns.
There were close to 140 plays in Sunday’s game. The Bucs did their job on about 100 of them. Maybe more. Ultimately, it was about five that cost them the game, including not bothering to lay a finger on Green Bay’s Aaron Jones as he raced in from 20 yards out for the winning overtime score.
Those handful of plays led to another loss. "Unfortunate, tough," is how wide receiver Adam Humphries described it.
So what now?
The season drags along. There’s still a month left. A quarter of the season. Feels like an eternity when you’re not playing for anything.
And the Bucs are no longer playing for anything.
Evans is right. It’s just not their year.
Seems like every year is not their year.
Contact Tom Jones at [email protected] Follow @tomwjones.