There are a lot of things the Bucs don’t have.
A rich tradition. A pass rush. A running game.
Did I mention they don’t have a pass rush?
You know what else they don’t have? A rival.
Think about it. The Bucs don’t have a true rival. They don’t have one of those teams that makes your blood boil at just the sight of their colors. They don’t have a I-hate-your-guts team that you circle on your pocket schedule.
You have Steelers-Ravens, Raiders-Chiefs and Cowboys-Washington.
But the Bucs don’t have anybody.
Thank you, Sean Payton.
So if you’re Bucs fan and you’re settling in to watch the NFL playoffs this weekend, there’s only one game you should really care about and that’s the Saints-Panthers game. Sit down and root that the Panthers wipe the field with those jerks from New Orleans.
How come? Well, did you see what Payton pulled last Sunday?
After his Saints choked against the Bucs in the regular-season finale, Payton had a bizarre postgame handshake with Bucs coach Dirk Koetter.
Interesting exchange between Dirk Koetter and Sean Payton following the game. The shoulder pats getting a little aggressive. Sounds like unresolved matters from the week 9 scuffle involving Winston, Evans and Lattimore. (credit @JeffTewksFox13 for video) #Bucs pic.twitter.com/IWDdml3LLM— Scott Smith (@ScottSmithFOX13) January 1, 2018
There was a cryptic exchange to go along with this weird and hard shoulder/chest slapping kind of thing. It was sort of an argument, but not really. They wouldn’t let go shaking hands, but Payton was doing his best to get away, too.
Everything about it was passive-aggressive and just plain odd.
What was it all about?
Well, apparently, Payton is still riled up about something that happened when the two teams met back on Nov. 5. That was eight weeks earlier!
Remember, that was the game when Jameis Winston poked Saints corner Marcus Lattimore in the head and when Lattimore nudged Winston back, Bucs receiver Mike Evans blasted Lattimore from behind. Evans was ultimately suspended a game for that hit.
And eight weeks later, Payton was still sore about it.
So let me see I understand this. A coach who was once suspended for an entire NFL season because his players put out bounties on opponents is upset about what exactly?
Give me a break.
Look, if you’re mad about something, don’t wait eight weeks until after a game you lose to start your whining. If Payton was upset, he should’ve said something to Koetter back when the incident happened.
Then again, a guy with a chunky section called "Bounty scandal’’ on his Wikipedia page probably shouldn’t be throwing stones.
The more you think about it, the lousier it gets. Payton actually stewed on this for two months. Then, as he is headed to the playoffs, he gives the business to a fellow member of the coaching fraternity who is barely hanging onto his job.
What an obnoxious thing to do. I don’t know Payton, but none of this surprises me.
So with that, the Bucs should have themselves a rival.
The problem is, neither side really cares enough about the other side to build up a good rivalry. They’ve never really been good at the same time. They’ve never really had any classic games to decide a division title. They’ve never met in the playoffs. There hasn’t been any reason to hate the other guy.
Really, it makes all the sense in the world for these teams to become rivals. They are in the same division. They play each other twice a year. And they’re right over there, just a short swim across the Gulf of Mexico. You can practically see them from your dock.
So, let’s see if we can’t build this into a good, old-fashioned, NFL rivalry.
The Bucs could really use a rival.
And a pass rush, too.
Contact Tom Jones at email@example.com. Follow @tomwjones.