Sunday, June 24, 2018
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Fennelly: Where, oh, where is Bucs buzz?

Driving by Raymond James Stadium this summer, you see those big new Bucs scoreboards. Our money at work. They're huge, a combined 28,000 square feet of high definition. As if Bucs fans need to feel any closer to the losing.

IMAX 6-10 theater.

Nothing less than winning will do at this point.

Years of low-definition football have ravaged this franchise.

The Bucs head to camp this week, with new head coach Dirk Koetter, with GM Jason Licht running the show, with Jameis Winston set for his second season.

But they're the buzz-less Bucs until they win. No more talk.

A football team should never lose a football town.

The Bucs have. And it's inexcusable.

"Any town you're in, if your team is winning, you're going to be doing fine," Koetter said after a spring practice. "There's an electricity in any city when your team's winning. Just look at what was going on in this town with the Lightning."

The Bucs need to turn on the juice.

It will take winning.

I'm not even sure one winning season will turn it around. The relationship between the team and town is fractured.

The Bucs haven't made the playoffs since 2007. They haven't won a playoff game since they walked off the field in San Diego as Super Bowl champions after the 2002 season. Think about that.

Objects are not closer than they appear in the mirror.

Meanwhile, since 2007, 26 of the NFL's 32 teams have made the playoffs at least once. Since the Bucs' Super season, 25 different teams have won at least one playoff game.

To last season's undying shame, Bucs buzz never had a chance.

It was a cataclysm in four parts.

The Pick. The selection of Winston in the NFL draft, no matter how it has worked out, was a polarizing decision at the time.

The Disaster. Unmitigated. Winston's first NFL pass was returned for a touchdown. No. 2 draft pick Marcus Mariota looked like Tom Brady in a 42-14 throttling of the Bucs.

The Gag. The Bucs, 2-3 and coming off the bye, grabbed a 24-0 lead in Washington against the Redskins. Then they blew it in truly grand style, losing 31-30. One for the bad Bucs ages.

The Fold. Just when the Bucs had crept to 6-6, technically into the NFL playoff picture, the trap door opened. Death drop. They lost their last four games. Exit Lovie Smith.

That is how you make fans fold their arms and roll their eyes.

This last stretch of seven years has been a meaningless blur. It's hard to tell where Raheem Morris ended and Greg Schiano began, where Schiano ended and Lovie began.

Compare that to the run from 1996, when Tony Dungy hit town with a quiet, winning calm, to Jon Gruden and the Bucs winning it all. Unforgettable days.

That's the problem.

"This team is measured against what we did," Bucs Hall of Famer Derrick Brooks said.

"This town has been to the mountaintop," Bucs Hall of Famer Warren Sapp said. "They know what a parade looks like. They can't be fooled."

These Bucs have some potentially electric talents, including Winston. It means nothing unless they win.

Throw in the fact that we hardly know these guys. You see, we felt like we knew the old Bucs. Maybe we didn't, but we felt like it, and that was everything.

The Glazers could build a dozen children's museums and it might not help. Jameis is everywhere, but do we really know him? Does the community feel embedded with this team? Winning alone might not be enough.

We're deep inside the wait-and-see era of Bucs football.

It takes more than video boards to create a buzz.

Comments
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