All in all, I liked the Raheem Morris era better. And, yes, if there was ever a sentence that tells you how bad this Misery Tour of the current Tampa Bay Bucs has become, it's that one. For crying out loud, the Morris years were pretty much awful, a tangled, forgettable mess. Ditto, the Greg Schiano years, where a more talented team is somehow accomplishing less. There is scandal. There is disease. There is dysfunction. And that's only in the playbook.
Tonight, against the Carolina Panthers, the 0-6 Bucs try it again. This time, they hope the energy from a prime-time crowd can somehow give them enough of a boost to win. This time, they hope they can stop Morris from pointing to his television screen and laughing.
To repeat: There was no glory to the Morris years. Around here, there are fans who still wake up with night sweats because of those teams. The secondary seemed to be on roller skates, and the linebackers ran around in circles, and from time to time, defensive ends lined up facing the wrong direction. Coordinators came and went like mall shoppers. He lost his first seven games. He lost his last 10.
And still, those were better times than these.
Hey, Morris had a 10-win season. Under Morris, Josh Freeman was in the top half of NFL quarterbacks. And remember, the front office was a lot more frugal then. This was before the team's owners spent money on Vincent Jackson, Carl Nicks, Dashon Goldson and Darrelle Revis.
All things considered, I liked the Jon Gruden era better, too.
This one is simple, because Gruden won a Super Bowl. There were some frustrating seasons that followed, and some perplexing moments, but that win alone made his stay worthwhile.
Even in his worst seasons, no one ever doubted that Gruden could coach. It was the procurement of talent that was the perplexing part of Gruden's stay. That, and the fact that he never won another playoff game after the Super Bowl.
It's funny how expectations change. Gruden was fired after a four-game losing streak cost his 2008 team the playoffs. He hasn't coached since. Who knows? Maybe he's waiting for his old office to open up.
When I think about it, I liked the Tony Dungy era better, too.
They fired this guy? Really? Even now, it is mind-boggling that a franchise known for failure canned a coach who made the playoffs in four of his last five years in town.
Oh, the Dungy years weren't without frustration, as you know. He never did get his offensive staff right, and as a result, he never got to the Super Bowl — until he did it with the Colts later in his career. But young players improved while Dungy was here.
And here's something else. Dungy was a coach who mattered.
I was thinking about this the other day after the death of Bum Phillips: Somehow, coaches used to be bigger than they are now. You had Don Shula and Vince Lombardi and Tom Landry and Chuck Noll and Bill Walsh and Joe Gibbs and Mike Ditka and Buddy Ryan and Bill Parcells and Bud Grant and Marv Levy.
These days? You have Dennis Allen and Marc Trestman and Rob Chudzinski and Gus Bradley and Mike McCoy and Joe Philbin and Leslie Frazier and Jim Schwartz and a lot of guys named Ned.
You know, the brain trust.
I can't believe I'm going to type this, but I even liked the Sam Wyche era better than this.
There has never been a more reactive coach than Wyche, who could change an entire philosophy in the middle of the practice field. But Wyche did get to five-dash-two, and he stopped the seasons of double-digit losses at 12 in a row. He said silly things from time to time, but Sam meant well.
No, I didn't like the Richard Williamson years better. Not even I can say that with a straight face.
I didn't like the Leeman Bennett era better. I didn't like the Ray Perkins era better. (Let me get this straight: He gave Steve Young away, and he went all in with Chris Chandler. Right.) I'm sure I would have liked the John McKay era much better.
The point is this: For all the suffering that Tampa Bay fans have endured over the years, this is pretty close to the bottom. There hasn't been a positive headline out of One Buc Place for months now, and it may be months before there is another.
The whole building feels angry and desperate, as if protecting its secrets is more important than winning games, and the next thing you know, men in hazmat suits are following the team around as if it is sheltering E.T. Who knows? It may be.
As long as we are talking about coaching eras, here's a question: How in the world is Schiano going to extend his?
Oh, if the Bucs reel off 10 straight wins with a rookie quarterback and Doug Martin on the sideline, that would probably do it. But short of that, what can save him? Seven wins? Five? How about winning four of your last five where Mike Glennon looks like a Pro Bowl quarterback?
That's the question here: Exactly where is the number where you have to make a change to protect the product you're trying to sell?
I'm sure the Glazer family doesn't want to fire Schiano, if for no other reason than they're weary of paying two coaches at a time (the current guy and his predecessor). I'm sure they are tired of starting over.
But 0-6 cannot be spun, especially with a team that was supposed to be sneaky good. The Glazers spent a staggering amount of money to repair this secondary, although, if the team didn't like its quarterback, you have to wonder why.
If the losing continues, there gets to be a point where it is obvious that it isn't working, and they run out of people to blame for it. Please tell me that winless is not acceptable.
In the next era, maybe the Bucs will get it right.