Thursday, April 19, 2018
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Fennelly: Take heart, Bucs fans, the Patriots were once awful, too

TAMPA — They were awful once.

Truly awful.

That's hard to be believe. But the sickeningly great, oppressively consistent, occasionally cheating New England Patriots, who play in another Super Bowl on Sunday night, were once one of the most horrible franchises in professional football.

It's true.

It was a long time ago, way before the Killer B's of all Killer B's: Belichick and Brady.

It was so long ago that most of us don't remember.

But it happened. It happened, and it serves as a reminder to the Bucs and most every other NFL team:

It can be done.

The template the Patriots have laid down to show the way is relatively simple.

Hire the greatest coach this side of Lombardi.

Then hit on your sixth-round draft pick ever so slightly: greatest quarterback ever.

Nothing to it.

Now, it might be true that no history is worse than old Bucs history — 0-26, 12 straight double-digit-loss seasons, Hugh Culverhouse, the Booker Reese draft, the Bo Jackson draft, Vinny is color-blind. Need I go on? The Bucs did reach the mountaintop in the 2002 season but couldn't maintain.

The Patriots have maintained like few teams in history, 16 seasons of it. Remarkable.

But New England has had terrible teams. And it once had terribly small crowds — Bucs-bad attendance — in its old stadium, which was a dump.

It's all true.

The 1981 Patriots went 2-14. The Colts beat them twice, their only two wins that season.

The Patriots were once so comical that even in strike-shortened 1982, a playoff season for the team, they made bad news — the infamous "Snow Plow Game," when Patriots coach Ron Meyer made a snow plow driver, a prisoner on work release, carve a swath in the fluffy stuff so the Pats could boot a field goal in a 3-0 win over Miami. The Tigris and Euphrates of Patriot cheating.

The Patriots were once so bad, so unstable, that once they nearly moved to Connecticut. Once they considered moving to St. Louis.

It's all true.

The Patriots made their first Super Bowl in the 1985 season, only to be annihilated by the Bears. The Patriots made the playoffs only twice in the following 10 seasons.

The Patriots were once so bad they went 1-15 in 1990, the worst record in franchise history. Coach Rod Rust — ah, memories — was fired after one season. The Patriots went 2-14 in 1992. Coach Dick MacPherson was fired.

It began to turn under Bill Parcells, who arrived in 1993. Owner Robert Kraft took over in 1994. Parcells took New England to the Super Bowl in the 1996 season, losing to the Packers. After some ups and downs under Pete Carroll, the Patriots hired Bill Belichick in 2000. He chose Tom Brady in the 2000 draft, sixth round, 199th overall.

And the rest is history,

Only the Patriots could have Spygate and Deflate­gate and still be the NFL's model franchise.

By the way, the snow plow hangs in the Patriots Hall of Fame.

Every NFL team has dark passages. The Packers went 0-11-1 the year before Vince Lombardi arrived. Tom Landry and Cowboys didn't win a game in 1960, their first season. The Steelers went 1-13 in Chuck Noll's first season as coach. The 49ers went 2-14 in 1979, Bill Walsh's first season as coach.

It's no different with the Patriots.

But every team can look with amazement.

How do you get there?

How do you stay there? And stay there? And stay there?

Maybe there's real hope for wanderers like the Bucs.

The Patriots did it.

A Hall of Fame coach and a Hall of Fame quarterback.

How hard can that be?

Time to do a mock sixth round.

Just remember, kids, the Patriots were awful once.

Really, they were.

Comments
Is Alabama’s Minkah Fitzpatrick a first-round fit for the Bucs?

Is Alabama’s Minkah Fitzpatrick a first-round fit for the Bucs?

Minkah FitzpatrickPosition: SafetyCollege: AlabamaHeight/Weight: 6-1, 201Draft projection: First roundWhy Fitzpatrick makes sense for the BucsOne of the Bucs' biggest needs is to improve their secondary. Fitzpatrick is a playmaker, arguably the best ...
Published: 04/17/18
Jameis Winston set to make $21 million in 2019 as Bucs pick up his option

Jameis Winston set to make $21 million in 2019 as Bucs pick up his option

TAMPA — Jameis Winston is headed for a big pay day after this season, whether he gets a contract extension or not.The Bucs on Tuesday picked up the fifth-year option on Winston's rookie contract worth $20.9 million for 2019. The deal is not gua...
Published: 04/17/18
Get to know potential Bucs NFL draft target Vita Vea of Washington

Get to know potential Bucs NFL draft target Vita Vea of Washington

As next week's NFL draft nears, Bucs fans might want to learn a little more about a potential target at No. 7: Washington defensive tackle Vita Vea.The 6-foot-4, 347-pound monster moves very well for someone his size and could be an intriguing option...
Published: 04/17/18
DeSean Jackson and Jameis Winston were in perfect harmony on Day 1

DeSean Jackson and Jameis Winston were in perfect harmony on Day 1

TAMPA — DeSean Jackson and Jameis Winston were finally on the same page.For the first day of the offseason workout program, anyway.Jackson, 31, is coming off one of the worst seasons of his 10-year career with 50 catches for only 668 yards and ...
Published: 04/16/18
Jameis Winston says he has still not been interviewed in NFL probe

Jameis Winston says he has still not been interviewed in NFL probe

TAMPA — Jameis Winston was excited to be back with his teammates at One Buc Place Monday beginning the first phase of  the off-season workout program."It means everything, because it's back to football," Winston said. "It's back to that te...
Published: 04/16/18
Bucs’ Ali Marpet ready for transition to left guard

Bucs’ Ali Marpet ready for transition to left guard

Ali Marpet is on the move again, but says not to worry about his transition to left guard — his fourth offensive line position in five years — for the 2018 season."Moving from right to left is less of a transition from guard to center," M...
Published: 04/16/18
Report: Bucs’ Demar Dotson to miss summer after knee surgery

Report: Bucs’ Demar Dotson to miss summer after knee surgery

Add offensive tackle to the positions where the Bucs have a question mark, less than two weeks before the NFL draft.Starting right tackle Demar Dotson, who missed the final five games of last season with a knee injury, had surgery this past week to r...
Published: 04/15/18
How Penn State RB Saquon Barkley would ignite the Bucs offense … if only they could draft him

How Penn State RB Saquon Barkley would ignite the Bucs offense … if only they could draft him

Saquon BarkleyPosition: Running backCollege: Penn StateHeight/weight: 6-3, 233Draft projection: First roundWhy he would make sense for the Bucs: Barkley is arguably the best overall player in the draft. Despite his exceptional size, he ran a 4.41 in ...
Published: 04/14/18
Bucs’ Mike Evans donates $10,000 to childhood friend’s recovery

Bucs’ Mike Evans donates $10,000 to childhood friend’s recovery

As a Texas man fights for his life after an accidental shooting on Easter Sunday, Bucs receiver Mike Evans has stepped up to help his childhood friend, donating $10,000 to a GoFundMe account for Devyn Holmes.Holmes and two other people were in a park...
Published: 04/14/18
Why the Bucs’ big improvement could come from players already on the roster

Why the Bucs’ big improvement could come from players already on the roster

TAMPA —The NFL draft still is a few weeks away, and every team is hoping to harvest players who can be the difference on a winner.But the biggest improvement may come from players entering their second or third seasons. Rookies are great, but p...
Published: 04/14/18