Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Tampa Bay Buccaneers' rapid youth movement the right way to rebuild

In his second season, coach Raheem Morris has 29 players on his current roster who never played for Jon Gruden.


In his second season, coach Raheem Morris has 29 players on his current roster who never played for Jon Gruden.

TAMPA — The old guy remembers those long ago days. Those forgotten faces.

He remembers a time when the locker room was ruled by hardened men, and when the names above the lockers seemed to have been carved during some bygone era. Back then, he was 27. Barely a baby in a room of elders.

Yes, the years have passed quickly.

Well, technically, one year.

But a handful of months, too.

"Looking around the locker room, it's crazy," Bucs center Jeff Faine said. "From when I first signed here and how veteran-laden we were, and how much change has happened since then."

Faine is 29 now, and one of the oldest players at One Buc Place. Derrick Brooks, Warrick Dunn, Jeff Garcia and Joey Galloway are long gone. In the past year, Michael Clayton, Chris Hovan, Jermaine Phillips and Antonio Bryant have departed, too.

With the 2010 season opener four days away, the Buccaneers are worlds removed from the team that finished the 2008 season. There are 29 players on the current 53-man roster who never played for Jon Gruden. That's a 55 percent turnover in about 20 months.

The average age in the Tampa Bay locker room has shrunk to 25.58. Since the Packers were the youngest team in the NFL last season at 25.70, you can safely assume the Bucs are at least among the youngest teams in 2010, if not the youngest.

And the front office is not through with the reverse aging process.

Just in the past few days, the Bucs signed two young running backs, a rookie punter and a rookie center. At this rate, they'll probably bring up Jake McGee before the Rays do.

"We are organically building this franchise. We've got a lot of players with a lot of natural ability at a bargain price," Faine said. "I think they've built a pretty good core on the team surrounded by a few veteran leaders. We're building for the future. Now whether the future is tomorrow or the future is whenever, who knows? But that's what we're building for."

This is exactly what the Glazers wanted. And, to some degree, it is what was needed.

The Bucs had become a team that was continually in a recycling phase. This is why they were occasionally good from 2003-08, but never quite good enough. They didn't give enough young players a chance to develop, and so there was constant turnover.

What general manager Mark Dominik and head coach Raheem Morris have done is accelerate that process. They got rid of players with limited futures, and replaced them with players of limited pasts. It doesn't do much for the present, but it increases the odds for the future.

Which is how a team can go from 9-7 to 3-13 in a heartbeat.

By their very nature, young players are risky. You don't know how their potential will play out on the field, and you don't know how their personalities will develop off the field.

You have to worry if speed will translate into production. You have to wonder if strength will turn into performance. And you have to wait to see if a player is dedicated enough to put in the time necessary in the video and weight rooms.

"Those are the things you have to remind guys. This is your career, it isn't a hobby," Faine said. "The atmosphere and the mentality here is definitely changing in that direction. Coach Morris has done a great job of instilling that into the younger guys."

Still, there are no guarantees. Every rookie has potential, but very few pay off in the end. When he was managing a horrible Mets team, Casey Stengel was once asked about that sort of thing.

"I got a kid, Greg Goossen, he's 19 years old," Stengel said, "and in 10 years he's got a chance to be 29."

You can bet the Bucs have quite of few players who fall in that category.

Of those 29 new faces brought to Tampa Bay since 2009, nearly half of them were either waived, released or undrafted free agents. In other words, a bunch of other teams had already looked at them and did not see a ton of potential.

That doesn't mean the Bucs won't find a gem or two, but it probably explains why they are always at the refund counter. If you're not spending a lot of money, you have to sift through an awful lot of merchandise before finding a bargain worth keeping.

In the end, this was a necessary strategy. The Bucs had to blow up the roster before they could rebuild it.

The question is where Tampa Bay goes from here.

Have they found enough young players? Is Morris the right coach? Is Dominik the right GM? When the time is right, will the Glazers ever spend again the way they did from 1999-2002?

Yes, the Bucs have gotten younger.

Eventually, we'll know if they've gotten better.

John Romano can be reached at

Tampa Bay Buccaneers' rapid youth movement the right way to rebuild 09/07/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, September 8, 2010 7:39am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Crosstown rivals Bloomingdale-Newsome kick off season


    LITHIA — In a week filled with area football rivalries, there is a game on the east side of Hillsborough County — Bloomingdale vs. Newsome — that has matured into a classic crosstown battle, complete with classic cliches.

    Bloomingdale wide receiver Ed Amos charges through a drill a few days before the big rivalry game against Newsome on Friday night.
  2. Bucs Cannon Fodder podcast: Several key players still sidelined


    Greg Auman gives an injury update, with several key players still sidelined from practice three days before the Bucs play the Cleveland Browns in Tampa, and a full recap of your favorite scenes from Tuesday …

    Bucs wide receiver Mike Evans was held out of practice Wednesday at One Buc Place. [CHARLIE KAIJO | Times]
  3. Playoff ambitions evident in opener for Zephyrhills, Wiregrass Ranch


    WESLEY CHAPEL — A new football season in Pasco County begins Friday night, but this one promises to be like none before it — with more math than ever. A new playoff system emphasizes schedule strength, making non-district tilts particularly important.

    Wiregrass Ranch wide receiver Jordan Miner catches a pass in spring practice at Wiregrass Ranch High School in Wesley Chapel on Monday, May 1, 2017.
  4. Dirk Koetter says Bucs used team meeting to discuss social issues


    Four days before their preseason home opener against the Cleveland Browns, which had 12 players not stand for the national anthem prior to their last game, the Bucs used their team meeting to discuss social issues that might have led to that demonstration, coach Dirk Koetter said.

    "The main thing is we have to respect everybody's opinion," Dirk Koetter said, "because everybody is not going to agree." [AP photo]
  5. Rookie tight end Antony Auclair making case to stick with Bucs


    Don't let his modest preseason stats fool you: Antony Auclair, the undrafted rookie tight end from Canada is making a strong case to stick around on the Bucs' 53-man roster this season.

    Bucs tight end Antony Auclair (82) collides with a defender following a catch during training camp. [CHARLIE KAIJO   |   Times]