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Time for Tampa Bay Buccaneers to accept rebuilding, not just run from it

Will safety Tanard Jackson, coming off a four-game suspension, be around long enough to see the Bucs find success again?

Times (2008)

Will safety Tanard Jackson, coming off a four-game suspension, be around long enough to see the Bucs find success again?

When it comes to the idea of rebuilding, maybe the Bucs should reconsider.

Maybe, for a change, they should embrace the idea.

For months now, the Bucs have avoided the word "rebuilding" with all the vigor of a tap dancer in a minefield. It was as if saying the word out loud meant the franchise was accepting its fate.

If the Bucs admitted they were rebuilding, they were acknowledging a lesser season was in store. If they admitted they were rebuilding, they were giving up on all those season tickets that needed reselling.

Now, four doses of misery later, it is time to appreciate what a fine, hopeful word "rebuilding" really is.

Why, that should be the new marketing plan. It could be called "ReBuccing." The Bucs could take out ads, and they could erect billboards, and they could put one of those "Reopening Soon" signs outside Raymond James Stadium. They could have the phrase printed on their business cards like "Raheem Morris, rebuilding coach" or "Mark Dominik, rebuilding general manager" or "Jim Bates, rebuilding coordinator."

Are the Bucs rebuilding? For crying out loud, let's hope so. Because when a team is 0-4, the only other choice is to sit in the rubble and wait for help.

After all, rebuilding means that, as bad as the landscape may look, something is under construction. Tomorrow is going to be better. It means a plan is going to work, and players are going to get better, and the view is going to improve.

So far, there are no signs the Bucs are rebuilding. So far, they are reliving failures. They are repeating mistakes. They are regressing and recycling and repugnant.

Look at this roster and ask yourself a simple question: How many of these players are still going to be with the team by the time the Bucs are good? Maybe Barrett Ruud, Aqib Talib, maybe Tanard Jackson on defense? A couple of more guys might work their way into that mix — Sabby Piscitelli and Geno Hayes come to mind — but they aren't there yet. Maybe Cadillac Williams, maybe Kellen Winslow, maybe three or four offensive linemen?

In other words, there are still a lot of missing pieces.

True, this is the NFL, and true, there have been a lot of teams that have gone from punch lines to playoffs in a hurry. It happens all the time, especially in the NFC South. But those sorts of teams generally don't sustain excellence. They get a few breaks, they get a little momentum, and they make a guest appearance in the postseason. Then they disappear again.

For the Bucs, the goals should be higher. If they're trying to rebuild, they should be trying to rediscover the magic of the 2002 season, when they won the Super Bowl. They should be trying to recapture the run they had from 1997 to 2002, when they made the playoffs five out of six years. They should be trying to reclaim the feeling they had in 1999 and 2000, when they had their only back-to-back seasons of 10-plus wins.

For any team, that should be the goal. To put together a string of playoff appearances. To be a bona fide Super Bowl contender.

To tell you the truth, it can take some time to get there.

Take Dallas. The Cowboys once made the playoffs 17 out of 18 seasons. Once that run failed, however, the Cowboys had six pedestrian seasons before Jimmy Johnson restored the excellence.

Take the Giants. After Bill Parcells' run was over, it took 10 seasons before New York made it back to the Super Bowl.

Take Green Bay. It took three decades from the time Vince Lombardi won his first Super Bowl until Mike Holmgren won his. At one point, the Packers went 20 years with only one 10-win season.

In other words, there are two kinds of teams in the NFL. The teams that are good and the teams that are trying to be good again.

Everyone is waiting for something. Denver is 1-4 in the playoffs since John Elway left. Washington hasn't had back-to-back winning seasons since 1996 and 1997. San Francisco, which had 16 straight seasons of winning at least 10 games, has had six straight losing seasons. And has anyone heard from the Providence Steam Roller since that title back in 1928?

Remember the Raiders, the team the Bucs beat in the Super Bowl? They've been a mess since, averaging four victories a season coming into this year. Remember the Rams? They've been awful since Mike Martz left town. Remember the Chiefs? They're ready to rethink that 1998 firing of Marty Schottenheimer.

That's the sound of the NFL, saws and hammers and talk of rebuilding. Somewhere, Attila is talking about rebuilding the Huns' attack, the Mings are going to reboot the dynasty, and, any day, the Spanish are putting that armada back together.

How do the successful teams manage to put together a second run of excellence? Or a third?

The formula is pretty easy, actually. A franchise needs the right coach, and it needs the right quarterback. Oh, it can use some other weapons — a nasty defense and a feisty offensive line, some speed at receiver and some heat from the pass rush.

Mostly, though, it needs a coach, or a quarterback, or preferably both. For instance, the Patriots, who have four Super Bowl appearances (and three wins) since 2001, have Bill Belichick and Tom Brady. The Colts, with seven straight playoff appearances, have had Tony Dungy (now Jim Caldwell) and Peyton Manning. The Steelers, who have won two of the past four Super Bowls, have Mike Tomlin and Ben Roethlisberger.

Do the Bucs have the right coach in Raheem Morris? We don't know yet.

Do the Bucs have the right quarterback in Josh Freeman? We haven't seen yet.

For the first month of the season, this has been a franchise that has spun its wheels. The offense has gotten worse. The defense is among the worst in the league. There have been changes at quarterback, kicker and coordinator.

If this is rebuilding, someone has the blueprints upside-down.

Time for Tampa Bay Buccaneers to accept rebuilding, not just run from it 10/10/09 [Last modified: Saturday, October 10, 2009 11:03pm]
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