TAMPA ― The first time quarterbacks coach Clyde Christensen joined the Bucs staff, the team had not posted a winning record in 13 years.
After starting 1-8, Tony Dungy’s inaugural 1996 team won five of its final seven games. The next season, the Bucs went 10-6, earning their first of four postseason appearances in five years, while beating the Detroit Lions in the NFC wildcard. So Christensen is not discouraged by the Bucs’ 11-year playoff drought.
He believes a turnaround will happen again.
“It was really special to do it the first time,’’ Christensen said. “We came in here with coach Dungy his first year and I think it had been (14) straight years without a winning season. So it was really special. I went out with Ronde Barber the other day and just talking you know, it was special to build something.
"We hadn’t won. The city got excited. We got a new stadium. They started filling the stadium. I mean, the whole thing was really special. And the perspective I can bring is, hey, I’ve seen it done before. And it’s a heck of a lot fun and it’s worth it. Is it hard work? It’s a ton of work. But it can be done and it’s a blast doing it and it’s special when you do it. So, I do bring that perspective.''
After failing to reach the Super Bowl, Dungy and his offensive staff were fired after the 2001 season. The next year, Jon Gruden won Super Bowl XXXVII.
“On the lighter side, I remember when I got here everybody goes, ‘Hey, if you ever had a winning season, you could be here the rest of your lives,'’ Christensen said. "Then about five years and a few playoff appearances later, if we don’t win the Super Bowl, we’re going to have to change things out around here. So it’s no different than any other town. Those expectations rise fast.
"But I’ve seen this town. I’ve seen this town light up for football. I’ve seen that stadium light up. I’ve seen some big games in that stadium and that’s where we’re headed. We’re going to do it again and it’s pretty neat. It’s pretty neat stuff to be a part of that. That’s special, really special. I think this will be special. It’s a bunch of young guys and they want to win. I love our staff. I think it’s really a tight staff. I think seven or eight of us were together in 1982 on Broad Street in downtown Philly grinding out wins on a brutal schedule. There’s a comfort for me being here with the Glazers that’s fun and relaxing to me. And now you stick in some young players and let’s do it again.’’
Of course, it doesn’t mean the turnaround will happen overnight. The Bucs are coming off back to back 5-11 seasons. But Arians has said this is the best offensive talent he has ever inherited.
“The first time we were in those old uniforms and we were a bad football team,’’ said Christensen, who won a Super Bowl with Dungy in Indianapolis. “I think we started 1-8 or something. Then all of a sudden, you kept doing the right thing and it will turn around. You just keep putting good football out there, the thing will turn. We’ve just got to play good football.’’
Contact Rick Stroud at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @NFLStroud