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It’s a time of hope in the NFL, but do the Bucs deserve it?

John Romano: Fool me once, shame on me. Fool me 11 times, shame on the Bucs.
Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians is just the latest in a long line of coaching saviors who have tried to bring the postseason back to Tampa Bay. MONICA HERNDON   |   Times
Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians is just the latest in a long line of coaching saviors who have tried to bring the postseason back to Tampa Bay. MONICA HERNDON | Times
Published Jul. 23, 2019

TAMPA — This is it, Buccaneer fans. The week you’ve all been waiting for.

Veterans report to training camp on Thursday, the season hits its peak on Friday, and we start dreaming of the 2020 NFL draft by Saturday. Don’t forget selfies for the scrapbook.

Oh, I’m sorry, did that feel rushed?

I suppose it’s just force of habit. You see enough seasons begin with a September expiration date and you learn to plan accordingly.

Related: MORE BUCS: Devin White mourns the loss of 'Daisy Mae'

Yes, I know there’s a new head coach, and a new defensive coordinator. There’s an exciting new rookie at middle linebacker and a new beginning for the franchise quarterback.

But there’s also a lot of old wounds.

You might recall, we’ve been on this new-coach highway before. Let’s see, Raheem Morris was fresh, Greg Schiano was tough, Lovie Smith was proven and Dirk Koetter was, well, available.

And between them, they averaged 5.5 wins a season.

That’s not mean, that’s reality. The Bucs have not been to the playoffs in 11 consecutive seasons which is darned hard to do. Statistically, it’s almost impossible to blunder that consistently.

Look at it this way:

Twelve teams make the NFL playoffs every season. That means, theoretically, each team has a 37.5 percent chance every single season. So, if I’m using my exponents calculator correctly, a team’s odds of making the playoffs at least once in 11 years comes in around 99.5 percent.

Which sounds right because, during the last 11 seasons, 93.7 percent of the NFL’s 32 teams have at least one playoff appearance. The unlucky longshots? The Bucs and Browns. And lots of NFL experts expect Cleveland to turn the corner in 2019.

So, yeah, don’t feel guilty about being cynical this morning.

You’ve earned your skepticism, one crappy season at a time.

Now, is there a chance 2019 might be different?

Absolutely.

Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston (3) will start his fifth season in Tampa Bay with his third head coach. DIRK SHADD | Times

New coach Bruce Arians has a lengthy resume of success in the NFL, and he is exactly the kind of offensive mind who could unlock Jameis Winston’s considerable potential.

The Bucs wisely focused their draft on a defense that was among the worst anyone has ever seen in Tampa Bay, and so some degree of improvement is practically guaranteed.

There’s also the question of being somewhat unlucky in 2018. The Bucs lost seven games by eight points or less, which suggests they were a few breaks away from having a much more respectable record.

Add all of that up, and you can make a case for a playoff game in January.

But here’s the problem:

We’ve heard all of this before.

The 2012 Bucs also lost seven games by eight points or less and were coming off a 7-9 record. They seemed like the perfect candidates to flip their record around and challenge for a division title. Instead, they went 4-12 and Schiano was fired.

The 2016 Bucs rallied to a 9-7 finish with the offensive-minded Koetter whispering in Winston’s ear, and it seemed like the dawn of something special. Instead, the Bucs won a total of 10 games during the next two seasons and Koetter was fired.

Related:

The truth is, this is the time of year when the NFL sells hope.

Sometimes it’s real and sometimes it’s concocted, but most towns have seen enough good days to believe anything is possible in the parity-driven NFL.

We, on the other hand, have come to view hope as a four-letter word.

Accepting the heartache of a minus-18 turnover ratio, or a quarterback following a suspension with a benching, or top draft picks sitting on the bench, is much easier when you don’t have high expectations in the first place.

So let them be stoked in Kansas City and pumped in New Orleans. Let them start saving money for playoff tickets in Indianapolis and clearing their schedules in Chicago.

As for Tampa Bay, we will do it our way:

Cynically.

Sarcastically.

And suspicious of hope.

John Romano can be reached at jromano@tampabay.com. Follow @romano_tbtimes.

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. San Francisco 49ers running back Raheem Mostert, who finishes with 220 yards rushing and four TDs, breaks away from the Green Bay Packers during the first half of their NFC Championship Game on Sunday, Jan. 19, 2020, in Santa Clara, Calif. [TONY AVELAR  |  AP]
    Little-known Raheem Mostert, a former skateboarder-turned-surfer-turned-football player out of New Smyrna Beach High, has a historic game, rushing for 220 yards and four touchdowns.
  2. Kansas City Chiefs receiver Tyreek Hill catches a touchdown pass in front of Tennessee Titans defensive back Logan Ryan during the first half of the AFC Championship Game on Sunday, Jan. 19, 2020, in Kansas City, Mo. [CHARLIE RIEDEL  |  AP]
    KC falls behind once again, this time 10-0, before rallying in the AFC Championship Game.
  3. East quarterback James Morgan, of Florida International University, (12) during the first half of the East West Shrine football game Saturday. [CHRIS O'MEARA  |  AP]
    Morgan, who leads his East team to a pair of touchdowns, raises his draft stock as do a few others the Bucs should keep an eye on.
  4. Jason Garrett had success against the Giants as Cowboys coach. Now he will face Dallas as New York's new offensive coordinator. [RON JENKINS  |  AP]
    The recently fired Dallas Cowboys coach stays in the NFC East.
  5. Steve Young was a supplemental draft pick of the Bucs in 1984 and started 19 games for Tampa Bay in 1985 and 1986 before he was traded to the 49ers for a pair of draft picks in 1987. THE ASSOCIATED PRESS [Tampa Bay Times]
    The Hall of Fame quarterback played two seasons with Tampa Bay before winning a Super Bowl with the 49ers
  6. A Super Bowl matchup involving former Buccaneers great John Lynch, left, and the San Francisco 49ers and Ryan Tannehill, right, and the Tennessee Titans could be tough to stomach for Tampa Bay Buccaneers fans. [Associated Press/DIRK SHADD | Times]
    Rick Stroud | For a lot of reasons, including gifting wins to both teams and GMs who got away, this would be a bad match up for Tampa Bay.
  7. Miami LB Shaquille Quarterman (55) during drills for the East-West Shrine Game at Tropicana Field on Monday. [DIRK SHADD  |  Tampa Bay Times]
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  8. Todd Monken spent two seasons in Tampa Bay, the last as offensive coordinator, before being dismissed along with the rest of head coach Dirk Koetter's staff after the 2018 season.
    Tampa Bay’s former play-caller will be designing game plans for the Bulldogs against the Florida Gators next season.
  9. San Francisco 49ers general manager John Lynch before an NFL divisional playoff football game against the Minnesota Vikings on Jan. 11. [TONY AVELAR  |  AP]
    The former Bucs and Broncos safety has his team one win from the Super Bowl.
  10. Florida receiver Josh Hammond (18) on the field during practice for the East-West Shrine Game at Tropicana Field on Monday. [DIRK SHADD  |  Tampa Bay Times]
    Plus Plant High product Jake Fruhmorgen’s journey from Clemson to UF to Baylor to the East-West Shrine Game.
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