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Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but the Bucs just ruined another fine Sunday afternoon

John Romano: Expectations were high with new coach Bruce Arians in charge, but Tampa Bay blundered its way to a 31-17 loss to San Francisco.
This is pretty much all you need to know about Sunday's 31-17 loss to San Francisco. This is 49ers cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon (23) heading into the endzone with the second interception returned for a touchdown against Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston. [DIRK SHADD | Times]
Published Sep. 9
Updated Sep. 9

TAMPA — The sophisticated football fan will see this for what it was.

The first steps of a season-long journey that will cross months, time zones, and an ocean. It was one loss, nothing more. You pick up the pieces and plan for better days.

The long-suffering Buccaneers fan will see this 31-17 season-opening loss to San Francisco in a slightly different way.

PHOTO GALLERY: The Bucs season opener in pictures

As an omen.

A portent.

A validation of every fantasy-killing, Sunday-wrecking, soul-diminishing anxiety this franchise has nurtured for too many years.

Good gosh, this is what we’ve been waiting for since January? This is what the new regime has wrought? This is the advice Quarterback Whisperer Bruce Arians has been giving Jameis Winston?

Because the Bucs didn’t just lose a football game, they gave it away. They gift-wrapped it in the first half, and when that wasn’t enough, Winston air-mailed it in the second half.

Let’s see:

Three interceptions, two touchdowns negated by penalties, three fumbles, a blocked punt and no encore from Tim McGraw’s opening concert.

Is it fair to say the Bucs beat themselves?”

“You saw the game, right,’’ guard Alex Cappa said. “I think you can answer that yourself.’’

He’s right. The problem is context. We are drowning in it.

For a dozen years, this franchise has majored in heartache. With minors in heartburn and headaches. And every three years or so, the owners take a sledgehammer to the old business model.

A new regime comes in, and the community gets excited about different philosophies, different faces and a different energy. That’s what Arians was supposed to do.

He is the quarterback guru who was going to take Winston to a new maturity, and he was going to obliterate the losing attitude with as many compound expletives as necessary.

And then Sunday happened against the 49ers.

“We’ve got to stop beating ourselves,’’ said tackle Demar Dotson. “If we do a better job of not beating ourselves, we might start beating other people.’’

All of this might explain why ownership felt it necessary to begin the season with a concert by McGraw two hours before the game. It was a peace offering. A way to invite fans back to Raymond James Stadium. And even that had mixed results.

The announced attendance on Sunday was 55,976, which was only slightly higher than last year’s average attendance. And last year’s average attendance was Tampa Bay’s worse since the recession-ravaged season of 2010.

In other words, fans might be growing tired of promises.

And they had a right to expect more on Sunday. Let’s not forget the 49ers have been the West Coast version of the Bucs in recent years. They’ve changed coaches, changed quarterbacks and had four consecutive seasons with 10 losses or more.

For crying out loud, they had not won a game in the Eastern Time Zone in five years.

“We can’t beat ourselves,’’ said linebacker Devin White. “We’ve got to be disciplined.’’

Are you sensing a common thread here?

Oh, maybe we’re being too harsh. That’s one of the problems with a season opener. You’ve waited so long, and put so much hope into its arrival, you tend to overstate its significance. So try not to extrapolate too much from this mess.

Winston will be sharper over 16 games.

The offense will have better days.

And, despite his opening game average, Dotson will not wipe out 32 touchdowns with penalties.

It’s just that every step forward seems to lead to two interceptions returned backward.

It’s true, the Bucs have time to fix this mess. And they have the talent to get it done.

Whether Tampa Bay fans have the faith to wait it out is another story.

John Romano can be reached at Follow @romano_tbtimes.


  1. Bucs linebacker Shaquil Barrett (58) sacked San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo (10) during the second quarter of the season opener at Raymond James Stadium. Barrett has all four of the team's sacks this season. MONICA HERNDON  |  Times
    With Jason Pierre-Paul injured, the Bucs needed a stalwart at outside linebacker. Barrett has provided that with four sacks in the team’s first two games.
  2. FILE - In this Aug. 6, 2014, file photo, Tim Tebow answers a question during a interview on the set of ESPN's new SEC Network in Charlotte, N.C. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton, File) NY161
    The former Florida Gators quarterback was passionate in his reasoning for why student-athletes shouldn’t make money. It didn’t sit well with many in the media, including other ESPN employees.
  3. Because of Derrius Guice's knee injury, Chris Thompson is likely to see his role in Washington's backfield increase. STEPHEN B. MORTON  |  Associated Press
    Matthew Stafford, Chris Thompson and Mecole Hardman are free agents that are worth a spot on your roster.
  4. Second-year Dolphins safety Minkah Fitzpatrick, a No. 1 pick, greets fans before Miami gets routed by the Ravens in the season opener. BRYNN ANDERSON  |  AP
    If a promising young talent bails on an already-rebuilding team, repercussions won’t be good.
  5. Buccaneers tight end O.J. Howard (80) reacts after a pass intended for him is intercepted during the second quarter of the team's game against the 49ers in the team's season opener. MONICA HERNDON  |  Times
    Coach Bruce Arians has a message for O.J. Howard: play better.
  6. Bucs linebacker Shaquil Barrett (58) sacks the Panthers' Cam Newton during the second half Thursday, Sept. 12, 2019. MIKE MCCARN  |  AP
    The Bucs’ victory Thursday night continues the trend when it comes to the league’s 2015 MVP: He’s not running, and he’s no longer Superman.
  7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians reacts on during the second half of an NFL football game against the Carolina Panthers in Charlotte, N.C., Friday, Sept. 13, 2019. BRIAN BLANCO  |  AP
    The Panthers’ final drive Thursday night against the Bucs was extended by a questionable spot that many took note of on national TV.
  8. In five of his past six games against the Bucs, Panthers quarterback Cam Newton has failed to register a passer rating greater than 70. He completed less than half of his passes Thursday night in Carolina's 20-14 loss. MIKE MCCARN  |  Associated Press
    The true difference-maker Thursday: The relentless blitzes of defensive coordinator Todd Bowles exposed quarterback Cam Newton.
  9. Bucs linebacker Kevin Minter (51) and defensive tackle Vita Vea (50) wrap up Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey in Thursday night's game. Part of the Bucs' stellar effort involved limiting McCaffrey to 37 yards rushing on 16 carries. BRIAN BLANCO  |  AP
    Tampa Bay has allowed only one touchdown in two games this season
  10. Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Devin White (45) works against the San Francisco 49ers during the second half an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 8, 2019, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara) CHRIS O'MEARA  |  AP
    Bruce Arians hasn’t ruled White out for the Bucs’ next game on Sept. 22 against the Giants.