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Next for the Bucs: Tanking (just don’t call it that)

Why the Bucs’ last eight games matter: It’s time to stop thinking about wins and losses and time to start thinking about “asset collection and evaluation.”
Tanking feels wrong. So let's call it something else. [Associated Press]
Published Nov. 9
Updated Nov. 9

“Tanking” is such a dirty word. But that doesn’t mean the Buccaneers shouldn’t do it.

Before you fire off an email that cites Herm Edwards and his legendary “You play to win the game” rant, hear me out: Tampa Bay has tanked before. The Bucs have played to not win the game. You remember what happened in their 2014 finale, don’t you? A refresher, courtesy of Mike Evans, one of the NFL’s fiercest competitors: “The whole second half I didn’t play. They just pulled me. I was gassed.”

“Gassed.” Gotcha. Wink, wink.

It’s time to face the truth the organization has avoided since January: The playoffs aren’t happening. It has been nearly 50 years since a team overcame a 2-6 start to make the playoffs (the 1970 Bengals).

Wins this season don’t matter. In fact, they’re harmful.

To be clear, I’m not suggesting the Bucs should lose on purpose. I’m merely suggesting that winning shouldn’t be the No. 1 priority.

Before I get to what they should do, we have a word problem to solve. Presentation matters. The NBA understands that. That’s how “load management” became a popular phrase. “Rest” triggers people, especially fans paying good money to see their favorite players.

With that in mind, I suggest we strike “tanking” from our vocabulary. The point of the next eight games isn’t to win as many games as possible or to establish a culture. Wins won’t carry over to next season, and there’s no guarantee, especially if there’s a lot of coach and player turnover, that the culture will either. Nor is the point of the next eight games to lose as many games as possible. No, the next eight games are about … “asset collection and management.”

It’s the perfect justification, besides poor performance, for benching Vernon Hargreaves, who has allowed a 113.3 passer rating. Or for benching Ndamukong Suh, who has been outplayed by William Gholston and might not be back next season anyway. Or for cutting Breshad Perriman, whom the Bucs keep trying to make their No. 3 receiver despite having a better option in O.J. Howard. Or for allowing defensive coordinator Todd Bowles to blitz 100 percent of the time instead of just 75 percent. The organization’s focus needs to be the players who might help it win games in the future, not the present.

If Tampa Bay loses a game or two or eight, well, then so be it. The reward: higher positioning in the 2020 NFL draft. The Bucs could choose to keep those picks, or they could trade them for more picks.

I’ve heard the counterargument: Tampa Bay might as well win because the draft doesn’t matter. The Bucs will find a way to screw it up. That’s actually an argument in favor of adding draft capital. They need more swings at the piñata, not fewer.

No one’s guaranteed tomorrow, but while we’re here, shouldn’t we consider how to make tomorrow better even if we might not around to benefit from it?

Contact Thomas Bassinger at Follow @tometrics.


  1. Cornerback Sean Murphy-Bunting (26) is part of a young core of defensive backs the Bucs hope will solve their long-running pass defense problems. MONICA HERNDON  |  Times
    John Romano: Could Sean Murphy-Bunting and the young Bucs finally be the answer?
  2. Tampa Bay Buccaneers cornerback Vernon III Hargreaves kneels in the end zone after a Nov. 13 loss to the Seattle Seahawks. He was cut by the Bucs and picked up by the Texans. JOHN FROSCHAUER  |  AP
    A day after the Bucs release the former first-round pick, he finds a home.
  3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers cornerback Ryan Smith, seen here celebrating after breaking up a pass during a preseason game against the Miami Dolphins, was dismayed that fellow cornerback Vernon Hargreaves was released by the Bucs. MONICA HERNDON  |  Times
    The reaction to the release of the former 2016 first-round pick ranged from dismay to acceptance.
  4. Bucs punter Bradley Pinion (8) and his wife, launched their "Punts for Pups" program in partnership with the Hillsborough County Pet Resource Center where they'll sponsor a dog for every punt he kicks within the 20-yard line. MONICA HERNDON  |  Tampa Bay Times
    The Buccaneers punter and his wife will cover the fees of adopting a dog at the shelter every time he drops a punt inside the 20.
  5. Nearly 40 high school teams, including Durant and Sickles, and more than 1,000 girls participated in the Bucs inaugural flag football tournament earlier this year. Now the team has created an academic scholarship fund for girls who play.
    The team’s foundation has created a national scholarship fund for girls who play football.
  6. Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Ronald Jones II (27) enters the field at Raymond James Stadium before the start of the game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday, November 10, 2019, at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa. DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Last week’s game at Raymond James was the lowest-attended Bucs game in the stadium’s history. What’s your take on dwindling attendance?
  7. Vernon Hargreaves was the Bucs' first-round pick in the 2016 NFL draft. On Tuesday, the Bucs released him. ALLIE GOULDING  |  Times
    Rick Stroud: He didn’t hustle and they didn’t want to be hustled
  8. Linebacker Whitney Mercilus (59) and the Houston Texans will play the Bucs at Raymond James Stadium on Saturday, Dec. 21. ERIC CHRISTIAN SMITH  |  AP
    The league previously left the game’s date and time undetermined.
  9. Seahawks receiver Tyler Lockett runs past Bucs cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III in a game earlier this month. Before being released by the team Tuesday, Hargreaves produced one interception, four passes defensed and 39 tackles in nine games. SCOTT EKLUND  |  AP
    With the team releasing Vernon Hargreaves, only one of the seven players selected by Tampa Bay remains on the current roster
  10. Tampa Bay Buccaneers cornerback Vernon III Hargreaves (28) on the field during warmups before the Bucs game against the San Francisco 49ers at Raymond James Stadium on September 8, 2019 in Tampa, FL. DIRK SHADD  |  Times
    Tampa Bay selected the former Florida Gators and Wharton High star with the 11th overall pick in the 2016 NFL draft.