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Bucs-Jaguars AfterMath: Is this the turnaround we’ve been waiting for?

Tampa Bay has won consecutive games for the first time during the Bruce Arians era. Is the “two-phoria” justified? Or is it false hope?
Ndamukong Suh and the Bucs defense held the Jaguars to 11 points Sunday, the fewest points Tampa Bay has allowed in a game in more than a year. [PHELAN M. EBENHACK  |  Associated Press]
Ndamukong Suh and the Bucs defense held the Jaguars to 11 points Sunday, the fewest points Tampa Bay has allowed in a game in more than a year. [PHELAN M. EBENHACK | Associated Press]
Published Dec. 2
Updated Dec. 3

When New England fell behind 28-9 to Houston on Sunday night, the doomsayers rushed to predict the end of the Patriots dynasty.

Six Super Bowl championships in 18 seasons. Thirteen conference championship game appearances. Seventeen seasons of 10 or more wins (and that’s not even counting the one already in progress).

Times during that span they’ve been pronounced dead? Too many to count.

We never learn, do we?

At the other end of the spectrum: the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Haven’t won a playoff game since they won the Super Bowl in 2002. Haven’t been to the playoffs since 2007. Haven’t won 10 games in a season since 2010.

In New England, winning back-to-back games has been routine. In Tampa Bay, winning back-to-back games, even against lousy opponents, is cause for celebration, proof that a turnaround is imminent, if it isn’t already under way.

We never learn, do we?

MORE BUCS: Things we learned from Tampa Bay’s win over Jacksonville

Maybe this really is a turning point. Maybe it’s not.

The point is, none of us really knows. We haven’t a clue. We just want to think we know and, like the Patriots doomsayers, want to be the first to say it.

There’s certainly a case to be made, and it’s a familiar one.

1996. The “Yuckaneers” game. The Bucs are 2-8 and visiting San Diego. They’re heavy underdogs.

Derrick Brooks and Warren Sapp are in their hotel room. The TV’s tuned to ESPN. Chris Berman, previewing the day’s games, dares to ridicule the Bucs. He calls them ... the Yuckaneers. The audacity!

And that was it. Enough was enough.

Brooks, Sapp and the Bucs were so incensed that they punished the Chargers 25-17.

They went on to win three of their final five games to finish 6-10. Yuckaneers no more, the Bucs won 10 games in 1997 and reached the playoffs for the first time in 15 years.

Around here, we think that’s how turnarounds happen because, like prisoners in Plato’s Cave, that’s all we know. There just haven’t been that many in team history. Aside from the Bucs’ late 1990s/early 2000s run, they’ve been a comic tragedy (or have they been a tragic comedy?). As far as we know, football players transform into an army of Incredible Hulks when they hear television commentators make fun of them.

So maybe this is that. Maybe these Bucs are like the 1996 Bucs, a young team that struggled early during its first season under a new head coach. Maybe Devin White’s body slam of Jaguars running back Leonard Fournette was more than macho bravado. Maybe it was a declaration: We’ve arrived. We’re big boys now.

Orrrrrr …

… this is just more false hope.

There’s certainly a case to be made, and it’s a familiar one, too.

That case: all of Bucs history.

This franchise is a living and breathing representation of the “woman drinking kombucha” meme — disgust, then intrigue, then disgust again.

Remember 2016? The Bucs started 3-5 but finished 9-7. The next season, they started 2-6 and finished 5-11.

How about 2012, the last time the Bucs beat consecutive opponents by multiple scores? In fact, they won three straight games by 10 or more points. Though they finished 7-9, surely they were on the upswing.

(Narrator: They were not.)

The next season, they lost their first eight games, and coach Greg Schiano and general manager Mark Dominick ultimately were fired.

How about 2010, the last time the Bucs won 10 games? The next season, they won four.

And that 1996-97 turnaround? When we retell that story, we often skip an important detail: The Bucs stumbled at the start of the 1998 season, losing seven of their first 11 games. Progress, as it turns out, isn’t linear.

MORE BUCS: Is Sean Murphy-Bunting’s interception evidence of a new normal?

So let the debate begin: Is this the long-awaited turnaround or does a step back loom?

The answer, if we’re really honest, is that we don’t know and it’s too early to say.

That’s not to minimize the Bucs’ recent wins over the Falcons and Jaguars. It’s a promising sign that they’re thoroughly beating bad teams.

Their next test comes Sunday against a talented and well-coached Colts team that is still in the playoff hunt despite the sudden preseason retirement of their franchise quarterback.

Maybe we’ll learn something.

Contact Thomas Bassinger at Follow @tometrics.


  1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans (13) is injured after scoring a touchdown against the Indianapolis Colts this past Sunday at Raymond James Stadium. [OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times]
    ESPN reports a hamstring injury will sideline the receiver. How will his absence impact the offense?
  2. In Sunday's win, Jameis Winston finished with four passing touchdowns, one rushing touchdown, three interceptions and more than 400 passing yards. He’s the only quarterback in NFL history to hit those marks in a single game. [CHRIS O'MEARA  |  Associated Press]
    We’re talking about Tampa Bay’s grit and resilience but overlooking the reason why it fell behind in the first place: the quarterback.
  3. Quarterback Jameis Winston (3) reaches across the goal line for a touchdown during the first half of the Bucs' 38-35 win over Indianapolis Sunday in Tampa. [OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times]
    Linebacker Lavonte David lit into teammates at halftime Sunday and the Bucs rallied from a 14-point second-half deficit.
  4. Bucs receiver Mike Evans signs a Texas A&M jersey during his charity bowling event in Tampa on Monday night. Proceeds go to the Mike Evans Family Foundation, which provides college scholarships to low-income students. [EDUARDO ENCINA  |  Tampa Bay Times]
    In it’s first year of existence, the Mike Evans Family Foundation has helped send low-income students to college.
  5. The Eagles and Carson Wentz, above, overcome the Giants and Eli Manning for a home victory. [MICHAEL PEREZ  |  AP]
    Philadelphia scores the game’s final 20 points, ties Dallas for first in the NFC East.
  6. Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans (13) sustains an injury while scoring a touchdown against the Indianapolis Colts defense during the second quarter at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida on Sunday, December 8, 2019.  [OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times]
    Both players were injured in the Bucs’ home win against the Colts.
  7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston (3) celebrates as he runs off the field after an NFL football game against the Indianapolis Colts Sunday, Dec. 8, 2019, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Mark LoMoglio) [MARK LOMOGLIO  |  AP]
    The Bucs quarterback was examined by a hand specialist Monday as a precaution.
  8. The sight of Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston throwing a pass has been equal parts disaster and joy for opponents and Tampa Bay fans. Winston is second in the NFL in passing yards (with a team record 4,115) and is first in interceptions (with a career high 23). [OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times]
    John Romano’s Gimme 5 | Winston’s boom-or-bust season, Ryan Griffin’s passing debut and a special thank you to Hall of Famer John Elway.
  9. Plus, Vikings stay relevant, don’t count out the Patriots and a playoff spot for losers? All on the road to Miami Gardens
  10. Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Justin Watson (17) celebrates scoring a touchdown during the third quarter at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida on Sunday, December 8, 2019.  [OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times]
    John Romano | After a 2-6 start, the Bucs are on a hot streak. Is it enough to convince you they’re for real?