© St. Petersburg Times, published September 6, 2002
More questions than answers?
There's no question that new Buccaneers coach Jon Gruden is going to juice up the offense. But this is not a team without holes. The offensive line is most suspect, and the best thing that may happen to it is Michael Pittman, a potential 1,200-yard rusher if he stays healthy. The defense has the All-Pro players in Warren Sapp, Derrick Brooks and John Lynch -- and Simeon Rice was even better than expected in 2001 -- but is it a dominating unit, week in and week out? That's a question, not an answer.
-- Chris Mortensen, ESPN, who picks the Bucs to win the NFC South
With the improvements to the offense, Tampa Bay could go deep into the playoffs if its perennially strong defense retains its place as one of the league's best -- and tackle Warren Sapp gets more than the paltry six sacks he had last year.
-- Paul "Dr. Z" Zimmerman, Sports Illustrated, which picks the Bucs to go 13-3 but lose to the Rams in the NFC Championship
Don't be surprised if the Buccaneers grab the No. 1 (seed) in the NFC due to their weak division. The Buccaneers problems in recent years have dealt with their play at the beginning of the season, (so) a fast start by the Bucs could put the division away early. Spots Nos. 2-4 (in the NFC South) are up in the air and anybody could get them. This could be a very strong division in a few years.
-- D.J. Boyer, Football.com, who picks the Bucs to win the NFC South but not reach the Super Bowl
The Bucs' price for (Jon) Gruden was even higher than his five-year, $17.5-million contract. Not only did the Bucs trade four high draft picks to the Raiders ... but they will also pay Davis $8-million. ... With a crippled draft, Gruden retooled the offense through free agency, signing Arizona running back Michael Pittman, Colts tight end Ken Dilger, Giants receiver Joe Jurevicius and Jets guard Kerry Jenkins.
Now all Gruden has to do is lead the Bucs to the Super Bowl.
-- Athlon Sports Pro Football, which picks the Bucs to win the NFC South but not reach the NFC Championship
If his lack of sleep can cure a lack of touchdowns, (Jon) Gruden's mission could satisfy Tampa Bay fans grown weary of (Tony) Dungy's offensive ways. Though Dungy changed coordinators and quarterbacks with alarming frequency, the style and the results always remained about the same -- minimal.
-- Street & Smith's Pro Football, which picks the Bucs to win the NFC South.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers should be stiff competition for the Saints (in the NFC South). Their defense has declined a tick the last couple of years, but should remain in the league's top 10. The offense will be improved from the additions of Jon Gruden, Michael Pittman, Keenan McCardell, etc. However, it may take time for everybody to get on the same page. We expect a possible slow start due to this. If they're able to be cohesive early and get off to a good start, the Bucs should have every opportunity to win this division.
No team benefitted more from realignment than Tampa Bay, which gets rid of the Packers and Bears and welcomes the likes of Atlanta, New Orleans and Carolina. The Bucs can praise their opposition all they want, but then they should win the NFC South in a walk. The most important newcomer is Jon Gruden, considered an offensive mastermind, something the Bucs haven't had since, well, forever. His plan is for the offense to make the job easier for the defense by controlling the ball, scoring points and tiring out opponents.
-- Barry Wilner, Associated Press