How this season's team is reacting to success under Jon Gruden is eerily similar to how it responded in 1998 under Tony Dungy after the breakout season of 1997. Has complacency set in? I would hope not, but I do see a team playing with a lack of discipline. Astronomical penalty yardage every game. Players missing assignments. Poor tackling. Shoddy special teams.
Also, I've heard more trash talk this season than in Dungy's entire tenure, and the Bucs have yet to really back it up. The Bucs are essentially the same team that dominated Oakland in the Super Bowl. Yes, they are dealing with season-ending injuries to a couple of key players, but the dropoff shouldn't equate to a 4-5 record.
With the division title seemingly out of reach (look at Carolina's remaining schedule), the Bucs probably need to go 6-1 for a shot at a wild card. A Herculean task, for sure. This is gut-check time, Bucs.
How does a team that has the second-best defense in the NFC, the fourth-best offense in the NFC (both in terms of yardage) and a quarterback who has thrown the most TDs in the NFL have a 4-5 record? I've watched the games and seen some of the meltdowns but to still have such high ratings? What am I missing?
I love the Bucs and Jon Gruden. Why does everyone have to put them down when they are not doing so well? Gruden will get to the bottom of the problem and bring everyone up by his bootstraps. If you want to pick a team apart, move to Philadelphia. That's what their fans do best.
The Bucs settled for playing one man short against Carolina. Who was missing? John Lynch. Despite his eagerness to get back in the game, Lynch realizes the gamble he is taking with his pinched nerve problem. His heart is big but he understands the long-term consequences. He witnessed what happened to Mike Alstott. In the NFL, 10-man teams can't win. Take the time and get well, John.
Expectation is such a dangerous word. Last season fans just hoped to get to the playoffs. Many hoped the Bucs could beat the Eagles, and then the Bucs became world champions. Hope became expectation.
As a fan, I do not feel the hits, suffer the injuries or try to perform without key players. The coaches and team say it's not an excuse, but it does come into play. Change the team, but not the expectations. Maybe the fans are expecting too much.
I was amused by the story of the Carolina fan dressed in a Panther costume who taunted Simeon Rice over the stadium's P.A. system during the fourth quarter of Sunday's game. Immediately after public chastisement, Rice played like a man possessed.
And therein lies the problem. Is this what it takes to get Rice and the rest of the team fired up? If so, then Coach Gruden needs to find a Panther costume and wear it during Sunday's game against the Packers while he derides Rice and other unmotivated Bucs over the Raymond James P.A. system.