Every year around this time, my blogging brother in crime, J-Dub of Dubsism infamy, celebrates the Super Bowl by telling you why you shouldn’t cheer for either team playing in it. He will also generally do so for the World Series, NBA and Stanley Cup Finals. Considering I’m traditionally the positive to his negative, I’m here to counter his anti-Bucs argument joyfully and explain why you should have rooted for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in this year’s Super Bowl… and why you’re beside yourself if you did.
Most of you who living within the friendly confines of the Bay, and who aren’t still hungover from the beauty of it all, will already know where I’m going with this but as a Buccaneers fan, it’s heartwarming to read over and over again. Dig, if you will, the picture. With my graciously gifted Super Bowl cap planted firmly atop by beautiful balding head, here’s why cheering for the Bucs Sunday night was the right play all along.
COACHING, GAME PLANNING AND EXECUTION
Let’s be honest. When you’re going against what’s commonly considered the best team in football, one that embarrassed you earlier in the season, you better have your ducks in a row if you’re looking for retribution.
The Buccaneers did that and more.
This Tampa Bay coaching staff deserves an enormous amount of credit for Sunday night’s win. With all the talk about how Kansas City’s Eric Bienemy was slighted for not landing a head coaching gig, the guys on the other end of the football, Byron Leftwich and Todd Bowles said “what about me?”
Once head coach of the New York Jets (and let’s be honest, who wins there), Todd Bowles is now defensive coordinator for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He was hand-picked by Bruce Arians to lead this uber-talented defense.
Anyone who’s followed the Bucs since the days of Monte Kiffin understands this franchise is built around defense. And while Tom Brady may be their quarterback, Tampa Bay draftees like Lavonte David, Devin White, Vita Vea, Antoine Winfield, Jr., Sean Murphy-Bunting, Jordan Whitehead, Carlton Davis, Jamel Dean (yes, they were all drafted by the Bucs) and free agent signees like Jason Pierre-Paul, Ndamukong Suh, Shaquille Barrett, are a load to contend with. It is no fluke that the Buccaneers were the number one rushing defense this season. This was by design. Stop the run and your opponents are forced into a singular offense, if they can score at all.
I’ve spoken ill of GM Jason Licht in the past. I take back every word I said. The man has done a spectacular job of plucking defensive talent on draft day. It showed in Raymond James Stadium on Sunday night. So not only did Bowles come up with a ridiculous game plan to quell Patrick Mahomes, he of no touchdowns, his players executed that game plan to a tee. He was held to his fewer points scored ever as a pro.
You’d be hard-pressed to find a play in which Devin White, the young leader on that offense, was not involved, physically and high speed. He finished the game with 12 tackles and would likely have won Super Bowl MVP had he not been playing on the same field as the G.O.A.T.
Offensively, this team is also loaded. They became the first team in NFL history to score 30 or more points in each of its four playoff games, those coming against the defenses of Washington, New Orleans, Green Bay and Kansas City. To go along with his defensive drafting prowess, on the other side of the football, Licht also drafted Mike Evans, Mike Godwin, Ronald Jones and picked up free agents like LeSean McCoy, “Playoff Lenny” Fournette, Antonio Brown and the one they call Gronk to put this all together. It took seventeen weeks to work out the kinks… but they did so brilliantly, with Brady all the while reminding us that the season’s “a marathon and not a sprint.”
And speaking of…
Talk to anyone who doesn’t like Tom Brady and you’ll likely, scratch that, you’ll undoubtedly hear them blurt out the word “cheater” within the first ten words of their diatribe. Call him what you want, that doesn’t change the fact that he is now the proud owner of seven Super Bowl rings. There is also the undeniable reality that as soon as Tom Brady committed to Tampa Bay, things changed.
In the early weeks of the season, it was not uncommon to see Brady jawing with his offensive linemen, most notably center Ryan Jensen whose temper would frequently get the best of him, far too often resulting in a fifteen-yard penalty. In the waning weeks of the season, these two barely skipped a beat. Thanks to Jensen and company, Brady rarely had to wash his jersey. Their protection was flawless.
When Brady announced he was coming to Tampa, I questioned his decision. I’d watched this team flounder for years. I second-guessed their talent. Clearly, Brady had watched more Bucs football than I had. Where I saw errors, he saw promise. I suppose he knows a little more about football than I do. Shocker.
I’m not going to continue to fawn over the G.O.A.T. (yes, I am… stay tuned) but if you’ve watched professional football over the last two decades, you’re familiar with his body of work. And if you’re still stuck in that whole “he’s a cheater” mentality, there’s probably no convincing you otherwise.
Instead, let’s move to the other quarterback who was supposedly to eventually out-goat the G.O.A.T.
MAHOMES WAS LONG OVERDUE FOR A WHIPPIN’
One of the most impressive statistics you’ll ever hear is that, prior to Super Bowl LV, Patrick Mahomes had never lost a game by more than a touchdown. At least not as an NFL quarterback. Even in his post-game press conference, Mahomes acknowledged Sunday was the “worst he’d been beaten in a long time.” Fortunately for him and his long-term health, he doesn’t play defenses like Tampa’s every weekend.
Mahomes is a wizard but with two of his starting offensive tackles out for the big game, the odds were favorable that Mahomes would be running for his life. And he was.
Don’t believe me? The Vegas odds makers don’t lie. Las Vegas placed odds of a Mahomes interception odds at +140. I bet it early. Considering he threw two picks in his first matchup against the Bucs, both of which were overturned by referees calls, I liked the plus number. When I looked to bet more on that prop, I found it had been bet down to +120. I still bet it. I figured he’d force bad throws… and he did.
So many of us had crowned Patrick Mahomes the next goat. And he still may be. He’s only 25 years old but on Sunday night, his team wasn’t as talented, nor as determined, from top to bottom as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. That’s why they lost.
SPEAKING OF THE CHAMPS
One year removed from missing the playoffs altogether, as they’d done their thirteen seasons prior, the Buccaneers now look like a team to be reckoned with in the near future.
From top down, ownership did most everything right to construct this team. After the Brady signing, there was no denying they were all in. After losing to the Chiefs in late November, all the Bucs did on their way to a Super Bowl victory was knock off three former Super Bowl MVPs, Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers and Patrick Mahomes, all the while allowing the Super Bowl MVP on their roster to chalk up another.
IT’S JUST A GOOD STORY
Sure, we here in Florida get a bad rap for not wearing masks, keeping businesses open when others around the nation are closed and generally doing #FloridaMan thing like dancing on the hoods of our Ford picks-ups. (Note: I drive a Hyundai.) That being said, we are not entirely backwards, present company obviously excluded.
The Buccaneers employ minority coaches, both African-American and female, where other franchises in the NFL and most other professional sports, do not. After years of wallowing in the mire, ownership had had enough. They became active in the free agent market, most notably contacting a freakishly competitive old white guy who still had a little something left in the tank. I’m not sure how many phone calls Tom Brady made to say “come play with me” but when a 43-year-old guy like that commits, you know there will be no, for lack of a better term, Tomfoolery.
Brady now has more Super Bowl rings than Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, Patrick Mahomes, Russell Wilson and Peyton Manning combined.
Sorry for your luck, America, but Tampa Bay is not only home to Tom Brady but also host to your Stanley Cup, your Lombardi Trophy and your American League pennant. We will not be characterized by a handful of drunken hoodlums who tear down and hang from street signs. Okay, so we will… but we have been trapped in our households for almost a year so what better reason to blow off a steam that celebrating a Super Bowl in our own home town.
AND SPEAKING OF OUR OWN HOME TOWN
The Bucs were the first to be first. The 2020-21 Buccaneers became to the first team to ever play in a Super Bowl they were hosting, a trivia question we fans will forever cherish. Add the fact that they were the better team on paper, had the more experienced quarterback, the more talented defense, and the more well-balanced offense and you end up with an unforeseeable 31-9 pummeling. Unforeseeable, at least, to those not wearing pewter.
Before the game, Tom Brady told us this team hadn’t played its best football yet. He was right. They saved their best for last.
They are now your Super Bowl champions and we Bucs fans couldn’t be prouder.