In the NFL, numbers often do not tell the entire story. For instance, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers currently sit in last place in the NFC South. However, things in Tampa appear to be on the up and up.
One of the underlying storylines in the NFL heading toward the halfway mark is how the Bucs, led by rookie quarterback Jameis Winston and head coach Lovie Smith, are righting the ship in Tampa.
Remember after Winston’s first game against another former Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota, when some declared that he was a bust while Mariota’s strong performance supposedly put him on the fast track to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
The old saying, “It’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon,” applied here.
For those clamoring for the Bucs to fire Lovie Smith on here...the Glazers are still paying Greg Schiano through 2016.— JennaLaineBucs (@JennaLaineBucs) October 27, 2015
Jameis Winston's last 3 games:707 yards, 5 TD, 0 INT#RookieOfTheYear— Ryan Stalder (@RyanStalder12) November 1, 2015
Jameis Winston has only played 2 bad games this season. The media was bussin mad nuts after Mariota's first game, but Jameis can't get that?— Dayne OTFYL (@itsablackguy) October 30, 2015
At this point in time, the Bucs have the right man leading the charge. In Chicago, where Smith once led the Bears to the Super Bowl, many of his players openly expressed their love for him. Some veteran players were observed crying when they got word of his firing. Many of them believed they had let Smith down.
One of the things that often dogged Smith throughout his tenure in Chicago was that he appeared not to show any emotion. Since Smith wasn’t the fiery Mike Ditka, who often wore his emotions on his sleeve, fans often thought Smith didn’t care. However, that wasn’t the case. These days the current group of Buccaneers are starting to see what the Bears players saw in Smith way back when. Smith wasn’t only a coach, he was a father figure. A young team, and especially a quarterback with a history of being a knucklehead, could use such as calming influence.
“Except for three games this year, we’ve been in every one. So I think true football fans can see that we are on the verge,” Lovie told WDAE-AM 620. “We have built a foundation. We’re not there yet. But in time we will win football games around here, and win a lot of football games. Going through tough times like this, going through adversity like we’re doing, it’s making us stronger.”
After losing to the Washington Redskins, a game in which they basically blew a 24-0 lead and Winston threw for almost 300 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions, Smith stayed the course by reminding the Tampa faithful that the team is still a work in progress:
“I know it’s a lot, but we’re just asking you to stay with us,” Smith said on Monday with the Buccaneers Radio Network, via JoeBucsFan.com. “I mean, your team was up 24-0 and we didn’t get the job done, but eventually we’re going to get over that hump.”
Last week, they took a step in the right direction with a 23-20 road victory over the Falcons. And Winston, who ended his streak of becoming the first player in NFL history to throw for over 200 yards in his first six games, has now gone three straight games without throwing an interception, tossing four TDs in the process.
Additionally, with Smith and Winston being African-American, they know that they’ll always be under heavy scrutiny; but they are in the right place as the Bucs have a history of being trailblazers at those positions, with guys like Doug Williams, Shaun King, Tony Dungy and Raheem Morris to name a few.
Even though the aforementioned produced mixed results, the current regime deserves to be given time to build a successful foundation in Tampa. After all, they're playing hard every week, responding to Lovie's system and Winston has avoided the type of trouble that haunted him at Florida State.
If Lovie and Jameis are going to be ripped for making mistakes, they should be celebrated if things start to go in the right direction.
Maybe some people don’t like Winston because of how his legal situation was handled. Maybe they don’t believe that Smith is a good coach.
No matter how you look at it, things are going the right direction in Tampa.