Every single team that wins a Super Bowl is special. The 2020 Tampa Bay Buccaneers are no different. The veteran quarterback furthering his quest as the greatest ever. One of the youngest secondaries in the NFL becoming one of the best. A coaching staff with three black coordinators and two full-time women coaches on staff now properly recognized as the best in the world at their craft. An investment into trench play paying off. And a city set to host the sport’s biggest game setting the stage for the team that calls it home.
All of that, and so much more, went into the Buccaneers’ 31-9 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LV. But no matter what the situation is within or surrounding a world championship team, there is one common denominator in all of them.
They believed—something that hasn’t happened in Tampa Bay in a long time.
Two years ago I remember sitting in a media chair in a big auditorium at One Buc Place waiting for the introductory press conference for new Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians. Arians last coached as the Arizona Cardinals’ head coach in 2017 before retiring due to health reasons. He was one of the older head coaches at the time anyway, but anyone who watched his goodbye to his team after his final game saw that it was tough for him to believe that it was truly his last game. As it turns out, the situation in Tampa Bay was enough to get him to put on the Kangol coaching hat one more time.
When Arians stood up at that podium, what he said didn’t catch me as much as how he said it. He said things so matter of factly, so confidently. Almost as if he was throwing the word “duh” in his answers with how he answered them. The questions to him were simply about how to win. At the time, the Buccaneers franchise was one of the worst in the NFL since their Super Bowl era in the early 2000s. There weren’t many media members in attendance who remember what winning was even like. The way they asked their questions about winning made it seem like it was almost asking “how do you do the impossible?” when asking “how do you plan to win in Tampa Bay?”
Arians couldn’t have been more confident in his answers of not just how to win, but expecting to win. I remember how foreign that tone felt to hear.
Fast forward to last March and the Buccaneers became the center of the football world when they signed quarterback Tom Brady in free agency. Just two months prior, the Buccaneers were at the forefront of quarterback conversations around the league, but for the wrong reasons.
The Buccaneers’ franchise quarterback, at the time, Jameis Winston had just thrown his 30th interception in dramatic fashion to end the Buccaneers’ season on a pick-six. For the five previous seasons, coaches, players, and front office members told us they believe the team could win with Winston. They told people they had confidence in him, that he could get them where they wanted to go, and that they could build a winner with him.
You heard that, but you rarely believed it.
When Brady came in, it was as if you had that Arians press conference feeling coming, not just from Brady, but from the players. Throughout that Buccaneers roster, young and old, they now had the greatest quarterback of all time on their side. That was enough for each player to believe that if they did their job right, the man next to them would do the same, and the man next to him… all giving them hope that if enough of them did it, and it led back to Brady, Brady would get them there.
And he did—and they did.
But I don’t want to sit here and oversimplify the work that was done to diminish how incredible it was.
On the coaching staff, Todd Bowles was masterful in his defensive adjustments against the Chiefs the second time around. For a team that gave up 200 receiving yards and 17 points in just one quarter to this same team in this same stadium just two months prior, to hold Patrick Mahomes to his lowest quarterback rating of any game of his career thus far was truly incredible. The baseline of two-deep coverages to force Mahomes to take everything underneath or scramble on a hurt toe proved to be effective early on. As the game went on, the Buccaneers’ mix of four-man rushes and well-timed blitzes kept the Chiefs’ banged-up offensive line guessing and kept Mahomes out of the pocket all night. They learned from their coverage and front woes from their last defeat, and they adjusted perfectly.
The same can be said for offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich. After a first half of the season which seemed to paint Leftwich in a light where he just didn’t have a feel for the team and the new quarterback, the Buccaneers’ offense was unstoppable after their late bye week—and only got better and better as the season went on, and into the playoffs. The utilization of play-action down the stretch became a staple for their ball movement. They had a good mix of their two backs, and their personnel groupings kept Brady clean, and the built-in deep shots forced Kansas City’s cornerbacks to get over-aggressive if they had any chance of keeping up with Tampa Bay’s weapons one-on-one. It all proved to be too much for the Chiefs’ defense.
Leonard Fournette was the one-year contract that gave the Buccaneers the experience they needed at running back. Rob Gronkowski was the extra juice that took a receiving group to a championship level. Tristan Wirfs and Antoine Winfield Jr. were the rookies that stepped up to become stars, a strong part of the recipe for the timing of championship teams.
I could go on and on. After all, this Buccaneers team is special, and it will be remembered as such. But at the core of what made it so special, is a group of men that taught the locker room, the franchise, and the city how to believe in their football team once again.
- Aug 22, 2022
- Aug 22, 2022