TAMPA – The Buccaneers have already been pegged in some circles as the team most likely to end its playoff drought this year. Listen to coach Dirk Koetter, though, and you get the sense he believes it’s way too soon to be talking about this Bucs team in that way.
Koetter certainly isn’t knocking his team. He said on Tuesday this is by far the “deepest’’ and “most talented’’ Bucs squad he’s been a part of. He also cautioned that it’s a team that still needs lots of polishing if it hopes to shine the way some believe it should.
“It all (looks) good on paper,’’ Koetter said Tuesday of the Bucs roster in the wake of the team’s first OTA workout at One Buc Place. “But from watching practice, I don’t think anyone is going to walk away and pencil us in for the Super Bowl.
“It’s a long road and everybody’s doing a lot of talking right now, but there are 31 other teams out there that have been getting better this offseason as well. We’ve just got to keep our head down and keep chipping away right now.’’
Koetter isn’t the only one tapping the brakes on all of this playoff talk. Wide receiver DeSean Jackson, who like Koetter speaks from nearly a decade of NFL experience, agrees that any team, especially a relatively young one like the Bucs, has to be wary of such talk at this time of year.
“I look at it as you can’t peak too soon,’’ Jackson said. “You have to go through every phase and right now it’s May, so the guys here in this locker room, they can’t be thinking that we’re going to be playing in February right now.
“Yeah, it’s good for the guys to think like that, but you can’t forget the steps you have to go through to get there. You look back at all the great teams like the Patriots, they do things in phases. They take it one game at a time.
“So we can’t be here before even the preseason games start (saying) ‘Let’s think about Week 16.’ You have to prepare each step of the way. I think being a guy in my position, going on 10 years in the league and having had a lot of experience, that’s the biggest thing I can say.
“I’ve been on some great teams. Everyone has to know what’s at stake, what it takes every step of the way. You can’t cheat your way to a Super Bowl. You’ve got to put the work in. As long as everyone knows that and is not shying away from the work to get it done, I think we’ll be fine.’’
Well said. Clearly, Koetter and Jackson are not trying to dampen anyone’s enthusiasm here. They’re just trying inject a little reality into the situation as a reminder that adding few new pieces to the puzzle doesn’t automatically make a team a playoff contender
Bucs fans should know that as well as anyone. A year ago, the Bucs were in the very same mix they are now, projected right along with the Raiders, Bills, Jaguars, Jets and Giants to end their long playoff droughts.
In the end, though, only the Raiders and Giants played up to those lofty projections and once they got to the playoffs, neither one of lasted past the first round. Just something to keep in mind going forward.