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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs will face two former head coaches at once Sunday

Florida Football Insiders

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Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

On the surface, the Bucs matchup with the Falcons that has both teams sitting at 3 – 7 doesn’t appear to have a lot of intrigue or subplots However, it is history-making for Tampa Bay and for their opponent.

That’s because, for the first time In franchise history the Bucs will go against a team that has two of their former head coaches on the opposing sideline at the same time.

Atlanta offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter (above) was previously Tampa Bay’s head coach from 2016 – 2018. He was fired at the end of last season after back-to-back 5 – 11 finishes. Koetter has returned to Atlanta, where he was the offensive coordinator prior to coming to the Buccaneers in the same role in 2015.

The Falcons offense had been struggling, as the team began the year 1-7, but has come on strong the last two weeks behind perennial Pro Bowl QB, Matt Ryan.

And, Tampa Bay will see another one of their former coaches, Raheem Morris, on Sunday in Atlanta, too. Morris  has been switched in midseason to the new secondary coach for the Falcons. He had been serving as the wide receivers coach for the past few seasons under coach, Dan Quinn.

The move has already paid off, as Atlanta’s secondary has seen improved play, as has the defense overall, in back-to-back victories at New Orleans and that Carolina. In those two games since the switch was made, Atlanta has not allowed a touchdown in either.

Morris was the Bucs head coach from 2009 – 11 and is the last coach to have a 10-win season for Tampa Bay. That came in 2010 when the Buccaneers finished 10 – 6. Greg Schiano, and Lovie Smith were both fired after two losing Seasons at the helm. Then, Koetter actually had a winning season at 9 -7 in 2016, but then the team regressed.

For his part, the new Falcons offensive coordinator said to the media this week that he will approach this game with his most recent team, as just any other game. And, that he’s actually a fan of Jameis Winston’s “except for the two games out of the year.” Those would be the ones where, they play Atlanta starting now.

Morris has kept a low profile and hasn’t had much to say, but his defense has done the talking the last two games.

If you are wondering, the last time the Bucs faced a former head coach before this weekend was in 2003. That’s when they very famously suffered a 21-point fourth-quarter collapse and lost to Tony Dungy (whom they had fired two years before), Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts in overtime on Monday Night Football.

As for Winston, he currently leads the NFL with 18 interceptions and despite having thrown for 300 yards or more in each of the last five games for the Buccaneers, they have only won one of them.

So now, the pressure will be on for he and his teammates to try to get back on the winning track in a hostile Mercedes-Benz Stadium with two of their former coaches staring back at them.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs DE Barrett basked in first Pro Bowl appearance Wednesday

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Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Off the best pass-rushing season in Buccaneers history, potential free-agent defensive end Shaq Barrett was soaking things in Wednesday in Orlando.

That’s where the NFC and AFC top players have congregated for the 2020 Pro Bowl coming Sunday.

Barrett, who set the Buccaneers single-season sack record with 19.5 this past season, ended up being the lone Buccaneer able to play in the game. This, after receivers Mike Evans and Chris Godwin have both had to bow out due to hamstring injuries.

Barrett got props on day one from one from Cardinals DE Chandler Jones, whom he battled for the sack title all the way down to the final Sunday of the season:

Barrett then got to hangout and sign autographs with the fans assembled at Disney’s Wide World of Sports. The sixth year player out of Colorado State, who was originally undrafted but signed with the Broncos in 2014, then told the media, he’s looking for a big-money free-agent deal. And, further, his preference is that he stays in Tampa Bay.

After all, Barrett surpassed anyone’s expectation in 2019, while playing for a modest one-year free agent deal and betting on himself to cash-in. And now, after his agent Drew Rosenhaus and Bucs GM Jason Licht are done, it appears he will be making in the neighborhood of $18-20 million per year just like the top pass rushers in the NFL.

The Bucs also have the possibility of putting the franchise tag for 2020 on Barrett which would also be valued around that same amount for just the one season.

One final cool moment came Wednesday, where Barrett got introduced to a young Buccaneers fan who’s enduring tremendous family hardship with one parent battling cancer and another suffering from the debilitating ALS disease. After signing an autograph for the young man, Barrett gave him the surprise of his young life with two tickets to next weekend’s Super Bowl in Miami:

And just like that fantastic reward, Barrett will soon be similarly rewarded for his fantastic year and upcoming potential. And most likely, it will be in Tampa Bay for a long time.

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs Evans got respect from LeBron James Saturday night

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Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

The new present day cliche’ for respect among athletes/opponents in sports is: “Game Recognizes Game.” And, there was a neat example of that Saturday night, as the Houston Rockets of the NBA hosted the L.A. Lakers. That’s when iconic NBA star LeBron James of the Lakers came over to acknowledge Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans in the seats behind him.

As you probably know, James is arguably the most recognizable and successful NBA hoops player worldwide in the last 10+ years. He’s a 15 time All Star, a four time MVP, and helped the Miami Heat win two World Championships. And, then came back to the Cleveland Cavaliers, who originally drafted him out of high school, and led them to the city’s epic first professional title in any sport in over 50 years back in 2016.

And, LeBron has the Lakers rolling at 34-8 with another win in Houston last night.

As for Evans, he is a Tampa Bay Buccaneers biggest offensive weapon and was having a tremendous 2019 season statistically until it was cut short with a hamstring injury in the Bucs early December win over the Indianapolis Colts.

That’s when Evans suffered a severe hamstring injury on a 61 yard touchdown catch from Jameis Winston and did not play another down in 2019. Still, he joined teammate Chris Godwin, as they both went over 1,000 yards for the season, which was the first time in Tampa Bay history that that happened.

Evans is also only the second player in league history, besides Randy Moss, to have 1,000 or more yards receiving in a season in his first six years in the NFL.

Further, it’s also well-known that Evan is a huge fan of the NBA and he’s originally from Galveston, Texas and play in college at Texas A&M. So, it’s only fitting that he would be courtside during the off-season and the Rockets game against the Lakers.

Evans has made mention earlier in his career that he had met and talked to LeBron James on previous occasions. One reason that Evans brought that up during the season, was his touchdown celebration dance when Tampa Bay outgunned the L.A. Rams in late September.

In that 48 – 40 win Evans caught this clinching fourth-quarter bomb touchdown from Winston and then, celebrated with LeBron James’s signature dance move

James has previously and frequently used that on the court after a big moment, a big win or a championship.

Again “Game recognizes Game,” and clearly James wanted to give some recognition to the Bucs star whiteout Saturday night courtside at his own game.

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