The point of demarcation is not all that easy to find. After all, in the last six years of the Jon Gruden era, an era associated mostly with winning, the Buccaneers lost more games than they won.
So perhaps it started there. There’s no way of knowing really, but one thing we do know is that by the end of Raheem Morris’s reign as head coach, losing had become a way of life for the Bucs.
It has been that way ever since, so what new coach Dirk Koetter inherited last January was a team mired in a culture of losing, something Koetter boldly confirmed after the Bucs lost badly to the Rams in Week 3.
“We’re just missing something,’’ Koetter said at the time. “I feel like sometimes we find too many ways to lose a game instead of creating ways to win a game. Until we change that, we’re going to have (games) like the (game we lost to the Rams).’’
Now, one 9-7 season doesn’t mean the problem has been corrected, that the losing culture has been eradicated. Shoot, the Bucs went 9-7 in the last two years of Gruden’s run and things only got worse after that.
The reality then is that the Bucs are still in the process of not only erasing their losing culture but developing a winning culture. The good news, though, is that they believe they’re finally on the “right track.’’
That’s how Koetter put it at the end of the season and it’s clear that the key players inside the Bucs locker room, the team captains, the feel the same way he does. Quarterback Jameis Winston said he sensed a change in the attitude of the team as the season went on, one in which the Bucs went from hoping they could win games to truly believe they can and should win games.
Five-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Gerald McCoy sensed a change, too. He said the atmosphere in the locker room became far more positive this year than at any other point in his tenure with the Bucs.
“What I’ll say is, this was the most fun I’ve had around here in a long time,’’ McCoy said. “This season has been special. I mean, I’ve always been optimistic. I always believe you’ve got a chance to make the best of it.
But this year I could actually feel it internally, around the building. I could feel the culture change. It hasn’t rolled all the way over yet, but it’s turning and I’m excited about that.”