A win over the Panthers on Sunday will leave the Buccaneers with a 9-7 record and make this their first winning season since they went 10-6 under Raheem Morris in 2010.
It would also bring an end to the Bucs five-year run as the basement dwellers in the NFC South, but according to quarterback Jameis Winston, none of that will make this season a success.
Despite the improvement the Bucs seem to have made this year and the opportunity they have to better last year’s win total by three, Winston says the 2016 season still wasn’t good enough to suit him.
“I don’t view it as a success,’’ Winston said. “For the organization, for the fans, a lot of people are happy. But the mentality of this team, our ultimate goal is to win playoff games, to win Super Bowls.
“I mean, it’s exciting that we have a chance to have a winning season, but that’s not something that we’re aiming for at the beginning of the season. We’re aiming for the highest.’’
Winston isn’t the only one in the Bucs locker room who isn’t satisfied with how this season will end. First-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Mike Evans isn’t happy about the finish either.
Evans said he’s anxious to beat the defending NFC Champion Panthers for a second time and would like to see the team finish 9-7 but that won’t make him feel any better about the way the season has gone.
Like Winston, Evans is shooting for something much bigger than winning seasons and second-place division finishes. He’s also shooting for something greater than he achieved on a personal level this year.
Evans is on pace to finish the season ranked among the top five pass catchers in the league in receptions, yards and touchdowns but the highly self-critical Evans says that’s not good enough.
“I thought I just played all right this year because people don’t see the film that we see,’’ Evans said of his Pro Bowl-worthy-season. “I thought I had just an okay year.
“I thought I was maybe a top five wide-out, but I wanted to be number one and maybe if I was number one, well then maybe I could’ve helped us get to the playoffs.”
In a way you hate to see a player as young as Evans beat himself up so much, but at the same time it’s hard not to admire Evans’ will and desire to be the best. Same goes for Winston.
Winston and Evans both had tremendous seasons. Like their team, both had better seasons this year than the one they had last year. But simply improving isn’t good enough for either of them and that’s a good thing.
You know, a lot was made earlier in the year of how the culture inside the Buccaneers locker room needed to change in order for this team to take the next step in its development.
That change is still ongoing, but the fact that neither Winston nor Evans will be happy with the outcome of the season despite making big personal advances suggests that change is well under way.