The Buccaneers were never the chic preseason pick to have a breakout regular season and reach the playoffs this year. That honor mostly went to the Jaguars and Raiders.
That said there were several national media outlets that thought the Bucs would at least break even and force the rest of the league to stand up and take notice of them this year.
ESPN (8-8), Athlon Sports (8-8) and The Sporting News (I had them going 9-7 in TSN’s preseason preview mag) were among them. So too it seems was former NFL team executive Michael Lombardi.
Now an analyst for Fox Sports, Lombardi was a guest earlier this week on Colin Cowherd’s radio show, where he strongly suggested he was one of those who initially thought the Bucs might surprise some people this year.
That opinion has apparently changed, because when he was asked for a list of teams he no longer believes will reach the level he originally thought, Lombardi mentioned the Bucs.
“I thought Tampa was going to emerge this year,’’ Lombardi said. “Tampa’s too young to emerge.’’
In hindsight, it’s hard to disagree with him. The Bucs are clearly a much more talented team than they were a year ago, but a lot of their talent is young, untested and inexperienced in the ways of the NFL.
That doesn’t mean the Bucs can’t win consistently, but we’ve already seen them lose one game, in part, because they got too comfortable after winning their previous game and let up too much on the gas.
The teams that win consistently in this league are those that execute consistently and carry the same high level of intensity into every game. It’s asking a lot of a team as young as the Bucs to do that.