In a ‘State of the Franchise’ series for NFL.com, Adam Rank insists the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are now built to win the Super Bowl with the addition of quarterback Tom Brady and tight end Rob Gronkowski under the coaching of Bruce Arians.
"The competitive urgency index is: OFF THE CHARTS," wrote Rank. "You don't pull moves like this to win the NFC South. You do it to win the Super Bowl. Bruce Arians didn't come back to coaching because he likes the pressed Cuban sandwiches in Ybor City. The idea is to win now. Like immediately."
Going through multiple categories, Rank proceeded to outline the current Buccaneers and provide context. Though, he spent significantly less time than any other team delving into the 2019 season because of the Brady factor. One player is essentially making the past irrelevant. This is his team now and what happened last year doesn't matter.
"Look, for most teams in this series, we spend more time in this section, looking back at what transpired last year," said Rank. "But you added Tom Brady. Nobody really cares about the past right now."
People care about the future, though. In running down reasons for optimism, Rank also predicted the Bucs' 2020 MVP, breakout star and other players of note (read: Gronk). I don't think we need to tell you his pick for MVP, but his breakout star came from the defensive side of the ball. It was cornerback Jamel Dean, who despite not getting significant work until Week Nine in Seattle, to forgettable results, turned it around to finish with the second-most passes defensed on the team (17), fourth-most in the league and the most (by far) of any rookie last year. Certainly not a bad pick.
But in reality, it could be any number of the young up and comers on defense. A defense that made gigantic strides from the beginning to the end of the season. A defense that is now returning each starter from a front seven that absolutely dominated the run and kept the pressure on opposing quarterbacks. That, says Rank, is the one storyline people are overlooking.
"The defense is kind of good," Rank wrote. "Sure, the Bucs finished 15th in total defense last year. But they were first against the run. And even though their final ranking was 30th against the pass, they were much better at the end of the season. The Bucs' defense didn't allow a quarterback to throw for more than 300 yards in a game from Week 11 on. This came after allowing quarterbacks to top 300 passing yards in six of the first 10 games. A big reason was the pass rush. The team's 47 sacks were the second-highest total in club history. Shaquil Barrett had 19.5 sacks, a club record. Vita Vea has been a force in the middle. Lavonte David is a stud. And the cornerback trio of Jamel Dean (our breakout candidate), Carlton Davis and Sean Murphy-Bunting could be very good. Funny, the uniforms aren't the only thing that's starting to resemble the Tony Dungy/Jon Gruden era."
With the pieces to the puzzle in place, the team is built for success now. Rank even mentions last year's Cleveland Browns as a cautionary tale but almost immediately dismisses it given who Tampa Bay has at the helm. It all comes down to what the Bucs can do this coming season. According to Rank, and Yoda, there is no 'try.'
"For 2020 to be a successful season, the Bucs MUST:
Win the Super Bowl. That's the only goal that matters. Tom Brady is trying to show the world that he can win without Bill Belichick. Bruce Arians would love to win a title of his own, as a head coach. And Gronk ... Yeah, I'm not sure what Gronk wants."
View photos of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 53-man roster.