It has been my distinct pleasure to give everyone a Bucs Eye View of things in the 2020/2021 NFL season. Being a Buccaneers fan was, for a time, a lonely experience, especially since I lived outside of Tampa proper for so long. I’ve lived in Arizona for the last twenty-plus years and, for most of that time, I was the only Bucs fan I knew in the Wild West. The influx of casual NFL fans that entered Buccaneers orbit after the acquisition of Tom Brady forced me to finally go on social media (I’m old and kind of slow at this technology stuff, folks) and seek out fellow die-hards. Let’s face it, the Bucs acquired a lot of Patriots fans with the GOAT’s move and they have been spoiled for two decades so how can I relate?
Thankfully, I stumbled upon a number of great Phoenix Bucs fans (shout out to the Arizona chapter of the Buccaholics) and, through Twitter, I met some hardcore supporters who make me laugh and provide insight on a daily basis (what’s up TampaSportsBae, TheSamerAli, DevonGarnett, Cigar-Man, and StankBastard!). And of course, we fans have professional experts like Carmen Vitali, Jenna Laine, and Casey Phillips to guide us. So really, the world isn’t that lonely after all! We’ve got a fun and robust pirate crew.
And it also made me think that perhaps we Bucs fans aren’t as unlucky as I previously mentioned in my article summing up the 2020 season (I mean, “a life of misery” is a bit dramatic, yes?). We’ve been to the Super Bowl twice in 18 years. Sure, those intervening eighteen years were nothing to write home about. But the price of loyalty is suffering through the bad times and revelling in the good. When you have fun during all the losing, it makes the success that much sweeter. I’ve never not enjoyed watching the Bucs, and I’ve seen some baaaaaad football during that time. And because of the joy the team gave me during the “bad” times, then 2020, and this week in particular, has been some of the most fun I’ve ever had in my life as a fan.
And frankly, two Super Bowl berths in 18 years is, relatively speaking, pretty great. After I read an article dubbed “How Close is Your NFL Team to Getting to the Super Bowl” on ESPN, I was struck by how unfortunate other franchises are, both currently and in history. The Bucs enjoy the luxury of being in a title game now and, with a great defense and the GOAT at QB, continue to be contenders for at least another year. But outside the perennial contenders (think New England, Pittsburgh, Seattle, Green Bay, Denver, etc.), how have other franchises fared?
Though the Buffalo Bills are considered contenders now, they haven’t been to the Super Bowl since 1993 (granted, they did get to go to four in a row). Though I revel in their misery, the New Orleans Saints haven’t been to the Super Bowl since 2009 despite a decade-plus of consistent winning. And that is their only Super Bowl appearance in 54 seasons. Some recent playoff darlings like Tennessee (last made the Super Bowl in 1999 and lost in dramatic fashion); Arizona (2008, lost in their only appearance in dramatic fashion too); Minnesota (1976; at least they have “The Minnesota Miracle”); and Chicago (2006, only two Super Bowl appearances and one win) have had larger hills to climb in recent decades.
The Miami Dolphins, once the jewels of the league, haven’t been to a Super Bowl since 1984 and haven’t won a playoff game since 2000. The sad-sack Chargers haven’t made a title appearance since 1994 and have made a habit of wasting incredible seasons in the first round. The Bengals (last appearance 1988), Washington Football Team (1991), Dallas Cowboys (1995), and New York Jets (1968) have been mired in mediocrity for decades. And then, of course, there are the “never beens” such as the Houston Texans and Jacksonville Jaguars (though they’ve only been in the league for a small amount of time), as well as the Cleveland Browns and Detroit Lions.
Would I like more consistent success for the Bucs year in and year out? Absolutely. Before this season, the last time the Bucs won a playoff game, I was hammered off my ass as a 20-year-old college student partying with my friends in Flagstaff, Arizona. Cut to today and I am a middle-aged school teacher with two kids pushing 40. I said the last 18 years have been fun, sure, but could they have been more fun? Duh!
With Tom Brady at the helm for the time being and a culture of winning being implanted within the organization, not to mention an impressive collection of young talent on both sides of the ball, 2020 is the springboard for the Bucs to become one of those perennial winners. Do I expect a Super Bowl every year? Absolutely not. Winning in football is too hard to do on a consistent basis. And with that being said, that brings us to the Bucs’ Super Bowl opponent, the defending champion Kansas City Chiefs.
Until last year, the Kansas City Chiefs were one of those unlucky franchises. Before the 2019 championship, the Chiefs had last been in a Super Bowl in 1969 (Super Bowl IV). And this was after losing Super Bowl I in 1966. From 1970 to 1989, they only went to the playoffs twice and lost in the first round in both. After some consistent success in the 1990s (seven playoff appearances from 1990 to 1997), the Chiefs went back to fluctuating between winning and losing seasons and first-round playoff exits through 2012. But then came head coach Andy Reid.
Since Reid’s arrival in 2013, the Chiefs have made the playoffs every year (except 2014) and have accrued a regular-season record of 91-37 (.710) and a playoff record of 7-5 (.583). One Lombardi trophy and two Lamar Hunt Trophies, plus the emergence of a generational talent at QB in Patrick Mahomes, has placed the once-mediocre Chiefs on the brink of dynasty status. They’ve lost only two games in the last 27 contests and ride a five-game playoff winning streak into Tampa on February 7th.
Though you can never truly bet against Tom Brady, the Buccaneers are clear underdogs in their Super Bowl matchup. No one will be surprised if the Chiefs pull it off. Everyone, especially Bucs fans, can be happy with the season that transpired, with hope for the future, even with a Super Bowl LV loss. But if they win, it’d be considered a massive upset. Regardless of the outcome, the Bucs can look at the Chiefs as an example of how to proceed in the future. You can go five decades before becoming relevant but once you’re there, seize the day. It took the Chiefs six years to reach this point under Andy Reid. If anything, the Bucs are ahead of schedule.
There once was no hope in Chiefs fan’s heads but now they are favorites to go back-to-back, which is pretty unheard of, especially in the modern-day game. The Bucs have no reason not to expect to piggyback off of 2020’s success and do better in the future and at a more consistent clip. At one time, it was unheard of to think Tampa Bay could reach a Super Bowl, let alone win one in 2002. Now they have a chance to do what only a few teams have done: win multiple Lombardi trophies (nineteen teams have won only one or zero). See, being a Bucs fan isn’t really so bad after all.