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Buc Ball Back In Winless Tampa Bay

Will Lovie Smith bring the winning that Tony Dungy’s style of football did?

Jeff Carlson

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Years ago, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers turned around their franchise fortunes with the hiring of Tony Dungy and his Tampa 2 defense, along with one of the most conservative offenses in the league.  The low scoring and rather boring offensive game plans became a hallmark affectionately called “Buc Ball.”  When Buc Ball failed to score a touchdown in the 1999 NFC Championship game and when the defense couldn’t slow the Philadelphia Eagles in back-to-back playoff losses, Buc Ball was gone along with Dungy.

Following a Super Bowl win the year after Dungy’s departure, the up and down nature of Jon Gruden’s tenure and the deep fall under consecutive head coaches Raheem Morris and Greg Schiano left many pining for the defensive glory days and 17-point offensive outputs.

Enter Dungy’s philosophical clone in Lovie Smith and offseason hope revived in Tampa Bay.  When the preseason gave weak offensive results, the answer was that new to the NFL offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford’s offense wasn’t going to be unveiled until they played the Carolina Panthers in week one.  Unfortunately, Tedford needed a medical procedure and wasn’t back full-time for week one and the team struggled against the Panthers, who were without Cam Newton.  The offensive game plan was probably the most conservative offense in the entire league and couldn’t beat Carolina with Derek Anderson at quarterback.

Bucs beat writer Rick Stroud told me in the press box that Tedford was not calling plays again against the St. Louis Rams. The Rams were playing their third string QB Austin Davis, who was starting his first NFL game.  The game plan seemed to be better and Bobby Rainey had a great game on the ground, rushing for 144 yards, but once again when opportunity presented itself in the red zone, the Bucs opted for the conservative route and ran three times, settling for a field goal try that ended up getting blocked.

Lovie Smith didn’t bat an eye in the post-game press conference about his conservative ways, pointing to the blocked field goal and a blocked punt being the scoring difference in the second consecutive setback failing to hit the 20-point mark.

Dungy’s tenure in Tampa also started extremely slowly, but he stayed the course, got his team to stay the course and things turned out pretty well, but without a Super Bowl trip.  A return to the winning that Buc Ball ultimately produced is desperately needed in Tampa, but here’s hoping the 2014 version will be an upgrade to Buc Ball 2.0.

Former NFL quarterback, training youth QB's in Tampa, Florida. Football Analyst for Bright House Sports Network and Football Insiders.

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