Gary Shelton is one of America’s great and most accomplished sports columnists. You can read him on garyshelton.sports and woodypaige.comdownload-9


TAMPA — Bad news from the front:

The Tampa Bay Bucs are, and ever shall be, the Tampa Bay Bucs.

By now, you might have hoped they would grow into, say, the Denver Broncos. Maybe the New England Patriots. Maybe the Seattle Seahawks.

Alas, they are still the Bucs. It is as a witch has transformed a toad…into another toad.

And futhermore, ribbit.

Koetter Wants To Change Culture

Remember all that preseason talk about how the Bucs were really a team on the move. Someone thought Jameis Winston was a sleeper pick for MVP. And yippee.

Ah, but three weeks in, and the Bucs are still the team of Booker Reese and Jack Thompson and Josh Freeman and Gaines Adams and Eric Curry and Charles McRae and Trent Dilfer and Vinny Testaverde and Keith McCants – hold on, I’m out of breath – and Lars Tate and Dexter Jackson and Sabby Piscatelli. You get the picture.

Three weeks in, and new coach Dirk Koetter is 1-2 and facing Denver and Carolina and a trip to San Francisco, where they always get lost and bump into things. Maybe it’s the Sour Dough. Maybe it’s the sour mas

Read more about Tampa Bay on garysheltonsports.comAnyway, already, Koetter is talking about the culture here. Already, he noticed? He mentioned this after the Bucs lost to a Rams’ team that had scored all of nine points all year. They got 37 against Tampa Bay. They lost on when quarterback Jameis Winston rambled to his left, pump faking while he was 10 yards beyond the line of scrimmage, and was tackled from behind.





Two Unhappy Buccaneers Who Missed National Pirate Day. ARRGGGH!  — photo, cover

When I say ‘around here,’” said Koetter, “I hope no one confuses that – when I’m talking about the culture, I’m talking about the culture of our football team, I’m not talking about our organization. I’m not talking about ownership, I’m not talking about this building, I’m not talking about our fans, I’m talking about the 53 players, the 10 practice squad guys and however many coaches we have. The guys that are coming up with the game plan, putting the game plan together and trying to execute the game plan.

The best teams that I’ve been on beat with one heart and they count on the guy next to them to do their job every time and they win and lose together. And maybe our fans have cheered for a team like that at one point, hopefully all of our players have played on a team (like that). I know when I’ve been on teams like that, you can feel it and man, you want to grab it and hold onto its tail because it’s elusive. When you don’t have it, you can also feel it. We’re just missing something, I feel like – and as my title suggests, it’s my job to speak up. I feel like sometimes we find too many ways to lose a game instead of creating ways to win a game. Now, when I say that, I put myself right at the top. I’m number one on that list, so I’m not calling out any player or any coach above myself, but that’s just how I feel. And until we change that, we’re going to have nights like last night.”

Oh, people get it. This team hasn’t won a playoff game since the Super Bowl following the 2002 seasons. It’s only made two appearances since then, and in both cases, they were quickly sent to the golf course to work on their short game.

Koetter also was guilty of mismanaging the clock in the late going.

Said Koetter: “No one second-guesses my calls more than I do.”

Well, they would, if the Bucs were a team that America thought about. That doesn’t happen much, either. Remember, this is the team that has been through Raheem Morris, Greg Schiano, a recycled Lovie Smith and Koetter since 2008. Canton is not calling.

So how does this happen. In a league that is designed to pull every team toward 8-8, how do the Bucs remain a bottom feeder for so long. Oh, poor drafts. Poor coaching. Cutting too many players too soon – Aqib Talib, Michael Bennett, LeGarrette Blount, Austin Seferian-Jenkins,Darrelle Revis, etc.

Put it this way: If the object of football was to lose, to actually scoreless less than your opponent like in golf, well, the Bucs would be geniuses.

Instead, the struggle. They talk about tomorrow. They have a plan.

This time, I’m sure it will work.


(Gary Shelton is one of America’s most-honored and distinguished sports journalists. Gary has been named the Associated Press Sports Editors’ No. 1 national sports columnist twice, has been a top five finisher five other times and was chosen by sports editors in the top 10 columnists eight different years. He has been selected Florida’s Sportswriter of the Year six times. He was a columnist with the St. Peterburg/Tampa Bay Times for 25 years after joining the newspaper from The Miami Herald. Gary has covered 29 Super Bowls and 10 Winter and Summer Olympics, The Masters, the World Series, the Stanley Cup Finals and national championship in college football and basketball — all on multiple occasions over the past four decades. He currently has his own website — — blanketing all sports in the Tampa Bay area. He is among the most creative and thoughtful and opinionated, and hard-headed, columnists you’ll ever read. And funny. And one of the good guys. Don’t ever miss his columns, interviews and stories on Gary has agreed to be an occasional contributor to, and he’ll next give us the inside and the insight on the Tampa Bay Bucs.)