In 2015, the Bucs found their quarterback.
They salvaged the career of their running back. They repaired their maligned offensive line. They got 1,000 yards in an off-year by their wide receiver.
But was the improvement under second-year coach Lovie Smith enough?
The Bucs, a year after 2-14, climbed all the way up to six wins against a schedule of toy soldiers. Leaving Bucs’ fans with the question of how much progress is enough progress? The defense, particularly after the PED suspension of Kwon Alexander, was pretty much the same. The team led the league in penalties. It dropped a lot of passes. It left a lot of receivers alone in the picture frame. It made average quarterbacks – Case Keenum and Tim Hasselbeck and Ryan Mallet – into stars.
Six wins … not terrible if you compare it to 2014.
Six wins … not good if you compare it to playoff teams.
Is there hope for the future. Sure. Jameis Winston looks as if he’s the real deal. Doug Martin is second in the NFL in rushing. Mike Evans, despite all of his drops, still has 1,000 yards. But next season’s schedule is more difficult, and holes (defensive end, cornerback) still exist. The Bucs will have some heavy lifting to do before anyone thinks this is a playoff team.
Hey, at one point, the Bucs were 6-6, and no one blushed when they talked about the playoffs.
Next year, what will the conversation be like?