Going into Super Bowl XXXVII the main question was, Can the Bucs score? The answer, of course, is an emphatic yes. In fact, the Bucs were not only the best team in the playoffs but also the hottest, leaving San Francisco, Philadelphia and eventually Oakland in their dust.
After a tentative first quarter, Tampa Bay made a couple of adjustments, started to gain some yardage on the ground and started to dominate the game. Michael Pittman and Mike Alstott provided a nice 1-2 punch out of the backfield, and the accuracy of Brad Johnson’s passes made the Raiders defensive backs no factor.
So what happened to Oakland?
The Bucs are what happened to Oakland.
Tampa Bay was better on paper, better prepared, executed better, brought more emotion to the game and “would not be denied” according to many players in the post-game locker room.
After trading away much of the future for John Gruden, Malcolm Glazer looks like a genius (a dweeb genius, but a genius none-the-less). This from a guy who headed an ownership group in Baltimore during the 1993 expansion and was denied because the league thought he wasn’t a “good fit.” The owners are smart, at the top of the NFL’s food chain, and weren’t about to hand over a $200 million franchise to somebody who wasn’t a “good fit.” But Once Glazer bought into the league by purchasing the Bucs (for substantially more than $200 million) they’ll all have to follow their lead in building a Super Bowl Champion.
How many owners would now trade two number one’s, two number two’s and $8 million for a Super Bowl championship? John Madden rhetorically asked during the 4th quarter Sunday night. All of them is the answer.
The Bucs built their team piece by piece, some through the draft, some through trades and some through free-agency. They used the Patriots success from a year ago as a model, snapping up mid-level free-agents like Keenan McCardell and Ken Dilger to fill some key roles. Not high-impact players, but solid role players who don’t put a big dent in the salary cap and could contribute all year long. Once again, the theory paid off with a title.
Jon Gruden is hoping he’ll be able to keep most of the team together and add to it as well. He even started recruiting right after the game. “We’ve got some money to spend and we’ll be interested in some free-agents in the off season. So if you’re a free-agent interested in Tampa, you can expect a call,” is how Gruden put it, slyly on Monday. It appears he likes the feeling of winning it all.