Compared to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ division-mates, the team is looking lean with a 5-5 record this season. However it shouldn’t be too difficult for the Buccs to come out on top in the NFC South against the Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers, and New Orleans Saints as the division isn’t at its most competitive this season.
Taking a step back, Buccs fans have a lot to be thankful for. In the last twenty years, the franchise has taken home two Lombardi Trophies—the only silverware since the team was founded as an expansion team in 1976. The second win was achieved in particular style thanks to head coach Bruce Arians and legendary QB Tom Brady, who won the Super Bowl at home in Tampa Bay.
Though the Los Angeles Rams repeated the feat with an at-home Super Bowl win, the Buccs were the first to enjoy this accolade in the NFL. It serves as a key reminder for locals that the team has achieved greatness, which helps to soften the ongoing failures of the 2022-23 season.
Despite being one of the most dangerous teams in the NFL since Brady joined in 2020, current odds aren’t factoring the Buccs in for a meaningful postseason run. In fact, the team’s prospects as of Week 10 aren’t great. Despite the fact that Brady opted out of his short-lived retirement earlier in 2022, the QB hasn’t been catapulting the team to greatness as per usual.
In fact, Brady’s stutter-stepping this season has left many fans considering what happens when he retires—for a second time this year. Keeping this season’s developments in mind, what happens when Brady departs for the 2023-24 season?
ESPN Forecasts More Glory for Tampa Bay
Not everyone believes Brady’s retirement will spell disaster for Tampa Bay. In fact, some, like ESPN’s Field Yates, believe that the team can make a play for another Lombardi next season. Part of his reasoning falls on Jason Licht, general manager of the team, who has a strong history.
In fact, looking over the next three years in the NFL, Yates’ formula ranks the Buccs No. 8 out of the league’s 32 teams. Though they’re behind dynastic teams like the Chiefs and Bills (and even the Packers), this forecast isn’t too shabby. It highlights the team’s superior management, which will be a critical factor in how the franchise reorganizes after Brady’s departure.
In other words, raw talent is only one component that goes into a Super Bowl win—and the Buccs still have a few high-class thinkers in the front office. Licht, along with senior advisor Bruce Arians, has proved to be a stellar combination.
Breaking Down Tampa Bay’s Potential Lineup
The aforementioned formula from Yates at ESPN also factors each team’s lineup into its three-year forecast. The Buccs may be ranked No. 8 in terms of three-year forecasts, but the team has one of the most lethal rosters in the league. Yates ranks it third behind the Bills and Chargers.
This means that losing a legendary QB might not be the huge deal-breaker that many fans are braced for. Instead, Licht will need to find another quality QB that can steer what’s already a prepped vessel. Consider this: the Green Bay Packers have had MVP quarterbacks on its roster for almost thirty years, but only have two Lombardi Trophies to show for it.
An unstoppable quarterback has the potential to bring home silverware for a team, but having a deep roster is invariably more important, and Tampa Bay won’t be losing theirs anytime soon. The team also has a worthy draft pick in Kyle Trask, a second-round selection from the 2021 Draft. After a year studying under the GOAT, could Trask have the foundational experience to take over?
Coupled with the Arians Departure: Making Space for a New Paradigm
Arians, along with Licht, have done a stellar job leading the Buccs. However, it’s possible that Arians will retire at the end of this season as the team’s senior advisor. Like Brady, he’s already opted out of his retirement, originally from a coaching position with the Arizona Cardinals.
It seems that one huge motivation for Arians was the chance to work with Brady. After he signed on for another season, he gave his staff permission so look for other jobs. This could spell disaster for the team if they find themselves without a solid advisor or without key positions filled, like offensive and defensive coordinators in search of better deals on other teams.
However, even if Arians and Brady leave the team together, Licht remains at the helm—and he’s the GM responsible for bringing Brady to the team. It’s likely not his only great idea, and a lack of influence from Arians and Brady could allow him to make more innovative decisions in the future.
The Buccs Legacy
Imagine Brady retires at the end of the 2022-23 season, and Arians then follows him. That would leave Licht to make another strong play—and some are eyeing Aaron Rodgers as a potential coup for the team. The idea here would be to use the Buccs’ dangerous roster to its fullest advantage under another top-performing QB.
This was the original formula that helped Arians, Licht, and Brady steer the team toward their Super Bowl win. By taking Rodgers and putting him in charge of the Buccs, the team could make another huge play for the Lombardi Trophy, at least in theory.
There are a few huge problems with this notion though, no matter how rational it seems. Rodgers may be desperate for another Super Bowl ring, but that doesn’t mean he’s willing to leave the Packers to make that happen. He’s spent his entire career with the franchise, and the team has given him just about everything he’s asked for.
Other analysts have eyed Russell Wilson as a potential target for the post-Brady Buccs. As another veteran QB in the league, he’s got the experience needed to guide a winning roster into the playoffs. But would he be interested in signing on with Tampa Bay?