The Buccaneers finished 6-10 in 1996. They will conclude the 2012 season at either that same record or 7-9, depending upon Sunday’s outcome in Atlanta. John Lynch, who was a fourth-year safety and rising star on that ’96 team, is now a color analyst for FOX who has seen more than his share of 2012 Buccaneer football. While neither of those teams aspired to a sub-.500 record, obviously, in Lynch’s mind they also share something far more positive, something that bodes well for the future of the current squad.
And a lot of that has to do with first-year Head Coach Greg Schiano’s insistence on establishing a new culture at One Buccaneer Place.
“I think of Tony Dungy in Tampa in 1996,” said Lynch. “What did we start, 1-8 or 1-9? One of Tony’s great strengths was that he was stubborn. It may not have worked right away, but it did work, and eventually it was going to be sustained success. I see much of that here. I say that in a positive way. That stubbornness was a great quality of Tony’s – he believed in certain things and he would never deviate from them. I see a lot of that with Greg.”
Schiano replaced Raheem Morris, who was an assistant coach on Lynch’s last two Buccaneer teams. Lynch remains a friend and a big fan of Morris but also believes that Schiano’s approach is what the current team needed. And he definitely thinks it is working.
“I can tell you that I’ve been more than impressed with Greg and I think he has changed the culture,” said Lynch. “Sometimes it’s hard to see the forest through the trees, but there’s progress being made here. I’m excited about their future.
“I don’t think it’s something where he came in and said, I’ve got to change what’s here. It’s more about who he is. That’s just what he is, and he’s not going to deviate from it. It’s what he believes in, I think, and I’ve been impressed with it. And I think the team needed it.”
On Sunday, Lynch will call the Buccaneers’ final game of 2012. There will be no playoffs, which is obviously a disappointment after a strong midseason run put the team at 6-4 and in the thick of the NFC race. The Buccaneers most definitely wanted to win in 2012. But they also wanted to build a team that would be a consistent winner, just like the squad that grew out of Dungy’s 6-10 debut. That first goal was not accomplished, but Lynch thinks the larger one will be.
“We just got done talking with Josh Freeman,” said Lynch from the team’s hotel on Saturday, where he and the FOX crew was interviewing coaches and players. “He has struggled here the last two weeks but he’s confident. He’s excited about tomorrow’s game but he’s also excited about the future, and where this can go with some continuity. I only see it getting better.”