By Andy Villamarzo
Hernando Sun sports writer
TAMPA- Can someone cue in former Indianapolis Colts’ head coach Jim Mora into the scene. Playoffs? Are we talking about the playoffs?
Why yes in fact we are, with the addition of six-time Super Bowl champion quarterback Tom Brady, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are being looked at as viable contenders heading into the 2020 season in the NFC Conference. Now though there’s a twist heading into the new season, that’s slated to start on time per league executives, despite the ongoing threat of the COVID-19 virus raging worldwide.
The NFL postseason has been expanded from 12 teams to 14, with only the No. 1 seeds in each conference being awarded bye weeks in the opening Wild-Card weekend. According to the new format, the No. 2 seed would face the No. 7 seed, No. 3 seed versus the No. 6 and No. 4 seed against the No. 5. Six NFL playoff games to kickoff the Wild-Card weekend means more audience, more revenue and more attention overall for the NFL.
That also means more of a chance for the Buccaneers to capture an elusive playoff spot, something they haven’t done since the 2007 season. Tampa Bay has probably wished that this format had been voted in a few years earlier, as the Buccaneers would’ve clinched a postseason spot already.
We can take a look back at the 2016 season, when Tampa Bay just finished outside of the postseason picture with a record of 9-7 and sitting in the No. 7 seed. By today’s newly approved format, the Buccaneers would’ve notched a postseason berth and would’ve faced the Green Bay Packers in the Wild-Card matchup.
Also throw in the fact that making the playoffs in 2016 might have built up a better case for former Tampa Bay quarterback Jameis Winston, who faced a lot of criticism not just for throwing interceptions but also not guiding the franchise to a postseason berth. Maybe if Winston led the Buccaneers to the playoffs in 2016, Dirk Koetter would still be the team’s head coach as of today? Maybe Winston is still the franchise quarterback?
We will never know the answers to those couple of questions, as Koetter is now the offensive coordinator for the Atlanta Falcons once again and Winston remains a free agent after not being re-signed by Tampa Bay.
But also expanding the playoffs here sooner probably would’ve equaled major heartbreak in Winston’s first season under Bruce Arians, as the Buccaneers lost their final two games and winning the last two plus beating the Los Angeles Rams would’ve had Tampa Bay at the No. 7 seed.
Instead the Buccaneers lost the final two home games, Winston threw a total of six interceptions and here we are talking about Brady moving into Derek Jeter’s Davis Islands’ mansion as a tenant. What a year 2020 has already been. Maybe some good news is on the horizon with the Buccaneers making some noise behind a new playoff format.
Andy Villamarzo can be reached at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @avillamarzo.