With 22 returning starters, the Buccaneers have near-unprecedented continuity heading into the 2021 season following their victory in Super Bowl LV.
But that doesn’t mean the team can simply pick up where it left off in February.
Defensive coordinator Todd Bowles knows this from his time as a player. He won a Super Bowl with Washington in 1987 and the next year the team finished 7-9, missing the postseason.
That’s part of why he said Thursday that he doesn’t think much of what happened in 2020 can help the defense be at its best in 2021.
“I don’t think we can go back to last year. You have to go forward to this year,” Bowles said in his press conference. “Even with 22 guys [returning], it’s still a different team. We’ve tweaked some things for us to get better at, some things that hurt us. So as a team, we have to re-jell, and re-do our chemistry and everything else and try to get better from there and start from the bottom up. I think if you go into the season saying that we’re top dog, we’ve already lost. We’re starting at the bottom and we’re going to work our way back up.”
Coaches often talk about the need to start over every year, so Bowles’ stance on that is not entirely a surprise. But Tampa Bay wouldn’t have brought back all the players who were free agents if the organization didn’t think there was a chance to win a second consecutive Super Bowl with that squad.
Still, with quarterback Tom Brady around, it’s easy to think that players will be motivated to get off to a faster start in 2021. And that means working hard in the offseason and training camp to be in the best position to do so.