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Tuesday, February 1, 2011
Bucs should continue upward trend

By Pat Yasinskas
ESPN.com

Thanks to Scott Smith of Buccaneers.com for doing some heavy lifting on an extensive research project that looks at teams that improved by seven wins or more and how they’ve done in the following years.

The 2010 Buccaneers became just the 23rd team to have a swing of at least seven wins by going from 3-13 to 10-6. In terms of winning percentage, they went from .188 to .625. That’s fairly close to the average for teams that have had such swings. Historically, the 23 teams averaged a .228 winning percentage in the year before the swing and .728 in the turnaround year.

What is very interesting in Smith’s project is what has happened to teams in the year after the turnaround. History hasn’t been as kind to those teams. The 22 teams before the Bucs have gone a combined 168-166-3 (.503) and only the 1976 Baltimore Colts and 1998 New York Jets had better records in the season after their turnaround.

Can Tampa Bay join those teams and buck the trend of taking a step back or standing still after a turnaround? I think it’s very possible. I’ll allow room for the argument that the Bucs didn’t have a difficult 2010 schedule and they didn’t beat many good teams.

But I think what will really work in the favor of the Bucs is that they made their seven-game swing while having the league’s youngest roster. Quarterback Josh Freeman, who had a breakout season, didn’t celebrate his 23rd birthday until after the season was over. He’s only going to get better and so are a lot of the other young Buccaneers. Receiver Mike Williams and running back LeGarrette Blount each had outstanding rookie years.

Top draft pick Gerald McCoy was just starting to become a force before he suffered a season-ending injury. Throw draft mate Brian Price back into the middle of the defensive line with McCoy and give the Bucs a pass-rusher in the draft and suddenly the front four, and the entire defense, should look a lot better.

The Bucs need to fill a few other holes (depth in the secondary and at running back) and be sure to keep guard Davin Joseph from walking in free agency. If they can do that, there’s no reason why the arrow shouldn’t keep pointing up for this team.

Even if they stand still or take a step back, Smith’s research shows some positive news about the second and third year after big turnarounds. In Year 2 after a turnaround of at least seven wins, the 22 teams went a combined 198-137-4 (.590). In Year 3, those same teams went a combined 170-144-2 (.541).