The Bucs need to cut roughly $14 to $19 million off the player pay rolls by early March to get under the salary cap. GM Bruce Allen has announced he wants to either restructure or cut the 15 highest paid players in the next month.
Next up, Simeon Rice.
First stop is the L.A. Times look back at what was at stake the first time the NFL met the AFL. (email: bestbucsblog at yahoo.com, password: bestbucsblog)
The writers covering the first Super Bowl treated their press credentials like dog tags, assembling in trenches according to their league allegiances — NFL writers over here, AFL scribes to the back of the room.
Two television networks — the NFL on CBS, the AFL brought to you by NBC — televised the game to their respective partisan audiences, with pregame tensions between the technical crews reaching such a fever pitch that a 10-foot chain-link fence was erected to separate the feuding camps.
Additionally, there was so much pressure on the NFL's representative in this game (Green Bay) that Packers coach, Vince Lombardi, threatened that anyone breaking curfew would "never play another down in the National Football League." Of course, that didn't stop Packer receiver Max McGee from breaking curfew AND getting drunk the night before. Then again getting drunk the night before didn't stop McGee from catching two touchdowns and 138 yards, despite catching only FOUR passes all season.
The L.A. Times continues its look back with a column penned after the first Super Bowl by Jim Murray. Murray's column underlines the importance of the first Super Bowl (which was originally called the NFL-AFL World Championship Game).
The little, shy, frightened, big-eyed AFL, wandering through the forests cringing at shadows and shuddering at the roars emanating from the Ogre of the Woods, the NFL Colossus.
"Please, sir, won't you play with me?" asked the shy little league in the red cape and boots.
"Fee, fi, fo, fum!" roared the NFL. "Go way and get yourself a football first."
So the little AFL huffed and puffed and he sued the court. And the NFL ate their lawyer. So the AFL said, "Well, I know a shortcut to Grandma's house, otherwise known as the Super Bowl" and sprinkled money around and bought lots of players. Only the giant bought even more.
Final stop on this trip down memory lane is the Kansas City Star, which is running a countdown of the most memorable Super Bowl moments.
32: Pregame problems
Sometimes, the glare of Super Bowl week casts an unfavorable light on the players.
Chiefs Hall of Fame quarterback Len Dawson was unfairly hounded by the media covering Super Bowl IV in 1970 in New Orleans when an NBC news report dropped his name as being one of several pro athletes federal authorities wanted to interview regarding their association with gambler Donald “No-Dice” Dawson.
Donald Dawson, who was no relation, had Len Dawson’s telephone number in his possession when arrested as part of a federal probe into sports gambling. Len Dawson knew him, but just as a fan, and the quarterback was cleared of any suspicion by commissioner Pete Rozelle. He even received a phone call of support from President Richard Nixon before Lenny the Cool earned Super Bowl MVP honors in the Chiefs’ 23-7 win against Minnesota.
Dawson was one of the fortunate ones. Others who encountered Super Bowl-week problems never recovered.
Who are some of the more unfortunate players?
Everyone in Tampa remembers Oakland center Barret Robbins, but Falcon's corner Eugene Robinson pulled the trifecta in 1999 when he won the NFL's Bart Starr Award (which recognizes high moral character), was arrested for soliciting sex from an undercover police officer the same day, and then got beat for an 80 yard touchdown in the Super Bowl.
So remember, when it comes to the Super Bowl, getting drunk the night before is good for your career. But soliciting sex from an undercover police officer is not.
For me the best part of Super Bowl week(s) is not the game or the commercials, but the insesent coverage of every minutia of detail about these two teams. No stone is left uncovered as everybody from Playboy to People to Packaging Digest covers the biggest sporting event all year.
Since, I can't add much to what has already been said about these two teams I won't try to. Instead, I will cover the people who are covering the Super Bowl. After all, who wants to read another column about how the Bus is from Detroit?
- Jacksonville, fresh off their own Super Bowl emberrasement, rips into Detroit as a host city.
"Past Super Bowl experience: 1982, at the Pontiac Silverdome. That year, a bitter cold spell and ice storm dropped temperatures to 12 degrees on game day with a wind chill of minus 27. Officials say they will be ready with plenty of snow-removal equipment in the event of a storm. Attractions around Ford Field will include a snow slide, dog sleds and marshmallow-roasting stations."
This coming from a city which saw below freezing temperatures last Super Bowl week.
- Speaking of Detroit, it appears the Motor City is pulling for the Steel City.
"Pittsburgh is a blue-collar town. Detroit is a blue collar-town. Pittsburgh is a union town. Detroit is a union town. Pittsburgh makes steel. Detroit makes cars that are made of steel."
Detroiters have two legs. Pittsburghians have two legs. Detroiters have eight fingers. Pittsburghians have eight fingers. They're made for each other.
- The Pittsburgh Post Gazette sent a reporter to Seattle to "research" the opposition. Apparently, Seahawks fans are not as dedicated as Steelers nation.
"The Puyallup slides across the sun-splashed water, bearing west toward Bainbridge Island with the snow-capped Olympic Mountains in the background framing a postcard panorama, and there's only one well-worn Seahawks piece of clothing aboard the whole ferry. Welcome to the Emerald City, where for too many of a franchise's 30 years the locals paid no attention to that team behind the curtain."
- The Seattle Times, no doubt aware of its city rep as a bandwagon town, looks to shed that image . . . by running an article on how many people have bought Seahawks gear for the first time.
"Don and Monette Roberts, of the Tri-Cities area, have spent somewhere north of $600 on Seahawks paraphernalia in the past month. Don Roberts, 47, sporting a Hawaiian Seahawks shirt outside Qwest Field, chuckled when asked where the money went. For starters? A Seahawks cheerleading outfit and yoga pants for their 3-year-old daughter, a leather jacket for himself, sweat suits for their three boys, apparel and jewelry for his wife and a couple of large car magnets."
Some guy that bought a couple hundred dollars worth of merchandise since the Seahawks locked up homefield advantage in the NFC. No, that doesn't sound like a bandwagon fan to me. (Go Seahawks!)
"The sad thing is it happens about a half-dozen times a year in this league when (an assistant) is allowed to leave to become a coordinator. Just not here."
"I'll be bummed out. I'll sulk around for a couple of days,"
The above comments are Bucs linebacker coach Joe Barry stabbing the Bucs organization in the back. I would expect a reaction like this from Terrell Owens or Joe Horn, but not from a coach.
In the bigger picture, it will be interesting to see if Barry's comments have any effect on the Buc's ability to hire new defensive coaches. With seven first time head coaches, all from the NFL assistant ranks, a good number of franchises will be looking to hire new defensive staff for two reasons.
First, new coaches like to bring in their own people, which typically involves promoting new blood. Or, more simply put, a vacuum at the top brings new coaches up through the ranks.
Second, three new head coaches (and I'm including Dick Jauron to the Bills) were previously assistant defensive coaches.
Last time around (2001), Monte Kiffin looked to the collegiate ranks to replace his departed staff. Here's hoping the Bucs are as successful replacing their staff this time.
Conference Championship Games
This is why I don't attempt to forecast games. I picked Denver and Carolina, so of course Seattle and Pittsburgh won.
Once again, the team that played better defense and created turnovers won the day. But what really hurt the Panthers and Broncos was a lack of weapons on offense. Pittsburgh was able to shut down the Broncos running game, and both Rod Smith and Ashley Lelie were unable to make plays. Cedric Wilson, a largely underutilized receiver for the Steelers, was able to exploit mismatches yesterday in route to 92 yards and a touchdown.
The Seahawks also depended on receiver who, for much of the season had played a minor role in the offense. Tightend Jeremy Stevens consistently found holes in the Panther's defense and finished the game with 66 yards and a touchdown. The Panthers could have kissed the win good bye when Nate Goings was injured, and Carolina was forced to play their fourth string runningback. Left with only Steve Smith to worry about, Seattle was on the Mighty Midget like white on rice.
Super Bowl XL
For the next two weeks there will be roughly 50,000 columns, 8,000 interviews and a couple dozen Hasselbeck/balding jokes about the Super Bowl. By kickoff you will know what every player had for breakfast and how badly their shit stinks.
I ain't buying that Pittsburgh will dominate Seattle. While it's true the AFC was the better conference this season (again), Pittsburgh is still a six seed and Seattle is the one seed. The regular season does not count for a whole lot at this point, but it has to count for something.
Three of the last four Super Bowls have been decided by three points. The one blowout is the Buc's victory over the Raiders which is an aberration (since Gruden had the advantage of going against his old team).
Parity allowed a number six seed advance to the Super Bowl for the first time, and parity should ensure that the Super Bowl is a close game.
Lions head coach Marinelli also tried to get his son-in-law for the Lion's defensive coordinator position but GM Bruce Allen refused to let Barry interview (since Barry has another year left on his contract Allen has the right to do so).
Let's be clear, Allen did the right thing here. The Bucs have already lost two defensive positional coaches and losing a third would be too difficult to replace in one offseason. Barry will still get offers to coordinate a defense somewhere next year, but loyalty dictates (especially since the Bucs gave him an opportunity) that Barry stick around for next season.
Neither of these games are easy to pick (read: there's a good chance I will be wrong) since it appears Pittsburgh and Seattle have the advantage when you just look at player matchups. Roethlisberger is better than Plummer. Steelers defense is more dominant than Denver's defense. Seattle's offense has more weapons than Carolina's offense. Etc.
But, Seattle and Pittsburgh also have a history of choking in the playoffs that can't be ignored. In 14 years under Cowher the Steelers have made it to the postseason 10 times and have never won a Super Bowl (although Cowher did get to the Super Bowl in '95). Seattle has not had much luck under Holmgren either. Not since Shannahan beat him in the Super Bowl (and since he had Favre) has Holmgren been to the NFL's championship game.
Seattle vs. Carolina
I can't believe I actually writing this and still picking the Panthers but Nate Goings will be the key to Carolina's win. Seattle has to double cover Steve "Mighty Midget" Smith, which should leave room for Goings to run free. While Goings does not have the big play ability of DeShaun Foster, he is good enough to find holes in the Seattle defense. The Carolina offense made quick work of the number two defense last week at Soldier Field, and while Seattle will have learned from the Bears defense, Carolina can throw enough looks at the young middle linebacker for the Seahawks (Lofa Tatupa) to confuse the defense.
I still don't trust this Seattle offense in the playoffs. Carolina's defense is comparable to the 'Skins defense and should create problems for Seattle, especially if Shaun Alexander shrinks under the pressure again (which is odd 'cause some of Alexander's best games have occurred during primetime, i.e. Sunday and Monday nights).
My Pick: Carolina Panthers
Denver vs. Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh looks really good coming off of that Indy win last week. But here's why I don't like them this week.
Pittsburgh basically threw everything but the kitchen sink at the Colts last week and still barely won. The Colts came in cold, and the Steelers took advantage by throwing on first and third downs, something they had not done all season. Pittsburgh won the game in the first quarter and then did the best they could to hang onto the lead.
Basically, Pittsburgh went with the windmill punch in the first round and Indy forgot to duck. Denver won't make the same mistake.
Mike Shannahan has got to be tired of everyone saying that he needed John Elway to win those two Super Bowls. So he went out and brought in the second most underrated quarterback in the NFL (Carr is the most underrated) in an effort to prove that he can win the Super Bowl without Elway.
My Pick: Denver Broncos
Whatever the outcome of this weekend it is very likely that either Carolina or Pittsburgh will make it to the Super Bowl. Should either of those two make it to the big game, it will be the first time a a team played three road games in the playoffs and made it to the Super Bowl. That is an incredibly difficult task that a few years ago would have been unimaginable.
A good number of idiots have been attacking the current level of parity in the NFL, arguing that NFL dynasties are dead (which is not necessarily a bad thing) and that all the teams stink equally. But the Bucs would most likely never would have one a Super Bowl if not for parity. Without a salary cap and free agency they never could have attracted the talented players they needed to turn the franchise around. While fans of the Cowboys and the 49ers will long for the old days, the rest of NFL fandom (especially those in Tampa Bay, Cincy, etc.) should be glad that their team can stink one season but win the Super Bowl the next.
Now that's what I call exciting.
Which is ironic since according to Truth Laid Bear, when it comes to cheerleaders my blog is number one. Some how I beat out the Professional Cheerleader Blog (which makes no sense).
And since Ms. Angela ain't what you would call a looker, here's a lady who can lead my cheers any day (giggity).
Alright this has all been another excuse to post more cheerleader pictures.
All in all, this is not a bad first coaching gig. Lions fans already have low expectations, so Marinelli does not have to win the Super Bowl in his first year. The Lions have enough talent on both sides of the ball that some smart free agent moves (quarterback, offensive line) can turn this team around. And Matt Millen has earned the trust of the owners, the Ford family (although I'm not sure how he did that), which means you can expect a good deal of stability if Marinelli can win some games next season.
And on side note, it's interesting to see the Bucs slowly take over the old NFC Central division. You have former Bucs coaching the Bears and Lions (Lovie Smith and Marinelli), and a former Buc running the defense in Minnesota (Mike Tomlin). I don't know who's left to take over Green Bay, but it's good to see the former punching bag of the old division teaching their old opponents how to play.
As I said before, this move will hurt the Bucs next season, but should help them long term. That makes three Monte Kiffin disciples (Marinelli, Herm Edwards, Lovie Smith) currently coaching teams in the NFL. Along with the Pats, Bucs should have their pick of young defensive coaches.
More of my thoughts on this move later.
Inspired by the comments in the previous post, I have listed some of the suggestions (including my own) for the DRays new nickname. Tarpons is supposedly the nickname the Tampa Bay/St. Pete management have been leaning towards, but well, as Michael Wilbon pointed out on PTI, that sounds conspicuously like a feminine hygiene product.
Bit tip of the hat to GNorb, as well as Scott and John for their suggestions. I recommend you check out the comments for the previous thread, 'cause there are too many good nicknames for me to list them all in a poll.
While I think it's clear White Caps will be the runaway success (it's classic), I can see how some of the other suggestions could be popular (Jesus Rays for instance). After you vote drop a comment in this thread to explain why you voted the way you did. And, of course, feel free to suggest any other nickname(s) for the baseball team.
'Cause, honestly, who wants to end up with a team nickname that sounds like tampon?
At the least, it seems likely the word "Devil" will be dropped, as it already is in some official team references. Then a decision has to be made whether to continue associating Rays with the sea creatures or to connect with the sun. Or there could be a new name, such as the Tampa Bay Tarpons.
I still say they change their name to Yankees 'cause people only come out to games when the Yankees are in town, but any other suggestions for a new name?
(hat tip to Sports Frog and Breakaway Beach)
Denver, Pittsburgh, Seattle, and Carolina.
For the free agent fans out there who are you rooting for the rest of the playoffs? Bucs are out, and up until this afternoon I was rooting for the Colts (that didn't work out so well either).
Me? I've got the Broncos and the class act that is John Lynch. 'Course if some Broncos fan wanted to sweeten the deal I might be open to offers.
Second, I have added the RSS feed for the site. For those unfamiliar with RSS, check out this description of how RSS feeds can save you time. They are very helpful if you a My Yahoo profile (as I do).
Finally, make sure to check out the "Run Down: Bruce Allen" post regularly for updates on the Buc's personnel changes during the offseason. I will try and figure out a way to move the post up as news breaks, but until then make sure to check the bottom of the post for edit updates.
As a side note, for a good college basketball blog check out Yoco Hoops.
Finally thanks to Mike E. for pointing out this Slate column on the Buc's game last week. The column is written by a 'Skins fan who chronicles how most fans must feel during the season.
Anyone else rooting for the 'Skins to lose?
During football season, my consumption of sports media is dictated in large part by the performance of the Redskins. A tough loss will chase me away from the sports pages for an entire week. After a big win, my need for Redskins reportage is insatiable. Daily newspapers, a handful of blogs, the Redskins home page, ESPN, Sports Illustrated—it's still not enough.
Chris Simms: Starting with arguably the most important resigning, Simms will be a restricted free agent which means the Bucs can match any offers by other NFL teams. Allen is currently negotiating with Simms' agent for a new contact.
Simeon Rice: Allen has said that he will attempt to renogiate contracts with the fifteen highest paid players, and if he can not renegotiate the Bucs will cut said player. Rice is due to be paid $9 M next season which makes him the second highest paid player next season. Before the season the Bucs attempted to restructure Rice's contract and he refused. If Rice does the same thing he will be traded or cut loose.
Derrick Brooks: Brooks will be the highest paid player next season ($11.6 M) and Allen will ask him to restructure his contract. It's tough to see Brooks leaving but the Bucs need to cut $19 M in player's salaries by March 3 to come under the cap.
Shelton Quarles: Under contract for $5 M next season. Similar to Brooks Quarles will be asked to restructure despite coming off a great season.
Mike Alstott: Much like Brett Favre Alstott is straddling the fence when it comes to deciding whether to retire or stick around another year. Is under contract for $5 M next season.
Brian Griese: Under contract for $7 M next season. Will be cut unless he renegotiates. May be cut anyway to make room (both financially and roster-wise) for Simms.
Chris Hovan: Unrestricted free agent this season, and his resurgence while under the Bucs may produce more interest in Hovan that last season when he was viewed as damaged goods.
Rod Marinelli: Defensive line coach who has interviewed for Lion's head coaching position. Considered second tier canidate by Rams for their head coaching position. If Kiffin does leave for St. Louis then Marinelli would be offered Buc's defensive coordinator position. Will most likely end up in Kansas City with Herm Edwards as defensive coordinator (Edit- ignore previous line, see bottom).
Mike Tomlin: Defensive backs coach with the Bucs. Accepted offer to be the defensive coordinator for the Vikings.
Booger McFarland: Under contract for $8.1 M next season, may be cut if he does not renegotiate. Can not renegotiate until next fall.
Dexter Jackson: Unrestricted free agent. Super Bowl MVP fell off the map after leaving town to sign with Cardinals. Most likely will only leave for another team that runs Tampa Two since he does not play well in other defenses.
Ike Hilliard: Unrestricted free agent. Not many notable players left who may leave town so I will just mention them quickly.
Jameel Cook: Unrestricted free agent.
Matt Bryant: Unrestricted free agent.
Juran Bolden: Unrestricted free agent.
Dave Moore: Unrestricted free agent.
Todd Stuessie: Unrestricted free agent.
Obviously everyone on the roster is free game to leave the Bucs at any point this offseason, but if I left off anybody that you think should have been included let me know in the comments section.
EDIT #1: The Kansas City Star is reporting that Gunther Cunningham will stay in KC as the defensive coordinator, thus ruling out Marinelli being hired by the Chiefs. Marinelli may end up in Chicago as the defensive coordinator.
Edit #2: In news that should come as no real surprise, Kiffin has turned down the Ram's head coaching job. It is doubtful many other teams will offer Kiffin an interview, considering this decision pretty much cements Kiffin's desire to stay in Tampa.
EDIT #3: The Tampa Tribune is reporting that Marinelli has been offered an interview for the Raider's head coaching position. This would be a poor first head coaching opportunity since Radier's owner Al Davis is notoriously fickle and traditionally underpays his head coaches. It still appears Chicago is where Marinelli will end up.
EDIT #4: Marinelli is one of three finalists (along with Jim Haslett and Pittsburgh offensive line coach Russ Grimm) for the Lion's head coaching gig. Since the decision has to be made fairly soon (perhaps by the end of the week) and Grimm can not be interviewed while the Steelers are in the playoffs, this is basically a two horse race between Marinelli and Haslett.
For as much noise as has been made about the Bill Belichick coaching tree (Charlie Weiss, Romeo Crennel, Eric Mangini) the Tony Dungy/Monte Kiffin (Herm Edwards, Lovie Smith, Rod Marinelli, Mike Tomlin) coaching tree has been producing better results lately. Dungy is coaching the Super Bowl favorite, Kiffin had the best defense and Lovie Smith was voted the coach of the year.
And while the Bucs will struggle at first with new defensive staff, long term this is good news for the Bucs. Kiffin can recruit the best and brightest defensive minds in the collegiate ranks to Tampa Bay. Every coach, from high school to the NFL, wants to be a head coach, and interning with the Bucs gives them a better shot at getting noticed. Just look at some of the interviews Marinelli is getting offered.
Detroit Lion's head coach. Kansas City Chief's defensive coordinator. St. Louis Ram's head coach. Marinelli was just a defensive line coach in Tampa, but now he's interviewing to lead a NFL team. And before Marinelli, Herm Edwards made the jump from secondary coach to head coach of the Jets.
Which is to say while the Bucs will continue to lose quality defensive coaches to other teams, as long as Kiffin stays in town, their will always be qualified coaches to replace them.
Normally, I don't side with a local tv news station since they are full of idiots (as the documentry "Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy" shows) but Channel 28 is getting reamed by the NFL in this situation. After Channel 28 handed out free t-shirts before the 'Skins playoff game, the Buccaneer's organization responded by banning Channel 28 from the postgame press conference.
"This is obviously a serious matter. Our organization and the NFL doesn't take this matter lightly," [Buc's spokesman Jeff] Kamis said.
Gang violence or soldiers dying overseas are serious issues, not the NFL getting it panties in a bunch because of some free t-shirts. They say a NFL locker room is like a fraternity, but everyone else in the NFL works like a sorority.
What's next, taking legal action against fans with signs that say "Go Bucs"? Shutting down unlicensed websites with the Buc's name in them? On second thought I should probably shut up.
First and second stops are Buc Stats and Pewter Pirates.
Pewter Pirates does some research (i.e. Googled "Bucs" and "draft pick", we could have done that) and discovers the Bucs will draft Auburn OT Marcus McNeil. The only other question is what should McNeil's nickname be? We vote for Morgan Freeman.
Buc Stats takes a look at the departure of two Bucs defensive coaches and wonders why another Bucs coach was not given a pink slip. Truth be told Tomlin's and Marinelli's departures will likely hurt the Bucs more than any other personnel losses this offseason.
And finally EdBatista at The Sports Frog is baffled by Peter King's hating on the Herm Edwards to Kansas City deal:
I'm truly baffled by this. (I'm baffled by KC's passionate love for Herm Edwards, too, but that's another story.) Herm and Woody, once upon a time, were tight. Time passed, things changed, they drifted apart. Herm's looking around, thinking about playing the field. KC and Herm actually have a little history. KC remembers how good things used to be with Herm, what a great guy he was, and they know they'd make magic together. Woody says, "Don't let the door hit you in the ass, Herm." KC and Herm walk off into the sunset. End of story.
Clearly PKing is the jilted lover in this love triangle.
The Redskins offense is followed by the Bucs offense as the day-long session rolls on. Again, power running is the theme. The Bucs use two or three tight ends on every play. Jaws is impressed by the fact that Jon Gruden, a pass-oriented coach, has embraced “primitive” offense out of necessity. He’s also impressed by Cadillac Williams, and by Chris Simms, who Jaws says “has matured more in every game.” And while it’s clear that neither Tampa tackle is effective as a pass blocker, he notes that the Bucs line is effective when blocking straight ahead and double-teaming defenders.
Which is to say neither tackle is all that good. Anthony Davis deserves far more credit than Kenyatta since at least Davis is a young undrafted free agent while Kenyatta was a first round draft pick. Kenyatta has seen some improvement over the last couple of years but he has not been as dominant as you would expect a first rounder to be.
The funny thing about the game Saturday was the way the Bucs lost. They played punishing defense but the offense turned the ball over and failed to score more than ten points. Wasn't Gruden supposed to be the guy who put points on the scoreboard?
Yes, the 'Skins have a top ten defense coached by the highest paid defensive coordinator in the NFL. And sure, the offense has a good deal of young developing talent and should be better in the future, but for now this has not been a very good offense. Just look at the offensive ranks (via Pro Football Reference) over the last six years.
Rankings . . . . Score . . . Yards
2005 . . . . . . . . 20 . . . . . . 23
2004 . . . . . . . . 23 . . . . . . 21
2003 . . . . . . . . 18 . . . . . . 11
2002 . . . . . . . . 18 . . . . . . 24
2001 . . . . . . . . 15 . . . . . . 25
2000 . . . . . . . . 7 . . . . . . . 21
1999 . . . . . . . . 27 . . . . . . 28
Gruden took over in 2002, and the scoring has not improved. Part of that can be attributed to Gruden's attempts to bring in veterans and make small improvements the first three years of his coaching tenure, instead of building around young talent as he did this season. After the Super Bowl victory, Gruden delayed the inevitable rebuilding every team has to go through in the modern era of free agency.
Going into the offseason the line is still a mess, and Kenyatta Walker looks like he will bolt town unless he can get more money. The line played average this season, but Gruden had to keep tightends on the line to help block too often. Chris Simms is an unrestricted free agent and may also leave if the Bucs can not match any competing offers.
On the bright side, Monte Kiffin's defense shut down Joe Gibb's offense. The 'Skins could not move the chains on offense and, as a result, set a record for offensive futility by a playoff team.
But the 'Skins defense played well also, and won the game for Washington.
In the end the Bucs shot themselves in the foot with those two odd turnovers in the first quarter which resulted in 14 points for the 'Skins. You can't blame Simms for the first interception since the ball was tipped at the line of scrimmage. And the fumble by Cadillac was down right unlucky, considering Marcus Washington should have been ruled down, and then that he was able to fumble the ball forward to Sean "Hock-a-Loogie" Taylor.
But the Bucs benefitted from some good luck just to make the playoffs, so it's only fair that karma balanced out the universe in the end.
Going into the offseason the Bucs have a good deal of decisions they have to make, but that is not necessarily a bad thing this time around. At the quarterback position, the Bucs have to decide between Griese and Simms. Right now Griese is more mature and a better quarterback. Simms, on the other hand, has more upside although he makes immature decisions. I don't think this is as clear cut decision as most people do, since Gruden was forced to simplify the offense for Simms this season, which handicapped the offense.
Additionally, the Bucs have to decide what to do with Simeon Rice and his expensive contract (most likely cut him if he does not restructure), although Rice is a key player on this defense and extremely difficult to replace. And the Bucs have to decide which position to draft in the next couple of months. Do they go with an offensive tackle, cornerback or another position?
With Round One of the playoffs finished and the Bucs out, who are you rooting for? Lovie Smith and Chicago or NFC South opponent Carolina? John Lynch and Denver or Tony Dungy and Indy?
Anyway, the odd thing about these two teams is how similar they are. Both have average quarterbacks performing better than expected. Power runningbacks fueling the offense. One go-to receiver and then nobody behind said receiver catching the ball. Each have a young tightend making a name for himself this season. And both have top ten defenses coached by two of the best defensive coordinators in the NFL. And both head coaches have won Super Bowls.
Offense. Defense. Special Teams.
'Skin's Offense vs. Buc's Defense
DVOA . . . . . 'Skin's offense . . . . Buc's defense
Total . . . . . . 6.1% (#12) . . . . . . . -10.0% (#10)
Rushing . . . . 4.2% (#9) . . . . . . . -18.4% (#1)
Passing . . . . 8.3% (#10) . . . . . . . -1.9% (#15)
The severity of Mark Brunell's foot injury will likely determine if the 'Skins can win this game. Last week the 'Skins struggled against the Eagles because Brunell could not plant off his back foot. As a result, he was not able to throw the ball as hard as would have liked to and the balls tended to float on him. If this continues to be a problem the Buc's secondary should have little difficulty shutting down the 'Skins passing game.
It's the 'Skins running game which worries me. While the Buc's benefit from having the top ranked rushing defense this season, Clinton Portis, the man of many costumes, has been kryptonite to the Buc's defense. With the speed the Bucs have on defense they tend to overpursue a runningback, which leaves cutback lanes for a runningback who can find them. Portis is one of those backs with the speed and agility to find the cutbacks lanes, which means the linebackers have to be more patient and stay in their lanes when going after Portis.
In the last game most of the Buc's safeties were injured and the secondary was forced to start third stringers. This game safety Jermaine Phillips may not be able to play but hard hitting Will Allen will start if Phillips is too injured to play. Hopefully, Monte Kiffin will have realized that you have to double Santana Moss all day, considering Moss is the only receiver Brunell throws to.
Buc's Offense vs 'Skin's Defense
DVOA . . . . . Buc's offense . . . . 'Skins defense
Total . . . . . . . -5.1% (#17) . . . . . . -15.5% (#2)
Rushing . . . . . -11.3% (#24) . . . . -16.3% (#5)
Passing . . . . . 0.7% (#16) . . . . . . -14.8% (#7)
Having Cadillac back at a 100 percent should help the Buc's offense, although I doubt the Bucs will put up over 30 points again. In the last game the 'Skins defense brought the house against Simms to try and force him to make a mistake. Simms handled the blitz well and threw a couple of nice deep strikes to his receivers. I can't imagine Greg Williams (the 'Skins defensive coordinator) will repeat his mistake, so I imagine Simms will see less of the blitz. All the same, expect Gruden to use plenty of two tightend sets and max protection to simplify things for Simms.
The 'Skins secondary is banged up this time around also. The top two corners have missed the last couple of games. While rookie starting corner Carlos Rogers may be able to start, the other corner, Shawn Springs, is listed as questionable. Safety Dean Taylor, who missed the last game, will be back for this one. A depleated secondary will be another reason Greg Williams holds off on bringing the blitz as often as he did last game. Which should slow this game down, and lead to fewer scores compared to last time's 35-36 shoot out.
An argument can be made that the 'Skins are the better team. Just looking at the above statistics, the 'Skins are favored in just about every matchup. And because the last game was so close, many "experts" are picking the 'Skins to win this game. Which is one of the few things which makes me feel good about this game. Anytime Peter King is picking against your team you have to feel good about it.
I will be watching the game up here in Northern Virginia with some of my buddies who are 'Skins fans, but it sounds like a good number of 'Skins fans will be heading down to Tampa. Even though tickets have been difficult to get, many Washington fans bought airplane tickets to Tampa before last week's game with the hope of buying tickets when they get down to Tampa. And who can blame them? Mons Venus, Ybor City and Clearwater Beach sound pretty good when the DC area can expect a high of 42 degrees.
This game is going to be exciting and I'm jealous of any fans who have the opportunity to make it to Raymond James tomorrow. Go Bucs!
I'll keep this short and sweet because this blog is quickly turning into all Clinton Portis, all the time. This clip from earlier today features Coach Janky Spanky, the defensive coordinator the 'Skins should have hired. The best thing about this clip, is watching Portis, disguised as Coach Janky Spanky, answer questions on how he would stop Portis.
Oh yeah, and if Portis was the head coach the 'Skins would practice in their underwear.
(hat tip to Deaspin)
Here's the odd thing about Portis's misguided quest for attention, he's been joking around when his team has been losing. Coming off losses to the Giants and Bucs, the 'Skins are about to lose again to the Raiders. Of course, Portis may not be serious, but Dollah Bill sure is.
"Warren Sapp is a hungry man, but coming around messing with Dollah Bill, he will get dealt with," Portis said, in character, of course. "I don't mean no harm, but me and Warren Sapp were money-making friends. ... But today, we're not friends. Next week, we won't be friends. If you don't mind telling him that those 12 tickets he called me about? I can't get them for him. So, Dollah Bill is serious."
I would have paid all the money in my wallet (about 3 dollars, all in Sackajewa coins) to see Sapp's reaction after he saw Portis's response. Was it anger, emberassment or confusion? I'm guessing a mix of all three with a little bit of hunger mixed in.
To me, the message from this season is simply that the team's 11-5 record and trip to the NFC Title Game in 2004 was a fluke, the result of the team winning a number of close games (6-1 in games decided by four points or less) and benefiting from the NFC being extremely weak. Really, was it that big of an accomplishment to beat the 8-8 Rams to make it to the Title Game? Did the Falcons really look like they belonged on the same field as Philadelphia in that Title Game?
B 'n B points out that unless the Falcons bring in a new offensive system Vick will continue to underperform, and the Falcon's best chance for the future is to hope the young defensive talent matures into a top ten defense for Atlanta. Except for Vick's first season, when he was still a novelty, most teams have figured out how to defend the alleged Superman.
At this point, Portis has officially crossed over from "that's kinda cute" territory to "somebody get this guy a psychiatrist" territory. Kind of like when your eight year old son puts on a tu-tu and dances around the living room, but then three days later he's doing the same thing. When asked why he continued to dress up like a fool Portis responded:
"Just from the letters I've received recently from older people and people telling me their grandparents look forward to Thursday to see who I'm going to be."
Old people? So Portis is pandering to the same group of people who drive with their right blinker constantly on while they go to their 4:30 early bird dinner? Is Portis trying to set himself up for a career as a spokesman for AARP? Somebody please explain how this makes any sense.
Overlooking that the idiot who voted for Mankins should have his voting rights for everything related to the NFL stripped away for his Patriot's bias, Cadillac deserved to win this award. He did more to turn around this club than any of the other new players. Cadillac proved how good the Bucs team could be with a consistent running game.
And while it's nice to see a Buc win this award, in the grand scheme of things it is fairly meaningless. If Cadillac wants to establish a reputation for himself he needs to get it done in the postseason.
With Jerome from Southeast DC's death following the 'Skins crushing loss to the Giants came the appearance of Dr. I Don't Know. I'll let the doctor explain his outfit.
The Glasses: "They're actually from surgery. I did the autopsy on Southeast Jerome. The glasses were white, but mixing them with blood, it just so happened they turned pink."
The Hair: "A lot of time in the laser room. In radiology, we're doing a lot of things, and it just so happens it grew out this color."
Ok, I more surprised that Clinton Portis knows what radiology means, much less that he is able to pronounce it. After all, this man is a graduate from a school whose alumnus are unable to pronounce the full name of said school (i.e. the U).
"We have a very clear film shot of the ballcarrier on the ground about six inches short," Gibbs said.
The local sports talk radio station has reported that Gibbs has changed his mind. Gibbs now claims the Bucs won the first contest fair and square. I wonder what could possibly compel Crybaby Gibbs to change his tune?
"She busted some lady in the nose, but that'll just teach you about messing with her," Portis said. "I think fans take that too serious. People come to the game to have a good time, that's what you should do. If you decide your team is losing and you want to cause trouble, then you're going to get what you're looking for. And yesterday, whoever that fan was, they got what they were looking for."
And thanks to Scott for pointing out my errors in the "Dissecting the Falcons" post. The NFL only changes two games for a team that wins it division, which would not have as big of an effect on a schedule as I suggested. The lesson, as always, is that I'm an idiot.
After yesterday's loss the local media in Atlanta is starting to question the franchise's direction under Mora. Writes Steve Wyche of the Atlanta Journal Constitution:
The season-worst pummeling capped a dreadful slide in which Atlanta (8-8) lost six of its last eight games, got eliminated from playoff contention and failed in its pursuit of the consolation prize of posting the first consecutive winning seasons in the Falcons' 40-year history.
There were no indications that Blank had any plans for wholesale changes at any level, but things can't stay the same, with everyone hoping the maturation of the team's younger players will be enough.
I don't know who or what is to blame for the Falcon's collapse (although Vick probably shares more of the blame than most Falcons fans are willing to admit). Unlike the Eagles or Rams, the Falcons did not suffer any key injuries to derail their season. And unlike the Vikings or Packers, Atlanta did not lose any key personnel during the offseason.
There is little difference between the Falcons this season and last, both personnel wise and statistically. Taking a quick glance at a statistical comparison of the two Falcon's teams:
Rankings . . . . . 2004 . . . . 2005
Total offense . . . 18th . . . . 13th
Rushing . . . . . . 1st . . . . . 1st
Passing . . . . . . 30th . . . . 28th
Total defense . . 14th . . . . . 22nd
Rushing . . . . . . 9th . . . . . 26th
Passing . . . . . . 22nd . . . . 14th
Not a huge difference between the two seasons. The offense saw a slight improvement but that was probably linked to the defense's inability to stop the run. While the defenses inability to stop the run is nothing new (it was a problem for Atlanta last season) more teams this season focused on running the ball against Atlanta. As a result, Atlanta's offense was forced to put up more points to stay in the games.
The best thing Atlanta had going for them last season was a soft schedule in a soft conference. Last season the Falcons played only three games against team which finished the season with a winning record. This season, the Falcons played eight games against teams with winning records. That's the NFL's gift for winning your division (as the Bucs will discover), a much more difficult schedule the next.
But for now it's easy for Falcons fans to blame Mora or the defense for their losses. But unless you are a dominant team (such as Indy, New England or Pittsburgh this season) it is next to impossible to overcome a difficult schedule (as San Diego discovered). But I'm starting to ramble.
The Falcons have some problems to remedy heading into this offseason, because yesterday's loss is not the way anyone wants to end their season, as Wyche points out:
Thousands of empty seats... a dreadful performance by the home squad... fans booing the team off the field at halftime.
Now we're talking Falcons football.
Today's personality is the only repeat for Portis, Jerome from Southeast DC. Jerome first appeared after the 'Skins trampled over the 49ers. Before that game Portis wore a wig (although he did not name a character) and, the superstitious man that he is, almost every week since then Portis has worn a costume. At this point though (being so close to Halloween), few people had any idea just how far Portis would take his ill-fated attempts at humor.
"You've heard of 'Vampire from Brooklyn'? We'll, I'm Jerome from Southeast D.C.," Portis said, laughing at his own joke. "Going to the big city and night lights this week up there in New York City, I heard, so I've got to be prepared. I don't know what I'm going to see."
Jerome went the way of the Dodo after the 'Skins got clobbered up in New York, but Jerome reappeared, from heaven, last week with a few of his friends (as I noted below). On a completely random side note, Portis went to his high school prom (in Gainesville) with his mother. I'm sure these two facts are completely unrelated.
Check in tomorrow for more coverage of the madness Clinton Portis has slowly been descending into.
That would be Clinton Portis (aka Jerome from Southeast) with a few of his teammates. In heaven. Fightin' over the championship trophy. In heaven.
(hat tip to Deadspin, to access the video click on channels, then press conferences, then Clinton Portis 12.29)