And who can blame them considering the biggest story this offseason has been the CBA negotiations, a subject so boring sheep count CBA cap figures to fall asleep. Although I will criticize the Times and Tribune for their poor job of covering the local angle on this story (but then again that may be because the Glazer family is in the witness protection program).
After the CBA negotiations, the second biggest story is the Simms/Griese negotiations which were a done deal before they started. The Bucs don't have the cap room to keep both players, and if one is going to be cut it will be the older of the two, Griese. The only question has been when and how Bruce Allen will resign Simms.
The St. Pete Times runs a story hinting at the fact that Simms wants a one year tender which will allows him to enter free agency next season. Normally a player in Simms situation demands a multiyear, expensive contract but, with the possibility of an uncapped season still on the table, every agent worth his salt (which Tom Condon certainly is) is doing everything they can to make their client a free agent next offseason.
Simms is taking a huge risk by asking for a one year tender. If Simms is seriously injured (knock on wood) then he will get nothing next offseason. On the other hand, if Simms stays healthy and continues his current level of play he is headed for a huge payday, whether or not a new CBA is negotiated.
While the Wonderlic test is used by many other companies, the test has become associated with the NFL. Prospective players have 12 minutes to answer 50 questions which (much like an SAT) get progressively harder. You can find sample questions here. The average NFL test score is 19, while the rest of America averages a 21 on the Wonderlic.
Obviously, coaches and GMs are not going to draft a player soley based on their Wonderlic score. It's but one small measurement of a football player's aptitude. But what it does measure is a player's ability to digest and learn new offensive plays and defensive schemes. As a result quarterback's scores are weighed more heavily than the scores of other position players.
One more thing to note before I list some of the Bucs players' results, players often take the test multiple times to improve their score. For example Cadillac Williams took the test before the combine and scored a 11 (which is fairly mediocre). Cadillac then took the test again a few months later and doubled his score to get a 22. While it's impossible to tell if these kind of significant increases in results are due to the player being more comfortable with the test or possibly by cheating on the Wonderlic, either way agents are now expected to prepare their clients for the test.
- Carnell Williams . . . . . . . . 11, 22
- Alex Smith . . . . . . . . . . . . 40
- Larry Brackins . . . . . . . . . . 17
- Paris Warren . . . . . . . . . . . 13, 17
- Dan Buenning . . . . . . . . . . . 29, 32
- Anthony Bryant . . . . . . . . . 15, 14
- Barrett Ruud . . . . . . . . . . . 35
- Will Smith . . . . . . . . . . . . . 23
- Michael Clayton . . . . . . . . . 19
- Chris Simms . . . . . . . . . . . . 22
- Brian Griese . . . . . . . . . . . . 39
UPDATE #1: After some additional research, I've discovered that the Bucs were tied for third (with the Titans) last season in highest average Wonderlic scores (with a score of 23.2). Leading the pack were the Patriots with an average of 24.6, followed by the Raiders (23.3).
Want a hint on who the Bucs will draft with their first pick? GM Bruce Allen favors intelligent offensive lineman. From a Wall Street Journal article written by Sam Walker four weeks into the 2005 season:
"[I]f you're wondering why Tampa Bay is second in the NFL in rushing yards, here's a possible explanation: The average test mark for the offensive line is a 30 and for guards a 34, which is four points higher than a typical attorney's score. 'I'm not surprised,' says Buccaneers general manager Bruce Allen. 'I trust my guards more than most attorneys.' "
UPDATE #2: The Houston Chronicle is now reporting that the rumors that Vince Young scored a six on the Wonderlic are false. Young most likely had a score closer to 16.
PewterReport reports that Pittman will not buyout his contract with the Bucs and chooses to retire as a Buc.
My agent put that option in my contract for certain reasons, but I want to stay in Tampa and finish my career out with the Bucs,” said Pittman. “One of the biggest reasons I came to Tampa Bay was because of Coach Gruden and having the opportunity to play in his offense. There really isn’t a reason for me to leave. I have a home here. I wish I got in the games more, but the times I do get in I feel I play well. Most likely I’m going to stay. This is where I really want to be. Hopefully I can retire a Buc.”
Since Cadillac was brought in Pittman has been the good soldier, never complaining about his loss of playing time. Gruden gave Pittman a shot when few teams were willing to, and Pittman was rewarded with over a hundred yards in the Super Bowl. Not many runningbacks have done that, so it's good to see that Pittman has decided to stick around Tampa for another couple of years.
Griese is owed a $2.6 M roster bonus next week which would increase Griese's cap hit from $1.398 M to $7.1 M. The Bucs need to continue to facade of keeping Griese so that they can negotiate for a lower contract with Simms. Which conviently brings us to the next story.
Tom Condon now represents many of the key free agents for the Bucs. Simeon Rice, Michael Pittman, Chris Hovan, Kenyatta Walker and now Chris Simms all have Condon negotiating for them. Did Simms fire his old agent and hire Condon because of the slow pace of the new contract negotiations (as reported by the Times)? I don't know for sure but that story seems highly unlikely since it is to Simms advantage to extend the contract negotiations. More likely is that Condon stole Simms from his old agent Jeremy-Piven-from-Entourage style.
Of course the monkey wrench in all of this are the current CBA negotiations. If the CBA is not extended Simms would not become an unrestricted free agent until 2009 (although I doubt a new CBA would not have been negotiated by then). Instead, Simms faces the possibility of being a restricted free agent each season until 2009, which could prevent Simms from having the big payday he is hoping for.
Ira Kaufman of the Tribune reports the Bucs have been shopping Rice around to other teams and have an offer on the table with the Jaguars (altough the Jags have not yet responded). Rice, who turned 32 today (Happy Birthday Simeon), has most likely already seen his best playing days, and if the Bucs can get something of value (hopefully a draft pick) more power to the Bucs.
"There's no reason I should be passing for only 2,300 yards for the season. My passing attempts per game [2/4.2] are not even that high. I hope it's not that they don't believe in me, because I believe in me."
This is really something a Falcons blogger should be covering but since most of them have given up on their team, I'm going to throw in my two cents. (By the way, if your Falcons blog is called Vick for MVP and Vick is traded do you still root for the Falcons or for the team Vick was traded to? Or do you give up on your blog like the Fridge at a hot dog eating contest?)
Pointing out that Vick is not happy is stating the obvious at this point, but could Vick be trying to get his coaches fired or, could Vick even be traded to another team? The Falcons have approached Vick in an effort to reduce his contract figure. If Vick's contract was lowered he would certainly be more attractive trade bait for GM Rich McKay. And if Vick was traded the Falcons could clear up cap space for a big name receiver (Terrell Owens) and promote Matt Schaub to starter.
So maybe Rice won't be sticking around (get it? sticky rice?)
To recap, Bruce Allen announced in January that he would either renegotiate or cut the fifteen highest contracts on the Buc's roster starting at the top with Derrick Brooks. Brooks, always the team leader, said he would renegotiate if it would guarantee he could retire as a Buc. Next up was Rice, but now Rice's agent is saying Bruce Allen hasn't contacted him (yet) and we are supposed to infer that means Rice won't be let go at some point? Something stinks here and it ain't the moldy cheddar in the back of the fridge.
The sticking point in the negotiations has been the issue of greater revenue sharing among the owners. Since the last CBA was negotiated some owners have found more creative ways to squeeze money out of their home towns, for example by selling stadium naming rights or building stadiums with more luxury boxes. Currently, none of these stadium revenues are shared.
On the other side have been owners who have lacked the creativity or initiative to generate more revenue from their stadium deals. These more short-sighted owners are demanding that these additional stadium revenues be split equally among all 32 teams, which has prompted the creation of a so-called "Gang of Nine" opposed to additional revenue sharing (since only nine owners are needed to block a new CBA). The "Gang of Nine" are believed to be made up of the Redskins, Eagles, Cowboys, Giants, Jets, Panthers, Broncos, Patriots, and Texans.
And good for the "Gang of Nine", they found additional ways to generate profits from their investments. That boys and girls, is called capitalism.
Now one of the greater ironies of the NFL's success is that is has come after the league adopted the Soviet Russia model. It appears communism did not die off after the Berlin Wall fell, it only moved to Cleveland, Boston and Tampa. But now, after the playing field has been leveled by revenue sharing, some owners want to stiffle any further entrepreneurial efforts. Because, the more revenue sharing the owners demand the more likely the NFL will become Soviet Russia.
And this isn't Soviet Russia, Danny.
The other completely unrelated story I wanted to touch on is the news that Carl Crawford wants to be the best fantasy player he can be.
"Nobody recognizes me. Ninety percent of the guys who picked me first in their drafts don't even know what I look like. But you know what? Putting up big fantasy numbers is part of what motivates me out there. That's another thing to play for."
And if making some fantasy geek in Oklahoma City happier motivates Crawford, well then more power to him. As long as Crawford plays for the DRays, and as long as the DRays spend $35 million to the Yankees $208 million, there is not much else to motivate Crawford to play hard every day.
In fact, I would like to see more players on losing teams take this attitude. I want Steve McNair or David Carr, when their teams have a 3-7 record and are down by two touchdowns in the fourth quarter, to think of me and the thousands of other fantasy geeks around the country. I want McNair or Carr to remember the fantasy geeks, suck it up, go back into the game, and score another touchdown or two. Is that too much to ask?
I could attempt to explain just what a new CBA means for the NFL, but I'm just some idiot with plenty of worthless opinions. Hell, I get confused just using my blackberry, so the mysteries of the CBA are beyond me.
But Mark Maske at the Washington Post is all over this story (email-bestbucsblog at yahoo.com, password-bestbucsblog):
Representatives of the owners and players are scheduled to meet today and Wednesday in Indianapolis, the site of the NFL scouting combine. Players Association chief Gene Upshaw has set the end of this week as the deadline for completing an extension of the labor agreement to keep the current salary-cap system in place beyond the 2006 season.
Upshaw is scheduled to meet with groups of agents Wednesday and Friday in Indianapolis. He said over the weekend that he would tell the agents the sport is headed to a season without a salary cap in 2007 and they should avoid agreeing to any clauses in players' contracts that would keep their clients unnecessarily tied to teams beyond next season. Upshaw also said he would tell the agents the opening of this year's free-agent market will not be postponed.
Monkey wrench, meet the NFL offseason.
In news that should come as little surprise, Ricky Williams has failed his fourth drug test, which means Ricky is facing a one year suspension. While Ricky has shot himself in the foot yet again, the biggest loser here is the Dolphins organization. Coach Saban took a risk when he accepted Ricky back into the fold with the long term plan of trading the former leading rusher of the NFL. But now no team will be willing to trade a cartoon rabbit, much less a decent player for this burnout.
While it is not known what drug Ricky tested positive for, Ricky has failed the last three drug tests because of marijuana. Of course, Ricky's mom, Sandy Williams, has a different theory, that it was one of the supplements for Ricky's yoga school. Sandy Williams claims her son has stopped smoking marijuana.
There is a silver lining to this suspension though. I have been a strong proponent of a Ricky reality show, possibly teaming him up with a more outspoken personality, like say Terrell Owens. Now we are just one more Drew Rosenhaus breakdown away from making this a reality.
The Buc's number one priority going into the offseason was to keep restricted free agent Chris Simms. To that end, the Bucs are ready to slap a two million tender on Simms that would guarantee if Simms signs with another team, said team would have to give up a first and third round picks (hat tip to Adam Schefter of the NFL Network for this bit of news).
Brian Griese, able to read the tea leaves, has gone on the offensive in an attempt to get released from his contract early. Griese's agent has already fired a shot at the Bucs organization, surprisingly through the fanzine Pewter Report. Besides declaring that his client will not restructure his contract (and thus guarantee the Bucs will cut Griese), agent Cindrich mentioned that Griese is "close to 100 percent healthy."
The St. Pete Times, which actually has journalistic integrity, broke the same story a day after Pewter Report, but did not mention Griese's health. Conventional wisdom says a torn ACL takes a year to a year and a half to fully heal. So when Griese's agent say his client is almost fully recovered from a torn ACL he suffered a mere four months ago, there's a good chance Cindrich is not being fully honest (then again a sports agent lying is not really breaking news).
So good job Pewter Report, what you lack in journalistic integrity you make up for in over charging foolish Bucs fans for useless reports on third string linebackers.
Speaking of journalistic integrity, tip of the hat to the St. Pete Times for actually doing some research for the story about the Bucs raising ticket prices. The Tampa Tribune, most likely since they have a business relationship with the Bucs, ran a mostly glowing review of the hike in ticket prices. Now it may be hypocritical for someone who does almost no research for his posts, to attack some one else for putting as little effort into their column, but the Tribune has a responsibility to research and report on their stories. I guess the Tribune is too busy handing advertising checks to the Bucs to do any useful reporting.
Cundiff's field goal %: 62.5% (2005), 73.2% (career)
Bryant's field goal %: 84.0% (2005), 81.3% (career)
I could see (assuming Bryant leaves) the Bucs signing Todd France, and pitting France against Cundiff in training camp.
Allen has good range and displayed an ability this year to make big plays at key moments. Allen is not adept in single coverage situations but he's become far more aggressive than he was in college and has improved markedly as a tackler. Allen doesn't have great size but he is an exceptional athlete.
Hats off to Dexter Jackson, who had a really good run in Tampa punctuated by a Super Bowl MVP award for his two interceptions returned for touchdowns against Oakland. Over shadowed by other big names on a great Bucs defense, Jackson saved his best game for the biggest stage. If I could have a career like Dan Marino (great stats, no Super Bowl rings) or Jackson (less impressive stats, but a Super Bowl ring) I think I would take Jackson's career.
EDIT: I'm an idiot, thanks to Tampa in 07 for pointing out my mistake, Jackson had two interceptions but did not return them for touchdowns. I was thinking of Dwight Smith.
One of the more interesting ideas I have heard to reinvigorate the Pro Bowl is to schedule the game for the Sunday before the Pro Bowl. Miami suggested this idea awhile back as part of a package where Miami would hold the Super Bowl every three years and, in return, the city would build permanent facilities for the Pro Bowl. Obviously players from the Super Bowl teams would not be able to play, but more attention would be paid to the Pro Bowl if it was a week before the biggest sporting event in America.
The biggest free agent this offseason is Shaun Alexander, and the "where-will-Alexander-the-Great-go?" rumor mill begins with the Panthers wooing of last season's MVP. While Alexander has still not commited to where he will play next season, he did admit yesterday that Carolina's Steve Smith has been wooing him during their time together in Hawaii (much like Donovan McNabb did two years ago with Terrell Owens). I do not know anything about Carolina's cap situation but he would be a good fit on a team in need of a premier runningback. Stephen Davis is a shell of his former self, and DeShaun Foster is an injury waiting to happen.
And yes, the above picture is of Alexander wearing a Panthers hat during a Pro Bowl practice.
Alstott's value to the Bucs came (unsurprisingly) in goal line situations and (surprisingly) in the passing game. As fantasy players know all to well, Alstott took away a good number of goal line carries from Cadillac Williams. Additionally, Alstott was Simm's safety valve on third down and long this season. More than once I saw Alstott catch the ball seven yards short of the sticks on third down, and then fight (successfully) for the first.
Anyway, congrats to the real Alex Smith for winning the Madden Bowl, my favorite of the dozens of meaningless NFL player contests. Smith beat another rookie, the Raven's Mark Clayton, in the championship game. Normally the contestants select their own teams to play with, but both rookies pussed out big time and played with the Colts.
Weak, very weak.
In the big news of the day, Monte Kiffin just can't stop stealing coaches from Southern California. USC's secondary coach Greg Burns accepted the same position, which had been vacated when Mike Tomlin left to be the defensive coordinator for Minnesota. For background on Burns I went to USC blogger Kyle at TrojanWire.
Burns was a great recruiter; he did a lot to get DB’s excited to come play for SC. He’s a pretty high-energy guy (which tends to be the case for anyone working with Pete Carroll—it’s either get fired up, or get moving; Norm Chow being the one notable exception)
But I guess we have Monte Kiffin to blame for all of this….let’s just hope he’s good enough to let us keep his son Lane, who was a solid replacement for Norm Chow as our OC.
The Bucs other new coach, Jethro Franklin, also coached at USC, but before that he coached five years at Green Bay. For more information on Jethro, I turned to Packers blogger Robert Lalasz:
He had a mixed legacy with GBP, to say the least. Mike Sherman had an unfortunate tendency to hire college assistants who were unproven as pro coaches, and Franklin fit that bill. He's a rah-rah style coach who tends to reach young players better than veterans. The only people who really developed under his tutelage were Aaron Kampman and KGB, although KGB plateaued after his big contract and is now recognized as someone too light to play the run (and has largely been neutralized as a pass rusher).
Franklin had far more failures: James Lee, Joe Johnson, Kenny Peterson, and Cleditus Hunt. Lee and Peterson were wasted high draft picks, and Hunt and Johnson became turds after getting the big money. He left quickly after 2004 for the USC job, which looked like a step down but was probably a good thing because he would have been fired in Green Bay otherwise.
Bottom line: You have to wonder whether he's a college coach masquerading as a pro coach.
Plenty of fat to chew on.
As you know if you a regular reader, I am an avid fan of Tony Kornheiser and, admitedly, I have mixed feelings about him leaving his radio show for Monday Night Football. Much like your small town girlfriend who leaves you for the big city, I'm partially hoping for TK to fail so he/she will return to his/her radio gig.
That being said, TK will be much better than Dennis Miller. Mike Tirico and TK will work very well together, but Joe Theismann will kill Monday Night Football. What's the over/under on awkward conversation between TK and Joe Theismann which start out with Theismann saying something stupid and TK coming back with a smart ass response? I set the bar at 42.
While many people in the Tampa Bay area may not be familiar with his work, John Riggins would be a much better choice than Theismann. Riggo (the MVP of Super Bowl XVII) is more insightful and interesting than his former quarterback, and has better chemistry with TK. Plus, Theismann is the only guy out there with a worse record of picking games than myself.
Since I'm a man of my word, I have lived up to my bet with Scott from BucStats.com. Go check out my humiliation.
Since I was not able to find a picture of Franklin, I posted a picture of another well known and accomplished Jethro.
(hat tip to St. Pete Times)
Season of the Zebra
This has been a season marred by bad officiating and yesterday was no different. Seattle has 7 penalties for 70 yards, while Pittsburgh had only 3 penalties for 20 yards. Seattle had several big plays called back by questionable ref decisions. The most obvious bad penalty was the Ben Roethlisberger touchdown scramble. While it was tough to call, I thought the ball did not cross the goal line. But there were some worse referee decisions that went against Seattle.
Early in the fourth quarter, while Seattle was in the red zone, offensive lineman Locklear picked up a holding call. More importantly the holding call negated an 18 yard completion to Jerramy Stevens, which would have given Seattle the ball at the one yard line. What irks me the most about this play is that the guy Locklear held was OFFSIDES. And he was offsides on the next penalty also but the refs missed both defensive penalties. If the play had been called correctly it should have been off sitting penalties.
There were some other bad call which went against Seattle, the offensive pass interference call on Darrell Jackson's touchdown (a rarely called penalty), the clipping call on Hasselbeck after he threw an interception. I'm not going to be one of those people who attack the NFL season as absolut garbage because of the consistently bad officiating, but it has certainly been marred by many questionable calls by the zebras.
Lest Steelers fans attack me for being biased, the Steelers played better than the Seahawks. The Steelers defense kept them in the game in the first half and the offense made more big plays in the second half. As much as the penalties could be blamed on the refs, the Seahawks were to blame for the penalties. They looked undisciplined and unprepared for what Pittsburgh threw at them on several drives. I thought Holmgren would have done a better job of preparing his players for the Super Bowl.
Pittsburgh has a young nucleus of players on both sides of the ball, and should good for the next decade.
Seattle's safety banged up
About half way through the game, Seattle's starting safety Marquand Manuel was injured and Etric Pruitt stepped in for Manuel. Pruitt, who started the season on the practice squad, took bad angles on two big plays. The first was the 75 yard run by Fast Willie Parker. The second was the trick pass play (which Pittsburgh has been running for at least three years) from Randle El to Hines Ward. Seattle lost their starting safety to gun shot wounds early in the season, so Pruitt was essentially a third stringer who was unprepared for what Pittsburgh threw at him.
Jerramy Stevens choke job
Joey Porter was right, Stevens is soft.
Stevens made a huge mistake jawing with Porter through the media. Porter, despite coming off as an idiot, knew exactly what he was doing by exchanging words with Stevens. Porter helped take some media attention off Roethlisberger (who still played poorly) and got into Stevens head. Stevens had three big drops and his best catch came after an (illegal) crossing route/pick on Polamalu left Stevens wide open in the endzone.
While I thought the best commercial was the Bud Light magical fridge, Tony Kornheiser makes a compelling argument for the monkey commercial. And here is where, I think, you see a generational gap when it comes to the commercials. I watched the game yesterday with a bunch of people my age (early to mid-twenties) and we all loved the magic fridge commercial, while the Burger King dance number was regarded as a disappointment. Kornheiser felt very differently. He loved the Burger King dance number, but was not impressed by the revolving fridge. Then again, TK does not know the difference between a monkey and an ape.
The picks are in as game time approaches. The Steelers are heavily favored by the media and Vegas is favoring Pittsburgh by four. But I say Seattle has been overlooked (East Coast bias) and Holmgren knows what it takes to win a Super Bowl. Who you got?
Dr. Z's pick: Steelers
Bill Simmon's pick: Steelers
Peter King's pick: Steelers
Don Banks' pick: Steelers
Len Pasquarelli's pick: Steelers
Mel Kiper Jr.'s pick: Steelers
Scott's pick: Steelers
My Pick: Seahawks
Interesting enough, Cadillac earned more money for winning the AP's award ($150 K) than he did for the NFL award ($100 K). From the tone of the article it sounds like these bonuses are based on clauses in Cadillac' contract with the Bucs, which would imply Cadillac and/or his agent either: a.) thought more highly of the AP's award or, b.) thought the AP award would be easier to win.
Either way, congrats to Cadillac for the award. Take your offensive line out some place nice for dinner.
There are certain stories that the assembled masses of media in the Motor City have refused to acknowledge. Sure, you guys can run the Stevens-Porter non-story into the ground but most of you can't take the time to report on what the hookers and strippers of Detroit (and Windsor) are doing this weekend.
Which conveniently leads me to my first story . . . the hookers and strippers of Detroit (and Windsor).
It appears the Super Bowl of football is also the Super Bowl for escorts and strippers. Girls from all over the country descend on Detroit (and the nearby Canadian city of Windsor) to make some extra cash (or just hook up with some one famous). Hmmm, maybe I should get my fake Roethlisberger beard and some plane tickets to Detroit.
Speaking of Roethlisberger, Deadspin released these pictures of the Steelers quarterback having a good time some time ago. And this wouldn't be a big deal, except that the Steelers have refused to acknowledge the existence of the pictures. And newspaper editors, eager to suck up to the Steelers management have gone out of their way not to mention the pictures.
Finally, did you know Matt Hasselbeck has been hit by lightning? You know you are being overlooked when your starting quarterback's near death experience has been largely ignored.
Anyway, my favorite part of this story remains the fact that not only did Victoria Thomas (the blond pictured above) give the police a fake name, she gave the police the name of another Panthers cheerleader, Kristin Owen (pictured below). Victoria then told the police she was a Panthers cheerleader.
I have no earthly idea how the police figured out she was lying about her name.
(hat tip to Deadspin)