Bucs sign LaVar Arrington

So this is the reason Shelton Quarles agreed to take a pay cut.

While certainly unexpected, I can't overstate how much signing LaVar Arrington helps the Bucs. Still in the prime of his career, Arrington is a playmaker who instantly improves a defense. Arrington was forced out of Washington after a falling out with defensive coordinator Gregg Williams. Bucs fans will most likely remember Arrington as the guy who returned a Simms interception to the six yard line, setting up a Clinton Portis touchdown in our playoff game.

Arrington has great sideline to sideline speed, but is most feared for his pass rushing skills. After all he did end Troy Aikman's career. Expect to see Arrington start at the strongside linebacker position replacing Ryan Nece. More on this tomorrow.


Bucs sign tender for offensive tackle...

Torrin Tucker. Details?

The Cowboys have seven days to match the Bucs offer. Since Tucker was an undrafted free agent the Bucs would not have to give up any draft picks if the Cowboys do not match the offer. (Although don't expect the Tribune to know that.)

Tucker (if signed permanently) would compete with Kenyatta at the right tackle position. Yada, yada. Bucs add more depth to offensive line. Yada, yada, yada. Bucs take on another low risk-low reward type player.

Some more love for George Mason

First, I can't get enough Mason stories. This is the best sports story you will see the rest of the year and Coach Larranaga is one of the most entertaining coaches out there.

Second, I'm still rooting for Florida come Saturday. I live in Virginia now and I love the underdog angle, but I grew up rooting for the Gators. That being said I won't be too disappointed if Mason wins.

Anyway, one of the students at Mason has a blog, and it turns out that blog is pretty good.

Of course, this is all hearsay, but my friend overheard a conversation between [ESPN's David] Alrdridge and a typical Mason undergrad female that went something like this:

Aldridge: “So, who was George Mason?”
GMU Girl: “Ummm, I think he was, like, the president or something?”
Aldridge: “The president of the school?”
GMU Girl: “No, of the country!”

Clearly these two have no idea that Mason was a branch of UVA until the show “24” came out four years ago, at which point the school became its own entity and was named after Xander Berkeley’s character.

And, on a final note, I agree with Billy Packer (for once), most of the students who went to Mason weren't smart enough to get into W&M or UVA (or even Tech). Mason, you'll always be a commuter school to me.

Best Bucs Quote of the Day

"I personally think they should throw the ball to Keyshawn every play and not throw to Steve Smith. Know what I mean? I'd do that if I was them. Throw him the ball."


More on the Quarles deal

The Shelton Quarles pay cut has got me thinking what the next step is for the Bucs. Restructuring Quarles contract essentially guarantees he'll be around for another two years, but remember that Barrett Ruud is still waiting in the wings.

This is an idea I've batted around before last season, but I could see Monte moving Quarles to the strongside (or Sam) linebacker (replacing Ryan Nece) and promoting Ruud to the starting Mike position. Of course, the Bucs would keep Derrick Brooks on the weakside.

Come draft day, the Bucs could draft (assuming they're still available) Ernie Sims or Chad Greenway to play outside linebacker. Sims or Greenway would back up Brooks and Quarles for a year or two, and then step into the starting spot. The Bucs could then draft an offensive tackle in the second or third rounds.

Mike takes pay cut

Do you think it's any coincidence that after Derrick Brooks announced he was taking a paycut, Shelton Quarles did the same thing? That's the value a guy like Brooks brings to your team which the Randy Mosses (who claims to be a team leader) of the world will never have. Humility is a virtue to Brooks, and that attitude permeates to the rest of his Bucs team mates.

Anyway, thanks to Quarles (the middle linebacker or Mike) the Bucs have some extra money to spend in free agency. Scheduled to make $3.1 M in '06 and $3.75 M in '07, Quarles has restructured his contract to make $1.3 M each of the next two years.

Now here's hoping the Bucs actually spend that money on some additional players.


Follow up to the Mason post from yesterday

Some numbers I've wandered upon in the last day...

~3 Million: The number of brackets entered on ESPN.com

1,854: The number of ESPN brackets which picked Mason to make it to the Final Four

4: The number of ESPN brackets which correctly picked all Final Four teams

And it turns out one of those last four mistook George Mason for George Washington. (Really what's the difference between Fairfax and Foggy Bottom?)

(And yes, that's a rhetorical question since one is the center of power for the White House, State Department and World Bank, while the other is the center of suburbia.)

What They're Saying

New gimmick I'm trying out here at the Best Bucs Blog where I share some of what other people are saying about that day's hot topic. Besides giving you an opportunity to read another opinion, it lets me write an entire post without having to voice my own creative or original thoughts...much like cutthroat. (I kid, I kid)

The NFL Competition Committee is talking about placing a 15 yard penalty on endzone celebrations which would essentially end the touchdown celebrations I have come to know and love from guys like Steve Smith and Chad Johnson. As you can probably already tell I think this is the worst idea since New Coke. Here is what some other people around the blogosphere are saying about this...

From MightyMJD:
You remember how much everyone enjoyed Chad Johnson’s and to a less extent, Steve Smith’s, touchdown celebrations last year? The NFL didn’t like it. They saw you smiling, they saw you laughing, they heard you talking about it with friends and co-workers… and they will have no more of it. Soon, they will send security guards into the stands to slap the beer out of your hand and punch you in the face if you smile.

From Stampede Blue:
We suggest [Chad Johnson] follow the strategy of the receiver Chad most wants to emulate: Marvin Harrison. Harrison, at age 33, is a first ballot Hall of Famer if he retired right now. Right now, at 33, he's still better than the younger and faster Chad Johnson. He has scored 110 total TDs in his career, and after each and every one he has simply handed the ball to the ref and jogged to the sideline.

That's cool. Jim Brown cool.

From Deadspin:
The ball is not to be used as a prop, because the ball is sacred, the ball is sacrosanct, the ball is life.

Sheesh.Talk about sticks in the rectal cavity. Tell ‘em, Chad! “Of course you cannot stop someone as creative as me. How can this bother someone as creative as me?”

Preach on, Chad. Preach. On.

I can understand why the NFL wants to do this but in the end it seems kind of counterproductive. I have coworkers who know nothing about the NFL, but they'll be talking the following Monday about what Chad Johnson did the other day. Which can be a good thing 'cause C.J. is a much better ambassador for football than T.O. (although it's a shame Chad plays for that loser of a franchise in Cincy).


"By George, the dream is alive"

So I'm listening to Fairfax Supervisor Jerry Connolly (the very definition of a grandstanding politician) talk about George Mason and he mentions that "he knew they could do it." Which is obviously a lie, nobody except Phil's mom, picked Mason to get to the Final Four.

Mason was the most overlooked team in the country. Overlooked by the national media (at the end of the season Mason did not receive a single AP vote) and given one of the last five at-large bids in the tournament, few people believed Mason could even beat Michigan State in the first round. But why did nobody predict Mason's success?

1.) Soft Schedule

Mason played one ranked team all year (Wake Forest when they were at 18) and lost. Mason did beat Wichita State at Wichita (which is the win that got them into the tournament) but a win over another mid major is not enough to get Mason much national attention. Even now people are beginning to overlook Mason's second victory over the Shockers in favor of the Michigan State, UNC and UConn wins.

Looking at Mason's record pre-tournament there was nothing to indicate they were capable of making their Final Four run.

2.) Soft Conference

This pretty much goes hand in hand with the previous point, but not many people considered the Colonial Athletic Association to be on par with the ACC or Big East this year. In fact, 200 Best Bucs Points to the person who can name four CAA teams without looking. And I'll know if you're lying since my alma mater is one of those teams (Go Tribe!).

3.) Local media

Mason plays twenty minutes from the two other Georges (-town and Washington) who along with Maryland have stolen the local headlines all season. Maryland and Georgetown carry all the prestige in town and GW finished the season with the best record in the NCAA. Local sports reporters are by nature lazy creatures, and most are not going to look long and hard for a different story.

Many national journalists (and ESPN) find their stories from reading the local guys, so if the local sports reporters are not talking about Mason, there was a pretty good chance nobody else was going to either.

Of course, that has all changed now. From now on George Mason will be synonymous with Cinderella. Next year, come tournament time people will be asking who that year's George Mason will be.

Get your fill early on November 23rd

...'cause the Bucs are playing their first Turkeyday game.

(Which means expect to hear plenty of Troy Aikman and Joe Buck.)


Just a damn fine tournament

Much love to Mason and Florida for their wins today. That makes one team from the Colonial Athletic Association and ZERO teams from the ACC, Big East and Big Ten (+1) in the Final Four. A strong argument is getting stronger that Hofstra should have been invited to the tournamnet. Hofstra had a nearly identical resume to Mason, but Hofstra beat Mason TWICE in the last two weeks of the season.

Very good first two rounds.

Very, very good Sweet Sixteen.

Great Elite Eight.

I don't think there's anyway the Final Four could live up to the excitement of the previous two weekends.


Walker to remain a Buc

Anyone else notice the Bucs are waiting until Friday evenings to make major roster moves? The last couple of Saturdays I've woken up, only to be the last person to find out about the latest big signing. But not today suckas. Today I'm on top of my shit.

Anyway, if I can get back on topic here, the Bucs resigned Kenyatta Walker, which despite Kenyatta's disappointing and dreadful play is a good move. The Bucs need more depth at offensive tackle even if Kenyatta can not block a crash test dummy. Although, it would still be a good idea if the Bucs draft a tackle to compete with Kenyatta for the starter's spot.

Bucs looking for popcorn seller

Word is that Raiders cornerback Charles Woodson was in Tampa yesterday to talk about a possible job with the Bucs. Of course, the problem with that is the Bucs are set at corner with Ronde Barber and Brian Kelly firmly entrenched in the starter spots. So what could Woodson do to help the Bucs?

"Charles will do anything, including selling popcorn, if it's going to help his team win," said Woodson's agent, Carl Poston.

I say Gruden and company hold Woodson to that offer, sign him up and then have him hawk popcorn in the stands for home games. And if (God forbid) Barber or Kelly go down with an injury in the middle of a game, Monte has a guy in the stands already warmed up from lugging around popcorn and ready to go. It's a win-win.

Great White Hype

Great night of college basketball, and those of you who went to bed early missed two great finishes. J.J. Redick, Adam Morrison and Kevin Pittsnogle all went out in dramatic fashion, and in a single night the Great White Hype is over.

As good as the games where yesterday, tonight's game have been the ones I have anticipated the most. A rematch between two midmajors, a promising uptempo game between Villanova and Boston College, and a matchup between two NBA quality big men in Joakim Noah (Florida) and Roy Hibbert (Georgetown). Of course, you know who I'm rooting for...

Go Shockers!

(Tip of the hat to Bad Jocks for the pic find)


A bad week gets worse

Keyshawn now a Panther.

My initial reaction? Good signing by Carolina who will compliment Steve Smith well. Mr. Just-Give-Me-The-Damn-Ball adds some much needed depth to their receiving corp. And with Keyshawn back in the NFC South expect ESPN to mention the little tift between Keyshawn and Gruden a few times (and by few I mean so many times it makes your ears bleed) over the next couple of months.

Keyshawn has already sent a signed copy to Jake Delhomme

Hey Super Fan

You go to all the Bucs home games. You own the Bucs Super Bowl DVD and go to all the fan days. You even take days off from work to drive to Orlando in the summer for training camp. But would you spend five years in jail to watch your team win the Super Bowl? Tank Carter did.

A judge increased jail time from six months to five years for the brother of Pittsburgh Steelers safety Tyrone Carter because he failed to report to prison on time for driving with a revoked license.

Tank Carter went to the Super Bowl instead and said he had no regrets.

"Even knowing what I know now, I would do it again. It was the greatest game in my life," said Carter, who watched the Steelers beat Seattle from the 50-yard line in Detroit on Feb. 5 and partied with rapper Snoop Dogg after the game.

Some kind of parallel can be made here with the original meaning of fanatic, but I'll skip that and just mention that if you're going to spend five years in jail there's no better way to go in than how Tank did. (Of course, in one of life's cruel ironies what are the chances some Seahawks fan makes Tank his bitch?)

(Big tip of the hat to The Sports Frog, and click on the picture for a better view, it's truly amazing the lengths some people will go to)


Not a Good Hump Day

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the center cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,

Ok, I might be overblowing this a bit, but today is not a good day to be a Buc fan, what with the news of Brian Griese's departure and John Abraham's arrival in Atlanta. First I'll touch on the Abraham news.

Atlanta's big weakness (besides Vick's arm) has been the defense's inability to stop the run. Abraham , to put it simply, is a beast and will go a long way towards correcting that deficiency. While he has had problems staying healthy, Abraham is still young (27) and just hitting the peak of his career. Finding a good offensive tackle just became a much higher priority for the Bucs.

It appears many Buc fans could care less that Griese left town...those people are idiots. While Brian certainly is not the second coming of Bob Griese (actually, he is but...well, you know what I mean), Brian Griese is familiar with Gruden's complicated offense and, more importantly, has played well in it. Stats don't lie.

Now, Simms deserves to start next season. But Simms could easily get injured or struggle as teams learn how stop Simms (as the 'Skins did in the playoffs). In which case you need a veteran quarterback who knows the offense to step in. Griese is the only guy (besides Brad Johnson) currently in the NFL who fits that bill.


Moore to remain a Buc

The Bucs resigned tightend Dave Moore today. When asked about the signing Moore responded inquisitively, "The Bucs resigned me? Dave Moore did not even know Dave Moore was still playing in National Football League. Dave Moore fearful of loud booming voice coming from what you call PA speaker."

Dave Moore, he used to be a frozen caveman, now he's a Buc.


Ike and Torrie remain Bucs

This iz soooo kool. Did u here, Bucs resigned Ike Hilliard and Torrie Cox 2day. Now the Bucs are totally going 2 da Super Bowl next year. I can't w8 4 next season. :-)

(The above is my imitation of a poster on the Bucs message board, I'm sure the real thing is much worse.)

SI hack Peter King now stealing my ideas

Sports Illustrated's lead NFL writer Peter King is well known for nonsensical ramblings (anyone remember the "Chad Johnson is cute" line?) and irrational opinions. Apparently Fatty King has caught so much flack for this he is now stooping to stealing opinions from this one horse website. Evidence in point...

Example A: Parcells is the right coach for T.O.

I wrote-
Additionally, Bill Parcells is no stranger to ego-driven personalities having coached Lawrence Taylor and Keyshawn Johnson. If any coach can get the max amount of effort out of T.O. the Big Tuna can.

Fatty King wrote-
You think Parcells hasn't had some wackos before? He put private investigators on the tail of two wide receivers the week of the Giants' Super Bowl with Denver -- and told the guys, Lionel Manuel and Bobby Johnson, he was doing it. He'll find out what it takes to deal with Owens, and for a year at least, it'll be the Nirvana Cowboys.

Extra credit to King for making this point with a far more interesting story, but then again he's been covering the NFL for about 20 more years that I have.

Example B: This is a great move for Dallas

I wrote-
This is not a good move for Dallas, this is a GREAT move for Dallas.

Fatty King wrote-
This is not a good deal for Dallas. It is a fantastic deal. Owens is a great football player in a 14-year-old boy's body.

Over looking the part were Fatty King fantasize about a 14 year old boy's body, this is almost exactly what I wrote.

Example C: The Three Big Dallas Personalities

I wrote-
All that being said, Dallas immediately replaces Philly as the NFL's favorite soap opera. I'm sure sports writers will follow Dallas's Big 3 personalities (Jerry Jones, Parcells and T.O.) like a fat kid follows an ice cream truck.

Fatty King wrote-
Either way, it's going to be great theater. "How'd you like to be ESPN this summer during training camp?'' Simms said. "There won't be time to get in the sports news of the day when Cowboys camp opens up! Half of SportsCenter every night will be Terrell Owens, Bill Parcells, Jerry Jones."

Ok, another advantage to being a writer for Sports Illustrated, you can get quotes from Phil Simms. Still, Peter King is clearly stealing my ideas.

Well, not really, since I doubt Fatty King knows what a blog is, much less ever seen mine. More likely we both came to the same conclusion on the "T.O. to Dallas story" (typing that just sent a cold shudder down my spine, like death slowly creeping up on you). So for this one time, I'll chalk this up to Peter King finally being right.


More March Madness

The Missouri Valley Conference is now 4-2 in the tournament with three upset wins. Just going by the seeds the MVC should have only won a single game.

While Wichita State's success is not nearly as surprising as ESPN and company would leave you to believe, Bradley's win over Pittsburgh is shocking. Bradley beat Pitt today by relying on very good help defense. Last week I wrote Bradley didn't deserve to be in the tournament...I was wrong and I'm an idiot.

Florida make quick work of their opponents in the opening rounds, but they will have to play more disciplined basketball if they expect to advance past the Sweet Sixteen. Joakim Noah has been a stud, but Taurean Green (aka Achilles Heel) continues to take ill-advised shots and make bone-headed plays.

And how about some love for George Mason? Not only have the Patriots been overlooked by the national media, but they have been overlooked by the local media here in the DC market. Overshadowed all season by the other two Georges (-town and Washington), Mason made some noise today by upsetting last year's NCAA champion, UNC.

Oh yeah, and next week Mason plays 20 minutes from their campus, at the Verizon formerly-known-as-the-MCI-Center.

Shocker Line of the Day:
In an irregular feature I will share with you best Wichita State Shocker line I've seen out there. The first comes from EDSBS after Wichita State's victory over Tennessee:

Did you see those Vols walking a little funny after this weekend’s big upset? Perhaps it was because they got too much of the Shocker!


Terrell Owens now a Cowboy...

No word on if he will star in Brokeback Mountain 2: Back to Valley Ranch. (I apologize for the T.O. is gay joke, but I had to get it out of my system...you understand.)

One of the worst kept secrets over the last week is now official, and Terrell Owens is headed to Dallas where he will get to play against Philly twice a season. This is not a good move for Dallas, this is a GREAT move for Dallas.

T.O. is still one of the top five receivers in the NFL, and can dominate a game when he feels like it. And Dallas is getting him at a bargain. It appears that T.O. signed essentially three one year deals (for roughly $5 million a year), which allow the Cowboys to cut T.O. any year with a relatively small cap hit.

Additionally, Bill Parcells is no stranger to ego-driven personalities having coached Lawrence Taylor and Keyshawn Johnson. If any coach can get the max amount of effort out of T.O. the Big Tuna can.

All that being said, Dallas immediately replaces Philly as the NFL's favorite soap opera. I'm sure sports writers will follow Dallas's Big 3 personalities (Jerry Jones, Parcells and T.O.) like a fat kid follows an ice cream truck.


Bucs sign fat ass

Tampa Bay made their first move in the free agent market by signing guard Toniu Fonoti. Fonoti played for San Diego before being traded to Minnesota (red flag!). He then signed a contract with the Raiders which was voided when Fonoti failed the physical (red flag!). In the last three seasons Fonoti has missed 29 games because of injury (red flag!).

I'm not suggesting this signing is all bad, Fonoti could round himself into shape and end up being a great signing (much like Chris Hovan was last year). Fonoti was a second round draft pick, and is still young (24) so the potential is there. But I wouldn't pencil this guy in for all sixteen games this season quite yet.

Missouri Valley Conference to Billy Packer...

...suck it.

The Missouri Valley conference is now 3-2 in the tournament including two upset wins by Wichita State and Bradley.

Next Man Up

The NFL is like no other league in that starters are constantly looking over their shoulder for the next man on the depth chart. One bad injury and a quarterback is relegated to journeyman status. It happened to Drew Bledsoe, it happened to Drew Brees, and now it has happened to Brian Griese.

Just a year ago, Griese was the savior at quarterback for the Bucs, a young guy who was expected to lead the Bucs to the promised land. Griese, who had replaced an aging Brad Johnson, played extremely well down the stretch of the 2004 season and was one of the more highly rated statistically quarterbacks. In 2004 Griese had the sixth highest passer rating (97.5) and the highest completion percentage (69.3) for a quarterback who started more than ten games.

Then Griese made the mistake of tearing his ACL (sarcasm intended), and now the former Michigan quarterback is looking for his fourth team in five years.

Reports are that Griese is visiting Cincinnati and Chicago, which makes absolutely no sense to me. Clearly Griese is letting his pride prevent him from making the best decision for his career. Why leave Tampa Bay, an offense you have been successful in, and a young quarterback who has yet to prove he can start an entire season (i.e. Chris Simms) for two teams with established starting quarterbacks who you are unlikely to unseat? (Although in all fairness, if Griese went to Chicago he would be one Rex Grossman injury away from starting, which is not an unlikely prospect).

I've said it before and I'll say it again, I'm not on the Chris Simms bandwagon quite yet, and I would like to see Griese make the best decision for the Bucs and for himself and resign with Tampa Bay.


Today is also a good day

While no teams playing today sport as good of a nickname as Wichita St., there are plenty of stories to watch for:
  • Can the mid-majors (and more specifically the Missouri Valley conference) continue their impressive showing?

  • Can Oral Roberts be the first 16 seed to beat a #1 seed?

  • Can Kentucky take revenge on the team which knocked them out of the tournament in 2004?

  • And most importantly, how many times will Clark Kellogg describe a player's "spurtability"?


Today is a Good Day

As mentioned before, here's my NCAA bracket. I'm sharing this with you NOT because it can provide any insight into the tournament, but instead because it will be yet another source of ridicule to be thrown in my face when ALL of my predictions are wrong. Although hopefully I can do better than Phil's mom picking games on the Tony Kornheiser radio show.

Atlanta Regional

Sweet Sixteen: Duke over GW . . . LSU over Texas A&M . . . West Virginia over Iowa . . . Texas over NC State

Regional Final: Texas over Duke

I think LSU is vastly overrated but has an easy road to the Sweet Sixteen, West Virginia plays horrible defense but has enough seniors and experience to make another run, Texas is too good of a team to lose to Duke twice

Oakland Regional

Sweet Sixteen: Memphis over Bucknell . . . Kansas over Pittsburgh . . . Gonzaga over Indiana . . . UCLA over Marquette

Regional Final: Kansas over UCLA

Memphis (the weakest of the #1 seeds) will also be the first #1 seed out, I really like Pitt and Kansas and whomever wins that game will get to the Final Four, I'm picking Kansas in that game be cause they have so much (young) talent and are starting to peak

Washington Regional

Sweet Sixteen: UConn over UAB . . . Illinois over Utah State . . . Michigan State over UNC . . . Wichita State

Regional Final: UConn over Michigan State

Every year people forget about Michigan St. come March and every year they make a nice run in the tournament, I'm a big fan of the Shockers (Wichita St.) this season despite the fact I've never seen them play, UConn has a tough road but is still the best team in the regional by far

Minneapolis Regional

Sweet Sixteen: Villanova over Wisconsin . . . B.C. over Nevada . . . Florida over Oklahoma . . . Georgetown over Ohio State

Regional Final: Villanova over Georgetown

In case you haven't noticed I've been favoring Big East teams this year and Georgetown is the most underrated of the Big East teams, After defending Florida yesterday I turn around and pick them to get upset by the Hoyas . . . I have no excuse for that . . . I'm an idiot, Boston College's defense is too suspect for me to pick them to go far, Villanova is really, really good even if Allen Ray is 80% the first week or so

Final Four: Texas over Kansas . . . UConn over Villanova

Championship Game: UConn over Texas

By the time we get to Championship Weekend it's all chalk and the most talented teams are going to win, Assuming UConn can get to the Final Four they should win it all

First game today is Wichita State versus Seton Hall, and much like Ed Helms from the Daily Show I'm a big fan of the Shocker.

Ed Helms displays his support for the Shocker(s)


In Defense of Florida

Tony Kornheiser has recently labeled Florida a "perennial disappointment" (Post login info below), a sentiment which has been widely echoed. And if that criticism has been leveled because the SEC was weak this season then fine, but only a fool would predict an early exit for the Gators based soley on the fact that has been their modus operandi for a few years.

This year's Gator team is entirely different from last year's Gator team, which was entirely different from the '99-'00 Gators team which made it to the championship game. Just look at the key players from each of these squads.

2000: Mike Miller, Udonis Haslem

2002-2004: David Lee, Anthony Robertson, Matt Walsh

2005: Joakim Noah, Taurean Green, Corey Brewer, Al Horford

In 2000 Florida was a 5 seed and upset three teams (Illinois, Duke, Oklahoma St.) en route to losing to a more talented Michigan State squad.

2001, Florida (a 3 seed) was upset by 11 seed Temple. In 2002, Florida (a 5 seed) was upset by 12 seed Creighton. The next year Florida was upset in the second round by Michigan State. (Starting to sense a pattern?)

In 2004, Florida (a 5 seed again) lost to 12 seed Manhattan. Last year, Florida was upset by Villanova in the second round.

What's my point? The season after the Gators lost Miller and Haslem, the program took a turn for the worse. Lee, Robertson and Walsh failed to live up to the expectations raised by their predecessors and Florida was (fairly) labeled a bust.

Now Billy Donovan has a new batch of guys, all sophomores, which he has to depend on to get him through the tournament. Can Noah and company get past the second round? I don't know, but when it comes to filling out your bracket it's never a bad idea to go against conventional wisdom, especially when there's a good chance conventional wisdom is wrong.

Washington Post login info: email=BestBucsBlog at yahoo.com, password=bestbucsblog


Which would you pick?

Option A: Starting quarterback in Oakland?

Option B: Backup quarterback in Tampa Bay?

These may be Brian Griese's best options as a free agent. With Culpepper going to Miami, Brees likely headed to New Orleans, and Tennessee and the New York Jets to draft quarterbacks it appears the only team still looking for a starting quarterback is Oakland.

Griese is already comfortable in Tampa Bay, and has a very good shot at the starting job. On the other hand, most quarterbacks want to be the starter, which Griese would be if he signed with the Raiders. Of course, if Griese went to Oakland he would have to spend far more time with Al Davis than any living person should have to.

Al Davis stars in "Weekend at Bernie's III"

Free Agency News

  • Daunte Culpepper has been traded to Miami for a second round pick. Good move by Miami, since they were a quarterback away from winning their division last season. The question now is where will Drew Brees go, with the answer most likely being New Orleans. If Brees does end up a Saint then the draft will likely be shaken up since the Saints would be looking to trade down.

  • With all the free agents the 'Skins have signed it would be intersting to see what owner Dan Snyder would have done without a salary cap. The 'Skins are slowly inching towards Yankees status if they could win a championship (or even a division title). Although, I agree with Michael Wilbon, Super Bowls are won in January and February, not March and April.

  • Eagles can save $5 million if they release Terrell Owens today, but I would love to see the Eagles hold onto T.O. for another three months out of spite. If T.O. is released now he can still sign a max contract with another team, but if he is released a few weeks before training camp teams will have already spent most of their cap money on free agents and would have little left to sign T.O.


It's a good thing the Rays got rid of Winn..

Corporate Tool Randy Winn

More Marching to Madness

As you can probably tell from my last couple of posts I'm completely ignoring football to concentrate on college basketball. Get used to it, and if you're looking to see who Jameel Cook signed with go check out Buc Stats or Pewter Pirates (at least for the next couple of weeks).

In what has become an annual tradition, analysts and idiots alike debate which bubble team got snubbed. And this year the two most deserving teams look to be Cincinnati and Missouri State, who should have gotten in over Air Force and Bradley. Although I'm not going to take the Jim Nantz/Billy Packer path here and argue more teams from the power conferences should have made it in instead.

Many of the power conference schools refuse to schedule home and aways with most teams from the mid-majors (with the exception of a few programs like Gonzaga). The power programs risk too much by scheduling away games against the mid-majors, and thus the only chance teams like Southern Illinois or Pacifc have to play a power program on an unbiased court is in the tournament.

Now, I'll listen to arguments that it's not fair to teams like Michigan or Cincinnati to leave them out of the tournament just to make a point to the power conferences, but teams from the mid-majors already have so many chips stacked against them that I see no problem in the NCAA Selection Committee throwing them a bone every now and then.

Anyway, at some point before Thursday I'm going to post my bracket but feel free to drop some of your upset picks and who you think will win it all in the comments section. Who knows, if you're picks turn out to be correct I might hook you up with some Best Bucs points (disclaimer: Best Bucs points have absolutely no real value and are entirely useless outside of this website).


Marching to Madness

Here's my dilemma as Monday approaches, how do I pay attention to everything going on in the sport's world and take on the responsibilities of my job? In fact, rewrite that, how do I not get in hot water with my boss while keeping track of NCAA basketball, NFL free agent signings and the Masters over the next couple of weeks? It's my own personal triatholon/four minute mile.

As I write this, we are only thirty minutes away from the selections being announced. Even though the selections are so thoroughly analyzed we now know which teams will make it before hand, I'm still giddy (that's right, giddy) for the most watched non-sporting sporting event in America. A few random thoughts on the tournament while I wait for the brackets to be announced.
  • No question about it, ACC refs are biased when it comes to Duke or more specifically Sheldon Williams. Williams should foul out of every game he plays in, but the ACC refs refuse to call at least half of the penalties Williams commits. It will be interesting to see how this affects Duke in their first game against a good team in the tourney, I'll even go out on a limb and predict Duke gets upset by the Elite Eight.

  • I still think UConn has to be the favorite to win it all. They just have more talent than anybody else in college basketball. You pair that with a coach who has won multiple championships and I don't see how anybody with half a brain could be picking against UConn to win it all.

  • Syracuse played their way into the tournament with a beautiful run in the Big East tournament but I guarantee they will be upset before the Elite Eight. I just think they used up all their good karma last week, and won't have anything left for the NCAA tournament.

  • To all the ACC purists whining about how FSU deserves to be in the tournament, suck it. Noles have one quality win (at home nonetheless) the entire season, and while I really like the Thorton kid, FSU is still a mediocre team in a down year for the ACC.

  • Joaquim Noah, I may not know how to spell or even pronounce your name but you're my favorite Gator baller since Mike Miller. Not only is Noah one of the more interesting players in the country (his father won the French Open, his mother was a model in Paris) but he's the clutch player the Gators have been looking for since Miller left for the NBA.


More Free Agency news

The Bucs continue their search for more depth at offensive tackle tonight when they bring in free agent Tom Ashworth, who played for the Pats last season. Ashworth is the lineman who caught a touchdown against the Bucs last season.

The Bucs might also be interested in offensive tackle Jon Runyan, formerly of the Eagles. Runyan just returned from a trip to Florida, but not to visit with any teams. Runyan spent the last couple of days at Daytona for "Bike Week."

March Madness

While this is a Bucs blog and although I don't have a degree in bracketology like Joe Lunardi, there are just too many good games on today not to mention them.

UAB vs. Memphis
Texas vs Texas A&M
Michigan St. vs. Iowa
Indiana vs. Ohio St.
Wake Forest vs. Duke
Boston College vs. Duke
Florida vs. LSU
Syracuse vs. Pittsburgh

I had originally planned to run some errands today, but my plans may have changed after looking at today's schedule. So many teams are still alive and fighting for a spot in the tournament (Texas A&M) while others are now on the oustide looking in (Maryland). Although if Cincinnati somehow gets a spot in the tournament it would be a travashamockery.

Alstott to remain a Buc

Busy Friday night for the Bucs, they cut three players and resign Mike Alstott to a one year deal.

Good move by the Bucs and one which was widely expected following the new CBA deal. Alstott has been asking for the Bucs to match his salary from last season, $1.5 million, before he would resign with Tampa Bay. Though, in all fairness, this resigning is a blow to Cadillac's fantasy owners everywhere, who are now poised to see Alstott steal Cadillac's goal line carries for another season.

The Minister of Truth

You've got to the love the doublespeak coming from Brian Griese's agent after Griese was released last night, it's like something straight out of 1984.

"You look back to last season, in what was a big game against Miami, playing without the luxury of Cadillac, Brian was having a great game before the injury," [Griese's agent Ralph] Cindrich said. "He's always been a big-game quarterback."

How about the game before that against Vinny and the Jets? Griese didn't have Cadillac in that game either and how did that turn out?

Anyway, there is a strong possibility Griese will be resigned by the Bucs at a lower cost. There are just too many quarterbacks hitting the free agent market and not enough teams looking to spend a lot of money of the position.

Isaac Bruce a Buc?

The most immediate effect of the new CBA is that all of the sudden free agency goes from a buyer's market to a seller's market. With the increased salary cap and six year extension hundreds of millions of dollars have been freed up which can now be spent on free agents. The Bucs quickly went from being a team which had to worry about releasing key players to a team which plans on being active in the free agent market.

The Bucs more glaring needs are at receiver and offensive tackle and to that end Bruce Allen brought in left tackle Brad Hopkins for an interview. For background on Hopkins I went to Titans blogger Jeff at GoTitans.com...

When the Titans drafted three tackles in the '05 draft, the writing was on the wall for Hopkins. The Titans are rebuilding and need to get these young guys in now so they can get some experience and gel while the team looks to '07 and beyond. Roos (who the Titans took in the second round last year) is a natural LOT. He played ROT last year but backed Hopkins all season -- replacing him in the opener and as the #2 in practice all year.

I think he is an average OT now who might help out a team for a season or two but no more. The Titans offered him the vet minimum and I don't think they could guarantee he'd start at LOT.

Additionally, in what has become a yearly right of passage, the Bucs are looking at a big name receiver. Last year, Jerry Rice's name was tossed around and the season before that Tim Brown. This offseason Bruce Allen is looking at Isaac Bruce, another guy on the wrong side of 30.

While the Bucs are thin at receiver the position is also top heavy. When healthy Joey Galloway and Michael Clayton are both number one receivers, which means Bruce would be the third receiver at best. While he is no longer the Pro Bowler he once was would Bruce be willing to play third fiddle?

EDIT: Bruce has resigned with St. Louis so ignore the compete and utter nonsense above.


Tags contemplating playing more shuffleboard

NFL Commish Paul Tagliabue is hinting at his possible retirement following the negotiation of the new CBA. And maybe this is because I'm too young to have known the NFL before Tags but I've always viewed the current commish as more of a placeholder, not as good as the NBA's David Stern, but not as bad as MLB's Bud Selig.

The top two names to replace Tags are Rich McKay and Condoleeza Rice. (I'm really, really hoping Bucs fans are more familiar with the latter name than the former but I doubt it.) Between the two I'm openly rooting for Condoleeza. You think Gene Upshaw would have lasted five minutes in negotiations with the current Secretary of State?

Plus, Condoleeza looks much better in a pair of boots.

Just imagine Rich McKay in these boots.


NFL Steroid policy a farce

You know something is wrong when the Canucks are beating us in baseball, America is winning Olympic medals in curling, and MLB has a better steroid testing system than the NFL.

More information is leaking out about the Panthers steroid case from a few years back, and a doctor for the prosecution has questioned the validity of the NFL's steroid testing.

"It seems to me when you go to the Super Bowl and you have a number of players on steroids for more than a year, and nobody tested positive, it raises questions as to why," said [Dr. Gary]Wadler.

Apparently, the Charlotte doctor who prescribed steroids for Todd Steussie and the other players failed to make sure his patients testosterone levels stayed within the acceptable NFL limits. If the NFL had been doing its job the five Panthers players should have tested positive for steroids.

I'll refrain from stepping up on my soapbox (then again who the hell am I kidding, that's all I do here), but the NFL's record with steroids has been as abysmal as MLB's. It's just that the NFL hasn't had a big name (besides Bill Romanowski) attached to steroids. After all steroids is a media driven story.

Status Quo!

Owner, players, fans finally get happy ending, CBA extended another six years.

And judging by the fact both Cincy and Buffalo voted against the agreement, it's safe to say revenue sharing was not extended by a great deal.

Tampa Tribune now hip and "with it"

I was reading this story in the Tribune today about Griese's potential release from the Bucs, when this last paragraph caught my attention...

"We are talking and hopeful, but nothing has happened," [Mike Alstott's] agent Ben Dogra wrote The Tampa Tribune in a text message. "I don't see anything happening until the CBA issue is resolved one way or the other."

I just love the idea that a supposedly respectable profession has reached the point where it is now breaking stories based on a few sentences quickly typed by out on an agent's T-Mobile. As a rule, I can't take anything seriously which is typed out with just the thumbs.


Hovan to remain a Buc

DT Chris Hovan has signed a five year deal with the Bucs, with roughly $8 to $10.5 million in guaranteed money. Hovan is the primary reason the Bucs jumped from the 19th to the #1 ranked rushing defense. A largely overlooked free agent last season, Hovan could have cashed in with another team (especially one of the many teams which run the Tampa Two) this offseason.

Has anyone noticed the number of Bucs who have chosen to stay in Tampa instead of testing the free agency waters? Chris Simms, Chris Hovan, Juran Bolden (and possibly Mike Alstott) could have made more money by entering free agency and creating a bidding war for their services. While the CBA uncertainties undoubtedly motivated these guys to stay in Tampa, all of them must have wanted to stay in Tampa Bay to some degree.

When Derrick Brooks announced his willingness to restructure his contract to remain a Buc a month ago, his team mates must have noticed. It is often mentioned that a team takes their cues from their leader, and Brooks is undeniably the leader of the defense. Perhaps Brooks' decision to stay in Tampa encouraged other players to resign with the Bucs.

"Who's my favorite player?"

Derrick, uhmmm . . . something (his name escapes me) has restructured his contract so that he can play out the rest of his career (knock on wood) in Tampa Bay. While details of the deal are not known it is believed that his contract has been extended through 2009.

Or Not

NFL extends CBA deadline another 72 hours, until midnight Wednesday.


Gang of Nine strikes back

"I continue to believe that the problem lies with the high revenue clubs and the revenue sharing issue. Their refusal to share more revenues is making it worse for everybody -- players, owners, and fans."
- Gene Upshaw

With the reports on the CBA discussions going from dead, to cautiously optimistic, and back to dead, it appears the Gang of Nine (i.e. the nine highest revenue producing teams) have prevented a new CBA from being passed. Since the NFL needs 24 owners to approve any new CBA, it takes 9 owners to block any proposed deal.
The Gang of Nine is believed to be made up of the 'Skins, Eagles, Cowboys, Giants, Jets, Panthers, Broncos, Patriots, and Texans. This may leave me open to accusations of being a management scab, but I think these teams have every right to hold onto these currently unshared revenues. The owners of these teams found additional ways to produce revenues from their clubs, which other franchises (like Cincinnati) have failed to do. Now these loafish, grasshopper-like franchises (i.e. Cincinnati) want to steal some of the hardworking, ant-like franchises' grain.
The Bengals and the Grasshopper share more similarities than you might have thought.

Yada, Yada, Yada

Michael Pittman restructures his contract. Booger McFarland restructures his contract. Anthony Becht restructures his contract. Bucs are now, at most, $9 million over the cap instead of the widely reported $19 million.

Jeff Gooch and Matt Stinchcomb will still be cut, but with the most current salary cap figures Brian Griese's spot on the roster may be safe. There had been rumors (which were partly my fault) that Griese would be cut, but if the Bucs have the salary cap space for both Griese and Chris Simms you have to keep both quarterbacks. The position is simply too important and too fragile to not have a good backup quarterback.

Sunday, Bloody Sunday

First the weekend talks were as good as dead, and now they're back on. With all the posturing going on it's next to impossible to figure out what's really going. (Although ESPN.com is finally running stories on the high revenue owners versus low revenue owners disagreement which I covered last week.) Both sides have until midnight to agree on a new CBA or another extension before free agency starts.

I've been looking at this from every angle and even the worst case scenario (player's strike) probably wouldn't hurt the owners (too much) at this point. The NFL is just too much of a financial juggernaut, hell I would watch the Bucs if they had Keanu Reeves playing quarterback. The players union must realize that any scenario except negotiating a new CBA hurts them more than it does the owners (a single uncapped season would be as profitable for the owners as it would be for top players).

In other cap news, it appears GM Bruce Allen misled the public and over exaggerated the Buc's cap figure (as Pewter Pirates mentioned last week, although suggesting Allen lied is a bit strong). Short term, Allen's manipulations are good for the franchise, since they gave Allen a good reason to rework some of the contracts and free up cap space to possibly resign Alstott and some other players.

In the long term, this strategy will backfire on Allen. Players will distrust anything Allen has to say, which will make signing players that much more difficult. If Allen plans to stick around Tampa Bay I hope he addresses these allegations in the locker room if not in the press.


Could No Cap be Good for the NFL?

Despite some of the doom and gloom predictions you might have seen, the lack of a salary cap might be good for the NFL.

The most compelling argument for the salary cap is that it has led to a level of parity where all 32 teams have a realistic shot at winning the Super Bowl. But, in reality, all the salary cap has done is keep players from earning their market value. Instead revenue sharing and the short schedule have created the current level of parity in the NFL (if parity even exists).

The best teams over the past decade have been the teams that do the best job of scouting and coaching their talent (i.e. Pats, Bucs) not the teams that have tried to buy every player on the market (i.e. 'Skins). This applies to every sport, the best managed teams are the teams that are the most successful. Instead, what the cap has done is punish the teams which have done a good job of scouting young talent.

Every team knows it has a narrow window to make the Super Bowl before their team falls apart. The Bucs managed to win the big game before their window closed, while the Eagles failed to, and the Colts may fail to win the Super Bowl before their window closes.

Mort Anderson made this argument on ESPN Radio this morning, pointing out that quality of play in the league has decreased since the creation of a salary cap. Frequently teams are forced to get rid of their more expensive veterans which means they have to start less experienced rookies. If the Bucs didn't have a salary cap they would still have John Lynch, Warren Sapp and Dwight Smith.

So if the salary cap is not the reason for the NFL's parity, then how do we account for the ability of teams like the Bears to go from 5 wins to 12 the next season? One of the better answers I have seen has to do with the number of games played in a season.

The NFL plays far fewer games per season than any other league. As a result, dumb luck plays a bigger role in the NFL than in the NBA or MLB. Off hand, I can think of three plays that, had they gone the other way, would have kept the Bucs out of the playoffs.

  1. Detroit- If the Marcus Pollard catch at the end had been ruled a touchdown the Bucs would have lost.
  2. Washington- If Alstott had been a foot short on the two point conversion the Bucs would have lost.
  3. Atlanta- In the second game against the Falcons if the Bucs had not blocked the field goal in overtime they would have lost.
On the other hand, baseball teams play 162 games a season which ensures the best teams advance to the postseason (which is also limited to just 8 teams as opposed to the 12 NFL teams which advance to the playoffs). I'm not suggesting that the NFL add more games to its schedule, but I don't think the salary cap is as important to the NFL as we have been lead to believe.


What Now?

The deadline for a new CBA has well passed and even if a deal was reached in the next few days it could not be applied to this season. More questions have been raised than have been answered, but there a few things we know for sure.

Who's To Blame?: The Owners

Despite what has been widely reported, the central disagreement which prevented a new CBA from being negotiated was the quarrel between high-revenue and the low-revenue franchises. Currently, 80% of NFL revenues are shared but some clubs have created ways to squeeze more money out of the unshared 20%. On the high end you have teams like the Redskins who generate $300 million a year in revenues. On the low end are teams such as the Vikings and Cardinals with revenues of $150 million.

Low revenue teams argue that the much ballyhooed NFL parity is threatened by this revenue gap between franchises. For example, the Redskins can afford to pay their coaches more money than any other team in the league.

On the other hand high revenue teams contend that they are being punished for their entrepreneurialism. These owners have done a better job of running their business, and now the less successful business owners want to step in and take their hard earned money.

Both sides failed to find a common ground, which leads us to . . .

What Happens Next?: Bloody Thursday

Most of the cuts have already started, but eight teams are at least $13 million over the cap. Those teams are the Redskins, Raiders, Chiefs, Jets, Broncos, Falcons, Titans and Bucs. The Broncos have already released Mike Anderson, their leading rusher from last season.

The Bucs will most likely have to cut somebody (since they are $19 million over the cap), and I think the chances are that player will be Simeon Rice. Rice has the second highest cap figure and has not been willing to renegotiate his contract before.

Derrick Brooks name has been brought up (since he has the highest cap figure) but he has expressed a willingness to renegotiate his contract so that he can retire as a Buc.

Why Is This Bad For The Players?: Less Available Money

It gets kind of complicated from here but the NFL created incentives in the current CBA to encourage both the owners and the union to renegotiate a new CBA. One of those are a package of provisions which reduce the amount of money a team can spend on its players this season.

As a result, there is less money available for free agents and rookies this offseason. And agents will try and find loopholes in the CBA to get the amount of money they would have received in a normal year.

How Can This Be Fixed?: Gene Upshaw and Paul Tagliabue

Ok, technically "Gene Upshaw and Paul Tagliabue" is not a good answer to a "How" question but you get the idea. The NFL needs somebody to step up and offer a solution that works for every party. That person should be Tagliabue who so far has benefited from running the most successful sports league, but now must prove he deserves the job.

Besides finding a solution for the owner's internal squabble, Tagliabue must find a way to get Upshaw back to the table. Upshaw has said that if the deadline was not met by today then the players union would not agree on a new CBA until after the uncapped 2007 season.

There is no easy solution to this quagmire, but I still think the owners and players will come to some kind of agreement in the next couple of weeks. All sides have too much to lose and too little to gain by not negotiating a new CBA.

Simms to remain a Buc

Chris Simms has agreed to a one year contract which will pay him $2 million. Simms also mentioned he expects to be the starter going into next season.

"It's great just going into offseason workouts knowing that I am the starter and the organization is looking to me," Simms said.
Brian Griese has a base salary of $3.5 million, and a cap figure of about $7 million. While the Bucs will almost certainly ask Griese to renegotiate this figure, Griese's agent has already stated his client's unwillingness to reduce his contract (although considering there will be almost no money available for free agents Griese may rethink this stance).

Will Griese be cut to get the Bucs under the salary cap? Or will the Bucs keep Griese around for another year as Plan B to negotiate a lower contract with Simms?

Black Wednesday

With rumors flying that the owner-player's union squabble is a smoke screen for the rich owner-less rich owner's internal quarrel over revenue sharing, it appears the NFL is headed for a Bloody Thursday. Union boss Gene Upshaw has left negotiations in New York, and commish Paul Tagliabue has set a 4 pm deadline for a new CBA.

I still don't think the owners would be so foolish to risk the success of the NFL, when there are apparently so few (although expensive) sticking points in the negotiations. Not agreeing on a new CBA would be the defintion of cutting off your nose to spite your face. Perhaps this is all wishful thinking, but I have to believe the owners will strike an 11th hour deal.