I know it's New Years Eve, I know it's the last game of the season, but who is the genius who decided to have the Bucs wearing their red uniforms today while it's baking in Tampa (82 degrees from WFLA's weather site, 81 degrees from the Weather Channel)?
With how this team has performed all season, extra taxation from the weather (playing in dark clothes in the heat) is the last thing you want them to be doing... well, unless you are trying to secure a higher draft pick by losing your 12th game of the season, maybe...?
How miserable is the NFC? I think the Bucs are still in contention for a playoff spot. What's that, there not? Then I guess this would be their last game of the season. Which means it is most likely Mike Alstott's last game of the season.
Over the last week I've written a bunch about how much Alstott means to Tampa Bay. The lunch pail Pro Bowler the largely white fan base can easily identify with. Alstott has become part of the community which is even more rare in this era of free agency.
For those interested, here is my Sticks preview, and here is my Fanhouse preview.
A quick note, I will be on the blog until about 3, then I have to get ready for New Years Eve. So if your fortunate enough to make it out to the game, enjoy. If not feel free to join me here.
I've ignored this story partly because I was waiting for this picture to surface but mainly because I'm lazy. But then again the picture is pretty awesome.
As you've prob heard by now Simms has signed a two year contract with the Bucs, which, while not nearly as awesome as the shirt, is about the best Bucs fans could hope for. The Bucs didn't give up much for Simms, a $3 signing bonus with roughly $5 million in base salary plus another couple million in incentives. That's slightly more than what the Raiders paid Brooks (~$4 M a year) but slightly less than what Chad Pennington makes after he restructured his contract.
And who would the Bucs bring in if they didn't resign Simms? Gradkowski clearly can't get this team to the playoffs and Rattay's performance has been fool's gold. As good as I think Schaub is I don't think it's worth giving up a first round pick for him. And none of the rookies with the exception of Quinn look like they could start from day one in the NFL.
That being written I don't think Simms will still be in Tampa two years from now. A deep ball thrower he doesn't fit Gruden's west coast offense. If Gruden really wanted Simms he would have pushed for a three or four year deal. Instead I get the feeling Gruden will draft another quarterback either this year or next with a high draft pick. Truth be told the idea of drafting Jamarcus Russell is starting grow on me and then using some of that cap room to bring in a defensive player in addition to drafting a couple of defensive players in the first round. Restock the defense and add the quarterback for the future. I don't think the Bucs need much to get back to the top of the division.
(HT: With Leather)
In case you haven't noticed (and based on my hit meter you probably haven't) it's Alstott Week at the Buccaneer Fanhouse. Which means lots of A-Train love, 50 Reasons why Alstott is the best runningback in Purdue's history, and heavy drinking. The end of Alstott Week will be concluded with many merry festivities and numerous displays of fireworks.
Today celebration of Alstott Week features an interview with the creator of "Give Mike the Ball" who is on the Fire Gruden bandwagon.
Considering it's Christmas and the Bucs notched their first road win of the season I should probably be in a better mood. But Terrell Owens couldn't catch a football despite 25 million reasons to do so, Tomlinson picked this week not to score a touchdown (or 4) and I am robbed of the championship in fantasy football. But I guess that's what I get for drafting T.O.
Anyway, the Bucs picked up their fourth win in what could be the most boring game all season. As well as Rattay played (even if he didn't throw any touchdowns and yes I'm bitter because he was also on my fantasy team) it doesn't matter how Rattay performed. For better or for worse this is Chris Simms team next season. Gradkowski pretty much guaranteed that a month ago.
That being written I wouldn't be surprised at this point if Gruden drafted a quarterback on the first day in the offseason. Simms is only signed to a two year contract, and Troy Smith or JaMarcus Russell would make much better fits for Gruden's offense. I think the Bucs need to draft defense on the first day but I'm willing to listen to arguments they should draft a quarterback with their first pick. Simms seems like a stop gap until Gruden can find Rich Gannon, version 2.0.
But we can worry about that later. For now, merry Christmas to everyone and here's looking forward to one last hurrah from the A-Train next weekend.
Normally in overtime it is up to the booth call for a review. Which the booth did. Except the pager system for the refs on the field didn't work. Which means the NFL never reviewed the play in question.
Gruden's not happy this, not that I blame him. The Bucs got bent over and violated by the NFL, and not in that whiny Seahawks-in-the-Super-Bowl, we-still-would-have-lost-way. This was an evenly fought game that was not decided until late in over time (which, by the way, scares me about the Bears Super Bowl chances if they had this much trouble with the lowly Bucs).
And while it sucks that the Bucs were robbed because of a faulty piece of machinery, I'm sure Lions and Redskins fans feel as though this is some kind of karmic pay back for last's seasons losses at the hands of replay. Although, it's worth pointing out that in both those situations the system worked like it should have, both machinery- and rules-wise. For reasons I've explained at length, the Lions late touchdown catch was not a catch or a touchdown. And the Alstott touchdown against the 'Skins could have been called either way, the cameras didn't have a good shot of the ball. (And interesting side angle to that is listening to 'Skins fans describe why Alstott was not in and have their theories sound positively "there was a second shooter on the grassy knoll"-esque. It's scary how much thought they have put into where Alstott's elbow was on that play.)
Finally, let me be clear....the Bears deserved to win. The Bears are the more talented team, and the Bucs had some lucky breaks go their way which got them back into the game. This isn't a post bitching about how the Bears stole a win from the Bucs. Instead, consider it a post bitching about how a broken system robbed the Bucs of justice.
Yesterday's game was both a microcosm and anomoly of the Bucs season. The Bucs showed that they are a well coached and disciplined team which simply lacks the talent to make another run at the playoffs, even in the NL-like NFC. The Bucs never gave up in the Bears game even when they were down 24-3 in the third quarter. With the possible exception of the Thanksgiving Massacre, the Bucs have not given up in any of their games (and I'm willing to turn a blind eye to that Cowboy's game since it was Bucs third game in 11 days). Character is often over-rated in pro sports (or at the very least misunderstood), but the Bucs benefit from high character guys like Derrick Brooks, Ronde Barber and Mike Alstott. In comparison, Vick gave up on his team at the end of last season and the Falcons were crushed in their last game against the Panthers. But at the end of the day the Bucs can't over come the talent gap between them and their opponents. The Bears are simply a better team than the Bucs, and it is no insult to the Bucs to lose late in overtime against the best team in the NFC.
Notes from the Game:
- Joey Galloway is a beast who does not get nearly enough kudos in this space. Considering he may be the best reciever in Bucs history, he doesn't receive nearly enough love from the fans. The 35 years young Galloway has been burning cornerbacks all season but just now has a quarterback who can get him the ball. For example, early in the first quarter Bruce Gradkowski underthrew a deep pass to Galloway which should have been a touchdown. On almost the exact same play in the fourth quarter Rattay leads Galloway on the pass for a touchdown.
- The vaunted Bears defense fell apart against the pass, much the same way their defense fell apart against the Panthers and Steve Smith last season in the playoffs. Considering we've seen the same thing from the Bucs defense against Smith and Marvin Harrison there may be something about the Tampa Two which leaves it weak against the best receivers.
- Speaking of receivers, the rest of the Bucs receivers not-named Galloway finally had a productive game. Alex Smith (5 catches, 24 yards, TD) is starting to show flashes of why he was compared to Antonio Gates coming out of college. Maurice Stovall (3 catches, 42 yards) looks like he can fill the role vacated by Joe Jurevicious. Even Ike Hilliard (3 catches, 55 yards, TD) got in on the action. It's about time somebody besides Pittman led the Bucs in receiving.
- My buddy Plugs mentioned this yesterday, but all MAC quarterbacks are good for is managing the game. For all the hype about the MAC attack there isn't a MAC quarterback in the top 10 of quarterbacks listed by QB rating. Weak-armed Chad Pennington might be the best MAC quarterback (#14 QB rating), followed by Roethlisberger (#21) and Charlie Frye (#25). So that'sthree MAC quarterbacks in the top twenty five, and Frye was replaced in yesterday's game.
- There might actually be something to giving Alstott an increased work load over the last two games. The A-Train had the same amount of rushing yards as Cadillac (26 yards) but he gained those yards on half as many carries (6 to 11). The Bucs largely abandoned the rushing game in the second half, so these numbers may be a bit of an abbaration.
- Finally, we get to Tim Rattay. First off, Rattay gave the Bucs a much needed spark which they have failed to see from Grads. The Bucs scored a season high 31 points against one of the better defenses yesterday, so it's safe to say Rattay will be the starter for the last two games of the season. That being written I think we saw the highlight of Rattay's career with the Bucs yesterday. Grads had similar stats in his first game of the season (20-31, 225 yards, 2 TDs) to Rattay's yesterday (20-35, 268 yards, 3 TDs, 1 int). Both quarterbacks benefitted from defenses which has seen little game film and which were not familiar with their tendencies. Gruden may have found gold with other journeyman quarterbacks (i.e. Rich Gannon) but there is a reason the 49ers were so willing to trade Rattay for a sixth round pick. At the end of the season this is still Simms' team if he wants it.
But now, because of an independent film maker, Buccaneer fans are about to be given a new face. Tim Carr is making a mockumentry about Ryan Leaf (for real, click here for the movie preview), and he is using actors to portray fans.
Carr has also cast actors to play hardcore football fans whose memories of Leaf represent “the conscience of each team’s fans.” Keith Bullard, who earned favorable reviews in the 2003 comedy The Negro Zone, plays the San Diego fan. Deena Martin (Simone from Dazed and Confused, Christy from Swingers) plays the Tampa Bay fan.
Which means the "skank-shift" cocktail waitress from Swingers will be the new face of Buccaneer fandom. It's actually fairly apropo, seeing as how Deena Martin's career was about as long as Leaf's career with the Bucs.
Second, proving my girlfriend is correct, I do have the mentally of an eight year old, look who supports giving Alstott the ball...
...this one with an online petition and everything. (Hey, a petition, that sounds like a good idea for this site.)
This site, which is in favor of giving Mike Alstott the ball, is called, creatively enough, GiveMikeTheBall.com.
My favorite part of the website is the different ways it recommends to get the A-Train in the game....
Just for the hell of it, here is the number to One Buc Place......(813) 870-2700. Let's try and get Mike Alsott that damn ball.
1. At the game, wear your number 40 jersey.
2. At the game, the first time the offense takes the field, we should blow our A-Train whistles
until the beginning of the first formation.
3. We should chant "Give Mike The Ball!" loud and often.
4. At halftime, if Mike has not been used much or at all (and we as fans are not stupid, we know
if the situation dictates when he should get the ball), during the next offensive possession we
should chant "Fire Jon Gruden!"
5. Call the Buccaneers and let them know how you feel.
Update: Since I posted this the petition has doubled in size to a little over 500 people in less than 24 hours. Although so far my entries of Anita Bonghit and Amanda Hugankiss have been rejected.
The Bucs have six points on the board which they owe entirely to the runningbacks, o-line and kicker. Pittman, Cadillac and Alstott have all the Bucs rushing and receiving yards as of right now.
A good job by the announcing crew to point out how the Bucs have adjusted to the Vick-Dunn option by shadowing the two players with a Ryan Nece and Shelton Quarles. The way to beat this is to run a quick slant to the space vacated by Nece on the outside, let's see if the Falcons do that on offense.
And Philip Buchanon finally makes the nickel cornerback competition interesting with an interception in the end zone. Buchanon has tons of talent but has looked dreadful since he entered the league and, until today, has done nothing for the Bucs.
With the Falcons second touchdown this game has become reminescent of the Monday Night Panthers game where the Bucs played hard and took the lead in the first half and then saw their game fall apart in the second half. In each of these games the Bucs failed to score touchdowns in the first half.
Jim Mora says the last book he's read is Webster's Dictionary. Apparently the Zebra did it.
- MightyMJD shares with us that not only was Gruden's decision to go for a field goal to breakup up the goose egg a bitch move, it was a historically bitch move. It was the first last second field goal to break up a shut out in 73 years.
-Scott at BucStats has dug up some interesting information on Chris Simms and his brother, Matt, who is pulling his best Michael Vick impression.
- And finally, Gruden is building a hit list of players who will be dumped if their level of play does not meet his expectations.
EDSBS (the super foxy Gators blog) has been bathing in the BCS Seal of Approval while simultaneously throwing mud at Michigan fans with their list of Ten Reasons Michigan Should Be Happy....
8. Hypothetical contrasts highlight UM erudition in flattering way. Pissed-off, highly literate Michigan fans likely to only leave 10,000 word retorts in little read tweedy rags like The New Republic and The New York Times. Ohio State fans, if in same situation, would leave flaming bags of poo on Gator doorsteps.
True to form Braves and Birds (run by a Michigan grad) pens a small novel on why Michigan deserved the BCS nod over Florida....
What I think is really going on is a classic illustration of recency. Florida played last and played well and that's all the voters remember. After the Michigan-Ohio State game, a number of writers poured forward to say that they had not been in favor of a rematch before, but after seeing Michigan and Ohio State stand toe-to-toe and trade blows, they had changed their minds.
Birds and Braves spends 2,000 words arguing for why Michigan should have won the beauty contest against Florida, then changes his tune and writes he's in favor of a playoff system. Not many people have raised this point, but the current result is the closest thing to a playoff, with the OSU-UM and UF-ARK games resembling a Final Four (of sorts).
The last three or four weeks of the regular season have become the de facto playoffs. And if you're a supporter of the a playoff system then you also have to accept the fact that the best team doesn't always win the championship. The NCAA Basketball Tournament has proven this fact multiple times.
...and don't even bother for the common courtesy of a reach around.
The Bucs were completely dominated for the second straight week, and things won't get much better for the rest of the season. The Browns and Falcons games look like the Bucs only shots at a victory. But let's forget all the Bucs woes and turn our focus to something more positive....
THE GATORS ARE GOING TO THE NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP!!!!!!
I am clearly biased here but even though Michigan is a better team I think Florida derserved a shot at Ohio State (actually, I still think USC should have played Ohio State in the championship but that's a completely different argument). The Wolverines already had their shot at the Buckeyes, and failed to capitalize on their opportunity.
And if Michigan did play Ohio State in the National Championship where would that get us? If Ohio State won then we would be right back where we started, and if Michigan won then the two teams would split the series and Michigan's win would have an asterisk next to it (although that last part is a bit rich coming from a Florida fan).
The Wolverines may be a more complete team but having the Gators play Ohio State is the closest thing to a playoff system we would have.
NFLDC has the Bucs picking LSU quarterback JaMarcus Russell at #7. First off, I think the Bucs will end up with a top five pick. They have two winnable games on their schedule, and both are away games, at Cleveland and at Atlanta. There's a good chance they finish the season with 4 wins.
And as much as I like JaMarcus (and as much as I love saying his a name) the last thing the Bucs need is another quarterback. The Bucs haven't had a franchise quarterback since Steve Young left town, but they've still won a Super Bowl. This team needs defense first, second and third.
Correction: The Bucs play the Falcons at home, not away. I'm an idiot.