Archive for the ‘QB Blasts’ Category

The QB Blast: Too Much Shotgun Hurting Bucs

Saturday, November 12th, 2011
Former Bucs quarterback Jeff Carlson explains how the Bucs are limiting themselves offensively in The QB Blast.

Former Bucs quarterback Jeff Carlson (1990 & 1991) writes The QB Blast column here at JoeBucsFan.com. Joe is ecstatic to have him firing away. Carlson is often seen as a color analyst on Bright House Sports Network, and he trains quarterbacks of all ages locally via his company, America’s Best Quarterback. Plus, he’s a really cool dude.

By JEFF CARLSON
JoeBucsFan.com analyst

As the Bucs added a new “character” to their roster this week, I wanted to let you know that I had the distinct pleasure of spending Thursday evening with three players of great character (Corey Lynch, Adam Hayward and Mike Koenen) while emceeing a charity event promoting character development and mentoring of both professional athletes and at-risk youth (www.idolsaside.com).

Much attention is given to the negative headlines generated by athletes and celebrities and much less to those striving to improve our community!

Now that the Bucs are 4-4 and really didn’t look good last week or particularly good in many of their games this year, Sunday’s game against a very dangerous Houston Texans team is the most important of the season, not because it is their next game, but because they have been able to fall back on their overall winning record while not playing disciplined football.

I was watching my 9 year old son play Madden 12 when he was in a mode where computer was picking the plays while he controlled the running back. On 3rd-and-1, the computer put him in “shotgun” and he whispered under his breath, “What?  Why I am in shotgun on third and one–it’s so stupid!”

I had the same outrage last Sunday when after Josh Freeman missed a wide open fullback for a touchdown on 3rd-and-1, Greg Olson called for a shotgun play on FOURTH-and-one with a 250+ pound QB and matching running back. Thank goodness the Bucs went offsides and made it 4th and 6, so they could throw a slant to Williams for the first down (heavy sarcasm there). 

Then later the Bucs had 1st-and-goal from the seven yard line and went shotgun on three plays in a row and kicked a field goal. The shotgun formation is a great weapon in certain situations, but short-yardage and goal line plays are not on that list. 

These types of plays take away the downhill run threat and take too long to develop because the QB cannot get the ball out of his hands fast enough for the slants and fades to be effective. I feel for Olson when his players don’t execute his great calls, like the “wheel” to the fullback, but can’t believe other calls that have little chance for success even before the team lines up.

The defensive side of the ball has its own issues and maybe, just maybe, Albert Haynesworth will help fix them, but this is his fourth team (in a very short time) for what recently was one of the most highly paid players in the entire league. Let’s all hope that those character guys that I mentioned at the beginning of this article can influence the new character in the locker room to improved performance of for himself and the team!

The QB Blast: Freeman Needs Help From The Slot

Sunday, November 6th, 2011

Ex-Bucs QB Jeff Carlson

Former Bucs quarterback Jeff Carlson (1990 & 1991) writes The QB Blast column here at JoeBucsFan.com. Joe is ecstatic to have him firing away. Carlson is often seen as a color analyst on Bright House Sports Network, and he trains quarterbacks of all ages locally via his company, America’s Best Quarterback. Plus, he’s a really cool dude.

By JEFF CARLSON
JoeBucsFan.com analyst

It’s been two weeks since their last game, with a bye week to get healthy and assess their proficiencies and deficiencies. And perhaps most important, time for the Bucs to make the kind of mid-season adjustments that they have been making at halftime of most of their games because of the awfully slow starts on both sides of the ball.

I fully supported the decision to go to London early, but now understand that at least some of the “youngry” Bucs treated it more like a Las Vegas vacation (what happens in London stays in London) than the successful business trip that the older and wiser Bears went on. 

A micro look so far says there are issues for both coordinators and the head coach to address. A macro look says they are 4-3 and playing for the division lead at the halfway point, and I don’t think anyone can be unhappy about that. Any disappointment means the overall expectations for this team have grown and that’s a tribute to those same coaches. There’s also been loads of inconsistent football throughout the league.

I don’t believe that overconfidence is Josh Freeman’s problem for his early season passing woes, but rather simply slow, poor decision-making and some simply poor throws.

His receiving corps has lacked explosive play-making all season, with Mike Williams reminding me of Michael Clayton’s sophomore campaign following their rookie breakout seasons. I just hope he doesn’t continue to follow Clayton’s career trend, and I don’t think he will, but he needs help from a slot receiver that can occupy the safety, so that he can get one-on-one and let Josh Freeman have the confidence to let it rip to the No. 1 guy.

I don’t believe the argument that the rest of the receiving corps is capable enough to compete at the highest level of the NFL is correct. They do need to be faster, tougher and better across the board.

Freeman needs to be able to just drop back and throw the deep ball (man-to-man coverage on the outside) with confidence that his guy will either catch it or make sure the other guy doesn’t. I haven’t seen him try it all year. They need more YAC from everyone! 

I won’t make a big deal about it, but I would like to see them have another wideout with speed and get Winslow off the field on 3rd and 7+. He has made a few noteworthy plays, but I think they would create more big play opportunities matching speed with the “nickel” corner that defenses substitute in these situations and maybe “5″ won’t get stuck on “82″.

Generally, the Bucs are not catching the ball on the move enough, which is partly the play design and partly the execution. 

I have been disappointed that LeGarrette Blount wasn’t ready to help on third downs to start the season, but took half of his second year to get the protections down (attribute that to the lockout, but I thought he should have taken it upon himself to get that worked out before the end of training camp). The NFL has become a shotgun league on 3rd and 2+, but now with Blount available the Bucs can stay in “regular” people and have more options to pick up first downs, keep drives alive and out of the hands of Drew Brees and company.

Maybe it is just his flowing mane that catches my eye, but as the Bucs finish up their mid-season bye week, I think the most impactful player on the team is Adrian Clayborn. His constant effort and pressure on the backside make him the MVP at the halfway point.

 If the rest of the team took his example into their play, this team would be off-the-charts and all those slow starts wouldn’t be a topic of conversation.

The QB Blasts: Three Key Plays That Doomed Bucs

Wednesday, October 12th, 2011

Ex-Bucs QB Jeff Carlson

Former Bucs quarterback Jeff Carlson (1990 & 1991) writes
The QB Blast column here at JoeBucsFan.com. Joe is ecstatic to have him firing away. Carlson is often seen as a color analyst on Bright House Sports Network, and he trains quarterbacks of all ages locally via his company, America’s Best Quarterback. Plus, he’s a really cool dude.

By JEFF CARLSON
JoeBucsFan.com analyst

Football 101 killed the Buccaneers in San Francisco, not the 49ers.

Sure it was a short work week and a cross-country trip after a big Monday night win against the Colts, but for as much as Jim Harbaugh had his team very well prepared for what the Bucs gameplanned, the Bucs simply made elementary mistakes that the Niners took advantage of each time.

I want to highlight three critical plays in the first half that doomed the Bucs to a 21-3 deficit at the break.

1) 49ers quarterback Alex Smith lined up three receivers to his right just outside of the Red Zone and the Bucs countered showing a Cover 2 look with Corey Lynch over the top.

Quarterbacks are taught to read the safeties’ movements at the snap and work away from their “roll.” Lynch back-pedaled away from the three receivers and to the center of the field, leaving a single LB underneath and cornerback Aqib Talib on the outside deep third.

In a sound coverage, the linebacker covers curl-to-flat (knowing he has to “carry” the seam enough to keep the QB hitting the seam route before the free safety can react.) With Lynch moving away to get to the center of the field, he had no chance at reacting when Smith threw the wide open seam route because the linebacker barely helped.  Rolling the safety away from the 3 receiver side must have had Alex Smith and Jim Harbaugh licking their chops as they watched it unfold and laughing on the inside at how easy it was.

2) On the other side of the ball, the simple basics of football got away from Josh Freeman, something I haven’t seen many times. He has been slow to make decisions in the Red Zone in the first few games this year and they have gotten away with it while running their record to 3-1, but obviously they did not stay in a Holiday Inn Express before the game, because he made blatant rookie mistakes on his interceptions, one of which was returned for a Niners TD. 

Again, it was a Cover 2 look pre-snap, which should have automatically taken the “out” route by TE Kellen Winslow off the board. 

When the safety stayed on Winslow’s side of the ball, the Cover 2 corner did not have to worry about a deep threat and just stayed in his shallow coverage. Freeman should have recognized this two years ago and certainly now, but may have lost some confidence in his other receivers and forced a ball to Winslow, even though he should have known not to throw it before Faine ever snapped the ball.

3) Shortly thereafter, Freeman forced another ball that got picked off. In my yet to be released book on quarterbacking, one of my 10 commandments is not throwing to the single receiver side against Cover 2. 

Micheal Spurlock was out wide right and had a cornerback up in his face with a safety wide to his side. This is a Cover 2/Man pre-snap read. It is sometimes possible to blast a quick slant into that coverage, but on this play, it was much deeper and late.

It was a very good play by the corner to come under Spurlock and make the interception, but the safety was also right there to help break up the play and possibly put Spurlock to sleep. When the other team commits two defenders to cover one receiver, you should work the other side, where you have more potential options.

Even without these poor plays and basic mistakes made by the Bucs, I don’t think they would have won on Sunday. Jim Harbaugh’s team was superior in preparation all the way around and they made some great anticipation plays either through tendencies that were picked up on film and game-plan, or were just great aggressive plays. 

For the Buccaneers to win this Sunday against the Saints, they will need to shore up their pass coverage against receivers running in the seams, because Brees is far superior to Alex Smith in his anticipation and execution.

And Freeman will have to go back to the basics of simply throwing away from coverage or we will see many more ugly and lopsided scores.

The QB Blast: Bucs Look Very Dungyesque

Saturday, October 1st, 2011

Ex-Bucs QB Jeff Carlson

Former Bucs quarterback Jeff Carlson (1990 & 1991) writes The QB Blast column here at JoeBucsFan.com. Joe is ecstatic to have him firing away. Carlson is often seen as a color analyst on Bright House Sports Network, and he trains quarterbacks of all ages locally via his company, America’s Best Quarterback. Plus, he’s a really cool dude.

By JEFF CARLSON
JoeBucsFan.com analyst

They won’t be wearing throwback uniforms on Monday Night, but a few things will feel like the “good ol’ days” of the Buccaneers.

Jon Gruden will be in the broadcast booth remembering his time leading the Bucs to division championships and a Super Bowl, while the play on the field will look eerily similar to the Dungy-led, mid 90′s version of Buc Ball.

I fully expect specific references to Sapp, Alstott, Derrick Brooks, Simeon Rice, Ronde Barber and an early self-deprecating point about the last time these two teams got together at RJS.  Taking a swig every time Gruden references his era in some way would probably be a fun drinking game, but that may lead to an epidemic of absenteeism the following day across America.

This year’s version of defense hasn’t grown into the elite unit that Dungy and Kiffin built by the end of the 90′s, but they are a “youngry” group, and by the looks against the Falcons, they may be getting that swagger back pretty soon.

On the offensive side of the ball, I keep getting reminded of Mike Shula’s days calling plays (and that is not an insult). They are regularly running out of a standard Pro-I set, with the big back LeGarrette Blount deep at tailback, ala Mike Alstott. Alstott used to drop his shoulders and run over people, Blount literally runs over people, also by hurdling them with regularity.

Shula’s (and Dungy’s) offenses scored 20.3, 19.6 and 17.75 points from 97-99 respectively. They were 11-5 in 1997 and again in ’99 when they scored their fewest.

The 2010 Bucs scored 21.3 per game while going 10-6, but a smaller scoring differential than their predecessors. In the three games this year they are at exactly 20 points per game.

The scoring differential was higher in ’97 than in ’99 or 2010, while this year they have scored 60 and given up 60. So the run, play-action game that the Bucs are currently winning with is a trip back to the future of teams Dungy built almost 15 years ago that started a string of sellouts and waiting lists for season tickets, a good sign for all of us, especially those that will be watching our big-screens Monday night.

The offensive results haven’t changed much over the years regardless whether Shula, Gruden or Olson is designing and calling the plays, but the big difference between then and now is that the face of the Bucs was its defense (and Mike Alstott) and now it is its quarterback.

That was not the case for Dungy (Trent Dilfer) or Gruden (Brad Johnson), and I can’t wait to hear the accolades that Gruden has stored up for “No. 5″ and how he might not be in the “FFCA” (Fired Football Coaches Association) if he had a guy like that.

The QB Blasts: Camaraderie Doesn’t Win Games

Wednesday, September 14th, 2011

Former Bucs QB Jeff Carlson

Former Bucs quarterback Jeff Carlson (1990 & 1991) writes The QB Blast column here at JoeBucsFan.com. Joe is ecstatic to have him firing away. Carlson is often seen as a color analyst on Bright House Sports Network, and he trains quarterbacks of all ages locally via his company, America’s Best Quarterback. Plus, he’s a really cool dude.

By JEFF CARLSON
JoeBucsFan.com analyst

Even after Sunday’s loss, the Bucs are the best team in the NFC South.  Well, at least they are tied for the best record — and the worst — in a division that went winless this weekend.

As one of the teams that got together for self-directed practice more than most during the lockout, all the Bucs’ offseason practice sessions didn’t add up to a win in Week 1 of the real season.

Extra offseason practice didn’t work out for the New Orleans Saints either, up against a Green Bay Packers team that didn’t get together at all during the lockout. So much for the importance of building team camaraderie in the offseason. 

The Saints fought to the last play on opening night against the defending Super Bowl champs and after going down the field in seconds, courtesy of Drew Brees’ arm, they chose to go up the middle to their rookie running back on an all-or-nothing play and ended up with nothing. That was a bad coaching decision, not just after the fact; you just don’t go “all-in” where one missed block discounts all the efforts of the previous three hours. Give it to Brees on the move where he will have two or three receiver options as well as a chance to run it in if need be. It’s good to know former Super Bowl winning coaches can make bad decisions too.

All coaching staffs spent the entire offseason with Sept. 11 circled on their calendars for the season opener, and without the daily interruptions of working with their players. The Bucs threw their gameplan in the trash at halftime to play a style of football for which they are not built.

And so, on their final play of the day, they played’ “hot potato” with Donald Penn and friends to finish up a rough day on both sides of the ball. 

The Bucs looked average to poor throughout the preseason, but I was sure they were just holding on to their good stuff for the games that count. I guess I was wrong or they are holding on to their good stuff for more important games than the first one of the season, where championships are not won or lost (all 16 teams that lose in week 1 always have the same opinion).

The Detroit Lions are a team on the rise and looked like it throughout their preseason.  Matt Stafford, the former No. 1 pick in 2009, looked like an All-Pro this summer. His improvement thus far, following the first two injury-plagued seasons, is anticipating his throws and getting rid of the ball before taking the massive hits that ended both prematurely.

Raheem Morris agreed saying, “We just weren’t able to get there when he had the ball in his hands.” That is the challenge for every team isn’t it?

The Bucs racked up a total of zero defensive stat lines for sacks, hurries or hits on the QB. The change in Stafford’s game is all he needs to be a great one, and with a target like the massive Calvin Johnson, they become competitive in the NFC North immediately. 

Alternatively, Josh Freeman needs an effective running game to make this offense effective enough to compete week in and week out.  Defensively, they won’t compete in their own division without knocking Drew Brees, Matt Ryan and the record-setting rookie Cam Newton around quite a bit. They also need to find a weapon out of the backfield on third down, not just a good blocker. 

The preseason offense lacked movement and imagination and I simply chalked it up to saving the good stuff for September. But without motion to create favorable match-ups and change of pace plays to keep the rush honest, it will create too much pressure on Freeman to make plays down the field too often. 

All the important figures for Tampa Bay were right to say that one loss does not a season make, but another poor performance in Minnesota next week should strike serious concern for this team and for all of us hoping to see December home games that have significance, which also might help us see a home game on TV sometime this year.

THE QB BLAST: Preseason Is About Individuals

Tuesday, August 23rd, 2011

Former Bucs QB Jeff Carlson

Former Bucs quarterback Jeff Carlson (1990 & 1991) writes The QB Blast column here at JoeBucsFan.com. Joe is ecstatic to have him firing away. Carlson is often seen as a color analyst on Bright House Sports Network, and he trains quarterbacks of all ages locally via his company, America’s Best Quarterback.

By JEFF CARLSON
JoeBucsFan.com analyst

Overreaction and hyperbole are not in my nature and I didn’t do backflips over the Bucs’ shutout win in the preseason opener and I’m not ready to kill myself after their ugly loss Saturday. 

The Indianapolis Colts just lost their eighth straight preseason game, and that hasn’t bothered their regular season final results too much, so the Bucs poor showing becomes a great teaching point for this extremely young crop of players and not much else.

“There’s no ‘I’ in TEAM”, except in the NFL preseason where everything is about ‘I” (individuals). Players trying to make a NFL roster for the first time, veteran players trying to make it through training camp healthy, others rehabbing and coming back from injuries are only concerned about themselves, not the good of the team or the scoreboard.

Any of those players would take a good personal performance over a team win in the preseason, so the hubbub about Gerald McCoy’s comments was a great example of much ado about nothing. He was appropriately sober while being interviewed on TV while the game was still in progress, but while specifically referring to his own performance, he was very happy to be back on the field and spoke about his own return from injury and how much fun it was to get back to playing again.

If the outcome of the game was so important, then LeGarrette Blount should not have been laughing and joking with him while he was being interviewed and Kellen Winslow should have played. The thing that caught my eye was Elbert Mack’s extensive endzone dance on his interception return. I was always taught through the years that when you score a touchdown while getting blown out, you don’t celebrate too much and that dance was a bit much while still down by three scores.

The saddest thing of the night was the flag thrown on Mason Foster.

Since that play is by rule a penalty, the NFL has significantly downgraded the game of pro football. It was a very nice reaction and play by the rookie linebacker and not being able to legally hit a receiver while he is stretching to catch a ball is simply sad. The talk of a fine for that is unfortunate and I’m sure it won’t draw one from the commissioner. 

On the other hand, and on a play that didn’t get any talk that I know of, but should have been flagged and possibly fined was Devin Holland’s blindside hit on the Patriots’ Danny Woodhead during punt coverage. It was a helmet-to-helmet hit and he exploded up into the defenseless Woodhead, who was knocked for a literal loop. It is that kind of hit that can alter and possibly end a player’s career, not the aforementioned hit on Ochocinco and even the former Chad Johnson agrees.

I promised myself I was going to stop bringing up options for getting Josh Johnson on the field with Freeman, but the preseason opener showed just what that extra dynamic could mean to the offense and the team.

The rule for having a third quarterback eligble and not eating an extra gameday roster spot is new this year, giving the Bucs more options in this regard. Also, Johnson was quoted not too long ago about his desire to be a starter in the league and not just a career backup. He is guaranteed to be a backup if he stays in Tampa, so Raheem Morris and Mark Dominik will have to either convince him or pay him to do that.

And if he really wants to be a starter, it will be impossible to keep him. So making life fun by getting him on the field for more special plays may be the only solution to keep Johnson around.And fun for Johnson would mean more fun for Bucs’ fans (and most assuredly more tickets sold).

Allowing Johnson to sit on the bench for another year and then leave the Bucs without using his unique and important talent for the good of the offense and helping the team win games this season (the stated goal of Morris) would be a sin.

Here’s to Greg Olson’s imagination working overtime to make that happen.

The QB Blast: Owners Cheering Players’ Workouts

Wednesday, June 8th, 2011

Ex-Bucs QB Jeff Carlson

Former Bucs quarterback Jeff Carlson (1990 & 1991) writes The QB Blast column here at JoeBucsFan.com. Joe is ecstatic to have him firing away. Carlson is often seen as a color analyst on Bright House Sports Network, and he trains quarterbacks of all ages locally via his company,

America’s Best Quarterback.

Today, Carlson explains why he believes players are ultimately working against their interests by holding organized workouts.

By JEFF CARLSON
JoeBucsFan.com analyst

As a young NFL player I didn’t care much about politics. But the older I get the more I care about the editorials in the newspaper and less about sports.

George Will is a baseball historian and political writer/television commentator with an article about the NFL labor strife that I saw in the Tampa Tribune (page 10) on Tuesday (June 7).

He chronicles the same arguments that have been made in my previous QB Blasts and other places about the financials of the owners and players dividing up over $9 billion in revenue. He finishes his article by stating the owners don’t realize the very nature of the NFL player is to endure pain, so losing paychecks come September may not send the players running back to the bargaining table.

Mr. Will unknowingly makes a critical mistake about professional football players and pain. Sure, the enduring physical abuse heaped on the body is engrained in players from their earliest days of Pee-Wee football, but these are the same behemoth “mama’s boys” that faint at the sight of a needle.

After so many struggle with nothing — unless you are Reggie Bush or Cam Newton (allegedly) — through their first 22 years of life, the feeling of a few bucks in your pocket is pretty addictive — and fleeting as their competitive juices work against their bank accounts.

Too many try to get just one more carat in their earrings than their buddies, a couple more inches on their 3D flat-screens and leave them needing the next season to begin for financial reasons, not necessarily competitive ones.

Republicans in political office have been finding it incredibly difficult to walk back the out-of-control government spending (even to 2008 levels) while Democrats think creating more government jobs and even more spending will fix the worsening deficit problems.

The owners are in a similar situation, but the NFL isn’t working from a deficit like we are as Americans.

To fix what they say is the problem, the NFL owners actually need the lockout to continue into the season to walk back the numbers from the previous deal (that saw both sides increase their wealth). The only way the owners get what they want is to make the players miss paychecks.

Under DeMaurice Smith, who is playing out the most important and critical negotiation of his career (past, present and future), the players won’t break before that (that is why they hired a lawyer to lead them instead of another former player) unless the owners give them the numbers that they want.

A few months ago I believed that they would wrap this thing up by August 15th or simply agree to go back to playing under the old agreement (like they did from 1988-1993) while continuing to figure it out. But after further review I realize the owners have to take this into the season for them to get what they want for the future, that is unless all the owners aren’t solidified on what they want for the future.

George Will calls the owners’ arguments for needing adjustments to the expired agreement paradoxical. They say they need more money for stadiums that 90% of their fans never or rarely use.

The players have a serious paradox of their own. ESPN, the newspapers and sites like this one tell us each day about the players organizing themselves for workouts. Josh Freeman is leading his team by organizing well attended group workouts, while Michael Vick is in Virginia, not leading the Philadelphia Eagles.

ESPN reported through Donald Driver that the Green Bay Packers haven’t put any of these training sessions together, and former players Tedy Bruschi and Mike Golic debated the importance and impact of missing them. Driver said they are still enjoying the Super Bowl win, even though we are in June, just a week or so before their ring ceremony for winning last season’s championship.

The players’ paradox is that the more organized workouts these guys put together the more they put their whole labor battle in peril. We all know the owners can financially outlast the players, so the owners are probably cheering every time they see players spending their own money on lodging, airfare, restaurants to have these “team-building” exercises.

While the Packers stay at home and save their pennies, they are doing the smart thing by keeping financial reserves in their bank accounts for the future fight.

As fans we cheer Josh Freeman, Drew Brees and others showing their commitment and dedication (love for the game) to be prepared for the on-field fight whenever this thing concludes.

But unless they are footing the bill for their less financially prepared teammates, they are unwittingly weakening their ability to hold on for what they are ultimately fighting for.

The QB Blast: Bucs Employees Get Raw Deal

Tuesday, May 31st, 2011

Ex-Bucs QB Jeff Carlson

Former Bucs quarterback Jeff Carlson (1990 & 1991) writes The QB Blast column here at JoeBucsFan.com. Joe is ecstatic to have him firing away. Carlson is often seen as a color analyst on Bright House Sports Network, and he trains quarterbacks of all ages locally via his company, America’s Best Quarterback.

Today, Carlson explains why he sees no reason for Team Glazer to have sent home employees without pay. 

By JEFF CARLSON
JoeBucsFan.com analyst

It was disturbing to read that Buccaneers employees will be forced to stay home from work without pay this week. The Bucs aren’t the first team in the NFL to announce different cost-cutting measures as the owners’ lockout continues. 

But what makes this disturbing locally and around the NFL is that as far as I know the league hasn’t lost any money yet (and are still nearly 100 days out from doing so).  On the contrary, NFL teams have saved a fortune this offseason.

Following the combine in February, free-agency usually kicks off in March and multi-million dollar bonuses are paid to myriad of players in signing bonuses. Jeff Faine, the oft-maligned (on this site) center was one of those a couple years back. Every team goes in at different levels (e.g. Albert Haynesworth), but every team has probably saved more than the entire cost of a week’s salary for its employees simply in signing bonuses.

Besides the bonus costs of free-agency, the process of courting free-agents is anything but free. Many players are flown in and put up in nice hotels and nice dinners are had at nice restaurants. I wouldn’t hazard a guess at this cost, but let’s just say that many “regular Joe” workers around NFL offices could pay their bills quite nicely on this line-item alone.

Right after free-agency opens, the offseason training program starts and the team starts spending wads of cash on paying its players to lift weights and run around. A number of these players (usually young guys like Gerald McCoy and Brian Price) have pretty big attendance bonuses (like $500,000 or so) worked into their contracts. I don’t have those figures, but they are available through agents or elsewhere, and that money is available to be used on employees’ salaries this week, since it didn’t go to more important things like jeweled-encrusted watches and Escalades with 22″ rims.

Besides the bonuses paid to some, everyone enjoys the daily pay for their spring sweat. The Bucs paid me $50 a day in 1990 and 1991. The Patriots paid me $100 a day in 1993. I’m guessing that offseason training pay has at least doubled from those days since minimum wage has sextupled (thought you would like me throwing in a sex reference to make my stories a little racier and exciting) since the days of minimum wage being $50,000. Aren’t football stories about sex and money incredibly exhilarating?

With the Bucs usually boasting about incredible participation rates by their players, they are saving more money this offseason than other teams. At 50 players at $200 a day, that’s $10,000 a day or $40,000 a month not flowing out of their bank accounts. In the “good-old-days” we used to eat breakfast before we came to work and paid for our own lunch after, but in these recent economic boon days for the NFL, teams have gourmet food available for both of those meals every day. While that food cost could range widely and wildly, it is a cost not expensed for the last three months by any NFL team.

OTA’s, or Official Team Activities, have been completed eliminated from the schedule and those usually add significantly to the offseason training budget because they put more players up in hotels and feed them dinner, the most expensive meal of the day or give them cash per diem.

Immediately following the draft, the race is on to sign the best rookie free-agents. Now that there are only seven rounds to the draft, more quality rookies are on the streets and can require higher signing bonuses to acquire their services. While these aren’t the multi-million dollar signing bonuses that will be paid to the likes of Adrian Clayborn when the lockout ends, they are still in the $10-25,000 range and would buy quite a bit of gasoline and groceries for the employees that never got a signing bonus like that in their lives.

From what I understand, NFL teams don’t start missing “real” money until games start dropping from the schedule, so am I missing something here?  The owners are making the hoi polloi miss paychecks in May, when they won’t miss any until the middle of September. At this point, training camp is a heavy August expense that won’t have to be incurred if things continue to stall in the legal process.

It would be great to get some clarification from One Buc Place on this perplexing matter, but that will have to wait a while. Because they’re on “vacation” this week.

The QB Blast: Owners Don’t Look Out For Game

Thursday, May 12th, 2011

Former Bucs QB Jeff Carlson

Former Bucs quarterback Jeff Carlson (1990 & 1991) writes The QB Blast column here at JoeBucsFan.com. Joe is ecstatic to have him firing away. Carlson is often seen as a color analyst on Bright House Sports Network, and he trains quarterbacks of all ages locally via his company, America’s Best Quarterback.

Today, Carlson is angered by a syndicated columnist who claims the players’ role in the labor dispute is born from greed.

Throughout the offseason lockout I have listened to and been involved in many conversations with people of all walks of life and heard a wide variety of opinions on the causes and cures for what ails the NFL right now.

Then I read an idiotic story in Tuesday’s St. Petersburg Times’ TBT publication by guest columnist Ray McNulty, who surmised that the owners should prevail because they care more about the game than the players and that the players only care about themselves.

Let me shed a little light to this fight for Mr. McNulty and anyone that might have been swayed by this article.

The owners care more about the game than the players? Did the move of the Cleveland Rams (now doing business in St. Louis via Los Angeles and Anaheim) improve the game or help the ardent fans of Cleveland, while leaving the second largest television market void of football?

Was the midnight move of the legendary Baltimore Colts to Indianapolis in the best interest of the game? When Art Modell left the city of Cleveland without a team for the second time really good for the game? Has the frequent travel miles of Al Davis and the Oakland/Los Angeles/Oakland Raiders been in his financial interest or for his love for the game and its fans?

Did the Bidwell family take the Cardinals to Arizona because they thought the dry heat was good for the game or was it simply the highest bid? Why did the Houston Oilers become the Tennessee Titans or the Dallas Texans the Kansas City Chiefs? All for the owners love of the game I’m sure.

The players only look out for themselves Mr. McNulty? Players are currently playing all around the country in the Arena Football League and other minor leagues for peanuts or less and they would play in the NFL for very little if that is what the market would pay.

Why? For the love of the game.

During the players strike of 1987, the owners put a poor excuse for a product on the field to pressure the players to break ranks (did they charge full price for those tickets,  I can’t remember?) and go back to work for the minimum wage of $50,000, which was really not a big wage even for that time and plenty of players played for just that amount.

In fact, while Hugh Culverhouse owned this team, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers may have led the league in minimum wage players while also leading the league in profit margin. We can all agree that he was certainly looking out for the best interests of the game, right?

Before the ’87 strike, and even after, players would get injured and teams would simply cut the player and he would have no recourse for getting rehabbed or paid during that rehabilitation.

Union representation was necessary for many issues like this, as owners were looking after the good of the game. After the “Scab” players broke the ’87 strike, the players had no bargaining power. But over the next few years, they collectively bargained a deal with the NFL owners that increased revenues and franshise values exponentially over the last 20 years. After taking over the title of America’s Game the last decade or so, the owners extended that same contract in 2006.

From what I understand through letters that I have seen from NFLPA head DeMaurice Smith to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, the players weren’t asking for much change moving forward, but the owners wanted the players to give them an extra billion dollars (to go on top of the other billion they already get) before the revenue sharing began.

It seems reasonable that if one side of an agreement wants to make a significant change, they should at least give you some evidence of the reason why.

That is what the players have been asking the NFL for since 2009, trying to avert the current situation. The owners have rebuffed the requests to show their finances and I don’t blame them, but you better come up with something to justify that billion dollars.

That billion dollars ain’t about the fans or bettering the game, it’s about the money, which is what players are always accused of only caring about, just like in this silly column.

Players will play and have always played for whatever the market will bear, just ask Jack Youngblood how much he was making when he came of of the University of Florida or while he was playing on a broken leg in the Super Bowl. It wasn’t a king’s ransom and if it was all about the money, he would have been on the sideline protecting his future earnings. 

Which one of us would tell a potential employer that he can keep his $100,000 offer, because you love his company so much you would rather work for $7.15 an hour?

I’m not even trying to make a case that the players are right and the owners are wrong, I’m just saying that the guest columnist getting space in the TBT might want to think about writing on topics he has better evidence for which to make a case.

He says that when the players win, the fans lose. I say that when we read his column, we all lose.

The QB Blast: Technology Can Help Bowers, Bucs

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2011

Former Bucs QB Jeff Carlson

Former Bucs quarterback Jeff Carlson (1990 & 1991) writes The QB Blast column here at JoeBucsFan.com. Joe is ecstatic to have him firing away. Carlson is often seen as a color analyst on Bright House Sports Network, and he trains quarterbacks of all ages locally via his company, America’s Best Quarterback.

By JEFF CARLSON
JoeBucsFan.com analyst

Prospects falling down in the draft are nothing new for the NFL. 

Warren Sapp fell significantly for rumored drug use. Aaron Rogers fell for no good reason. And now that Alex Smith is basically a bust for San Francisco and Rogers is hugging the Lombardi Trophy, we all know it was for no good reason. 

There are plenty of those stories over the years, but maybe no other matches the fall of Da’Quan Bowers. Bowers was the early favorite at the top of most draft boards after Andrew Luck decided to stay in school. The question about the ACC Defensive Player of the Year falling from the top of the board to the middle of the second round, not because of drug use, which never became an issue for future Hall-of-Famer Sapp, is his physical health.

The most prominent or maybe the only issue is a surgically repaired knee that his college coach said didn’t respond as well as they had hoped to some kind of surgery.

The word on the street is that he has a degenerative arthritic knee and is “bone on bone.” If this turns out to be a single issue, I believe he will be able to overcome it through medical technology.

There are a number of products that “create” cartilage to give the knee back the cushiony space needed to have the joint move smoothly without the bone rubbing and wearing out on both the top and bottom of the knee. I actually work for the company (sanofi-aventis) that just bought the company (Genzyme) that is the leader in this kind of surgery called “Carticel.” I don’t know for sure if this is what he already had done, but it sounds like it may have been.

It is obvious that every team in the league saw more of an issue with his knee or other problems that made them pass on his outrageous potential, but the Buccaneers will not get any blame for giving this talented player a chance, even if he never becomes a significant contributor.

However, they will be given major credit if he turns out to be the player that was talented enough to be on top of draft boards, even if it was for only a short time and even if his career is shorter than it should be.

His highlights are more impressive than any other defensive lineman that went before him. 

Every team in the league has missed on first-round picks and subsequent picks. Da’Quan Bowers’ role model was fellow Clemson DE Gaines Adams, a miss by the Buccaneers at No. 4 overall pick in 2007 and traded by 2009. Another recent miss was wide receiver Dexter Jackson, a second round pick in 2008 gone the next year. Even with those misses, the Buccaneers are poised to be one of the better teams in the league next year and into the future, so taking Bowers at No. 51 was certainly worth the risk, because the reward could be off the charts.

On another note, the draft isn’t quite as exciting when your team doesn’t have a need at quarterback, but how comforting to know the Bucs have no need at QB. I don’t think I would trade Josh Freeman for any other quarterback in the league right now!

The QB Blast: Blackout Problem Won’t Go Away

Sunday, January 2nd, 2011

Former Bucs QB Jeff Carlson

By JEFF CARLSON
JoeBucsFan.com analyst

Former Bucs quarterback Jeff Carlson (1990 & 1991) writes The QB Blast column here at JoeBucsFan.com. Joe is ecstatic to have him firing away. Carlson is often seen as a color analyst on Bright House Sports Network, and he trains quarterbacks of all ages locally via his company, America’s Best Quarterback.

In the week following the Bucs’ devastating home loss to the Detroit Lions and leading up to their explosive win last Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks, stories in the Tribune and Times (including the front page) surrounding the Buccaneers were more about the lack of attendance at Raymond James Stadium and a season-long blackout on local television than the team’s playoff scenarios.

Blaming the economy is the most popular answer to the problem, but I believe it is more complex than that and includes marketing, public relations, perceived value and a changing marketplace. It is the same problem that most businesses have to deal with to sell their products over time.

I grew up in Los Angeles with the Rams and later the Raiders as well. The nation’s No. 2 television market has been without a pro football franchise since the early 1990s.

Fans showed up late and left early and didn’t show up at all if the teams weren’t really, really good. The NFL has wanted to reclaim that massive market for years. (I really thought the Glazers were going to take the Buccaneers to L.A. before the stadium here in Tampa was agreed on.) And there are a few businessmen that have been trying to build a new stadium and bring football back to L.A. for many years, but there just isn’t a clamoring by fans to make it happen.

In Los Angeles there are plenty of other entertainment distractions and fans found they could live without pro football and, as it turns out, there is plenty of NFL football on regular television, as we have been forced to discover here as well. And if your football appetite isn’t quenched with that, you can buy the “NFL Ticket” if you really want more.

We in blacked-out markets can buy NFL rewind and watch the games in their entirety only a few hours after the real deal. So in a multi-entertainment spot like the Tampa Bay area, there is a limit to what the market will bear, especially with great options like USF football, the Rays and the Lightning vying for the same family entertainment dollar, not to mention Disney and Busch Gardens.

The Lakers win championships as often as any pro team, and fans still won’t fill their arena if they aren’t vying for the top spot each year. The “bandwagon” fan isn’t unique to Tampa, Florida. Every city is basically the same in that regard — everybody loves a winner –although some smaller towns with limited entertainment options (Green Bay comes to mind) may still sell out their stadium regardless of how the team is doing on the field. 

NFL Might Have To Enhance Fan Experience

Why haven’t the Bucs filled up the stadium once all year while enjoying a winning season from the start? The economy is important, but the “Redbox effect” is redefining the market (Redbox is the little DVD vending machine sitting at your local Walmart or 7-Eleven). Blockbuster already was struggling to fight off competition from mail-away movie companies like Netflix when Redbox started renting movies for a buck!  A buck?

The perceived value had been defined by Blockbuster for a long time at nearly $5 for a multiday rental and they had driven almost every “mom and pop” rental store out of the market. Who would ever spend $5 for a movie rental ever again?  Not many,as Blockbuster quickly found out.

The home video market had been redefined and Blockbuster has now followed the Redbox business model.  With the growth of the Internet and cable/satellite TV, the NFL has been morphing its market over time, just as “Hollywood” did when VHS home videos came out and as the music industry has with iTunes.

Going to the “Drive-In movies” was a way of life for me and millions of other Americans in the 1970s but has almost disappeared as part of Americana. As VHS movies started coming out in the late 1970’s, “Hollywood” started worrying that the end of the walk-in movie was close at hand as well. Why would people pay the big bucks for tickets, popcorn and cokes that go along with the movie theatre experience, when they could buy or rent the movie and enjoy themselves at home? 

The movie industry has had to reinvent itself over the last 30 years (remember double features?) as technology of television and surround sound has made the “home theater” experience better than going out. Movie makers have relied on star power to open movies and salaries for top stars skyrocketed up to $25 million per movie for some, much like the salaries for top performing professional athletes (Michael Jordan $30+ Million). 

People will always want somewhere to go to get out of the house, go on dates, etc., but they can’t or won’t pay the steep ticket price to go for average movies. You can trust Redbox with a $1 for average movies. To get me to the theater, the lure must be pretty good. The current trend is 3-D.  You can watch it in 2-D for one price and 3-D for a few bucks more.

The Buccaneers and other mid-market teams are at a similar crossroads now and I believe the NFL as a whole will deal with this moving forward. The Cowboys, Giants and Jets probably won’t feel it as much,  but even Jerry Jones will have to come up with interesting ways to fill all those seats and luxury boxes in his sparkly new house if his team continues to disappoint.

Discouraging Families, Corporations

There will always be fans for football and the biggest markets and top performing teams will continue to sell tickets, but with better and better televisions the live product is going to have to be bigger and better than it has been in the past to get me and others off the couch (perfect weather, nobody standing up in front) and pony up $500+ for a three-hour entertainment experience for the family.

I have been to plenty of football games in my life and don’t care that much about being there in person anymore. My motivation for going out in the elements is simple and singular, to make my kids happy. 

My kids asked me if we could go to the Falcons game a couple weeks back, so I called for tickets. When I was told that the cheapest ticket started at $75 for the upper level and $105 for the lower, unfortunately I had to tell my boys that we wouldn’t be going to see the Bucs. I don’t know how many of those $25 kid’s tickets ($35 adults) that have been promoted all year are available or where they are in the stadium, but it makes me think of the airlines that advertise $49 plane tickets. 

I know some people and/or companies spend $300 for a single “Club” ticket and God bless them. But like many in Tampa Bay, I have to make choices about my family’s entertainment expenses. For me, a $500 investment for tickets in the corner of the stadium isn’t going to happen. With my playing history and broadcasting responsibilities, I have gotten into games for free for a long time, so I may not be a typical customer, but at that price, the game itself isn’t going to get my family to the stadium. I simply need more value for my money and it seems many others do as well.

The Tampa Bay Storm bring their players back on the field after the games to sign autographs. The Rays and Lightning have made post-game concerts a value-added program to increase attendance.  USF has lower ticket prices and a good atmosphere for “JoeFootballFan” to get his “live” football fix.  I don’t know if a Rick Springfield or REO Speedwagon concert will get me there either, but it might (actually neither of those artists would do it, but adding more value outside of the game is the concept).

Over 50,000 people decided to take the financial plunge for the divisional match-up of potential playoff teams, but only about 40,000 were interested enough in each of the final two home games. The local economy isn’t going to change dramatically soon, so there probably isn’t going to be a great clamoring in 2011 for new season ticket holders or luxury box owners even with the surprisingly good season the team has put together. 

Tampa is like the little town that could. We are not a big market, but we try to play with the big boys, and even though we have endured much ridicule over the years with all of our sports teams at different times, we have faired pretty well.

Baseball is a different animal without a salary cap. The Rays are outspent 3-to-1 every year (at least) by the Yankees and Red Sox and need ticket revenue to survive. Every team in the NFL shares in their television revenue, guaranteeing each club a certain amount. In 2010 the NFL didn’t have a salary cap or basement, meaning teams could spend as much or as little as they wanted. The Cowboys spent more than anyone and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers spent less.

According to a Sporting News article from November 22, the Bucs spent $30 million less than what the salary cap minimum would have been. Meaning they would have been forced to spend about $110 million if there was a cap. I’m sure they have plenty of answers to explain why they are spending so little in comparison to other teams, but news earlier this year that the Bucs invested the least amount of money in their team (in the entire NFL) over the last five years doesn’t make individual fans or corporations get too excited to invest either.

The blackouts are also a problem for the Bucs because guys like Jon Kitna, David Garrard, Chad Henne, Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Mark Sanchez have spent as much or more time on our TV screen this season than the Bucs’ budding superstar QB Josh Freeman, and that doesn’t help sell more merchandise and other things that increase the overall perceived value of the franchise when those rankings come out each year.

With time off from work and school, my family was looking for something to do and my kids like hockey too. We watch portions of almost every Rays game and Lightning game throughout their respective seasons because they are on TV and their players become household names. I know the Lightning have 41 games to sell and the Rays have 81, but as I said, it is just a three-hour entertainment expense for me, so there is a small difference between a pro hockey game or pro football game — my family is getting the same value.

The difference is my wallet is much heavier when I go home from a hockey game.

So, this New Year’s Day, my family watched the Gators play at Raymond James Stadium all afternoon, and for $120 my family of four will be enjoying the Tampa Bay Lightning and the New York Rangers all night. And for that $120 we also got the added value of four hot dogs, four beers (sodas) and four hockey pucks to take home. My family will be happy, I have $380 left in my back pocket and I’m home in plenty of time to catch the Bucs and Saints in Hi-Def.

THE QB BLAST: Another Call For Josh Johnson

Wednesday, December 15th, 2010

Former Bucs QB Jeff Carlson

By JEFF CARLSON
JoeBucsFan.com analyst

Former Bucs quarterback Jeff Carlson (1990 & 1991) writes The QB Blast column here at JoeBucsFan.com. Joe is ecstatic to have him firing away. Carlson is often seen as a color analyst on Bright House Sports Network, and he trains quarterbacks of all ages locally via his company, America’s Best Quarterback.

Every road win in the NFL is difficult. A road win in bad weather is even more so. The Bucs survived in D.C. against a struggling Redskins team and notched another fourth-quarter comeback win and got their eighth overall. Simply surviving to win against a subpar team like Washington was just fine by me, especially with their recent close battles against good teams like the Ravens and Falcons.

Those two losses showed that they are competing at a higher level than in those bad losses earlier in the season. They also won Sunday while losing a couple more of their major contributors, this time it was Quincy Black and Gerald McCoy. 

Underutilized Weapon

I was happy to see the Sunday newspaper article that explained Raheem understands there is an entertainment aspect to the game and their offense, as they have implemented a few unique-looking plays over the weeks.

Greg Olson has rightly been given credit for coming up with some effective plays, but the people of Tampa Bay are scratching their heads over his short yardage play-calling (people that admit they know nothing about calling plays are stopping me on the street to ask what he is doing).

This week they went deep on their first third down of the game. Going into shotgun on 3rd-and-1 was curious enough in the bad weather (even though Freeman had a chance to throw a TD to Kellen Winslow after buying some extra time in the backfield and would have with a little better throw) and seems to make a statement that they don’t have much confidence in any of their running backs or offensive line in short yardage situations, as they went to shotgun again on their very next 3rd-and-1 situation.

The Bucs offense could become very entertaining and effective if they would implement Josh Johnson into the backfield as a receiver in motion behind the formation. 

Even though he won a Super Bowl here in Tampa while quarterbacking the Baltimore Ravens, I was never a big fan of Trent Dilfer under center. But, as an analyst, I think he is really good, perhaps the best on the network. Recently he was talking about Michael Vick and the Philadelphia Eagles offense and how impressive it is by stretching defenses to defend absolutely every inch of the field. This, of course, is because of Vick’s dynamism and diversity.

I know I have beaten this drum before, but because I know who reads this column, I am going to keep beating it so that the Buccaneers offense will be included in Dilfer’s conversation of dynamic offenses around the NFL, because the potential is there! Josh Johnson must do more than run a decoy route once a game.  He needs touches.

Not by pulling Freeman out of the game, but by moving Johnson across the formation behind Freeman and taking a pitch at full speed, thus pulling linebackers out of position and creating bigger holes for Freeman to throw into and for Johnson’s passes or runs as well. It will also help the running game, even though Blount has helped it immensely.

Redskins Executed

I know Barrett Ruud is the current poster-boy for what is wrong with the defense, but I must come to his defense a bit. Against the Redskins, the Bucs defense was being gashed because of their alignment and the other team’s execution, not because Ruud wasn’t filling the holes well enough. On early downs, the Bucs were regularly lining up a cocked noseguard on the center and an end outside of the tackle, virtually giving away both the “A” and “B” gap, which Ruud cannot defend by himself. This is allowing a guard to get onto the linebackers down the field. 

The television announcers called it “zone” blocking, but there was a lot more going on there than just zone blocking, as the Redskins pulled, trapped, kicked out different defenders to open huge running lanes for Torain. If the Bucs continue to line up like they did Sunday, there will be a few more running backs with big days on the ground, even if the Bucs were able to get Ray Lewis to step into the middle linebacker spot.

Still Competing Off The Field

 

Eight wins with three to play is really a fabulous situation for this team.

Unfortunately the stadium will not be filled again this Sunday as a win will guarantee them a winning season and triple last season’s win total, but the Tampa Bay market has legitimate, multi-factor reasons for spending its time watching other NFL teams on home TV screens.

Fortunately, the Bucs recognize the need to increase the entertainment value of their ticket. Because they are competing for entertainment dollars, and in this market’s economy, those dollars are scarce or nonexistent for many and must be used wisely.

THE QB BLAST: Sage Morris Might Need 11

Saturday, November 27th, 2010

Ex-Bucs QB Jeff Carlson

By JEFF CARLSON
JoeBucsFan.com analyst

Former Bucs quarterback Jeff Carlson (1990 & 1991) writes The QB Blast column here at JoeBucsFan.com. Joe is ecstatic to have him firing away. Carlson is often seen as a color analyst on Bright House Sports Network, and he trains quarterbacks of all ages locally via his company, America’s Best Quarterback.

The Bucs’ “Race to 10” is 70 percent fulfilled with 37 percent of the season remaining (six games to get three wins) for Raheem Morris’ mantra to come to pass.

The season began with discussions on this website and other media outlets about the number of wins and/or the perceived improvement that would allow Morris to keep his job following 2010. By all accounts, 10 wins was beyond reach and quietly laughable, sans one young coach and his remarkably young football team. With seven wins and six games to go, as well as a schedule that still has three teams with .500 records or less, “The Race to 10” makes Morris more sage than propagandist. 

Through 10 games, the Bucs have won every game they should have won or could have been expected to win. No games have fallen through their hands and they almost pulled off a divisional road win at Atlanta. In that game, the goal for the pundits was to see this team simply “compete” against a decent team, something it didn’t do against Pittsburgh or New Orleans. It definitely did that and a little bit more.

Slim Chance, Major Test In Baltimore

Following Sunday’s impressive shutout of the Niners on a long west coast road trip, they now go back on the road and up against a team with an equally strong record and one of the best defensive teams in the entire league. 

To get to their team goal, the final six must also have no mistakes or they must win an unexpected game along the way. There is no expectation (from me) for them to win in Baltimore, other than to see if they have grown to competing with playoff caliber teams, and especially against a team that can put major pressure on, and confusion into, every quarterback in the NFL.

As Josh Freeman continues to be lauded and applauded for his heroic efforts thus far, the elemental question that still remains is his ability to handle a defense like the Ravens. All third down situations will be the critical aspect of the game to watch this weekend. How he and the offensive line handle those difficult adjustments will be key to their handling the rest of the games on the schedule and potential not only for racing for 10 wins, but for actually competing in a playoff scenario.

What?  That concept seemed absurd a couple of months ago, but that is where this team has come in just a couple months.

“Expecting 11″

Even with 10 wins though, making the playoffs will still be extremely difficult. They could accomplish their season goal and end up third in the NFC South and behind other Wild Card hopefuls like the Bears (7-3), Packers (7-3), Eagles (7-3) or even the Giants (6-4) to miss the playoffs. To succeed so far beyond expectations and then fail to make the playoffs, would truly be a shame.

For this scenario to not become reality, “Expecting Eleven” needs to become the new team catchphrase, because 10 may not be enough to get into the dance, even though dancing in January wasn’t on the card in September.

Expectations have increased for everyone with the maturity of their MVP-caliber QB and other pleasant surprises (Mike Williams, LaGarrette Blount). To reach 11 will require four consecutive wins down the stretch. Do not expect a win at Baltimore Sunday, but if they do, God bless them and watch out, because that will simply prove they are on a crusade from above.

But, when they do come home 7-4, they will play host to the Atlanta Falcons the following week and this is the game they really need for those playoffs to materialize.  There will still be scenarios that keep their hopes alive (beating the Saints in the New Orleans finale), but they will be greatly diminished.  Three more wins must be reeled off against the .500 Redskins, the lowly Lions and the mediocre Seahawks so that the regular season finale is not a “must-win” to get in. This scenario makes them 11-5 and secures a well-deserved playoff spot.

Any mistake along the way will most likely make them miss the playoffs and leave us applauding their ability to overcome the low expectations from the outside (of One Buc Place) world and give us much fodder for the offseason of much greater expectations in 2011.

Through the first 10 games they have taken care of business perfectly, winning all the winnable games.  Beating Washington, Detroit and Seattle are the remaining games that satisfy their coach’s hope of the improbable.

With the success thus far, renaming and refocusing their goal to “Expecting 11” secures the playoff game that would put the cherry on top of this quite unexpected season that has the QB and coach in the “Player Of The Year” and “Coach Of The Year” conversations as well as a couple of rookies that should be up for postseason honors.  I guess Morris’ “Race To 10” has also secured his place for 2011.

The QB Blast: Huge Gaffes By Penn, Playcaller

Wednesday, November 10th, 2010
Ex-Bucs QB Jeff Carlson

Ex-Bucs QB Jeff Carlson

By JEFF CARLSON
JoeBucsFan.com analyst

Former Bucs quarterback Jeff Carlson (1990 & 1991) writes The QB Blast column here at JoeBucsFan.com. Joe is ecstatic to have him firing away. Carlson is often seen as a color analyst on Bright House Sports Network, and he trains quarterbacks of all ages locally via his company, America’s Best Quarterback.

Last week I wrote about the importance of performance in all three facets — offense, defense, specials teams — for the early season success of this Buccaneers team. There was no better example of this concept than this past Sunday against the division leading Atlanta Falcons.

Without the outstanding performance of the kickoff return team, they would not have been very competitive in the Georgia Dome.

After falling just inches short of winning on the road against a quality opponent, the youngest players on the team were mentioned as “the problem.” Well, the youth of this team can’t be blamed for the lack of success when it is just that youth that is responsible for their unexpected success.

There is a problem, however, with some of their veterans. Second year quarterback Josh Freeman threw an interception when he was hit while throwing by an unblocked defensive end. This was a simple “brainfart” (brainfart: (noun) a mental mistake made on a routine play) by veteran offensive tackle Donald Penn.

On that particular play, the Falcons had four down defensive linemen and a middle linebacker over center, while the Bucs had an empty backfield. There was no way to be confused in this set, but inexplicably Penn turned right to the inside and blocked nobody, because everybody was being blocked already. This left Josh Freeman, the second year QB, without a clue that his veteran left tackle just left him vulnerable to a potentially season-ending blindside hit and the team vulnerable to both losing their star quarterback and also to the resulting turnover. Pass protection assignments and proper reactions by QB and receivers is one area that needs continued attention for this offense.

On the right side of the line, Jeremy Trueblood missed his second straight game and the Buccaneers enjoyed their second straight game without a personal foul or illegal block in the back or illegal procedure call by their big, veteran right offensive tackle. Trueblood’s replacement James Lee was serviceable, but is probably not the long-term answer to securing the right side, as his lack of strength is reminiscent of Kenyatta Walker.

Now to the key play of the game which could have won the game and left the Bucs tied for the best overall record in the entire NFL and alone atop the NFC South.

The offensive line had been struggling regularly throughout the game as the Falcons’ defensive linemen were getting through the gaps before the offensive line could get there. The noise factor with the loud crowd should have been the deciding factor for the quarterback sneak, a play that Josh Freeman is currently sitting at 100% success rate.

And since Raheem Morris likes Rays’ Manager Joe Maddon’s style, which depends heavily on percentages, it would seem Freeman’s perfect past would have led to giving the “savior” the opportunity to save yet another game.

This is not “Monday Morning Quarterbacking”, Dave Moore, former player and radio analyst, was saying this before the play was called. I agree with him whether the Blount play worked or not. The defense is used to reacting to the ball movement and with the crowd noise they are far less likely to jump offsides with the quarterback’s snap count drowned out by the crowd.  So, getting the QB, and in this case a QB bigger than the big RB, to move forward immediately is the best call. 

Dropping games, especially road games, that are within your grasp are hard to swallow, but fortunately the Bucs are only a game out of first place at the halfway point and will get another shot at the Falcons at home.  If you asked Raheem Morris or his coaches or players in August if they would take 5-3 and one game out for their first half of the season, I doubt any would have a problem with that call.