Archive for the ‘QB Blasts’ Category

The QB Blasts: Coordinators Having Major Impact

Wednesday, October 13th, 2010

Former Bucs QB Jeff Carlson


Former Bucs quarterback Jeff Carlson (1990 & 1991) writes The QB Blast column here at 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.

Let’s give the coordinators of the offense and defense some credit for the Bucs’ winning record.

While it isn’t perfect on either side of the ball by any means, there have been a few standout designs or calls that have given Bucs players opportunities to make plays. And the great news is, the players have stepped up and made the plays to make the difference.

A few weeks back against the Carolina Panthers, in their first division game and on the road, Ronde Barber had his second interception in as many games and got the deserved credit for always being in the right place. But Raheem Morris must get much of the credit for that critical interception because it was the design of the coverage that had Barber had in the right place at the right time.

Carolina came to the line in a three-receiver “bunch” group to the right side. As a quarterback, I’ve never liked the bunch look much, simply because it gives the defense too much power to disguise blitzes and/or coverage. The Bucs dialed up something I hadn’t seen before and, with the outcome of the play, probably something Matt Moore hadn’t seen either.

As the receivers came off the line and scattered in different directions as usual (seam, curl and flat), Tanard Jackson, who started in the regular safety position for a Cover 2 look (deep in the seam), faded all the way outside to the flat area. Aqib Talib faded back from his outside flat space and covered the  curl from behind. Ronde started the play faking a blitz and dropped back as the underneath and inside defender, holding the seam as Jackson went wide. The backside safety also gave Ronde help deep over the top, allowing him to sneak outside to the curl.

Moore was right to think that the curl would be open–and he would have been if Barber stayed with the seam route. But that help from the other safety allowed Barber to jump in front of the curl in what may have been one of the easiest interceptions of his career.

The “cool” design that allowed Barber to once again be in the right place at the right time needs to be recognized. Most defensive coordinators get famous for designing up blitzes and create big pressure to confuse blocking schemes and cause quarterbacks havoc before they throw the ball. This single coverage shift isn’t like designing the “46” Defense that made Buddy Ryan famous, or the Tampa 2 that Tony Dungy and Monte Kiffin put on the map, but there aren’t that many opportunities to see a coverage that confuses the QB so that he throws the ball right into the chest of the defender. 

Ronde gets the stat added to his illustrious career, but give the defensive coordinator the assist on that one. 

On Sunday, Cody Grimm evened the score against the Bengals by taking his first career pick “to the house” because Morris designed up a look that had his safety close to the line of scrimmage at the snap and immediately after the snap had him turn and sprint to the flat, where Carson Palmer thought he would have a safe completion with no underneath coverage.

Normally, a linebacker is out in the curl area and squared up to the quarterback, so he just throws to the outside of the LB, but the Bucs covered it with a safety that was out of position at the snap. By sprinting to the spot and turning around at the right time, it allowed him to steal the pass and score.  Again, this credit has to be shared between player and coordinator.

On the offensive side, there is much to be concerned about with pass protection and blitz recognition by Josh Freeman.

Beating the blitz by throwing it up deep is great when it works, but is a low percentage proposition in general. The Bucs will certainly need to be better prepared to address quick pressure, and Freeman needs to recognize when there is one too many blitzers than there are blockers. They got away with a few balls that spent too much time in the air as Freeman got pressured from different angles.

What I liked was the “Dig” call to Mike Williams that resulted in a wide-open catch (even though the ball floated in the middle of the field) that would have set up a score if Williams didn’t fumble. This was a very good changeup after his success outside. It is great to know the Bucs have a guy that will go up, fight for and win the ball, but this can’t be the plan week in and week out.

This coming week will be very interesting to see how the Saints defense decides to attack the issue and how the Bucs’ week of practice time was used to fix the problem. 

The Saints have to be getting a bit nervous over their average start, while the Bucs can play with confidence over their unexpectedly hot start, but I think New Orleans will bring the pressure again this Sunday and make the Bucs prove that they can make the big plays when they count once again.

Let’s hope both coordinators have another little wrinkle up their sleeves to stop the defending World Champions.

The QB Blasts: Play Johnson & Freeman Together

Wednesday, September 29th, 2010

Former Bucs QB Jeff Carlson


Former Bucs quarterback Jeff Carlson (1990 & 1991) writes The QB Blast column here at 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 Buccaneers ran into a better team on Sunday. They were beaten soundly by a team playing without its best quarterback directing the offense.

If the Bucs and Steelers played 10 more times, no one would be surprised if the Steelers won all 10, even though beating a team twice in a row is quite difficult. Luckily for all of us, they don’t have to see Pittsburgh again, but they will have to see New Orleans and Atlanta twice, as well as the Ravens. Playing other teams that don’t have it quite all together (Rams, Cardinals, Lions, 49ers) give us hope that there are a few more wins to be had this year.

 But, what to do about competing with the better teams in the league? Pound the rock more?

I read and hear that message from some and always think to myself it sounds good, but how many times can you pound yourself into the same wall and leave yourself in long third-down situations before you realize something must change?

I can’t imagine many people making the argument that Cadillac Williams is better than the defenders coming at him. Titans running back Chris Johnson is better than his defenders. Johnson can create space and yards on his own. Cadillac needs help. The Bucs’ offensive line needs help to create gaps in the defensive front seven defenders. That happens through effective play-calling and deceptive play design.

Currently, the Bucs aren’t incorporating much deception into their running game. Thus their personnel isn’t good enough to line up and run downhill effectively enough to give Josh Freeman and his youthful receivers short third-down-or-less situations — or fewer third-downs altogether by actually running for a first down once in a while and giving the play-caller more flexibility on first and second downs for good play-action passing.

What is needed is Josh Johnson to be incorporated into this offense to bring some jazz and pizzazz.

And even if it doesn’t work, at least it will be more entertaining than the status quo. I brought up this subject in the past and obviously haven’t been listened to, but the Bucs messed around with Johnson in some “Wildcat” situations in training camp and were successful against the Bucs’ defense, which I would suppose might give them hope that it could work against others, as well.

Again, I am not advocating taking Josh Freeman out of the game or out of the QB position. The Jets are taking their star QB out and using Brad Smith (former Missouri quarterback with qualities very similar to Johnson) very successfully and the Philadelphia Eagles are reaping the benefits of using Michael Vick’s elusiveness to create massive holes in the defense and a whole heck of a lot of excitement for Eagles’ fans. I am specifically talking about using Johnson in motion from a receiver position.

The Bucs’ running game would immediately improve, if they started bringing Johnson behind the formation quickly and either tossing it to him for a run/pass option, putting linebackers and defensive backs in bad positions of having to choose to tackle the elusive Johnson, thus leaving receivers open for big plays or Johnson open to pick up big gains with his legs.

This threat would also help the offensive line create more creases and cutback lanes for Cadillac Williams, as the defensive line has to help stop more wide running plays and tiring as the game goes on when Williams seems to get better. The defensive line would also have to slow its pass rush to deal with the fast east/west movement of the offense, which would see the quarterback moving the pocket around more often.

For a few years now, the NFL has been evolving into a QB dominant league (Colts, Saints, Cardinals, Patriots) and pounding the rock has diminished as teams have found moving the ball a bit easier by design than by brute force.

I don’t see the Bucs being very successful as a brute force kind of offensive line, even though they do have some “nasty” in them at times.

Giving them a little help with a little misdirection now and then sure can’t hurt their rushing average, but it sure would help a lot of things, including keeping the ball out of the other team’s hands and improving defensive statistics, as well.

Now even a defensive head coach could get down with that. Getting Josh Johnson on the field against the Bengals will help take the ball out of Cincinnatti’s receiving dynamic duo and could give the Bucs their own dynamic duo.

The QB Blasts: “RahStyle” Ready To Take Hold

Tuesday, September 21st, 2010

Former Bucs QB Jeff Carlson


Former Bucs quarterback Jeff Carlson (1990 & 1991) writes The QB Blast column here at 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.

Beating the Cleveland Browns in the home opener was a good start, but not all that impressive or surprising.

Going into the 2010 season, most of us chalked up a “W” in week 1, with the dangerous Josh Cribbs and Jake Delhomme’s history against the Bucs as the Browns’ only hope of success.  Another come from behind win on Josh Freeman’s short resume was also a great positive coming out of the first week.

Far less of us could honestly haveed expect this very young team to go on the road and beat the Carolina Panthers in Week 2. Matt Moore isn’t Drew Brees and no one thinks he ever will be, especially with Jimmy Clausen waiting for his first misstep.

Moore was a question mark all week after getting dinged last Sunday. He didn’t play like he was in a fog, but the fast Buccaneers defense made things difficult all day as they dominated the Panthers. Clausen came on in relief, and we can expect to see him as their starter next week and when they come to Raymond James Stadium in the middle of November.

Raheem Morris has done some unorthodox things in his first year and a half at the helm of the ship and with last year’s jumbled mess, it left us with plenty of room for second guessing.

The most recent opportunity to question his decisions was taking the team to Tropicana Field on a Thursday, the team’s last hard work day of the week. With the week 1 win, they went right back to the baseball field for their Thursday practice and will go back each and every week until their winning streak is snapped. Don’t be surprised if a Thursday Rays game gets postponed so that the Bucs can get into the Trop and get their  “Maddon Mojo” for the week (OK, there won’t be any Rays postponements.). 

Following yesterday’s win, Josh Freeman was asked about his head coach and said the team was beginning to take on his personality and philosophies. In a league of copycats, walking to the beat of your own drum is a brave and risky thing to do. I read a story about Cleveland Browns’ Head Coach Eric Mangini, who was still using Bill Belichick’s practice schedule years after coaching under him. Our young coach is forging his own identity and path. And if he has his big, young franchise quarterback on board, they both might be quickly going in the right direction to get the stadium regularly filled up again, regardless of the economy.

Morris received a lot of good-natured ribbing following last year’s draft for repeatedly saying how large his new quarterback was. The value of that size was fully on display in yesterday’s huge division road win.

The comparisons to Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger are accurate and well-deserved.  Roethlisberger’s ability to shed would-be sackers and extend plays, allowing receivers to get open for big plays, has helped the Steelers to two extra Super Bowl rings.

No one expects the Bucs to reach that status this year, and it would have been fun to see the two go head-to-head this coming weekend, but I’ll settle for another win regardless of who is calling signals for the other team.

It will take a win against an opponent like a fully stocked Pittsburgh team (who will start Charlie Batch or the newly re-signed Byron Leftwich) to really get everyone on board with the Morris/Mark Dominik regime, but starting 2-0 has people already choking on their preseason win total predictions.

Freeman was simply fabulous against the Panthers, carrying the team on his broad shoulders through most of the game, expertly avoiding the rush, steaming his girth for the first down and softly setting himself down past the first-down markers like a wily veteran.

I was pleased with the play-calling as a whole, but would still like the Bucs to find some more running lanes. Their third-down conversion rate was great, but they can’t expect it to be that good week in and week out. To generate more than 20 points a week without a Ronde Barber interception set-ups will probably take a little more diversity in their run-blocking schemes and/or deception with their receiver motions.

I don’t think Cadillac Williams will break much of anything with the straight up run blocking that we have seen so far, leaving Freeman in too many long distance third down situations to have consistent success against the better teams.

With the Rays battling to lead all of Major League Baseball with their young team and their unique manager, we may never see the Bucs in matching plaid sport coats, but a few more wins for Raheem Morris and a lot of teams will be looking to emulate his “RahStyle.”

The QB Blast: Boo-Boo Precautions Are Laughable

Monday, August 30th, 2010

Former Bucs QB Jeff Carlson


Former Bucs quarterback Jeff Carlson (1990 & 1991) writes The QB Blast column here at 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 struggled again in preseason Game 3 to make their offense look like an improved version from 2009. And Josh Freeman watched from the stands, probably because Coach Morris was too afraid he might start warming up on the sidelines and hurt his already injured thumb.

Last week’s quotes from Morris about keeping Freeman off the practice field because the overly-excited QB might start throwing the ball on a side field against doctor’s and coach’s orders, hit me as probably the silliest thing I have ever heard.

Most readers took the comments as just sarcasm by Morris (which they should have been), so I didn’t react to it. But as John Lynch related the same story from Josh Freeman’s lips during Saturday night’s game, I’m just flabbergasted that the story was true.

Players are preached to, from high school on up to the pros, that every play matters and if you aren’t in the game or practice, you should know what the play is and go through the mental repetitions for maximum improvement. Why Freeman wouldn’t be in Greg Olson’s pocket on every rep working through the live-action is beyond me, and to not have your “franchise” on the practice field because he has a fingertip boo-boo is too much.

To think Freeman, who spent the entire offseason working out at One Buc at his own will, is such a free spirit that he doesn’t have the personal discipline to not throw before he is cleared and that the coach thinks it necessary to keep him inside the building doing other things to “protect him from himself” just doesn’t make any sense at all.

It makes me think of one of the great movie scenes of all time in A Few Good Men with Jack Nicholson and Tom Cruise. Nicholson, as “Colonel Jessup,” is being deposed by Cruise on the witness stand. Cruise is trying to understand the Marine Corps code of conduct. Colonel Jessup explains that his men always follow his orders and they never take matters into their own hands, “They follow orders or people die,” he says.

To think that the Corps of Bucs Morris is leading is so loose and not concerned with repercussions that the star QB could get coerced by the star receiver Kellen Winslow to go throw passes on the field next to the team practice and put the team’s success in jeopardy is just too funny. 

If discipline is that big a problem, just wrap his whole hand and arm in a cast so that he can’t hold a ball at all and get his head in on as many mental reps as possible. What is keeping Freeman from trying out his mending thumb when he leaves the practice facility anyway?

The QB Blast: Veteran Arm Needed Immediately

Monday, August 23rd, 2010

Ex-Bucs QB Jeff Carlson


Former Bucs quarterback Jeff Carlson (1990 & 1991) writes The QB Blast column here at 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 got lucky Saturday night. Many say it was bad luck, but in the NFL, just as one man’s injury is another man’s opportunity, this “small” injury to Freeman’s thumb gives the Bucs management a great opportunity to practice their disaster management scenario.

In my rookie year with the Los Angeles Rams, the backup quarterback was Mark Herrmann, and he cracked a rib in the second preseason game.

This gave me a great opportunity to get extra playing time. It also gave me an opportunity to throw a game-winning touchdown pass and build some much needed confidence. But even with this confidence, deep down I knew I wasn’t ready to take over the team in the event that Jim Everett went down.

And, even though I didn’t want the team to go find a veteran QB, they were smart to do it to protect the team and franchise. We signed a veteran journeyman by the name of Steve Dils, who had experience in the offense. Herrmann was back by opening week and Dils was released, but the Rams had their disaster plan in place, as I’m sure Dils would have been right back on the team had another injury hit. 

The Buccaneers now face an eerily similar situation. Although their starter is the one with the injury, and that makes it all the more important what team management decides to do in the coming days.

I have supported Josh Johnson as this team’s backup quarterback and continue to do so. Getting Rudy Carpenter some much needed playing time and confidence is also important for this team. But I know the Rams did the right thing by bringing in some veteran experience, and I know the Bucs must insure their billion dollar franchise by getting another veteran quarterback acclimated to their system immediately.

They may cut him at the end of the preseason and may never need him again, but another experienced arm on the roster is a must, even though Freeman and the Bucs got “lucky” with this chance to work their disaster drill before the real thing hits when the games count.

The QB Blast: Constant Jawing Wears Players Out

Tuesday, July 27th, 2010
Former Bucs QB Jeff Carlson

Former Bucs QB Jeff Carlson


Former Bucs quarterback Jeff Carlson (1990 & 1991) writes The QB Blast column here at 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.

With no more World Cup futbol/soccer and only baseball highlights to choose from, ESPN recently ran a three-day special on Jon Gruden’s days as the assistant offensive line coach at Carrollwood Day School.

It was much needed feel-good programming at a time when there isn’t much fooball news — unless it’s bad news.

ESPN went back to the gold mine that they got pre-draft, when their Monday Night Football star brought us four days of QB meetings he had with the top prospects in the draft. I anticipated that show greatly, as coaching the quarterback position is my passion as well, but nowhere near the same planet of passion as Gruden. Nobody can match that.  I enjoyed the peek inside the QB meeting room with these soon-to-be millionaires and was entertained, as well, but probably not for the same reasons as most.

Gruden became infamous because of his “Chucky” faces and profane sideline language, and now he is working with 14-18 year old young men.

There are sure to be a lot more “Jiminy Christmases” in his vocabulary now than his other well-known catchphrases on his pro practice fields and game sidelines. The “Jovial Jon” was certainly on display during the camera’s visit to the North Tampa campus and seemed to be on his best behavior, likely since it is the offseason and the game intensity isn’t turned up during these “mic’d up” sessions. 

If you ever wondered why some players might have grown weary of Gruden and turned their ears off over time, just listen to the total number of words that are said and the percentage that actually have something to do with the play or concept. 

Young guys can really be dazzled by the volume of words, but the older you get the more you look for substance over quantity. And all those words just become “blah, blah, blah, yada, yada, yada”.

After doing the QB segment before the draft, I bet Colt McCoy and his agent weren’t too happy about Gruden talking about him being extremely small or how hard his southern accent that is to understand. Neither of those things is football-related, as he lead Texas the national title game calling plays and he is just as tall as the current Super Bowl MVP.

Players can only handle so much between their ears. Too too much extraneous nonsense starts getting tuned out or taken offensively.

Two things stood out to me in the first installment of Gruden with the high schoolers. The first is just how much fluff is thrown out there (e.g. patting the blocking sled, telling it how well it did stopping two players from pushing it down the field). There is a fine line between coaching and demeaning players.

I have always said I liked John Robinson as a head coach because he could “call you out” for not getting your job done and pat you on the back when you corrected your mistake without ridiculing the player(s). Constant jawing, if it doesn’t help the player improve technique, can really wear players out. Old married guys can relate to this as their wives just keep talking and talking, even though they got the point long beforehand and turned the volume switch off long ago.

The second thing is Gruden’s offense, which the Bucs may be much closer to running these days than they were a year ago at this point.

Remember, in July and August of last year, Jeff Jagodzinski and Raheem Morris had decided to be a hard running and down-field passing play-action team. It wasn’t until September that the offense went into Greg Olson’s hands.

I’m not sure what the offensive verbiage was during last season, but they couldn’t haven changed all the language and lingo back just a couple days before the season.  Olson may now have a split between his Rams days in “The Greatest Show On Turf,” under Mike Martz’s timing offense, and his more recent time with Gruden’s version of the “West Coast Offense.”

Hearing Gruden try to get an offensive lineman to understand the concept of “razor and lazer” line calls was interesting, as you hear how closely the two sound and how they could be misheard with a little crowd noise. I’m sure the Bucs used “Razor” and “Lazer” calls on their way to the Lombardi Trophy, so missing those calls probably hasn’t been a big issue and everyone on the defensive line of the opposing team knows what those calls mean anyway, but rhyming words aren’t a great habit to make in calls at the line or in the huddle.

Not everyone can see the QB’s mouth in the huddle and could miss that first sound of the word. Other common calls are “Roger/Louie, Rip/Liz, Ricky/Lucky”.  Each of these calls tells a player to block left or right based on the first letter in the word.  As you see in the other examples, each word starts with an “L” or “R” for right or left, but ends with a different sound.  It only takes one person to hear “razor” when it was a “lazer” call to have bad things happen.

Anyway, the videos are great entertainment for guys that love the HBO “Hardknocks” series or anything football in July when programming is minimal. And checking in on the most famous high school assistant offensive line coach in the world every once in a while is pretty good stuff, too.

The QB Blast: Expect Freeman To Use Old Script

Thursday, July 22nd, 2010

Former Bucs QB Jeff Carlson


Former Bucs quarterback Jeff Carlson (1990 & 1991) writes The QB Blast column here at 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.

There is no question whom the starting quarterback of the Buccaneers is this year, unlike last. Going into this season, their quarterback has nine games of pro experience in what would be his rookie year had he decided to finish his college eligibility.

So, with only a single offseason in which the offensive coordinator is properly prepared for the upcoming season with new plays and formations in tow to officially run his offense, it begs the question, how much time does Josh Freeman need under center in the preseason to be ready to go with his new receivers?

The heavy investment in new receiving personnel, and the lack of production from the leftover crew of wideouts, should translate into a significant amount of preseason time together to get the kinks out and their groove on. But as surely as night follows day, now that Freeman is “The Man,” he will follow the well-worn script of all his starting QB predecessors: In Game 1 of preseason game he’ll play the first quarter (and possibly a series of the second, depending on how many offensive plays the team gets), the first half of Game #2, into the 3rd quarter in Game 3 and a brief appearance in the preseason finale.

There is almost no variance from this script when you are deemed the starting QB in the NFL.

If I’m not mistaken, even Joe Flacco two years ago and Matthew Stafford last year followed this system pretty closely even without a down of NFL experience.  Mark Sanchez wasn’t far off, but he had the more experienced Kellen Clemens to fight off. And in football sometimes you have to give the illusion of competition to the veteran, even though everyone knows the outcome of the QB competition.

I expect Sam Bradford’s preseason playing time in St. Louis to look exactly the same as Freeman’s, even though he is a rookie who barely even played football last year.

There is always the talk about building the quarterback’s “chemistry” with the receivers and there is some truth to the concept of familiarity helping somewhere along the line.

There is a great description of just that in the current edition of ESPN The Magazine.  The coverboy, Aaron Rogers, is one of my favorite QBs (he needs to quit trying to make so many big plays, protect the ball and live to play another down), and he explains a big play to Donald Driver last year that was all non-verbal communication and each player just “knowing” what the other would do and how it worked out perfectly.

These things are worked on over time, but Brett Favre really blew the whole “chemistry” concept out of the water after he missed training camp with a brand new team and then made unbelievable play after play throughout the season, while leading them to the NFC Championship game with barely had a handful of practices with the Vikings under his belt. 

Yes, I understand he was almost a 20-year vet, but there was no “chemistry” built at all.

Just don’t go into this preseason expecting the Buccaneers’ coaching staff to veer from the format that everyone has used for so many years. Remember, the NFL is a copycat league.  (Heck, with the Vikings’ success, teams might start bringing in their QBs after training camp and giving that a shot).

By the way, bringing in Jeff Garcia to play back-up to Freeman would be a more red-flagged mistake than making Byron Leftwich the starter last season, and we know how well that experiment went.  Not only is he a year removed from the NFL at 40+ years old, but Garcia breaks down more well-designed plays by scrambling before they even have a chance to form that he looks like a Jack Russell Terrier chasing a field full of rabbits.

“Jiminy Christmas” that sends offensive coordinators out of the league sometimes.

The QB Blast: Less Camp Access Is Sound Business

Saturday, July 10th, 2010

Ex-Bucs QB Jeff Carlson


Former Bucs quarterback Jeff Carlson (1990 & 1991) writes The QB Blast column here at 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.

Late June and early July is always the slowest time of the year in the NFL, and without a question or controversy about the starting QB, interesting news is seriously lacking on the Buccaneers front. This gives us a chance to look at a couple of other issues that we may otherwise skip right by.

It was announced recently that there would only be a few training camp practices open to the public in the first week of camp. Is it good business to limit fan access to training camp?  In a word, I say, ‘Yes.’

Economics 101, the law of supply and demand, says that to increase demand supply must be reduced.

When the Rays signed a TV deal to broadcast almost every one of their 162 games on local TV, did they reduce the demand to see one of the best teams in MLB live?  I think so.  I know for my family, we follow the Rays closely and watch nightly, but we rarely attend games (due to multiple reasons). If the games weren’t on my 60-inch high definition screen, I guarantee we would go to more games.

How many more? I’m not sure, because spare time is probably the biggest hindrance from attending.  My guess is that I’m in the majority on this issue, as watching games with today’s television technology is much more enjoyable than my view at the game usually is and no cowbell in my ears to worry about, either.

The experience of attending games live is more about tradition and sharing that experience with my children than anything else. Do the Rays make more money on ticket sales or TV revenue?  I don’t know the answer, but empty seats are dollar bills slipping through the owner’s fingers every game.  Broadcast ad revenue, on the other hand, can be added through more sales, but most of those potential sponsors have made their spending decisions before the season starts. To be sure, teams in every sport (even the Yankees) need both TV and ticket sales revenue to flourish.

The NFL shares certain revenues between teams and the majority of the salary cap is from national television contracts. If you are a fan and don’t have easy access to the Buccaneers, aren’t you more likely to spend real dollars and attend a game?  Not as many of us remember the days of just seeing the Bucs on their away games and not at all in the preseason.  They have already realized sponsor dollars from NewsChannel 8 as a “Pewter Partner,” so the preseason will be “on the air.”  So keeping training camp a little more exclusive is a small way of driving up demand for their product. 

Let’s also not forget that it costs real money to “host” fans at One Buccaneer Place for training camp. While the Bucs can make a few bucks (pun intended) hawking their logo gear, they must employ many people to handle the crowds, so fewer open practices equals fewer expenses, and in this economy everything counts.

Is the public entitled to free training camp? Thousands show up to watch practice for free, but how many would show up for practice if it cost $5?  What about $10?  How many companies give their products away for free? Some do, but usually only to drive demand if the product is good enough.

The Washington Redskins started charging for training camp a few years ago. They ultimately ditched that concept, but just like the Bucs, they are only scheduled for eight open practices, including a “fan appreciation day.”  The New York Giants are charging $5 for parking during their time at the University of Albany.  The New Orleans Saints, fresh off their Super Bowl victory and with interest at an all-time high, will welcome fans to watch practices all the way to the end of August, while the Bucs close access after the first week of camp.

What does the team gain for opening even one practice to the public? There is certainly some goodwill as players sign autographs for fans after practice, but all Bucs fans just got an easy opportunity to do that at “FanFest.”

How much access is too little, too much or just right?  Economists and followers could spend plenty of hours over that one.  How much real money do the Glazers spend on “FanFest?”  This is another free opportunity for fans to get close to the players, coaches and cheerleaders and is an expensive venture for the owners (underwritten by sponsors I’m know, but those dollars could be put elsewhere if they chose).

I know they try to sell season tickets during the event, but I doubt they are even breaking even on that trade.

So I write all this to say we should be grateful that even some practices are open and free, because it might not be that way forever. … Maybe when the team improves its competitiveness on the field and the demand for tickets goes back up, the supply of free training camp practices will actually increase. 

Hey, can anyone remember when TV used to be free?

The QB Blast: Johnson, Open Offense Can Shine

Sunday, June 6th, 2010

Ex-Bucs QB Jeff Carlson


Former Bucs quarterback Jeff Carlson (1990 & 1991) writes The QB Blast column here at 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 and writes a quarterbacks blog via his company, America’s Best Quarterback.

OTA news is usually reserved for disgruntled veteran “no-shows” looking for a new contract, as Barrett Ruud was last year and Donald Penn is currently. Not many revelations come out of these offseason practices, but they are very important for getting the team prepared overall and certainly more than glorified flag football, as I read some believe.

The biggest news of the offseason was revealed by Raheem this week when referring to quarterbacks Josh Freeman and Josh Johnson, “Don’t be surprised if you see them out there playing together.” 

After I suggested this very scenario in early November of last season, detailing how best to use the two QBs at the same time, the conversation on this website got mired in trying to figure out the definition of the “Wildcat” and not debating the merits of Johnson’s athletic ability and affect on the defense, if used as an updated and more effective “slash” player than Kordell Stewart was a decade ago.

The reason this Josh-a-licious concept is so intriguing, and a better option for these Buccaneers, is because the “smash-mouth” style of offense that they had intended to transition into was never a very good idea from the get-go. A more wide-open or spread-out offense can better compete with lesser players than trying to out-physical the other team at the NFL level. 

That can still be done in college and high school with bigger, stronger players than the opponents, but the NFL is a different animal. Over recent years we have even seen in college where more, and more lower-level teams (Boise State, Utah, TCU, USF, Appalachian State), can compete with the “big boys” when they spread out the defense properly.

Having Freeman at QB full-time — both under center and in shotgun — and bringing Johnson behind the formation quickly, will make the defense react just enough to create the blocking angles and holes for the running game. Plus it equally will give Freeman bigger holes to throw into in the regular passing game, and it should also slow the pass rush enough to make the offensive line look like Pro Bowlers.

Since we are a bit over six months since I suggested getting this to happen, if anyone (at One Buc Place) wants to know how to make this work really well, I am easy to find ( and have just enough time to input my ideas before mid-season.

I have put some real time into this concept, as I am hard at work designing a unique offense with many of these characteristics right now for my son’s youth league team. I know the Bucs are a young team and not a youth team, but that is exactly why they need to make this an integral part of the 2010 offense.

The QB Blast: Why Low Expections For Johnson?

Friday, May 21st, 2010

Former Bucs QB Jeff Carlson


Former Bucs quarterback Jeff Carlson (1990 & 1991) writes The QB Blast column here at 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 and writes a quarterbacks blog via his company, America’s Best Quarterback.

I did a speaking engagement this past weekend and talked about experiences growing up and getting to the NFL.

As some of the words came out of my mouth, I knew I did not say them exactly as I wanted and may have communicated something other than what I had planned.  So, as I read Greg Olson’s comments about the Bucs’ backup quarterback job on, and then saw them again in the newspaper a few days later, I could understand if Olson was trying to give his rookie free agent QB Jevan Snead some hope in his effort to make the squad come September.

But Olson defined the lack of difference between Josh Johnson and Snead so clearly:

“The good thing is we have two younger players in Josh Johnson and Rudy Carpenter that aren’t that much older than him and haven’t been in the league that long, so development wise, they shouldn’t be much further along,” Bucs offensive coordinator Greg Olson said. “He has an opportunity to come in and compete with those guys as opposed to a four-, five-, six-, 10-year vet guy. He should be on equal footing with those guys.”

It was quite disturbing to know that Olson sees so little difference in his third year QB with starting experience and the free agent from Ole Miss. 

We can all relate to walking onto a high school campus as a freshman and how much energy can be used by acclimating yourself to the new campus, teachers, etc.  There is a world of difference between starting your freshman year and your junior year. 

And if there is no difference between Josh Johnson and Snead, then there is certainly no differentiation between Josh FREEMAN and Snead, since their franchise QB is only going into his second year and first offseason as a pro.

Unfortunately, the Bucs expect and need Freeman to take leaps and bounds forward in his play this year, but why not Johnson?

These comments by Olson were ill-worded at best or downright offensive and certainly wrong in all aspects.  There is not a player in the history of any league that would say he was not a better, more polished and prepared player in his third year than his rookie year, except for maybe Ryan Leaf.

The QB Blast: Simplify Offense For Freeman, WRs

Tuesday, May 4th, 2010

Former Bucs QB Jeff Carlson


Former Bucs quarterback Jeff Carlson (1990 & 1991) writes The QB Blast column here at 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 via his company, America’s Best Quarterback.

This time a year ago the Bucs were just getting organized with their new coaches, players and draft picks. New philosophies were being put in place under the new head coach and new offensive Coordinator, Jeff Jagodzinski.

Last spring we were told the Bucs’ offense would be run- and play-action heavy with their solid offensive line and strong stable of runners to complement either veteran quarterback Luke McCown or Byron Leftwich. We were also told rookie first round pick Josh Freeman would spend 2009 learning from the sidelines.

We all know those plans changed dramatically when Raheem Morris turned over the coordinating duties to Greg Olson just before the first kickoff. That wasn’t the reason for the horrible start, but it didn’t help. And the best intentions of leaving Freeman on the bench to learn turned out to be a “baptism by fire” after just seven games.

After taking on the task of offensive design and play-calling, Olson turned the team back to his comfort zone and to the previous regime’s influence, but all I could differentiate was a little less of the pre-snap running around that Gruden was so fond of and was mostly show anyway.

That pre-snap motion is hoped to expose the coverage, but as one long-term player under Gruden said to me, “It just made us tired before the play.”

Losing a lot of that nonsense was a step forward for the current offense. A young QB’s head is already swimming with thoughts at the line of scrimmage, trying to figure out what the defense is planning. And the more movement before getting set gives him less time to figure out if he wants to audible and what to audible to before the play clock runs out.

Another thing that needs to change from that offense is the extensive wording. While some of the running plays are called simply enough, the passing game verbiage is ridiculous. 

If you watched  “Gruden’s QB Camp” on ESPN recently, Gruden disparaged Colt McCoy’s southern accent, saying no one would be able to understand the extensive play call with his current accent.

I learned multiple pro offenses, including the 3-digit system that many teams are still regularly winning with (Chargers and Cardinals among others), and none of them sounded anything like Gruden’s — “Flip Right Double X Jet 36 Counter Naked Waggle at 7, X Corner. Heads-up for a 358 Cannon Check on 1.”

We know that football teams aren’t overflowing with rocket scientists in the first place, and players also haven’t spent years and years in the same system, nor do they spend the same amount of time in their dark “laboratories” studying film like their coaching staffs.  In fact, players are much more likely to be coming in for the night at 4:17 AM, not firing up the video reel of third-down blitzes like Gruden does.

Although relatively good things should be expected from the Bucs’ running back contingent in 2010, last year’s run-oriented plan didn’t work out as well as hoped and this group still lacks a homerun threat.

This team is now squarely on the big, young shoulders and arm of Josh Freeman and the focus should shift to where the biggest plays will come next year and that is through the air. 

To maximize that effort, Olson would do well to simplify the verbiage and pre-snap movement of whatever his offense morphs into. That will benifit his star QB and his potential star rookie wideouts.

The QB Blast: Dichotomy Of Draft Day

Monday, April 19th, 2010

Former Bucs QB Jeff Carlson

Former Bucs QB Jeff Carlson


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

Today, Carlson shares his draft day story from 1989, and explains why the NFL Draft is an uneasy time for most players.

“Draft Day” and Mel Kiper, Jr. will hit prime-time television for the very first time this year, and every team and fan is looking forward to what could happen to make their team better. The extravaganza in New York has grown so big it has been extended to three days.

At this point, the draft eligible players have done all they can do at the NFL combine, their school’s “pro days” and/or individual workouts, and now are anxiously waiting to find out how their life’s dream and destiny will play out.

Some will have their dreams come true; others will be disappointed and embarrassed that they didn’t get drafted where they thought they should.

On Thursday, Friday and Saturday, there will be two specific groups watching the draft: Group 1 will be the wide-eyed rookies waiting to be drafted, making their families proud and fulfilling personal dreams. Group 2 will be current players. This group will be watching their teams draft with a wary eye on their own positions and hoping the team doesn’t draft anyone that could take their careers away. 

In 1989, I was in “Group 1” (excited) and was a first-day pick, back when only the first part of the first round was on television. Out of Division I-AA Weber State, I was projected anywhere from the 3rd to the 7th round, so the phone call was going to be later on that Saturday, after Troy Aikman was the first pick and got an $11 million deal (Tony Mandarich was 2nd, Barry Sanders, 3rd , Derrick Thomas, 4th and Deion Sanders was 5th). This year, Sam Bradford, or whoever turns out to be No. 1 is looking at nearly $70 million. The money will be much, much bigger than in ’89, but I don’t think the careers of this year’s top players will match up with those four out of five Hall-of-Famers.

The Phone Call

Knowing I could be waiting until Sunday for a call didn’t stop the nerves from flowing whenever the phone rang in my college apartment. That was before cell phones and I didn’t even have call-waiting, so any call tied up the line and might have meant a missed call from a team.

The rumor was that if a team couldn’t get a hold of you, they would pass you right up and leave you on the draft board.  It probably wasn’t true, but it made me quite snippy when friends kept calling to find out if anything had happened yet. 

Waiting all day with my parents and girlfriend was definitely long. And following a late afternoon nap, the Los Angeles Rams called. I asked the personnel guy on the phone where they were in the draft. He said, “The fourth round, and if the Seahawks don’t take you with the next pick, we are going to draft you.”

Within seconds, he said something like, “Congratulations, you are now a Los Angeles Ram, hold on to speak with Coach Robinson (John Robinson).” 

After finishing up a courteous call with my new coach, I punched the ceiling of my apartment, my biggest dream just come true and it was with my hometown team to boot.  It was an awesome feeling, justifying all of the work that I had put in for many years, and it stuck it to the former girlfriend that had told me a few years back to give up dreaming. 

Outside of family issues like a wedding and babies, this will probably remain the biggest day of my life, because there was such a long focus to be the best in high school, college and hopefully just get a chance to touch the NFL had now been accomplished. And it wasn’t just a free agent try-out, like most opportunities that guys from Weber State had always gotten, but as a legitimate pick, the highest in over 20 years from the school.

On the other side of the coin, USC quarterback Rodney Peete, the Heisman Trophy runner-up was hosting a draft party at a ritzy hotel in Los Angeles and wasn’t too happy to see me get drafted a couple of rounds ahead of him.  The dichotomy of draft day makes one QB the happiest guy in the world, while at the very same moment, absolutely ruins another’s day.

Majority Of Players In “Group 2″

Remember back just a few years when Alex Smith went No. 1 to the 49ers and that caused a national television free-fall for Aaron Rogers, probably the most uncomfortable hours of his life, until the Packers finally picked him up late in the first round.

After that first experience in the NFL, every year after that I fell into Group 2 on draft day.

Outside of the few superstars in the league, whose positions are virtually guaranteed, the vast majority of players will be hoping their position doesn’t get upgraded with a top pick.

As far as the Bucs are concerned, I just heard a radio commercial promoting current players that will be at the stadium for the team’s draft party.  Those players that are pressured into showing up for the gig will probably be sporting smiles on their faces, but inside they will secretly take sighs of relief every time the Bucs’ pick goes by and there isn’t a new player at their position. Or they may have some very uncomfortable moments with fans, trying to chuckle about the great potential of the new guy on the team. 

All players know that professional sports is about competition, but the business side of the game says the higher the investment in the new guy, the more opportunity he will get — or simply be given the position.

The draft was an incredible experience as a rookie coming out of college, but every year after that, it wasn’t something to get too excited about, since it could mean so much to the future of your career.  So the draft may be exciting for some, like the GM, coaches and fans, but for most of the current players around the league, there isn’t all that much to look forward to this week.

Earn One Million Dollars

Tuesday, March 23rd, 2010

No misprint in the headline.

Former Bucs quarterback and analyst Jeff Carlson is offering up a cool million on his Web site.

Call it the Tim Tebow challenge. Carlson, a private quarterbacks coach in the Tampa Bay area after leaving the NFL in the 1990s, is in near disbelief at the way Tebow is being coached by his various handlers and advisors.

Click on the football to read the story on Carlson’s blog and see of you can score the million.

The QB Blast: Replacing Ronde Tops D-Line Need

Friday, March 19th, 2010
Former Bucs QB Jeff Carlson

Former Bucs QB Jeff Carlson


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

I applaud the Bucs’ move this week to get a proven entity at safety in the former Eagle Sean Jones. It downgrades their need to improve at safety through the draft and that is good for the team.

I’m not wrong very often, but I must admit that Ronde Barber outplayed my expectations for him last year (and most other’s expectations, I assume). 

Most lengthy careers of even the greatest players end in much the same way Derrick Brooks’ did.  The end usually comes as a gradual decline in performance that coined the phrase “He’s lost a step.”  But in Barber’s case, he played much better in ’09 than in ’08.

That said, this is the season that a regular replacement for Barber that complements Aqib Talib’s all-star abilities must be found, and the Bucs should plan on Barber to be a situational specialist. He has been playing on a gimpy knee for more than one season and expecting high level execution as an every-down player is probably a bit too much. Being able to go hard on a lesser workload would be much more realistic for the future Hall-of Fame candidate.

As a general statement, defense is a “6 one way, half-dozen the other” proposition. Pressure on the quarterback makes an average secondary look good. And a strong secondary makes an average,  defensive line look better and helps them put up some prettier stats, if they get an extra second to get in the passer’s face. The concept is the epitome of the word TEAM.

And while a standout player added to the defensive line is always wanted and needed, finding a long-term answer to the right cornerback position is of the highest priority.

The QB Blast: Sitting Out Free Agency A Gamble

Tuesday, March 9th, 2010

Former Bucs QB Jeff Carlson

Former Bucs QB Jeff Carlson


Former Bucs quarterback Jeff Carlson (1990 & 1991) writes the weekly QB Blast column here at Joe is ecstatic to have him firing away. Carlson has TV gigs in the Bay area and trains quarterbacks of all ages via his company, America’s Best Quarterback

I have a 12 year old son stepping up in competition next season. He is moving from the tackle football program at Idlewild Baptist Church to the South Pasco Predators in Land O Lakes. I have volunteered and have been accepted as the head coach of the 11, 12 and 13 year old Junior Midget team.

Of course, I want to be a role model and example for the young men that I will be in charge of and give them a positive experience…..yada, yada, yada. Do I want to win every game we play? Oh yeah! 

I train quarterbacks all year long on the proper fundamentals and techniques of throwing the football, and we talk about both offensive and defensive strategies, but I don’t need to worry about all the aspects of what it takes to actually win a football game.

Now, as a head coach, I will be drawing up my ideas of the best way to win a football game and realize more than ever, no matter what I draw up on paper, it won’t matter much unless the horses show up.

This is especially true on defense, because if we can’t stop the other team, our offense must be perfect and that’s a tall order for any team.

Offensively, there is still room for imagination, even at the pro level. The Wildcat, Run-and-Shoot, shovel passes and empty packages are all relatively young concepts. Some have already gone away, some are yet to be designed, but more will come.

I will bring a few new concepts to the little league level to try and win games no matter what players show up the first day. The Bucs, on the other hand, have a roster and know what players are going to show up. They are busy now and for another six months designing up offensive and defensive strategies that they think will be successful for them next season.

In the NFL, the salary cap is supposed to act as the ultimate equalizer, giving everyone the equal chance to spend the same amount of money on the available talent. It has worked to give more teams opportunities to compete on the field and give more teams hope later in the season.

The draft is designed to give the bottom finishers a chance to gain better talent to more successfully compete. The draft system didn’t help teams like the Bucs, Bengals, Bills, Cardinals, Lions, Falcons or Saints for many years, but is being pointed to as the model for success, based on teams like the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The Bucs’ one successful run to the title came with significant contributions from free agents Brad Johnson, Joe Jurevicius, Michael Pittman, Keenan McCardell, as well as others and even Keyshawn Johnson’s expensive trade.

The growing labor dispute is throwing a bit of a chink in the system that has been with us since I retired from the game, more than 15 years now.

But, the Bucs are telling us that the model for success on the field is through the acquisition of kids out of college, not the players that have found success at the NFL level and are on the open market. 

I’m not saying there aren’t teams that have done better jobs building their own talent than filling holes with veterans than other teams. But with the holes that I would think most of us would agree the Bucs have on both sides of the ball, finding guys that can immediately contribute, would seem to be of pretty high importance. Especially since there are fewer paying folks showing up on Sundays and fewer discretionary dollars for most of us.

It will take some real signs of hope for immediate improvement for those dollars of “joe bucs fan” types (not a stereotype, just a good descriptive name) to be gambled on only the Bucs’ draft picks.

I will have to hope for the best and wait to see who shows up for my little league team in July.  The Bucs will have to wait to see who is available before each pick during April’s draft, which is a much bigger gamble than paying players that have already competed at the top level, when improving next season is of top priority.