Yesterday, Today And TomorrowSeptember 23rd, 2013
Yes, you can point at Josh Freeman’s ugly, ugly numbers. You can stomp your feet about Vincent Jackson dropping passes. You can kvetch about Doug Martin not getting enough blocking.
That’s fine. That’s accurate. That’s OK. But Joe is starting to believe the problems run much deeper that what we see on Sunday afternoons.
And no, it’s not Bucs commander Greg Schiano. It is deeper than that.
NFL Network’s Albert Breer was flown down to Tampa on Friday, before a travel day no less, to find out what the hell was going on with all of these rumors and stories floated about the Bucs in recent days. Because he works for Big Brother, Breer got access that few others get and unearthed the reason the Bucs had a players-only meeting before the season started.
The reason, according to Breer, was that Schiano, the Bucs felt, was working them too hard.
Players had been upset about the nature of Schiano’s second training camp with the Bucs, which some viewed as unrelenting, and that prompted Goldson to solicit feedback.
Even after that, some players didn’t feel like enough changed, with one saying that, “He came into the team meeting, said you guys gotta trust me, we’re in half-pads that day, then the next day, it’s back to the same thing.”
Right there is your reason for the Bucs’ problems. It springs to mind a phrase Matt Millen coined for a long-ago forgotten player. In Millen’s words, the player was ”a devout coward.” Joe nearly hit the floor when he read Breer’s passage. Buccaneers were being worked too hard in training camp? Joe hasn’t heard that good of a one-liner on Howard Stern’s show in a few weeks.
Just who exactly said this? It couldn’t have been a veteran. Four years ago, NFL players were undergoing two-a-days, which are now banned. Current practices are picnics compared to those.
And it wasn’t long ago that Don Shula was forcing players through three-a-days.
This just really annoys Joe to no end. Here’s the thing: A team earns the right to easier practices by winning. The Bucs have not earned that right since 2010, and even then they may have taken way too many liberties as the team collapsed.
If Bucs fans want to know the problem with the Bucs, then right there it is. Of course, the Bucs have put a happy face on this, saying all is good within the team’s walls. Joe isn’t buying that. This team apparently has too many malcontents and clubhouse lawyers on the roster to whine about practices being too hard.
You want to know why Schiano had a team photo taken at 7 a.m. on Labor Day? To weed out malingerers.
Joe remembers a line from famous JoeBucsFan.com commenter Thomas 2.2 when players balked at the New Schiano Order during the regime’s first minicamp. “They haven’t worked the Rah out of them yet.”
That line still resonates today.
Props to guys like Dashon Goldson and Darrelle Revis for being team leaders and trying to keep order within what appears to be, nearly two years after Morris was ousted, still a dysfunctional unit.
Benching Freeman: Joe thought it was very telling when good-guy Earnest Graham, a former teammate of Bucs franchise quarterback Josh Freeman when the Bucs were last winners, wondered aloud on Twitter yesterday how much longer Greg Schiano would insert Freeman into the starting lineup?
Joe thinks it will be until the rest of the season.
At this point, barring a major turnaround that Joe simply does not envision, Freeman will not be part of the Bucs next season. Try to come up with a quarterback who, in his first five years as a starter, was playoff-less? The list is unimpressive and small. Vinny Testeverde, and the immortal Bill Kenney of the Chiefs in the early 1980s (who also once threw for 4,000 yards in a season), come to mind.
If Freeman returns to the Bucs next season, it will be his fifth season as the team’s opening-day starter. Joe would be shocked if he was brought back, again, barring a major and unforeseen turnaround.
Magic pill: Greg Schiano says there is no magic pill to revive the Bucs. Joe thinks there is, and it is not magic.
How about catching passes? How about making field goals? How about not making stupid penalties (which were cut down this week)? How about blocking?
Nothing magic about those, but they would go a long way to helping the offense, you know, score points?
Family emergency: For a possessed, driven guy like Greg Schiano to take any time off in the middle of a season, with the season if not his job in crisis, there has to be something major going on. Joe just hopes everything turns out OK. No matter what you think of Schiano as a coach, he’s a helluva good guy. Believe it or not, there are some things more important than football.
Sticking together: Schiano expects his team to remain tightknit. Of course he is going to say that. You would expect him to say his team is at each other’s throats? Just the actions of his players a few weeks ago suggest otherwise.
Winning cures all ills. Winning is the best deodorant. Start winning games and the bickering will subside.
Depth, or lack thereof: Joe makes no secret he likes Bucs rock star general manager Mark Dominik. Is Dominik perfect? No, but neither is Bill Belicheat. Somewhere last summer, either Dominik or Schiano or their underlings, or all of them, made some major, major gaffes on player evaluation and those mistakes reared their ugly head yesterday. Though the Bucs have high hopes for Tom Crabtree at tight end, guessing he can handle the rigors of being a full-time starter was just that. Guessing. Given that information, it was borderline inexcusable to rely on Luke Stocker as the backup tight end.
Now the Bucs are playing with a glorified wide receivers trying to play tight end (from Rutgers, no less), Tim Wright (who dropped a touchdown pass). That shouldn’t and didn’t need to be.
Then there are the wide receivers. The Bucs couldn’t have landed someone other than Kevin Ogletree as a potential No. 3 receiver?
These areas have been a major mistake in scouting and evaluation. While it could have been Schiano or Shelton Quarles or Dennis Hickey or all of the aforementioned, at the end of the day, those errors in judgment fall in the lap of Dominik.
Again, Joe likes the job Dominik has done overall. But there is no denying the Bucs could have used better talent and more depth at tight end and wide receiver. To suggest otherwise is simply being dishonest.
So much for Schiano hating Freeman: Yeah, since the combine, pretty much all fans have heard — through notorious unnamed sources — was that Greg Schiano so loathed Josh Freeman, that he was doing all he could possible to Pearl Harbor his career.
Funny thing happened yesterday. With every opportunity to pull the plug on Freeman, who was struggling, and with the game decided early in the fourth quarter, Schiano stuck with Freeman.
Schiano easily could have put Mike Glennon in the game to get some valuable snaps, but Schiano claims that move never crossed his mind.
Does that sound like a guy who wants to run Freeman out of town on the next bus?
Hey, CBSSports.com, about those “multiple” unnamed sources…
The maturing of Mark Barron: Yesterday was the first time Bucs safety Mark Barron played like the position he was drafted. The second-year man from Alabama was all over the field, putting Tom Brady on the ground, picking him off in the end zone, breaking up passes. Wow. It was easily the best game Barron has had in his short NFL career.
If there was something to build on yesterday, it was the play of Barron.
Cellar Dwellers: In case you don’t know by now, the Bucs are the sole owners of last place in the NFC South.
Too bad the NFL nixed the Bucs on wearing throwback creamsicles Sunday against the Desert Rats. It would have been so fitting.
Worse than Rah: This may be the worst season the Bucs have had in many, many years. Culverhouse awful. Even when the Bucs completely imploded in 2011, they started the season 4-2 and people were actually talking playoffs.
No one can tell Joe this year’s roster is not significantly better than in 2011 (remember the immortal Great Lumpkin?).
This also reinforces Joe’s notion that there is poison in the Bucs locker room (see first few paragraphs).
Hey, at least when Raheem Morris went 0-3 in 2009, he had an excuse. He had broken down Byron Leftwich as his quarterback.
Virus: Former Bucs tight end and current NBC and Buccaneers Radio Network analyst Anthony Becht said this losing streak is like a virus. And it can continue to spread.
Joe is going to guess in the coming weeks, Schiano will easily find out who is with him and who isn’t. If Schiano is back next year (Joe expects him to be as of today), then it will be very interesting to see what players do not return.
Josh Freeman’s ugly numbers: In case you forgot, Josh Freeman is now a depressing 6-17 when facing teams with a winning record for his career and an embarrassing 4-13 in his last 17 road games.
Help Joe out. When was the last time a team re-upped a quarterback in his contract year with those kind of numbers?
Around the NFL…
Kansas City: The Chiefs are for real. How about that clock-eating drive engineered by Alex Smith for a touchdown that effectively put the game out of reach last Thursday?
If only Smith had been available a year later.
(Oh, still mad that Vince Lombardi Chip Kelly didn’t come to the Bucs?)
Baltimore: The Crows blew out Houston yesterday in a matchup of two playoff teams from 2012. And people mock Joe Flacco, one of the most clutch quarterbacks there is.
Carolina: The Stinking Panthers blew out the Giants yesterday. If they can do this to the Giants, they can do this to the Bucs. A Mike Shula offense no less.
Wow, what has happened to the Giants? They are in the same pickle as the Bucs. Winless. That is one of the early surprises of the 2013 season.
Cincinnati: Joe has this game DVR’ed and will watch it tonight (Joe’s not wasting his time watching the pitiful Raiders play anyone). People like to mock Andy Dalton’s win-loss record against teams with a winning record (the percentage is a little better than Josh Freeman’s). But who would you take, a guy who has guided his team to the playoffs in each of his two seasons in the NFL, or a guy who has yet to accomplish such a feat in four years as a starter?
Dallass: This is why Joe doesn’t gamble. He would have dropped cash on the Lambs based on how awful Jerry Jones’ teams have been in recent years against the spread at home, and how good Jeff Fisher’s teams are against the spread.
The Cowgirls proceeded to hit the Lambs in the jaw with a horseshoe. The St. Louis crowd — included the normally sedate media — is already trying to run Brian Schottenheimer out of town, with a warm case of Budweiser as a parting gift.
Cleveland: So just after the Brownies decided to blow up their team in the quest for Teddy Bridewater, they go ahead and beat a playoff team on the road, with the immortal Brian Hoyer at quarterback. This is not the way to get your franchise quarterback locked up, Clevelandites.
New Orleans: Yeah, the Saints didn’t miss Sean Payton last year, huh. Right now they lead the NFC South, and Drew Brees isn’t having a Drew Brees kind of year, either. Scary.
Tennessee: The Titans aren’t likely going anywhere, but it will be interesting to see what happens in San Diego. How much longer before the Chargers decided they may want to blow up their team and make a run for, say, Johnny Football? Which may mean Philip Rivers could be on the trading block come February (or sooner).
Detroit: Joe isn’t sure how much the Lions should get props, beating the now hapless Redskins without Reggie Bush. Pretty solid day by Matt Stafford tossing for 386 yards.
Miami: The Dolphins are starting to look like a fun team to watch. They are 3-0 for the first time in 11 years, behind their young franchise quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who seems to be developing quite nicely.
New York Jets: It appears the Jets are a pretty damned good team. They are hanging in games, even with a rookie quarterback, and more often than not, finding a way to get the job done. Damn, that Lavonte David late hit still rankles Joe.
Seattle: Sure, the Seahawks are good. But Joe doesn’t put much stock into beating the Jags, who are basically a middling ACC team. Hope Teddy Bridgewater likes Northeast Florida/Southeast Georgia.
Indianapolis: Damn, the Colts lose their offensive coordinator from last year and their second-year quarterback is still playing damned good ball. Colts just may be a sleeper team to come out of the AFC the way they punked San Francisco in their own crib.
Chicago: Who says a first-year coach can’t win big? The Bears may be one of the best teams in the early weeks of the 2013 season. What a defense. And that offense has even calmed down bratty Jay Cutler.
Since the Steelers are an unheard of 0-3, you don’t think the penny-pinching Rooney family may want to trade… nah!
1. Joe can’t remember the last time there was such a dreadful slate of college football games for a weekend? Though some games turned out to be close (Georgia and Michigan for example), if Joe wasn’t such a college footballholic, he never would have watched.
2. LSU looks to be a runaway train. Alabama showed that they are vulnerable defensively (at least facing Johnny Football) and LSU is a different cat defensively that Texas A&M. If LSU freight-trains Georgia like Joe expects this weekend, Joe cannot wait for the Alabama-LSU game in November.
3. What the hell is going on with Michigan? First they damned near coughed up a game to Akron — Akron! Then, they had to fight for their lives to beat UConn, truly a miserable team.
Has the Big Ten sunk this low that mighty Michigan has to bust their balls to beat two glorified Division I-AA teams?
4. Clemson once again impressed. Yeah, beating North Carolina State on the road on a Thursday night game is tougher than one thinks (ask Florida State). The fact Clemson pulled away impressed Joe. The Tigers have but two more tests left before they can argue for a BCS title shot: hosting Florida State next month and then traveling to South Carolina in December.
5. Watch out for UCLA. Joe has a hunch that is going to be a dangerous team.
6. This Bo Pelini nonsense in Nebraska. First, the guy is doing an awful job for being a defensive guru. Second, Joe found it all too interesting so many people waved off the unearthed recording (after a win over Ohio State) where he completely freaks out about Cornhuskers fans and two local columnists, dropping F-bombs right and left. So many people dismissed it as saying he was just venting. Well, if instead of dropping F-bombs about fans and writers he was dropping racial or sexual orientation bombs, would these same sophists still be so dismissive of Pelini? Joe thinks not.
7. So Urbie Meyer was up 50 on FAMU and was still going for it on fourth downs? What a charming citizen for the youth of our nation to look up to.
8. So the Rays are clinging to their wild card lead by a nose hair and have to travel to the Yankees and Blue Jays this week to close the season? Yikes.
9. Damnit, you Cardinals. Of all the times to have your closer getting lit up on a nightly basis it’s the end of September ,when you are trying to stave off two contenders to win the division. Good thing that team is loaded with young arms.
10. Why is it that Junebugs are a scourge of Hernando County, and it’s September?