THE OPTIMIST: Returner Change Shows Strength

September 9th, 2010

You’ve all read THE PESSIMIST, who spews his Bucs-related anger like no other. But Joe also wants you to know THE OPTIMIST

THE OPTIMIST is Nick Houllis, a Bucs fan and an accomplished writer whose steadfast allegiance to the team goes back to the 1970s. Houllis is the founder, creator and guru of, a place Joe goes to get lost in time via Houllis’ stunning video collection.

THE OPTIMIST will shine that positive light in your eyes. Some will love it. Some won’t.

Things are looking up when you start cutting your Pro Bowl players.

Oh, make no mistake about it, Clifton Smith is damaged goods, and we can probably thank Carolina Panthers gunner Dante Wesley for that. His ridiculously early, incredibly tasteless hit probably stunted the career of one of our best kickoff returners ever.

Let’s put it in perspective: the guy who ends a 30-year drought for kickoff returns in Bucs history cannot even make the team the next year. We’re talking about Micheal Spurlock, of course.

Why? Because he is replaced by a high second-round draft pick from App State (should have been in the App store on iTunes for $2.99), and that’s the way it works in the NFL. But this second-round pick, Dexter Jackson, finds the Sunday League a lot harder than the Saturday one, and after half a season the Bucs decide that a guy on their practice squad who did pretty good in the preseason deserves a shot again, because it can’t get any worse than a guy who runs backwards.

Enter Clifton Smith, who simply returns a kickoff for a touchdown to spark the biggest comeback in franchise history, and starts another comeback over Detroit with a PUNT return for a touchdown. His two returns land him a role in the Pro Bowl.

That’s right, Pro Bowl; and around here, Pro Bowl players don’t just grow on trees. We only have three left; a replacement (Davin Joseph), the Browns’ former tight end, and a guy who’s been going to Hawaii since the 90’s.

Now not all of Smith’s problems stem from that hit in the Panthers game that was the first of his two concussions. He is also recovering from gout. But the bottom line is that there are other options on the team for a change. And that is a great sign when you can let go of a Pro Bowl player because you know there are guys on the roster just as capable of doing the job.

Sammy Stroughter, Micheal Spurlock, Preston Parker, all guys who emulated the main character in this story in one way or another.

Parker is like Smith, in that he impressed his way into the Bucs organization with great hustle and play. Same with Stroughter last year, a late round draft pick by the Bucs in 2009. Spurlock has returned, but he brings with him something he did not have before, the ability to play a roster position other than returner.

With the Bucs coming off a season in which their special teams actually outranked their offensive and defensive units, kick and punt returners will have an even larger role in the positioning of opening drives for the team. The Bucs ranked second in special teams in 2009, and their only fault – a last place finish in FG percentage – figures to improve greatly with a full year of Connor Barth.

How a full year without Clifton Smith goes, however, remains to be seen.

6 Responses to “THE OPTIMIST: Returner Change Shows Strength”

  1. Lakeland Bob Says:

    You gotta love the Optimist.I bet he’ll be at the game Sunday.

  2. Gary Says:

    thats what all the haters have been saying all this time. “how can a team this bad afford to cut pro-bowlers?”

    I dont think losing peanut is that big of a deal. Its not like he is Devin Hester or Josh Cribbs. Someone will step up. Besides, its Bissachia and the rest of the blockers who set things up and they are all still there.

  3. Gatorbuc15 Says:

    Same here. The fact that Peanut is gone won’t hurt the Bucs. Spurlock, Stroughter, and Parker are all very good players.

    Good post OPTIMIST.

  4. Will the Beast Says:

    The kid put the ball on the carpet a ton if he didn’t he might have ended up being the next Warrick Dunn his idol. unless your Adrian Peterson your going to get cut if you drop the rock constantly. probowl look as some of the lames that have made the probowl where are they now. The N.F.L. is a show and prove league. didn’t he make it as an altinate anyhow someone bowed out and he was a fill in.

  5. BucRayJ Says:

    Losing Peanut isn’t a problem, but it’s definitely not a solution either. The only thing this move screams of is that the front office simply doesn’t know the answer to the returner equation. Hope to see one of the guys step up, if not…at least hug that egg tight.

  6. BucRayJ Says:

    that said, at least we can count on the optimist to fill a seat on Sundays. This attitude is definitely a breath of fresh air…albeit more of a gasp. Looking on the bright side and towards a better future is an attitude many Tampa fans should adopt