More Free Time in the Immediate Future

With the Buccaneers 31-24 loss to the Raiders this afternoon in Tampa, they were eliminated from playoff consideration. Losing the final four games of the season and then blowing a 10 point lead late in the game against one of the NFL’s worst teams will certainly give us fans lots to feel sick about until the 2009 preseason starts in August. I remember looking at the Vegas line yesterday and laughed about the Bucs being 13 point favorites. Any supporter of the pewter knows that their games are always close—win or lose—and that viewers like me are better off avoiding the stress of the competition by just reading the box scores and watching the highlights after the final score has been tallied.

Though the players, coaching staff, and owner will take shared blame in the team’s poor on-field product, I think their scouting department really let the organization down. On draft day 2008, CB Aquib Talib was wisely selected first. He contributed regularly on defense, and will be a starter next season. Unfortunately, I think the scouts and coaches were too busy high-fiving each other when they realized it was their turn to pick again (2nd round), and all of the good receivers had been taken while they were celebrating. They looked quickly at their prospect depth charge and saw a guy who ran a 4.2 second 40 yard dash. I believe someone must have shouted “Take Jackson—he is fast.” Unfortunately, lots of fast guys don’t make it in the NFL, and the tiny 5’9 Jackson from a non-Division I school did little more than hold a clip board this season after he showed little proficiency in returning punts and was unable to grasp the complicated offense.

The scouting department whiffed again when the Bucs selected a 305 lbs. DT named Dre Moore with the 4th round selection. The coaches were so unimpressed with Moore that they cut him before the first regular season game. To understand how bad someone drafted in the first four rounds must perform to be cut, it should be noted that coaches and general managers are evaluated on how well they add talent through the draft. Teams that are considered well-managed have lots of homegrown players that are acquired in the draft. Good coaches find special players in the draft.

In essence, to be retained as a first through fourth round draft pick, you basically have to complete training camp sober. For some reason, Moore was cut almost immediately. Now, he was resigned to the Bucs practice squad, but he had to be rejected by the 31 other teams in the league before that was allowed. He spent this season holding tackling dummies for the regulars.

In sum, two of the Bucs top four draft choices were non- contributors this year and may even be considered as busts. Two draft picks that should have supplied talented athletes, and would have helped replace some of the injured players lost throughout the long season.

I did take two positives from today’s stinker loss. First, I now have more free time as the Bucs did not really deserve to go to the playoffs anyway. Losing to the Broncos, Falcons, Chargers, Saints, and other questionable teams, made them more of a pretender than a contender. The Cowboys and the Eagles were both much better competition for the NFC playoffs—and the Eagles showed that they belong by winning today. Since I don’t have to look at Buccaneer reports anymore, I can now practice some Spanish, finish those books I started, and even go pound some pavement in the form of running.

Second, it could be worse; I could be a Lion fan celebrating 0 wins and 16 losses, or a Dallas Cowboy fan who watched their team’s soap opera end with a fiery explosion. At least in a few weeks, Buc fans will have forgotten the 2008 season, and are looking forward to the future—not sure the Dallas and Detroit supporters will be in the same mood. Former Buccaneer head coach John McKay who suffered through the NFL’s other losing season in 1976 had one of the best football quotes of all time:

Reporter: What did you think of your team’s execution coach?

Coach: I’m all in favor of it.