Tuesday, December 23, 2008
For Buccaneers, Glass is Half Empty, Half Full
In Jacksonville, fans are demanding coach, Jack Del Rio's head on a silver platter; in New Orleans, coach, Sean Payton, is no longer a whiz kid. In Dallas, coach, Wade Phillip's, is on the chopping block, and Philadelphia's, Andy Reid, is being run out of town. Last year, on the other hand, sympathizers were literally concerned about the safety of Panther's coach, John Fox; the Giant's, Tom Coughlin, meanwhile, was about to be fired before rallying the troops and winning the Super Bowl. Fans have short memories and blame usually falls on coaches, referees, but rarely the players. In Tampa Bay, Gruden, is feeling the media's fury for losing three consecutive games that will likely cost Tampa a playoff berth. In the well balanced National Football League, however, a coach's decision can be responsible for losing or winning one game. A blown official's call may be responsible for another; the rest, however, rest solely on the players. Looking back on the Bucs season, the key lost at Atlanta may have been Gruden's fault because a nimbler Luke McCown could have preserved some vital field position. The game was decided in overtime by a field goal. Sunday's game against the Chargers was lost by the players who were clearly out manned by superior athletes. In retrospect, this may be John Gruden's best coaching season. Most prognosticators figured the Buccaneers were no better than a break even team; yet, they could finish the season 10-6. A one game improvement over last year. Firing Gruden is probably out of the question; he must, though, do better in the draft to compete with surging Carolina as well as Atlanta. Two teams with significantly better player personnel and scouting departments. Gruden must also be more open minded to evaluating all his players: for example, a competitor like all pro punt returner, Clifton Smith, shouldn't be languishing in oblivion before proving his mettle. Deep teams like the Cowboys and Giants lose many veterans through attrition, yet their replacements are equally talented. As for Gruden, he will still be here next year, and in his mind, he did not choke: his players did. Now they'll have to answer...meaning some Buccaneers will have to seek employment elsewhere; and you what? They know that better than anyone else.