It’s not like the Bucs are suggesting that defensive tackle Anthony McFarland’s play was the reason for their horrific start.
Nor are they suggesting that trading him to the Colts for a second-round pick will bring an instant dividend, as in a winning streak.
No, what the Bucs will tell you is that this was a good deal, at a good time and because a good player, namely Ellis Wyms, was ready to make good on his potential.
And throw in a secondround pick? Shoot, there are several general managers who will trade a first-born for a second-round pick.
It’s all very logical.
But, I’m not buying it!
Wyms, who has spent countless hours after practice over the past few years polishing his trench skills with Simeon Rice and Dewayne White, has been a productive player for quite some time. His two-sack performance in Sunday’s 14-13 oh-so-important win over the Bengals, was proof of that. That Wyms is ready to be a starter is no news flash, he’s been good for a while.
Which brings us to Booger.
As steady a performer for the Bucs the past few seasons, McFarland was not having the kind of impact on the game he had had in the past and was sharing time with Wyms and others in the rotation.
Haters have been calling for Booger’s benching for quite some time. But, considering his tender age of 28, some may say the Bucs could have simply benched him. They could have banked on McFarland getting out of his productivity funk sometime soon.
That’s the point, they couldn’t.
Generally in the NFL, benching starters doesn’t work because it’s an irreversible process. You can’t un-ring a bell.
So following coach Jon Gruden’s public flogging of his defensive line, the Bucs needed to prove that no threats are idle threats, that the sting of the switch can be as powerful as its sound.
So, Booger was bounced. The point was made.
Now, it’s up to Wyms, and any other veteran defensive player, in particular, to ensure that a similar unceremonious exit doesn’t become them.
“I think he is going to make out fine,” defensive end Simeon Rice said. “He’s been ready for this. He’s prepared for this. He’s conditioned for this. This is what any player wants. He’s been playing in spots throughout his career, backing up at various positions, to have an opportunity to play with zest, to play with juice, to really start his career.
“This is really a passing of the torch. I think this is a [heck] of a way to tell a player that, ‘We believe in you.’ The encouragement is there. The belief is there. Now, all we need is the performance, the games, circumstances, situations, scenarios and the wins. I think the end result will be good for both parties.”
It will need to be.
After such open chastising and the follow up dispatching of a veteran teammate, Wyms and company have to realize the urgency of increasing their level of productivity.
Sunday’s performance against Cincinnati was a good step, but it was only a step.
“Vindication is us being back in the top five of the league,” Wyms said. “That’s vindication. A good performance … that’s expected. Dominate everybody in the league, now that’s vindication. If we’re able to do that and play the Eagles like that, then that’s vindication. (The win over the Bengals) was a huge step forward, but not vindication.”
They’ll have to go the rest of the journey without Booger.