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President Hugh MacArthur

“Here are a few thoughts on today’s game while we wait to see if there will be a Vegas line on whether the Bucs will score a touchdown this season. Perhaps I should say Bucs offense, in deference to the touchdown Derrick Brooks scored that was called back on one of the worst penalty calls you will see in a game.  Regardless, here is who NOT to blame for today’s loss:

“Don’t blame Cadillac Williams. You will see plenty in the media about how Cadillac isn’t running and has been invisible so far this season. Understand this, you don’t run the ball when you are down multiple scores right out of the chute. The Bucs were down again to Atlanta, and abandoned the run for the pass early.”

“Don’t blame Jon Gruden. Yes, that’s right, I said don’t blame Gruden. You will also see much in the media about the Bucs having three points scored so far this year, and will hear criticism of the supposed offensive genius. I am here to tell you that Jon Gruden has both arms tied behind his back, a gag in his mouth, and chains wrapped around his legs. He cannot call three-step drop passes because they are rejected like soft floaters in the lane. He cannot call running plays because his strong running side is overwhelmed by defenses. His playbook shrinks by the minute in games until nothing is left but long shots down the field. Living by the sword like that often means dying by it, and the Bucs did die by it today.”

“Don’t blame the offensive line. Chris Simms had time to throw. Period.”

“Don’t blame the officials. Sure, the outrageous call on linebacker Ryan Nece during Brooks’ runback and the second horrendous call against Ronde Barber for interference in 2 weeks led to a 14 point swing, but when you are playing well, you overcome bad calls. When you are playing poorly, you lament them and blame them. The zebras did not lose this game.”

“So who did lose it? Well, it will be no surprise that the discussion must begin (but not end) with Mr. Simms. Six tipped passes at the line of scrimmage and 3 INTs will lose you many games. Unfortunately, the problems do not end there. There appear to be structural issues in Simms’ game that began emerging at the very end of last season and are now a very disturbing trend.  What are these problems? Well, Simms does telegraph the ball to his receivers. Even if you watched on TV, you knew exactly where Simms was going to throw the ball well before he released it on many plays. The problem is, the Falcons could see this too. The second issue, which compounds the first, is that Simms’ has a longer wind-up than Randy Johnson. He telegraphs and then takes way too long to get the ball out of his hands. Thirdly, he does not see the field clearly. He continues to miss open receivers and to throw into coverage he should not. These three structural issues – telegraphing, long delivery, and not seeing the field properly – all conspire to sapp Simms’ confidence.”

“Why have these problems seemingly arisen so quickly and so severely? Well, remember that last season Simms was a surprise starter when Brian Griese went down. There wasn’t much film on him at all. The league has had time to assess his starts now, and they are honing in on his weaknesses. Once defensive coordinators got a good look at his flaws, Simms’ quarterback rating started falling faster than you can say Kerry Collins.”

“The defense must also enter into this discussion of blame. While it is difficult to criticize a unit that was on the field for most of the game, and the first half, it seemed to age overnight. Derrick Brooks getting run over by Fred McCrary for a TD? Where were the linebackers on all of those Warrick Dunn runs and Michael Vick scrambles? They certainly weren’t in their gaps. All I saw were defensive linemen getting run through and around and then safeties making tackles many yards downfield. I cannot remember a Bucs defense over the past 10 seasons that was beaten to the edges repeatedly by running backs and Michael Vick. The Falcons’ zone blocking scheme reached the second level on far too many plays. Monte Kiffin will want to watch this tape carefully, and then burn it. Let’s hope this was an aberration instead of the new reality on defense.”

“I am certain my Pewter colleagues will find someone to name as MVP for the Bucs in this game. I am predicting they will nominate Joey Galloway. Me? I think the Bucs’ MVP today was the Falcons’ kicker, who missed two field goals and had two blocked.”

Publisher Scott Reynolds
“For those of you who aren’t lip-readers, Jon Gruden shouted, ‘F—ing run!’ to Chris Simms when he walked off the field after throwing an incomplete pass to Mike Alstott on third-and-3 to end Tampa Bay’s first drive. Gruden wants and expects his quarterback to have enough mobility to pick up three yards with his legs and keep drives alive. If the mobile Bruce Gradkowski were not an inexperienced rookie, he would be the starting quarterback next week against Carolina instead of Simms. I’ll bet Gruden is wishing he still had Brian Griese right now.”

“Although he didn’t get a sack last week, linebacker Ryan Nece does a good job of putting pressure on the passer. Monte Kiffin blitzed him a lot last week and he got several knockdowns on Steve McNair. Nece did get a sack on Michael Vick on Sunday, so look for Kiffin to continue to send Nece after the quarterback this year.”

“Two of Tampa Bay’s biggest money men – under tackle Booger McFarland and defensive end Simeon Rice – were invisible in Atlanta. Rice registered one tackle and McFarland failed to show up on the stat sheet. McFarland actually penetrated the line of scrimmage several times, but just didn’t show any instincts once he got there. Several times, McFarland couldn’t even locate the ball. Rice was giving up the corner to Michael Vick way too easily and actually appears to be slowing down. We haven’t seen Rice’s trademark explosiveness, and on one play, he couldn’t beat tight end Eric Beverly in a one-on-one block to get to Vick on a passing play. It’s a safe bet that one or both or these players will not be back next year – especially if the Bucs have a losing record.”

“I hate to say it, but for the first time, linebacker Derrick Brooks looked really old and slow. I’m not talking about his interception return, in which he showed some wheels. What I am talking about is Brooks getting beaten to the sidelines by quarterback Michael Vick and running back Warrick Dunn. It used to be that teams couldn’t run laterally against the Bucs because of their team speed. Now the corner is wide open because players like Brooks, Simeon Rice and Greg Spires can’t shut it down anymore. This defense, Brooks included, showed their age today. And to have a fullback like Fred McCrary bowl over Brooks for a touchdown was stunning.”

“I’ve covered the Buccaneers for 11 years professionally and I’ve personally witnessed Barry Sanders tear up Tampa Bay’s defense for over 200 yards. But I’ve never seen the Bucs play as poorly against the run as they did today. With Sanders, it was usually a quick death with an 80-yard run or two. Against Atlanta, Michael Vick had eight runs of 10 yards or more, Warrick Dunn had three runs of 10 yards or more and rookie Jerious Norwood had two runs of 10 yards or more. Getting gashed for 13 runs of 10 yards or more is what’s called dying a slow death. The holes the Falcons opened were big enough to drive tractor-trailers through. The Bucs’ tackling was as poor as I’ve seen in a long time. In a nutshell, Vick looked like the Heisman Trophy candidate at Virginia Tech and Tampa Bay’s defense resembled that of Duke or Temple.”

“The NFL is supposed to be a copycat league. Here’s my suggestion to the Buccaneers. Copy the run-blocking scheme used by Atlanta. It obviously works, and there isn’t a Pro Bowler along the Falcons’ offensive line, either.”

“I am really concerned by the psyche of this team. In some ways this loss is a lot worse than the 27-0 season-opening defeat against Baltimore. Everybody in Tampa Bay, including the fans, the media and the players, knows that the Bucs would go as far as Chris Simms would take them this year. Right now, it looks like the Bucs aren’t going very far unless Simms can stop throwing picks and getting his passes batted at the line of scrimmage. Head coach Jon Gruden made a nice adjustment in the second half by eliminating the three-step drops from his playcalling. Simms was using five- and seven-step drops the entire second half and was moving the football down the field and avoiding the deflections at the line of scrimmage.”

Editor-In-Chief Jim Flynn
“The Buccaneers can forget about defending their NFC South division title. This ship has too many holes in it, and it’s sinking fast, evidenced by the Bucs’ 0-2 start. Nothing is going right for the Bucs. Their offense has now gone eight quarters without scoring a touchdown, and their quarterback is yet another step closer to taking a seat on the bench (if they had a capable backup he’d already be there). Tampa Bay’s defense, which ranked No. 1 overall last year, looked horrible Sunday, allowing Atlanta to rush for a whopping 306 yards on 44 carries (7.0 avg.). And just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse, kicker Matt Bryant decided to do his best impersonation of former Bucs kicker Martin Gramatica by missing two of three field goals on Sunday. I know it’s still early, but the Bucs might be playing for a top 10 draft pick at this rate, and that type of finish will bring some serious heat to head coach Jon Gruden and general manager Bruce Allen. If the Bucs don’t turn it around and have a losing season this year, don’t be surprised if they unload some of their aging players on defense and whip out the checkbook in free agency in 2007. Their first priority will be signing a veteran quarterback.”

“Chris Simms is off to a horrific start. Sure, I’m stating the obvious, but the obvious needs to be stated. Simms has thrown six interceptions and zero touchdowns in Tampa Bay’s first two games of the season. Not exactly the way to go about playing in a contract year. Bucs head coach Jon Gruden is quickly losing patience with Simms, who missed more open receivers and had more passes deflected on Sunday. I don’t see these problems getting remedied. I know it sounds crazy, and perhaps a little desperate, but if I’m Bruce Allen I’m picking up the phone and calling the Green Bay Packers tomorrow to inquire about the availability of Brett Favre. If not the Packers, then somebody, anybody who has got a veteran quarterback that can come in and actual lead the offense into the end zone.”

“Another area I’d expect the Bucs to address in the offseason is strong safety, where Jermaine Phillips has severely underperformed, especially over the past two games. Phillips played a big part in Atlanta’s ability to rush for over 300 yards Sunday. He takes bad angles and flat out whiffs on tackles attempts way too often. I criticized Phillips for not making enough big plays during the offseason. Forget about big plays, how about making the plays you’re supposed to make?”

“Are we seeing the rapid decline of Tampa Bay’s defense? This unit allowed Atlanta’s offense to rush for 306 yards and produce a total of 382 yards of total offense. If it weren’t for four missed field goals by Mike Koenen, the Falcons would have won this game in a route. If the Bucs are going to find a way to turn things around this season, their defense will have to return to form, and in a hurry.”

Contributing Writer Mark Lennox
"Good news: The Buccaneers finally scored a point after going nearly six quarters without any. Bad news: They failed to score a touchdown for the second consecutive game. Good news: Joey Galloway had an all-pro performance despite being held out of the end zone. Bad news: Chris Simms is on pace to rival Brett Favre’s interception total from last season. Simms has six interceptions through two games and no touchdowns. Good news: The Buccaneers still have last season’s rookie of the year Cadillac Williams in the backfield. Bad news: He’s only rushed for 59 yards in two games after setting a rushing record through three games last season. Bad news: The Buccaneers had three drives stall inside the Falcons 10-yard line and failed to score. Bad news: The Buccaneers had eight penalties for 99 yards including a block in the back penalty that negated a touchdown by the defense. Bad news: The Buccaneers defense was also gashed for more than 300 yards rushing against Atlanta.”

“I’m trying to find the silver lining here, but there is just more bad news than good.  After two consecutive games of failing to score a touchdown, the anemic Tampa Bay Buccaneers offense needs to look no further than Chris Simms. Simms had three passes intercepted and many others batted down at the line a scrimmage, which now cannot be considered a growing trend for Simms but an ultimate certainty.  After missing two field goals and having three possessions near the goal line, it is almost absurd that the Buccaneers didn’t win this game. They left at least 27 points on the field.  But where do the Buccaneers have to go from here? Behind Simms there are a total of 13 starts, all belonging to Tim Rattay."

"The bottom line is that Tampa Bay is stuck with Chris Simms. Do we really want to see what will happen to this team if we put Bruce Gradkowski in? If we did, it would likely start the “race to see who will get Brady Quinn with the first pick in the draft” because Tampa Bay would no doubt finish with the worst record in the NFL. The defense is simply porous, which is not something that Monte Kiffin is used to. On top of that, they are committing costly errors and penalties that seemingly keep drive after drive alive. The defensive front four provided little to no pressure on Michael Vick, someone the Buccaneers seemingly had the instruction manual on how to stop in the past. But this is a different Tampa Bay team. They seem to lack any confidence whatsoever. And guess what? It doesn’t get any easier from here. Looking down the schedule, you don’t see an easy win coming for Tampa Bay. Next up are the Carolina Panthers, who will likely have Steve Smith back in the lineup. They travel to a much improved New Orleans squad followed by a home game against the Cincinnati Bengals. Hold on to your hats Buc fans. This could be a long season.”

Copyright 2006

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About the Author: Scott Reynolds

Scott Reynolds is in his 25th year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds spent six years giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at:
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