Gary Shelton, former Tampa Bay Times sports columnist and long-time friend to PewterReport.com, will be a contributing game day columnist for PewterReport.com as the 2014 Buccaneers campaign draws to a close. Bucs fans can read this column and several others daily on GarySheltonSports.com, and are encouraged to do so.
Now the Bucs have won the glorious prize that comes with being the most awful team in the NFL, there are a few people in need of tanks.
No, not thanks. Tanks.
You know. Tank as in throw the game, tank as in phony, tank as in sham. Tank as in take a dive. Tank as in lose on purpose.
Tank as in “yippee.”
So we convene to discuss the forever doubtable result of New Orleans 23, Tampa Bay 20, one of those come-from-ahead defeats that will never be discussed without you raising your eyebrows. Let’s be honest: This result was about as legitimate as a four-dollar bill. In the end, it is as hard to believe in the final score as it is Narnia.
Tanks to Lovie Smith, for instance, who spent the second half of the game standing beside Mike Evans, Vincent Jackson and Lavonte David on the sidelines.
And tanks to quarterback Josh McCown, who coughed up an interception with 5:20 to go just when the Bucs were in danger of actually winning the game.
Tanks to cornerback Leonard Johnspon, who belly-flopped while trying to cover Marcus Colston on a 36-yard touchdown that gave the Saints the lead.
How about tanks for Marcus Arroyo, the Bucs’ offensive coordinator, whose team threw only three passes in gagging away a 20-7 lead and taking over the lead position in the upcoming draft?
And tanks to the rest of the Bucs, too, who managed to lose a counterfeit competition to New Orleans that put Tampa Bay in position to salvage something out of rubble of this season. Now, no one should actually suggest that the Bucs tanked this game, but by the end of it, it reminded you of Tiananmen Square. There at the end, the Bucs looked like a Maitre ‘D, leading the Saints to their table.
Granted, it’s hard to tell when the Bucs are trying to lose, because even in those weeks they are trying not to, they’re pretty good at it. That alone gives them plausible deniability. But, yeah, this had the look of a team that really, really wanted to decide between Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston. This had the team that was so willing to take a dive it called up Greg Louganis for tips.
Yeah, the Bucs lost.
Yay for them.
Let’s face it. Their fans aren’t going to care. There really isn’t a lot of face to be saved by a team finishing at 3-13 instead of 2-14. Which put both sets of fans hoping for the same thing: A Saints victory. Well, bully. Both sides got it.
“It’s not a good feeling to be in,” said Bucs coach Lovie Smith. “It’s as simple as that. One win wouldn’t have helped an awful lot, either. We’re going to feel better when we’re winning our division. Until then, we don’t feel good about an awful lot except knowing our roster better and knowing the direction we need to go.”
It should be said, of course, that the Bucs tested your nerves before they settled down to their defeat. Why, for the first three quarters, Tampa Bay actually looked like a ball club. Its running game was solid, and it broke the 20-point barrier for only the fourth time all season. In other words, you were probably thinking that the Bucs were about to get out-tanked by New Orleans, which evidently really wanted that No. 7 draft pick.
Ah, but when it comes to losing games, who is better than the Bucs? This is what they do. This is who they are.
And so, the Bucs turned their second half into a glorified preseason game in which Smith said he was trying to evaluate other players on the roster. What? The Bucs haven’t had enough time to evaluate Garrett Gilkey this season? The offseason was not going to be complete unless they had a better look at Tavarres King? Are you going to try to convince me that Lovie went home feeling like an accomplished coach because he got a little more tape on Orie Lemon? Was this like the last game in Pee-Wee ball where everybody plays?
Evaluate these guys? Hey, if any of them are on this roster next year, well, the Bucs won’t finish the season picking confetti out of their hair then, either.
And yet, Vincent Jackson left the game early. Mike Evans didn’t play in the second half. Neither did Lavonte David. What? Was Smith saving them for the playoffs?
“The guys you saw in there in the first half, the game plan was for them to be in there,” Smith sort of explained. “In the second half, we wanted to look at more football players. I don’t think that’s out of the realm of possibility to look at some other guys. We’re not going to the playoffs, we have a comfortable lead and we’re going to run the football.”
Look, no one is suggesting that the Bucs intentionally lost the key plays to this game. But it is an implied part of the deal that an NFL team should do whatever it can do to win as many games as possible. However intentionally, the Bucs didn’t do that Sunday. They didn’t play their best players, and they didn’t call their best plays. And that brings everything into question.
Again, Smith is completely accurate that a third win wouldn’t have mattered a lot, not compared to a draft pick that could set up this franchise for a decade. But Smith left a locker room of players explaining that they didn’t think their coaches were trying to throw a game. That can’t be comfortable.
“There isn’t anything to say,” David said. “It was the coaches’ call to take guys out. We just played the cards we were dealt.”
“I don’t think there was a consideration of “Let’s throw the football game,” said tackle Demar Dotson. “That’s what you do. You play young guys you can put on film and evaluate for next year. I think it’s more of an evaluation.”
Here’s an evaluation. This Bucs team was horrible. It was dreadful. It was unwatchable.
In the end, it did the only interesting thing it could do. It lost.
Award-winning sports columnist Gary Shelton covered the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and other local Florida sports teams for decades with the St. Petersburg/Tampa Bay Times. PewterReport.com invites you to read Shelton’s wit and wisdom on the Bucs on a daily basis at his new website – GarySheltonSports.com.
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Be sure to follow Shelton on Twitter at @Gary_Shelton
Legendary sports columnist Gary Shelton returns to PewterReport.com for his second season of providing post-game commentary on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers like no one else can. No one has won more sports writing awards than Shelton, who has covered Tampa Bay area sports for decades with his unique brand of humor and insight. Bucs fans can Shelton daily on GarySheltonSports.com and follow him on Twitter at @Gary_Shelton
Who cares if they tanked ? They are going to get the #1 Pick and they have all kinds of options. Everyone wants Mariota. Lets see what other teams will offer for the #1. If someone gives up 2 $1’s and 2 #2s and a player I say take it.
I care if they tanked!!!! Lack of character and respect from me for losers who try to say we got the No. 1 pick; as if we know who to pick because it’s a sure thing. Ha Ha! I so disrespect cheaters and tankers. what we did today was disrespectful to the game itself. Didn’t the Saints lose a No. 1 pick for spying on others? We should lose our No. 1 pick for cheating because that is what tanking is all about. Gary you’re absolutely right. They tanked it!! What a bunch of Losers!
Yep, the Colts tanked their season too for Andrew Luck- morons, lol
Beat me to the puch Coach. Those exact words were running through my head while reading Horse’s post. Indy will have plenty of time in the playoffs to think about what they’ve done.
Ditto Horse! What a horrible message sent to the players…yeah, they’re not stupid. No respect for Lovie and the Bucs…No more season tickets at the club either…I’ll root for them at home now.
There aren’t any moral victories in the NFL – just victories.
For the people who think we tanked for the loss you have not watched the previous games. We sucked all year and today was no different. IF we did TANK don’t you think the Colts tanked for Luck? I went to the game as I have done for more then 20+ years and I have no problem losing a meaningless game if it makes the team better for the next ten+ years. Being at the game it looked like the Saints were the ones tanking the game in the first half knowing they could beat us in the second half. The people that bet on games ( I did for many years ) It’s amazing how Vegas can call the spread so close on MANY games , have you ever thought the games were FIXED? If you think everything is on the up and up you are not living in the real world.
What profound logic and reasoning. You should be on the head of society for Mensa!
Do you even proofread, bro?
“Marcus Colston on a 36-yard interception that gave the Saints the lead.”
His name is Marques Colston and he plays offense. I stopped reading the article here.
I’m with Kinderrt, the Bucs did what they’ve done best all season, loose!! If this was the 8th game of the season we’d be saying how they were out coached in the second half, how bad McClown, and the line were, how the D bent to much then broke. You know, how they’ve played most of the season. But since it was the last game with the #1 pick on the line we tanked? Personally I think the tank job started when McClown replaced Glennon, because as Lovie said, wink, wink, he gave the Bucs the best chance to win. Although Lovie wanted to see young players get some playing time, Glennon wasn’t one of them. Three points last week, no more wins then Glennon, and you trot that 36 year old garbage out on the field for the last 8 weeks?
Morality in sports. Very interesting topic guys. Since we’re splitting hairs, what about the Pats? They sat 6 starters yesterday and tanked a meaningless game to Buffalo–a division rival–just so they could enter the playoffs with a healthier team. How is that any different?
Mjmoody- excellent point, when teams have the seed locked up they always lay down
I can’t believe anybody thinks we should have NOT tanked. Not only for the team to have their choice of QB’s (whether you think Jameis or Mariota is the right pick, do you really think Lovie would want a clown like Jameis as the face of his franchise?), but also after the first round, there are always a couple guys left on the board that nobody can believe slipped out of the 1st round. The team with the #1 pick in the second round is the one getting that trade action, not the #2 pick.
Also, do you really think a win would have carried some kind of pride or momentum over into next season? So many times we’ve won meaningless games at the end of the season to cost ourselves draft position, and somehow that “momentum” never seems to be doing much for anybody in September (note our records in all past seasons in recent memory). Also, with the amount of roster turnover expected this offseason, even if there was some kind of positive carryover to next season, a lot of the people feeling that won’t even be around. Think back to previous seasons, do you remember any of the late season wins? Are those a source of pride for you, do you think they are for the players? Then take a look at past drafts, bump us up a few spots and see who we could have gotten instead…do you think we are better off with those wins you can’t remember, or would you have rather had picks a few spots higher?
“Trying to win every game” (even when you are 2 – 13 and have nothing to play for) is of course the company line and I expect to hear it from all coaches and players. But it’s incredibly near sighted to be more focused on that than the long term success of your franchise. In this wasted garbage season, the fact that Lovie tanked this is one of the few things I’ve seen that actually gives me hope that he might know what he’s doing, and that maybe the game hasn’t passed him by.
Lovie coached on Sunday…that’s all. A good coach does what’s best for the team and what was best for the team was to lose. He is not the first and won’t be the last. Would it have been a better coaching effort – better for the franchise – if he played his starters and blitzed Brees to death so that we won by 20 points…what would he have proved….we’d all be talking about how the Bucs best a Saints team that was laying down and the victory meant nothing (we’ve been there before too).
Although we have the first pick,here is an interesting scenario. What if MM decides not to declare for the draft in April but rather delays and declares for the supplemental draft ala Bernie Kosar? Can we then trade our April #1 for additional picks and use our supplemental #1 to draft our QB as I believe we would also be first in that draft.
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