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.
Progress, he said.
The Tampa Bay Bucs are going nowhere, not in their season and not in their improvement. You could call time out for a measurement, and you could hold the football up to the light, and you could have a doctor check for a pulse. None of it would matter. The Bucs continue to stay in one place – last. They were bad when the season began, and they are still bad today.
Still, they have not improved enough to get on the other side of 20 points.
Still, they are not good enough to beat backup quarterback Derek Anderson, who spends most of his time in mothballs for the Carolina Panthers until the Bucs come along.
Still, they are not good enough to withstand Josh McCown’s weekly Keystone Kops turnovers.
At 2-12, an embarrassing record no matter how long the head coach has been in office, Tampa Bay is awful enough to win the NFL’s No. 1 draft choice. No one “Sucks for the Duck” like the Bucs. Heck, the way they look, they should win No. 1 and, say, No. 4.
Most importantly, it needs a clue as to how to figure out how to win a close game. It still doesn’t have any idea.
That was what coach Lovie Smith had talked about this week, about how a rematch being a great chance to show the nation how far the team had come, about how it had grasped the systems and about how certain players had blossomed. After all, the Bucs had lost to Anderson and the Panthers in the season opener, failing to score many points and finding a way to lose behind the creativity of McCown’s gaffes.
Well, check. You could have spliced in highlights from Week One, and darned if anyone could tell the difference. What did the game plan say? Ditto? Anderson was pretty much good only for field goals, but field goals were enough for the Panthers against the Bucs.
There is something hauntingly familiar about the way the Bucs lose, and something horribly inept. They cannot score on a pinball machine. They cannot run (despite Doug Martin’s 63-yard run on his second carry, he still didn’t get to 100). And when they get an interception, they are guilty of roughing the quarterback. It’s as if they always seem to have something horrible in reserve just in case something good breaks out.
In other words, this game felt like a lot of others have felt. It was the sixth time this season the Bucs have scored 17 points, and for the sixth straight time, it wasn’t enough. In all, Tampa Bay has scored less than 20 points in 11 of its 12 losses. And once again, the Bucs’ quarterback play was enough to get them beat.
Say what you will about Marcus Mariota and his inaccuracies or Jameis Winston and his list of controversies. But can either of them play the position any worse than the Bucs are playing it? Frankly, you could bring back Jack Thompson or Trent Dilfer or Josh Freeman, and they would have trouble playing any worse. Okay, come to think of it, maybe not.
Still, those are the levels the Bucs are approaching. Sunday, McCown had two more fumbles, both at the worst times possible, and a game-sealing interception. That’s the thing about McCown. He keeps making these gut-wrenching turnovers, like a backup quarterback who is having too much asked of him.
And sure enough, every week, it seems to get the better of the Bucs. Come to think of it, McCown looks as if he might be the biggest Mariota fan in the state. What more could he do to get this guy to town? Pick him up and drive him to town?
No, it isn’t McCown’s fault. He simply isn’t good enough to be an NFL starting quarterback. Haven’t 12 seasons convinced anyone? Hasn’t a 1-8 record this year?
Go back to the opening drive of the third period, where despite the Panthers’ staggering lead in time of possession, Tampa Bay actually had a 10-9 lead. The draftniks out there were probably nervous, thinking that this would be just like the Bucs to mess up their positioning.
But on third down, McCown was dropped for an 11-yard sack and fumbled, and Carolina’s Charles Johnson fell on the ball at the four. From there, the Panthers scored their only touchdown of the game.
If that wasn’t enough, however, McCown had the ball knocked out of his hand as his arm went forward, leading to another fumble early in the fourth quarter. This time, the Panthers drove the ball for the game-winning field goal.
This isn’t new. There was the play against the Panthers earlier this year when McCown managed a fumble and an interception on the same play. There was the first-and-goal interception against the Rams, and the fumble while scrambling against Chicago. There was the first-and-goal interception against the Lions.
In nine games this year, McCown has 12 interceptions and four fumbles. Considering the amount of impact he brings, that’s far too little. Ask this: When McCown begins a drive, do you ever think he’s going to score?
For the Bucs, that hasn’t changed, either. This season, precious little has. The Bucs are like an ugly wall painting that is just too hard to see. The light doesn’t matter, nor does the angle. It’s always there, and it’s always ugly.
Maybe Smith misunderstood. Maybe he thought someone said “distress.”
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.
With unique insight and analysis, fans are encouraged to subscribe to GarySheltonSports.com for as little as $4 per month to read about the Bucs, Tampa Bay’s other local pro teams, and columns on the various Florida college teams. Click here for more information.
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
I actually don’t think Freeman could play worse….and that’s saying something….we have the worst QB in the league, and that includes Geno Smith….wow…think about that for a minute…we haven’t been this bad-off at a QB ever….and we’re the Bucs – we’ve had ever bit of ineptitude an NFL team could imagine….well, as they say “it’s always darkest before the dawn”….and I hear the dawn in Oregon shines bright!
It was disappointing because the offense was so conservative for a 2-12 team. No 54 yard attempt a few minutes before the half; again with 8 1/2 minutes to go we went down the field has if we were up by 9 not down by 9. How come Gilkey is still on the team, and our punter has a dead foot. Only two more weeks to go and this nightmare is over.
Love the creative writing style on such a “ugly” team.
Always loved Gary Shelton’s work. He poses an interesting thought here; who is the Bucs worst QB ever? I know this, we’ve never had a great one. Oh a few have had great games. One even helped win the championship. But the worst? I’ve got to think about that one. Too many to consider.
I think Steve Spurrier may have the worst stats – win/loss record 0-14, including 7 TD’s vs. 12 INTs and 50.16% completion% with 3.95 Yards/attempt in 14 games, but likely was not the worst QB. There are really just too many to chose from.
Here is Buc’s Central’s viewpoint on QB’s playing at least 3 games.
1. Randy Hedberg (0-4 record, 4.1 passer rating)
2. Jeb Blount (0-4 record, 27.5 passer rating)
3. Jerry Golsteyn (0-3 record, 58.3 passer rating)
4. Chris Chandler (0-6 record, 40.0 passer rating)
5. Mike Rae (1-4 record, 59.0 passer rating)
That list sure brought back some memories Buctebow. Some thought Chris Chandler (who cost us a first round draft choice) was actually better than Vinny and Golstyeyn better than Doug Williams after playing well in a meaningless pre-season game. I could add Chuck Fusina and Casey Weldon off the top of my head. Egad we’ve had a collection of saviors.
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