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This week’s SR’s Fab 5 is sponsored by Sports City and Bucs Stuff & More
Here are five things that caught my attention this week:
FAB 1. If I were Buccaneers right guard Davin Joseph I would use all of the media attention aimed at teammate Arron Sears, who enters his second season as the starting left guard, as some motivation. Joseph, who is embarking his third year in the NFL, is being a bit overshadowed by a guy who had a good rookie season. In some respects, Joseph’s star has fallen among the media, and the former first-round pick is becoming the forgotten man with the recent attention given to Sears and right tackle Jeremy Trueblood this offseason.
Various stories from major media outlets, including CBSSportsline.com and ESPN.com, have pointed at Sears as the player who is destined for a breakout season in 2008, and the Tampa Bay guard most likely to develop into a Pro Bowler – not Joseph. If Joseph is the prideful player I think he is, I believe he wants to become the breakthrough player on the Bucs offensive line and put his name back into the discussion for Pro Bowl consideration.
A little intra-team rivalry is never usually a bad thing. Back in the 1990s, Derrick Brooks and Hardy Nickerson fought tooth and nail with coaches in the film room who designated tackles and assists with each linebacker, hoping to be the team’s leading tackler at the end of the season. A “pancake contest” or a “sacks allowed challenge” between Joseph and Sears could make each player better through some friendly competition.
Whatever it takes, Joseph has to be willing to take a step towards greatness in 2008. In the grand scheme of things, Joseph and Sears carry similar personnel grades and only about a dozen picks separated Joseph and Sears from where each player was drafted in 2006 and 2007, respectively. But Joseph has an additional year’s worth of experience in his favor, and if there is to be a breakthrough player along the offensive line, it should be him.
Backing me up on this theory is Buccaneers offensive line coach Bill Muir, who told me at the end of last year that he was not satisfied with what Joseph did in his good – but not great – 2007 campaign.
“No, it ain’t ever what I want it to be, to be honest with you,” Muir said of Joseph’s play. “He has the physical capability from the standpoint of size, strength and athletic ability to be dominant. Until he is, I’m not satisfied.”
So how close is he to satisfying Muir?
“You watch the tape so you should be able to answer that yourself,” Muir told me. “He’s not there yet. He has to challenge himself. There’s a question of ‘Do you want to be good or great?’ It’s easy to say you want to be great, but that’s a line you have to cross and you have to make sacrifices. I’m not saying he’s not willing to do that. I’m saying that he hasn’t done that yet.”
I took Muir’s comments to Joseph for his reaction and to find out if Tampa Bay’s right guard thinks he has crossed the line yet.
“No, I agree with him,” Joseph said. “I don’t think I have peaked yet. There’s a lot that goes into it – starting strong, finishing strong and doing well in the playoffs. My success is a reflection on how the team does. We’ve gotten better since 2006, but are we where we want to be? No. Am I where I want to be at as a player? No. It’s going to take more consistency from me. I worked on my pass pro during the season and I think I got better as the year went on. Being a dominant run blocker takes work, and being a consistent pass blocker takes work, too. It will be a combination of things that will get me to the next level, but it’s not going to be easy. It’s hard to be a dominant player in this league.”
Joseph is in the same boat as a lot of his offensive linemates. He, Trueblood, Sears, left tackle Donald Penn – and to some degree, new center Jeff Faine – all have yet to maximize their potential and achieve a season’s worth of Pro Bowl-caliber performance.
“I think we have a lot of room to grow,” Joseph said. “Everybody did a great job of playing well and playing hard, but we have to keep growing. We have to be a force in this league. We have to dominate in our division and then take it outside our division. We’re halfway there. We still have a lot of work to do, though. I think we have the right guys and the right chemistry to do that, though. We have guys that love to play ball – smart guys that are physical on the field. I think we have all the characteristics to become an elite, dominant line.”
With parity in the NFL, nothing can be taken for granted on Sundays during the fall, or especially during the offseason when the building blocks for a successful season are often laid. Yet, on paper, Tampa Bay’s 2008 schedule looks to be decidedly tougher than the slate of games that allowed the Bucs to finish with nine wins and an NFC South championship last year.
“It’s going to be harder for us [this year],” Joseph said. “We have a tougher schedule and are going to be expected to do better. That’s what the offseason preparation is for. We just have to be able to look down the road and say that we’re going to be successful and win the NFC South again and get back to the playoffs.”
Part of the offseason preparation and focus on improvement has been geared towards sustaining the success born out of Tampa Bay’s running game over an entire season. Like most teams that rush for 120 yards or more, Tampa Bay won most of those contests – going 6-2 in those games. In games that the Bucs failed to rush for 120 yards, Tampa Bay was 3-6.
During a five-game stretch in the middle of the 2007 campaign, Tampa Bay averaged 143.6 yards per contest, rushing for a total of 718 yards against Jacksonville, Arizona, Atlanta, Washington and New Orleans. The Bucs were 4-1 in those games.
However, in the next five games, which were the final five contests of the regular season, Tampa Bay averaged just 100.8 yards per game and totaled only 504 yards on the ground. The Bucs were 1-4 in their last five games.
So what happened to derail the momentum of Tampa Bay’s ground game? Was it a result of playing better defenses or simply poor play by the Buccaneers?
“I guess it was a combination of not having good communication and not staying on blocks,” Joseph said. “Not having Earnest Graham in the backfield [was also a factor at the end]. There are a lot of things you can point to, but the bottom line is that we did not get it done. It was important in our success [against the Giants] to get the running game going. In certain situations we had to pass the ball, but for the majority of the time we were getting positive runs of 3- or 4-yard gains.”
But that wasn’t enough in the 24-14 loss to New York as Tampa Bay’s slumping running game continued. After rushing for 31 yards in the first quarter to build a 7-0 lead over the Giants, the Bucs finished the game with just 31 yards on the ground over the final three quarters, totaling 62 rushing yards in the Wild Card contest.
“In this league, you have to keep the pedal to the metal,” Joseph said. “When you have guys leaning, you have to tip them over. We had [the Giants] leaning in the first quarter and couldn’t tip them over. We let them off the hook a little bit, but of course, they also did a great job adjusting. We look at ourselves and realize we had them leaning, but didn’t tip them over. We’ll take that into the next season. There were a couple of times throughout the season where we were dominant in the first half of games and kind of slacked off in the second half. That can’t happen. That’s something we have to work on.”
The Bucs want Joseph to lead by example in that area. By having a breakthrough season in 2008, Joseph cannot only bring his play to a Pro Bowl level, but he may inspire that type of performance out of some of his linemates, too. By playing hard with a killer instinct for all four quarters and improving his pass protection sets, Joseph seems focused on doing just that.
“In my mindset, I’m going to become a dominant guard,” Joseph said. “I know what I have to do. I don’t like to predict the future, and it’s going to take a lot to stay healthy, but I look forward to the challenge.”
FAB 2. In order for Tampa Bay to build on what it did in 2007 and step forward this year, it has to win a home playoff game. After all, the Buccaneers were one of the league’s surprise teams last year, going 9-7 and winning the NFC South title before losing at home in the NFC Wild Card round of the postseason to the eventual Super Bowl champion New York Giants. So how does Tampa Bay build on its 2007 accomplishments and advance? By not retreating.
While that might seem rather elementary, Bucs defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin is famous for saying, “What’s the first step in getting better? Show up.” Kiffin means that if you want to get better as a player you’ve got to practice. You can’t be hurt. You can’t be a hold out. You can’t afford to not participate in the voluntary OTAs (organized team activities). The same methodology holds true for the Buccaneers in terms of making progress in 2008.
Most likely, the Bucs can’t be better team in ‘08 unless they repeat as NFC South champions. In order for that to happen, they will have to have their stars play like stars. The team’s star players are the guys that the Bucs have spent premium draft picks on and the guys who stepped up last year and played a major role in Tampa Bay’s third NFC South title since 2002. Those players include last year’s first-round pick defensive end Gaines Adams, second-round selection guard Arron Sears and fourth-round free safety Tanard Jackson.
Adams emerged as a starter over the second half of the 2007 season when Greg Spires was injured, responding with six sacks and two forced fumbles during the regular season and dropping Eli Manning for another sack in the postseason. Adams has elevated his game in the offseason and is clearly Tampa Bay’s fastest defensive lineman. He’s capable of recording double-digit sacks off the edge in 2008, and that is what the Bucs will have to have from him in order to advance in the playoffs.
But history has shown that first-round picks have unfortunately fallen victim to a sophomore slump dating back to 2005 when wide receiver Michael Clayton failed to record a touchdown after posting seven scores as a rookie in 2004. He went from 80 catches for 1,193 yards to 32 receptions for 372 yards in 2005. Four years later, Clayton is still struggling to regain his rookie form.
In 2005, Tampa Bay’s first-round pick, running back Cadillac Williams, was the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year, rushing for 1,178 yards and six touchdowns on 290 carries. In 2006, Williams only scored one touchdown and had 380 less yards during his sophomore slump.
Last year, right guard Davin Joseph didn’t necessarily go through a sophomore slump, but he didn’t make the strides the team was hoping he would make from his solid rookie season in 2006. Joseph still struggled in pass protection and allowed too much pressure up the middle, and did not become the dominant force that he is capable of becoming.
Will the same performance pitfalls hit Adams in 2008? And perhaps more importantly, will those sophomore slumps extend to Sears and Jackson – both of whom started all 16 games and played exceptionally well? That would certainly derail the Bucs’ plans from bettering their 9-7 record from a year ago.
Whether it is the fact that opponents have a year’s worth of film to study on Adams, Jackson and Sears, the fact that these three rookie sensations from a year ago might get a little big-headed and think they have “arrived” in the NFL, or the fact that they may fall prey to the trappings of fame that comes with being a successful NFL player, there are no assurances that their play will naturally improve from year one to year two.
That point is not lost on the team’s veterans like cornerback Ronde Barber, who have been telling the younger players that they just can’t pick up where they left off. Instead, the players have to start back at ground zero each offseason and work harder to ensure that their play surpasses their efforts from a year ago.
“I think it’s important for our second-year guys – whether it’s the second year of the NFL or their second year in our program – we’ve had a bunch of guys fizzle out in their sophomore seasons,” Barber said. “They have to really play well. There’s no doubt about it. Coming off a good first season, we expect the same thing the next year.”
In addition to the trio of rookie starters that helped make 2007 a memorable season in Tampa Bay, Barber was also talking about players like veteran linebacker Cato June and defensive end Kevin Carter, who enjoyed solid debuts with the Buccaneers. June notched 120 tackles, two tackles for loss, one interception and one forced fumble. Carter was a part-time starter at defensive end, racking up 73 tackles, three sacks, one tackle for loss, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery.
If the Buccaneers can make the term “sophomore slump” a thing of the past, especially when it comes to the team’s impact players, then there is no reason to believe this talent-rich team cannot build upon a 9-7 record from a year ago.
FAB 3. There might not have been a unit that performed better last year in Tampa Bay than the Bucs’ safeties. Jermaine Phillips had a career year with 120 tackles, eight pass deflections, a team-high four interceptions, three forced fumbles and one sack at strong safety. Tanard Jackson stepped into the starting lineup at free safety as a rookie in the season opener and finished with 78 tackles, 12 passes defensed, two interceptions, two fumble recoveries and a forced fumble.
Phillips and Jackson return to a secondary that ranked first in league in pass defense in 2007. Although longtime starter Brian Kelly has departed to Detroit, the cornerback position is still extremely talented with the likes of potential Hall of Famer Ronde Barber, a trio of first-round picks – past and present – in Phillip Buchanon, Sammy Davis and Aqib Talib, in addition to Eugene Wilson, a former second-round pick.
“Our unit, speaking specifically about the DBs, has the best talent I’ve ever been involved with,” Barber said. “Coming off the year we had last year, we have to look for ways to improve. The biggest thing is getting more turnovers. But we have the talent to do so.”
Tampa Bay secondary coach Raheem Morris agrees with Barber’s assessment of this being the most talented secondary in Bucs history – from top to bottom. Granted, the Super Bowl XXXVII roster had the likes of Barber, Kelly, Pro Bowl safety John Lynch, Super Bowl MVP Dexter Jackson and nickel corner Dwight Smith, who recorded two interceptions for touchdowns in the Super Bowl win over Oakland, but the bottom part of the roster was not as talented as the current group of Bucs reserve defensive backs.
Tampa Bay’s starting five defensive backs – Barber, Brooks, Lynch, Jackson and Smith – certainly stack up well against the current Bucs nickel secondary, but cornerbacks Corey Ivy and Tim Wansley certainly couldn’t compete well against the likes of Davis, Wilson and Talib.
Backup safety John Howell has lesser talent than either Will Allen or Sabby Piscitelli, who are Tampa Bay’s current reserves at the safety position. Phillips was on the roster in 2002, but as a rookie that year he was nothing more than a special teamer.
The reason for the optimism over the depth in the secondary is simple. In 2003, the Bucs lost Kelly for the season due to a pectoral injury and Wansley and Ivy stepped in with disastrous results. Tampa Bay’s secondary went from being a team strength to a weakness overnight.
Yet last year when injuries forced Kelly in and out of the lineup, the secondary didn’t miss a beat with Buchanon and Davis stepping in and doing an admirable job. With Wilson and Talib in the fold this year, the Bucs cornerback position has become rock solid and could essentially weather multiple injuries.
Bucs cornerbacks have endured their share of injuries over the years from Donnie Abraham’s concussions to Smith’s pulled hamstrings to Kelly’s wide assortment of injuries over the years. But the real rock at the position has been Barber, who has started all 16 regular season games for the past 10 seasons. At age 33, Barber has taken amazing care of his body and doesn’t feel his age.
“I feel great. Don’t I look great?” said Barber with a smile. “I really do feel great. Every year I come in to camp trying to feel the best I can and this year is no different. I feel like I’m in the best shape of my life. Until I quit feeling that way, I’m going to have good years.”
And should this be the year that an injury forces Barber to the sidelines, there will be no shortage of talented defensive backs available to replace him.
FAB 4. One of the questions on the minds of most Buccaneers fans entering this season centers around the contract status of defensive backs coach Raheem Morris. Morris, who is arguably the best secondary coach in the NFL at the ripe old age of 32, is in the final season of a two-year contract that will expire after the 2008 campaign.
Will he return to Tampa Bay next year? That remains to be seen.
Morris and his agent, Brian Levy, saw firsthand what happened with former Bucs defensive backs coach Mike Tomlin, who was offered a few defensive coordinator positions in the winter of 2005 after his contract had expired before turning them down to return to Tampa Bay for a one-year deal to remain in charge of the secondary. Morris was Tomlin’s protégé from 2002-05 and Levy serves as Tomlin’s agent.
Tomlin wisely waited for the right defensive coordinator opportunity in Minnesota with head coach Brad Childress rather than going to less desirable destinations in Arizona and Miami to work for Dennis Green or Nick Saban, respectively. Both Green and Saban were gone after the 2006 season, and only after one successful year on Childress’ staff, Tomlin was hired to be the head coach in Pittsburgh. Expect Morris to take the same approach.
Bucs general manager Bruce Allen would love nothing better to sign Morris to a long-term contract, but he may have to settle for a one-year deal in 2009 after Morris and Levy survey the NFL landscape for defensive coordinator opportunities. At age 29, Morris left Tampa Bay at the same time as Tomlin after the 2005 season, which really put Allen and the Bucs in a bind. The fact that he let the contracts of Tomlin and Morris expire at the same time is one of Allen’s biggest gaffes since his arrival in Tampa Bay in 2004.
While Morris was leading Kansas State University back to a bowl game after a two-year absence as the school’s defensive coordinator, in addition to his defense leading the Big 12 in sacks with 51, Tampa Bay’s secondary was tanking under the guidance of Greg Burns. Morris came back to One Buccaneer Place a year later after Allen saw the error of his ways and made the energetic and well-respected defensive backs coach one of the NFL’s highest-paid assistants. In return, Morris helped the Bucs’ pass defense improve from 19th in the league under Burns to become the top-ranked unit in the NFL last year.
Morris’ coaching stock is up right now and another good season in Tampa Bay could lead to a defensive coordinator job elsewhere. If it’s the right opportunity, Morris will take it and there isn’t anything Allen can do to stop it because Morris is already handsomely paid. The Glazers won’t allow Morris to make defensive coordinator money (over $1 million) if he’s not a defensive coordinator. Last time I checked, that was Monte Kiffin’s job.
Forget about the notion of giving Morris a big pay raise and a promise that he will be the next defensive coordinator. Former Washington defensive coordinator Gregg Williams was supposed to be the next head coach of the Redskins, replacing Joe Gibbs, but it didn’t work out that way. After years of service under Gibbs, Williams was fired in January and the ‘Skins went with Jim Zorn as their head coach instead.
With Kiffin signing a two-year contract extension that runs through the 2009 season, Morris won’t wait to become Kiffin’s successor, especially with the chance that Kiffin may not be done coaching after 2009 despite the fact that he will be 70 years old. Count me as one of the many who want to see Morris succeed Kiffin as the Bucs defensive coordinator, but unless he signs a one-year deal for the 2009 season and Kiffin retires after 2009, that might not happen.
Knowing that Allen won’t let Morris out of a long-term contract for a defensive coordinator job elsewhere once he’s re-signed with Tampa Bay, I can’t blame Morris for wanting to look around after this season for a coordinator position. Assistant coaches have to strike while their own stock is up.
Remember former Bears defensive coordinator Ron Rivera? He interviewed for head coaching jobs during the offseason in 2005 and 2006, only to be fired by Lovie Smith prior to the 2007 season because of a lack of perceived loyalty and because his never-ending quest to be a head coach had become a distraction for Chicago. Rivera’s stock around the league fell when he didn’t land a head-coaching gig. He couldn’t even find a job as a defensive coordinator last year, and had to settle for a linebackers coaching position with San Diego.
So what happens if Morris departs after 2008? Who would coach the secondary and who would be in line as Kiffin’s eventual replacement, assuming that the 2009 season would his last before the Tampa 2 guru retires? Linebackers coach Gus Bradley could be a candidate to fill Kiffin’s shoes if he doesn’t wind up as a defensive coordinator elsewhere. Like Morris, Bradley’s contract is up at the end of 2008, but he doesn’t have the league-wide reputation that Morris has, which is why Bradley will likely return for 2009.
Another name to keep an eye on is former Bucs assistant defensive backs coach Jimmy Lake, who worked under Morris last year and was on Kiffin’s staff from 2006-07 before leaving for Detroit where he will coach defensive backs under Joe Barry. Lake signed a two-year deal, and if he has success with the Lions, he could emerge as a defensive coordinator candidate as he got along extremely well with head coach Jon Gruden during his tenure in Tampa Bay.
But perhaps more importantly in the interim, who would replace Morris as the secondary coach in 2009 if he should find a better opportunity elsewhere? Here’s a name to know – Willie Mack Garza. Garza is the current defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach at North Dakota State University, and worked on the same collegiate staff as Bradley and current Bucs defensive line coach Todd Wash. In fact, Garza replaced Bradley as defensive coordinator at NDSU in 2006 – the same year that he worked with Wash, who was the run defensive coordinator for the Bison that season.
Garza is in his late 30s and is a high-energy, enthusiastic coach who has some of the traits that make Morris popular and successful with players. He certainly would get a strong endorsement from Bradley and Wash, which would carry a lot of weight with Kiffin as both of those hires have been much more successful than the hiring of their predecessors – Burns and Jethro Franklin, respectively.
It’s kind of stunning how two coaching flops – Burns and Franklin – came from a storied USC program led by Kiffin’s pal, Pete Carroll, yet two coaching studs have come from NDSU. The Bucs may find a third North Dakota State stud in Garza if Morris bolts for a defensive coordinator position at season’s end.
FAB 5. Here are a couple of things to hold you over until the next edition of SR’s Fab 5 – after a word from our sponsor.
SR’s FAB 5 SPONSOR: Sports City and BucsStuff & More
Please allow me to introduce you to a new section in each SR’s Fab 5, which recognizes one of Pewter Report’s sponsors. I ask you to read this paragraph in each edition as it is these companies that support our efforts and make it possible for you to enjoy Pewter Report’s coverage of the Buccaneers. This week’s sponsor is the BucsStuff & More and Sports City enterprise. You may have seen the Sports City and BucsStuff & More banners on PewterReport.com, and between the three retail locations (Channelside in Tampa, downtown St. Petersburg and Pinellas Park) and the Buccaneers.net merchandise site, they have the latest line of Bucs Reebok sideline apparel, hats, visors and jerseys for the 2008 season. And if you have Tampa Bay Rays fever, they have the latest Rays apparel from Nike, too. When you gear up for the Bucs games this year in Tampa, St. Petersburg and Pinellas Park, Sports City and BucsStuff & More are the places to start.
• Although the training camp battle to watch may be at left tackle between seasoned veteran Luke Petitgout and up-and-comer Donald Penn, I think the battle with the most intrigue surrounds the starting halfback job. Earnest Graham should be the starter entering 2008 based on his success over the final eight games of the 2007 season, but his disappearance from the offseason program allowed veteran import Warrick Dunn to become immersed in the Bucs’ playbook and perhaps gain some favoritism with head coach and offensive playcaller Jon Gruden. Dunn got the most carries in the mandatory mini-camp in June, followed closely by Michael Bennett, while Graham barely received any touches. Outward appearances suggest that Graham may be in Gruden’s doghouse for not showing up to the voluntary organized team activities (OTAs) over the four-month offseason program, but Dunn’s role as the starter may be just a reward for his participation rather than a punishment for Graham. It will be very interesting to see which player gets the majority of reps in the first couple of training camp practices. I still believe Graham made a huge mistake by skipping the voluntary practices. After years of being relegated to third-string status, Graham emerged as a starter, but didn’t care too much about defending his throne and that opened the door for Dunn and Bennett. However, the fact that Graham will likely make $2.5 million in 2008 could mean that he and Dunn will split carries once the season starts. The Glazers probably don’t want that $2.5 million investment relegated to covering kicks and punts and sitting on the sidelines when the offense is on the field.
• Despite being NFC South champions, the Bucs ended the 2007 season with a whimper, losing their last three games and four of their last five contests to finish with a 9-8 record. Because that mark is only one game over .500, I asked Bucs right guard Davin Joseph how he would classify the 2007 campaign. “It was a successful season,” Joseph said. “The end can be kind of tricky because we rested a lot of our starters at the end and that hurt our win-loss record. But as far as looking at 2006 and comparing it to last year, I thought our presence on the field was better. We were looking to dominate teams. We played better on the road, and of course at home, too. We became a better team in those aspects. Our record really doesn’t reflect how well we played on defense and offense.”
• Due to the emergence of first-round draft pick Gaines Adams, fellow defensive end Greg White has been told that he will be seeing the majority of his action on the left side of the line while Adams will almost always rush from the right side. The thinking is that with White’s frame and the fact that he carries 20 more pounds than Adams, he would be better suited to play on the left side where he would match up better against the league’s more physical right tackles. That would let Adams, the team’s fastest defensive lineman, rush from the quarterback’s blind side. The only problem with that line of thinking is that White was awfully effective rushing from the right end position last year, notching a team-high eight sacks and seven forced fumbles. Adams recorded most of his seven sacks (including the postseason) last year rushing from the left side. So why mess with success? White has been a good soldier and gone along with the change, but he doesn’t seem overly confident heading into 2008. “I’m working more on the left side now,” White said. “They said it would probably be a better fit. I don’t have a preference, but my production came from the right side … so we’ll see. I’m open to it, I guess. I’m not against it at all. I’m just a little nervous because I’ve never played that side before. It’s kind of like switching to being left-handed. It’s challenging, but I do like challenges. Sometimes in nickel defense, I play right end a little just to mix it up. The more I can do the better, I guess.”
• Enough with the fantasy football about the possibility of legendary Green Bay quarterback Brett Favre winding up with the Buccaneers. It certainly could happen, but as of right now, Jeff Garcia is the veteran starting quarterback on Tampa Bay’s roster. Entering his second year as the starter and with a much better grasp of Jon Gruden’s offense, Garcia is poised to have a better year than 2007 that ended with a Pro Bowl berth, a 94.6 QB rating and 13 touchdown passes against only four interceptions, according to quarterbacks coach Greg Olson. Olson envisions rookie quarterback Josh Johnson learning a great deal from the savvy, 38-year old veteran quarterback. “It’s a great opportunity for Josh and I don’t imagine that Jeff’s work ethic or the way he prepares has changed since I’ve worked with him before,” Olson said. “He’s going to learn a lot from Jeff Garcia in terms of becoming a professional quarterback. I have seen nothing but good things from Brian Griese and Luke McCown, who have spent a lot of time here in the offseason. These quarterbacks that Jon Gruden and Paul Hackett brought in have a great work ethic and are intelligent. All Josh has to do is keep his eyes open and absorb as much as he can from this group of quarterbacks.”
• Speaking of Paul Hackett, the reason he didn’t want to return to Tampa Bay for a fourth season as quarterbacks coach is because he was afraid of being typecast as a quarterbacks coach. Call it the Bob Denver syndrome. Denver was the actor who played the role of Gilligan on the 1960s television show, Gilligan’s Island. Once he became known as Gilligan, he couldn’t find any credible work elsewhere because his face was synonymous with the Gilligan character. Hackett aspires to be an offensive coordinator and perhaps even a head coach once again (he was the head coach at the University of Pittsburgh from 1989-1992 and at USC from 1998-2000) and the belief is that if he continued on as a quarterbacks coach in Tampa Bay he would be pigeon-holed as a position coach. By taking an advisory role with Oakland recently, Hackett could reposition himself and rebuild his status in the NFL and still have the chance to once again call plays at some point in the future.
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