Random thoughts on the Bucs and the NFL

1. Some fish story. So Bill Parcells leaves Arthur Blank at the alter and the Falcons panting in distress for the second time since 1987? At least he doesn't specialize in just messing with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. It's bad enough I need to take a shower every time I read something about college football and sleazy coaches, but now the Big Tuna is reenergizing his reputation as more mercenary than the Hessians at Trenton. Supposedly he had a verbal deal with Arthur Blank on Tuesday night. Now honestly, do you think Wayne Huizinga called Parcells out of the blue, or maybe, perhaps, just maybe, did Tuna shop that Falcons offer to a team he knew might be interested in topping it? All I can say is that with Bill Belichick, Tuna and the Man-genius all in the same division, the AFC East is going to rival Dynasty for soap opera value during the next few seasons. RIP Cam Cameron. We hardly knew ye.

2. Speaking of sleaze and college football. Did I hear right that Nick Saban actually called West Virginia about its coaching vacancy? Where does this insanity end? The scumbag dominoes have been falling for a few weeks now, but Saban moving again and leaving the Crimson Tide would top them all. And, for the folks whose drug of choice is maize and blue, Michigan will get what they deserve for hiring Rich Rodriguez. He'll be coaching in the SEC, NFL or fired within three seasons. Mark it down.

Atlanta is really pathetic. They looked awful against the Saints at home last week and looked even worse against the Bucs.This organization is in free fall from top to bottom. Chris Redman does not belong in an NFL uniform. Ron Mexico's uniform will have stripes on it for the next two seasons, and no, he won't be a Bengal, although it's suddenly ironic the Bengals wear stripes, isn't it? Bobby Petrino got Mayflower's phone number from the Robert Irsay family. And finally, Rich McKay is at last going to be held accountable for the mess in Flowery Branch. Look, I liked McKay when he was with the Bucs. I had Rich-colored glasses on. It was only after he left and I saw the salary cap debacle he created and other warts were revealed that I began to see him in a more balanced way. And, yes, balanced is the word. McKay did some very good things in Tampa Bay. But, honestly, was the GM sneaking out the door during the middle of a season and joining a division rival (the week before the Bucs played them!) any worse than what Petrino did? I think not. RIP sunshine warrior.

4. For all the good vibes the RJS demolition of the moribund Falcons created, let me sound just one cautionary note: Jeff Garcia looked a bit shaky to me. The offense in general did not look good until the Bucs' special teams and defense put the game away and they could just pound the ball on the ground. The football just did not come out of Jeff's hand as crisply as usual. It was hard to tell whether the wind was a big factor, whether his back was still bothering him, or if he was still trying to figure out his Republican ticket for the primaries, but for now count me as officially a bit concerned that Garcia's back is still a problem.

Miffed that there aren't any Buccaneer Pro Bowlers? I'm not. The team doesn't have any. They are a deep team with many good players. They do not have any great players right now. If there was some justice, Jermaine Phillips would go in the place of Sean Taylor, but that's the only peep I'll make. Otherwise, I'm happy not having any Pro Bowlers. It fits this team's blue collar image.

6. Can we talk offensive line? John Wade has got to go. His line calls and tutoring have been helpful to the youngsters I am sure, but this guy is good for at least one critical holding penalty every single game. He grabs more than Tony Romo on a date with Jessica Simpson. If Dan Buenning can play center and be his physical self while making the right line calls, the Bucs OL has a chance to be a top 10 line for the next 10 seasons. I can't believe I just typed that!

With most things going well for the Bucs, the number one thing to hang your hat on for the playoffs is the number 218. That's as in 218 points allowed, and it ties Tampa Bay with Pittsburgh for the lowest total in the NFL. Make no mistake, the Bucs' defense is a far cry from where it was in 2002, but we're getting to tournament time, and having the sack-fumbles and interceptions coming more frequently is a very good sign indeed for the pewter and red.

One thing that could come back to bite the Buccaneers in the playoffs is the occasional conservative game management by head coach Jon Gruden. Why run out the clock in the first half when you are ahead at home and have time to make something happen? Why settle for field goals in enemy territory instead of touchdowns? People can point to the missed fourth down conversion during the first quarter at Houston a couple of weeks ago as evidence for conservative play, but I still say going for it was the right call. Scoring is up all over the league. This isn't 1999 anymore. Teams must score touchdowns and not field goals to prevail.

For the record, I am not scared of Dallas. They are overrated. Period. If the Bucs win their first round game and happen to go to Dallas, they will beat Dallas. The Bucs can play with any team in the NFC. The only match-up I worry about is Green Bay in Green Bay. The Packers are the real deal. The rest of the conference is full of frauds.

10. Oh, how the rumbles must be horrible in fish wrap country. Virginia, there will be no Santa Claus for some scheming scribes this holiday season. You see, somewhere along the line, the plans for 6-10 or 4-12 and some Buccaneer firings went awry. Yes, reality is now setting in that general manager Bruce Allen and head coach Jon Gruden will get well-deserved contract extensions, and the local motley crew will have to deal with them for years to come. The gnashing of teeth is palpable. And I love the recent reactions. Why, no one could have expected the Bucs to be any good this year! It's against all logic! How were we to know?

You know what I like most about this year's Buccaneers squad? The team has had injuries. Real injuries. And they won the division. For years I have marveled at the New England Patriots. If anyone not named Brady gets hurt, they march on. Guys like Troy Brown might be playing cornerback in games, but still they win. In the past, it always seemed like if the Bucs got a few injuries, they were toast. This year's turnabout is the result of two things coming together: more depth than ever before at most positions, and a coaching staff that has the team buying in that they are all starters and expected to contribute. This is not the most talented Bucs team fans have ever seen, but it just might be the one with the most heart.

12. How come we don't see Alex Smith running those seam routes that guys like Jason Witten and Chris Cooley do all of the time and catching balls in stride down the middle of the field? The 31-yard reception Smith had against the Texans from Luke McCown was a thing of beauty. Why not more? The kid is big and athletic. Doesn't it seem like he should be more of a weapon in stretching the field?

Baker's Dozen Bonus: Next week I will post my best and worst from the Dirty Dozens of 2007. Thank you all for reading my rants this year. I wish you and your families a wonderful holiday season. A special Thank you to all subscribers of Pewter Report. You are the lifeblood of our business.

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