Random thoughts on the Bucs and the NFL

1. You wanna vent? Ok, let's vent There's still no pass rush! How could Garcia have missed Galloway and Hilliard on those wide open fly routes? Why are the Bucs looking to lead the NFL in stupid penalties again? Hasn't offensive guru Jon Gruden learned that when you score more field goals (3) than touchdowns (2) in today's NFL, that means you lose?

2. Grab the garlic cloves and open the drapes! Coffins are opening all over fish wrap offices in Florida, and the occupants are out for blood.The Bucs have lost two straight and three of four to fall to 4-4 on the 2007 season!

3. Before they sink their fangs into you, good Bucs fans, let me give you some wolfesbane. Should the Bucs have won their last two contests and now be riding high at 6-2? Well, sure. There is always coulda, woulda, shoulda to consider in any sport. However, they didn't win. Why not? Well, they made mistakes. They aren't a great football team right now. They are however, a decent football team.

4. Should head coach Jon Gruden be blamed for the losses? Yes. The buck always stops with the head coach, so the overall team record is his responsibility. If Tampa Bay continues to lose games in this fashion, I am sure the coaches and front office will be held accountable.

5. There are reasons to stay off the third rail, however. One beacon of light is that every other team in the NFC South is in worse shape than the Bucs. The Panthers are ahead in the standings? Sure, and with David Carr or Vinny Testaverde at the controls they'll be lucky to sniff 8-8 by the end of the season. Perhaps you caught their latest act last week when they attempted to run out the clock on the Colts from the opening kickoff? The Falcons are road kill, and Bobby Petrino is already trying on his General Custer costume as the natives get restless. It'd be nice if he had some support from the front office. Who is the GM in Atlanta, anyway? Never see his name anywhere. Editor-in-Chief Jim Flynn was correct when he wrote recently that the Saints will likely be the Bucs' biggest competition for the NFC South title. However, I'm not impressed by their wins to date, and their defense still stinks. Still, mark your calendars for Sunday, Dec. 2. Bucs at Saints is now officially the most important game remaining on the schedule. If the NFC South is bad this year, at least the Bucs are the tallest midget.

6. The biggest reason to put on those shades however, is the schedule. Start with the aforementioned Panthers at home and two games against the Falcons. I count those as three wins, which makes for five divisional wins. See how important that Saints game could be? If the Bucs go from 0-6 in 2006 to 6-0 in the division in 2007, that will be the difference between last place and first. Now, raise your hand if you think the Bucs will lose to Arizona at home. No takers? Me neither. OK, that's four more wins. Gets the Bucs to eight. How do we get from eight to 10? Win two of Washington at home, at Houston, at New Orleans, and at San Francisco. I'm willing to roll the dice with that slate.

7. Notice how I haven't discussed injuries or coaching schemes or rotating in new players? Sorry, but none of those things matter. This team can do just fine as currently constituted. Did you notice how they moved the ball up and down the field on Jacksonville? That was a good defense, and the Bucs ran on it and threw on it. Garcia needs to get the ball into the end zone more often, but the offense will not be overmatched in any of the remaining contests.

8. One unit that does worry me is the defense. I am going to be admittedly heretical in this space, and I ask your forgiveness beforehand. I could be completely irrational, but what if Monte Kiffin's defense is only as good as his assistants? I mean, the guy can coach the heck out of the Tampa 2, but is it just me, or does he seem to be out of answers when adjustments are required? I've heard plenty about the 3-4 and exotic blitz packages, but have seen little of either. The Bucs blitz packages remind me of those crash dummy tests when the car hits a concrete wall. The three most important positions in Kiffin's defense are now being played by Jovan Haye, Derrick Brooks in twilight, and Jermaine Phillips. Rod Marinelli, Joe Barry, Lovie Smith, Herm Edwards and Mike Tomlin are gone. What if we're out of schemes as well as key players? I love the guy and he's a legend, but is it time to consider Monte's retirement and promote Raheem Morris to defensive coordinator before we lose him? Just a (heretical) thought.

9. More heresy? After review, I am still against drafting running backs and wide receivers at the top of the first round. The cost is too prohibitive (in dollars and opportunity) given the bust rate.

10. I'm sorry, but Marvin Lewis should be fired. Thank goodness what's his name up in Flowery Branch wasn't allowed to screw the Bucs up by hiring him.

11. Can you believe this nonsense about the Patriots running up the score on the Redskins? Phillip Daniels and his brethren should stop whining and stop the other team from scoring if they want to keep the margin respectable. The Patriots weren't playing Slippery Rock for crying out loud. This week? Oh, the Patriots will cover my friends, and take the over, regardless of what it is.

12. All hail, Terry Francona and Theo Epstein!

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