Saturday, December 16, 2017
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs, champs in an alternate universe? Maybe

To our readers: Mike Evans' 2016 NFL Catch of the Year and the big Bucs' offseason catches — DeSean Jackson, O.J. Howard and Chris Godwin — inspired us to mark the start of the 2017 season with a series of stories celebrating "The Catch." We hope you enjoy them.



What if?

What if it had been a catch?

What if the most controversial play in Bucs history had gone Tampa Bay's way? My oh my, how the world would be different.

The 1999 NFC Championship gave us the Bert Emanuel Rule. It was named for the Bucs receiver who caught — or rather, didn't catch — a pivotal pass late in the fourth quarter that could have set up a touchdown that would have sent the Bucs to their first Super Bowl.

Woulda coulda shoulda.

Trailing 11-6 late in the fourth quarter, Emanuel made a diving catch that would have set up a third and 10 at the St. Louis 22. Instead, after a replay review, the play was ruled an incompletion because the tip of the ball touched the ground even though it was locked in Emanuel's hands. Now facing third and 23, the Bucs watched their season end after two more incompletions.

Here's what we know for sure: The NFL pretty much admitted it messed up and Emanuel's catch should have counted. In the offseason, it put a rule in the books to clarify that if a receiver has control of the ball, it can still brush up against the ground. It became known as the Bert Emanuel Rule.

We also know that the Rams would go on to win the Super Bowl against the Titans.

That's all we know.

Here's what we don't know: What would have happened if the catch had counted?

Times file (2000)

The Rams' Kurt Warner (13) and Bucs' Shaun King meet after the NFC Championship Game on Jan. 23, 2000.

"For starters, we would have won the Super Bowl that year," said Shaun King, the rookie quarterback who threw the pass to Emanuel. "I know we would have beaten the Titans. I know it."

To be fair, we can't say for sure the Bucs would have even gone on to win the NFC Championship Game. There's no guarantee the Bucs would have scored even if the catch had stood. It had six points all game, and if the catch had counted, Tampa Bay was still facing third and long, 22 yards from pay dirt.

But, for argument sake, let's say that Bucs had beaten the Rams. They likely would have been favorites to beat Tennessee in the Super Bowl.

"And if that happens," King said, "no way Tony Dungy gets fired. Who knows how long he stays in Tampa Bay?"

Dungy lasted two more years after the '99 season. The Bucs reached the postseason both seasons, but Dungy was fired, presumably because he couldn't get the Bucs to win the big one. If they had won the Super Bowl in January 2000, it's hard to imagine he would have been fired two years later. Or ever.

For sure, offensive coordinator Mike Shula doesn't get fired after the season, causing quite the riff between Dungy, who wanted Shula to stay, and ownership. Maybe King remains the quarterback instead of being replaced by Brad Johnson in 2001. Coach Jon Gruden never arrives in Tampa Bay. Maybe the Bucs win two or three Super Bowls under Dungy. Dungy never goes to Indianapolis.

Who knows?

But it seems fairly sure that if the Bucs had won the Super Bowl that year, Dungy would have remained in Tampa Bay for years.

Dungy only laughs when asked about that. It's not his bag to play that what-if game. But he compared the Bert Emanuel Rule to the Tuck Rule Game when the Patriots were given a fresh do-over in a 2002 playoff game they should have lost.

"New England never does go to that first Super Bowl," Dungy said. "But, hey that's football. Just goes to show how hard it is to win a Super Bowl. One play can ruin it all."

Comments

Bucsí Gerald McCoy, Lavonte David out for Mondayís game vs. Falcons

TAMPA ó As if containing All-Pro Julio Jones and the Falcons offense isnít challenging enough, the Bucs will try to do so Monday night without perhaps their top defensive players, tackle Gerald McCoy and linebacker Lavonte David.On Saturday, Bucs coa...
Updated: 1 hour ago
McCoy, David, Hargreaves all out Monday against Falcons

McCoy, David, Hargreaves all out Monday against Falcons

As if containing Julio Jones and the Falcons offense weren't challenging enough, the Bucs will try to so Monday night without perhaps their top two defensive players in DT Gerald McCoy and LB Lavonte David.Bucs coach Dirk Koetter on Saturday ruled bo...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Bucsí Ward glad to be back, eager for rematch with brother Terron

Bucsí Ward glad to be back, eager for rematch with brother Terron

Bucs safety T.J. Ward will make a healthy return Monday after missing two games with a concussion, and it's also a chance to face his brother Terron, a running back with the Falcons."Our whole family's going to be there, rooting us on," T.J. said aft...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Jones: Tony Dungy didnít leave the Bucs on the clearance rack

Jones: Tony Dungy didnít leave the Bucs on the clearance rack

It is and always will be the greatest debate in Tampa Bay sports history.Jon Gruden or Tony Dungy?You donít even need to say anything more than that. Bucs fans already know what youíre talking about.Gruden or Dungy?Who was most responsible for the on...
Published: 12/16/17
Jon Gruden or Tony Dungy? Why the debate rages on

Jon Gruden or Tony Dungy? Why the debate rages on

TAMPA — Bucs coach Jon Gruden did not win the Super Bowl with Tony Dungy’s team. Don’t believe me? Ask Dungy. "It wasn’t. They did a great job. They took it and tweaked it," Dungy said. "The same way I got a great (Colts) tea...
Published: 12/16/17
Staff writers pick sides (kind of) in the Dungy-Gruden debate

Staff writers pick sides (kind of) in the Dungy-Gruden debate

Even with ó perhaps especially with óJon Gruden set to be inducted into the Bucs Ring of Honor Monday night, Tampa Bayís Great Sports Debate hasnít abated. Who deserves more credit for the biggest moment in Tampa Bay sports history ó the Bucsí Super ...
Published: 12/16/17
Nobody has Jameis Winstonís back more than Dirk Koetter, offensive coordinator Todd Monken insists

Nobody has Jameis Winstonís back more than Dirk Koetter, offensive coordinator Todd Monken insists

Nobody is a bigger supporter of Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston than head coach Dirk Koetter.That was the passionate message that offensive coordinator/receivers coach Todd Monken unloaded at his news conference Friday, saying that reports that Winst...
Published: 12/15/17
Updated: 12/16/17
Bucs journal: Adarius Glantonís experience could come in handy for ailing LB corps

Bucs journal: Adarius Glantonís experience could come in handy for ailing LB corps

TAMPA ó The Bucsí linebacker depth was tested during the first five weeks of the season, when Lavonte David and Kwon Alexander missed a combined six games with injuries.And now, as David is again sidelined by a hamstring injury, the experience gained...
Published: 12/15/17
Cannon Fodder podcast: Letís revisit Monday night games in Bucsí past

Cannon Fodder podcast: Letís revisit Monday night games in Bucsí past

Times Bucs writer Greg Auman has injury updates on Lavonte David and Gerald McCoy and a nostalgic trip through the Bucsí history on Monday night, including the current three-game win streak and yes, that infamous 2003 Colts game where the Bucs were u...
Published: 12/15/17
Why the Bucs need a Dungy more than a Gruden

Why the Bucs need a Dungy more than a Gruden

TAMPA ó The worst week of Dirk Koetterís life rolls on.Itís Gruden Week, just like Shark Week, only with smaller teeth and a bigger playbook. Itís the big build-up to Grudenís induction into the Buc Ring of Honor this Monday night, with the accompany...
Published: 12/15/17