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How the 2013 Bucs became a mess

Should auld acquaintance be forgot and never brought to mind?

If you're talking about the 2013 Bucs season, forgetting might be the best thing you can do.

The new year dawned with such promise, but by the time the Bucs leave the Superdome this evening after their season finale against the Saints, all that will be left is wreckage strewn like confetti across Times Square from a 4-12 (or 5-11) season.

There have been a few outstanding performances. Linebacker Lavonte David became the fourth player in league history with at least five interceptions and six sacks. Gerald McCoy has continued to emerge as one of the league's best defensive tackles. Receiver Vincent Jackson has been the only consistent performer on offense.

Beyond that? It was the sound of one hand clapping. Here, in some order of importance, are the reasons for this mess.

It's the QB, stupid

QB Josh Freeman entered the final year of his contract having passed for 4,065 yards and 27 touchdowns in 2012. The Glazers and GM Mark Dominik pushed strongly to go with him as the 2013 starter even though coach Greg Schiano made it clear he preferred another QB after watching Freeman lose five of six to end 2012.

Clearly, more was wrong with Freeman than his accuracy: He was late to his football camp, the team picture and meetings this year; he wasn't voted a team captain; he missed the bus from the hotel before the Jets game.

All trust between Schiano and Freeman eroded. Freeman accused the coach of rigging the captain vote. Information about Freeman's participation in the league's drug-testing program leaked, prompting an ongoing NFL investigation.

Look, quarterbacks are benched all the time. But they aren't sent to an inactive suite, as Freeman eventually was. To get past the episode, Freeman had to be released with a $9 million payoff and no draft compensation for the Bucs. That's an organizational failure. Also, Freeman was the last active member of the 2009 draft class, the first under Dominik.

Schiano has been proven right about Freeman, who had one Monday night meltdown with the Vikings and hasn't played since. But turning to Mike Glennon, a rookie third-round pick from N.C. State, hasn't been a good option. He has won four (and counting) games out of 13. That doesn't scream special.

Make a list of the teams not playing in January. Now list their starting quarterbacks. How did they play? You miss the quarterback question in the NFL, you get the whole test wrong.

MRSA, MRSA me

Distractions come in many forms for a team. A staph infection is one, especially when it's Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, known as MRSA. The Bucs got on the wrong side of this issue when kicker Lawrence Tynes contracted the infection.

The team placed him on the nonfootball injury list — paying his salary but denying him bene­fits such as service time toward a pension — as if there was no link between MRSA and the team. So how do you explain two other players, guard Carl Nicks and cornerback Johnthan Banks, contracting MRSA? Nicks even had a recurrence, but he never went on injured reserve.

Well, the Bucs can't admit liability with Nicks if they want to win Tynes' pending grievance. Just to be safe, they had One Buc Place scrubbed. Twice. But there's no link to the ill players. There is, however, a link between the number of news conferences with infectious disease experts and a losing season.

Band-Aid approach

The Bucs will finish with 16 players on injured reserve. Losing running back Doug Martin, receiver Mike Williams and linebacker Jonathan Casillas hurt. But tight ends Luke Stocker and Tom Crabtree didn't produce when they were healthy. The rest were spare parts. (This group doesn't include kicker Connor Barth, who tore his Achilles in an offseason charity basketball game.)

Every team has injuries. But bad drafts and personnel decisions lead to a lack of depth. There's no way Tiquan Underwood, who spent the first month of each of the past two seasons on the couch, should be your No. 2 receiver. That is unless you missed on Arrelious Benn in the second round and signed Kevin Ogletree as your slot receiver only to release him a month into the season. There were, at one point, four offensive starters from Rutgers. No offense to the Scarlet Knights, but they've never been the Oregon Ducks.

Some years you hate to see end. When the clock hits 0:00 at the Superdome today, win or lose, the Bucs should celebrate.

Should auld acquaintance be forgot? Yup. And days of auld lang syne!

How the 2013 Bucs became a mess 12/28/13 [Last modified: Saturday, December 28, 2013 10:42pm]
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