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If the next Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach was watching, he better have a strong stomach

Because of his youth, quarterback Josh Freeman, center, being sacked by a host of Panthers, appears to be somewhat safe from a houseclean-ing should a new coach arrive. As for the rest of the offense, well …

DANIEL WALLACE | Times

Because of his youth, quarterback Josh Freeman, center, being sacked by a host of Panthers, appears to be somewhat safe from a houseclean-ing should a new coach arrive. As for the rest of the offense, well …

CHARLOTTE, N.C.

Somewhere, the next set of eyes looked on.

Somewhere, those eyes were probably as bloodshot by the end of the game as yours were.

Maybe it was at Jeff Fisher's house, or maybe at Brian Billick's. Maybe it was at Bill Cowher's. Wherever, it is probable that the new coach of the Bucs slipped away for a few hours and — risking double vision, retina scarring and corneal ulcers — tried to measure the awfulness.

Most likely, this was his conclusion:

Um, exactly how many years was that contract offer?

It would be hard to blame a job candidate for looking away from Saturday's game. After all, the size of the mushroom cloud is new to him. The rest of us are used to the sight. We have watched, week by week, as the Bucs have sunk deeper into the quicksand.

By now, they are the worst team in the NFL. The standings may not suggest that, but reality does. Other teams such as the Colts and the Chiefs and the Panthers have salvaged something. But not the Bucs, who would lose to any other team in the league. As far as the streak, they could lose every week from now until July 4 if the season went that long.

Another week, another loss, and you can take all of your talk about eight-game losing streaks and change it to nine. Bah and humbug.

To your eyes, and to mine, this one looked a lot like most of the others. Horrible defense. Plodding offense. And another mediocre opponent that transformed into the Green Bay Packers once it realized it was playing the Bucs. The final score was 48-16, Carolina. Every week, it seems the final score is Somebody 48, Tampa Bay 16.

Ah, but how about the next coach's viewpoint? Think about it. How must this eyesore of a game look to the guys who might run this team next season?

Well, awful. Scary awful. Change-your-mind awful. Stay-on-the-safe-side-of-the-microphone awful.

If you are the new coach of the Bucs (assuming one is coming, of course), your team looks slow on offense. It cannot tackle on defense. There is no fury, no discipline, no improvement, no resiliency, no momentum, no fight, no outrage in the face of disaster. The safeties are invisible, the linebackers are missing and the defensive tackles are buried beneath injury reports.

Let's face it: Whoever the new head coach turns out to be, he's going to need a whole briefcase filled with pink slips. That's always the case when teams change head coach. The players who played poorly enough to get one coach fired usually don't stick around long enough to take down another one.

How must it look? Start with Josh Freeman, who is still going to be the quarterback around here. If a new coach doesn't think he can rescue Freeman, who is still just 23, he shouldn't take the job.

For the first half on Sunday, Freeman was enough to make a coach think "maybe." He hit 13 of his first 14 passes, and completed off-balance throws and led the Bucs to drives of 15 plays and 11 plays. It has not been a good year for Freeman, but there are still possibilities.

After that, who is a new coach to believe in?

LeGarrette Blount? Even the current Bucs coaches had enough of Blount's fumbling Saturday when they pointed him toward the bench. Yes, Blount is a load when he gets his momentum and breaks loose in the secondary. But who is to say a new coach won't want a more complete back?

If not Blount, however, there is no one else in the backfield to fall in love with.

Kellen Winslow? He doesn't look as if he has the same burst, does he? And when he keeps getting offensive pass interference called against him, it's easy to wonder how much of that is on the officials and how much is it on Winslow trying to get separation.

Then again, which receivers do you see running wild? Mike Williams has had a dreadful year, too. Behind him, the Bucs have a handful of the same guys.

The offensive line? Hey, Davin Joseph is a fine guard, and if Donald Penn could get into better shape, he can play. But overall, shouldn't the line be better? Consider this: There are five starters left from Jon Gruden's last game as coach, and four of them are on the offensive line. (The other is Ronde Barber.) If I'm a new coach, I want a new player or two.

The secondary? Barber was the team's best player this year, which says something about all the other players who aren't 36. Who knows what a new coach thinks about Aqib Talib? As far as safeties, I'm sure the new coach will be in favor.

The linebackers? Give me Mason Foster. You can replace everyone else.

The defensive line? Adrian Clayborn gives great effort. Da'Quan Bowers has great potential. But both Gerald McCoy and Brian Price have to show they can stay healthy.

In other words, this team isn't exactly loaded. At first sight, it's going to take a lot of self-confidence for any coach to sign on. A lot of guarantees, too.

Here's a suggestion for the Glazers: When you hire your guy, make sure you have his signature on a contract before you let him watch the game tapes.

Otherwise, he may look elsewhere.

If the next Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach was watching, he better have a strong stomach

12/24/11 [Last modified: Saturday, December 24, 2011 9:50pm]

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