TAMPA — Breaking news, Tampa Bay. We have unlocked the top secret plan of the Bucs' preseason:
Make the New York Jets overconfident.
We keep hearing how the preseason doesn't mean anything, but you know who says things like that? Teams that have lousy preseasons.
Like the Bucs.
This trash dump of a preseason finally came to an end Thursday night at a mostly empty Raymond James Stadium with an even-uglier-than-it-looked 30-12 loss to the Redskins.
Okay, so neither team played its starters. Thursday night's game is no reason to panic.
It's everything else about this preseason that should have you worried.
When the game and the preseason mercifully came to an end, the first thought was: Thank goodness that is over.
But that was almost immediately followed by this chilling thought: Now it's time to crank up the regular season.
If the preseason really is a sneak preview of what's to come, the 2013 Bucs season should come with warning label and a family-sized bottle of Tums.
On one hand, it feels like this preseason has gone on far too long. But you wake up this morning and wish it could go on for another month.
Nine days. That's all the Bucs have to sort out this mess and get ready for the season opener against the Jets.
What's troubling is the past 37 days have created more questions than answers.
The list of good things we've seen this preseason is fairly short and got even shorter after the preseason finale.
We went Thursday night thinking rookie quarterback Mike Glennon had shown plenty of poise and hadn't looked half-bad. No one thought he had a chance to be this year's version of Russell Wilson or Colin Kaepernick, but we thought he might be a satisfactory option if something was to happen to starter Josh Freeman.
But after Thursday night, Glennon had Fran Tarkenton searching for words that are worse than "awful".
We went into Thursday night thinking Johnthan Banks was all set to be a dependable cornerback, and then he got twisted around for a 66-yard pass on the first series of the game.
Of course, these things are going to happen. Glennon is a kid, a project. He's going to look lousy at times. Banks is a kid, and even elite corners get burned occasionally. The point is, Glennon and Banks had been two of the highlights of the preseason, and they struggled Thursday.
Sure, we've seen a few other promising parts this preseason. Defensive linemen Gerald McCoy and Adrian Clayborn, linebacker Lavonte David and free safety Dashon Goldson look good, as expected.
That's about it.
This goes way beyond Thursday night's game, which was full of players who will be bounced out of the league in a few hours. The concerns are borne out of what we've seen for a month.
The first-team offense has looked anemic, with Freeman throwing wildly, the receivers dropping passes and the offensive line giving up sacks left and right, as well as up the middle. The first-team defense hasn't been able to get to the quarterback and has been carved up by the likes of Tom Brady and Joe Flacco.
But it's not just about all the bad things we've seen this preseason, it's about a bunch of things we haven't seen.
We haven't seen prized cornerback Darrelle Revis, who is coming off knee surgery and just might be the most important player on this team.
We haven't seen offensive lineman Carl Nicks, who is battling a toe problem plus a nasty staph infection.
We barely have seen offensive lineman Davin Joseph, who missed last season with a knee injury and has looked rusty when we have seen him.
We haven't seen running back Doug Martin in a game since he got dinged on the head two weeks ago.
How can we be sure any or all of them will be okay when the season starts in nine days?
Before the Bucs can begin game-planning for the Jets, they have to trim their roster to 53.
Most teams dread cut-down day. This team looks forward to it.
The Bucs believe that once they put together their final roster, they can put this preseason behind them and get to work on a successful regular season.
If you're a Bucs fan, you have to hope that's true, that the preseason really is meaningless.
Deep down, however, you know it means something. And that something isn't promising.
Unless they are just setting up the Jets.