Tampa Bay Buccaneers could learn a lesson from Indianapolis Colts, New Orleans Saints

MIAMI — One week of interviewing the Colts and Saints in preparation for Super Bowl XLIV will teach you something about how teams are successful.

It also will give you some clues as to why they are not.

Of course, it's a quarterback league. Peyton Manning and Drew Brees are incomparable in many ways, including their ability to grind through games and a season.

It also helps that Manning has been in the same system, under offensive coordinator Tom Moore, for all 12 seasons while Brees has played under coach Sean Payton all four seasons in New Orleans.

The quarterbacks help set the tone; not just in terms of their performance in games, but by their work ethic and leadership.

By all accounts, the Bucs are in pretty good shape in that regard with Josh Freeman.

But to have any sustained success, you need players who are very serious about football.

You need a head coach who will demand those players work together in the offseason.

Talk to coach Raheem Morris or cornerback Ronde Barber, and they will tell you the participation in offseason workouts, which begin in March, has to improve if the Bucs are going to change the culture after losing 17 of their past 20 games.

The Bucs had a void of leadership in their locker room last season. Barber, linebacker Barrett Ruud and very few others know how to prepare for the rigors of an NFL season.

But for the second straight offseason, Ruud could be absent because of his failure to get a contract extension.

Though most workouts are "voluntary," Morris was probably too tolerable of absences, especially by veterans.

Here are examples of the kind of commitment you need to achieve at the highest level.

When the Colts drafted receiver Anthony Gonzalez from Ohio State in 2007, he was unable to begin offseason workouts in Indianapolis until the semester ended in June. So two or three times a week, Manning would drive two hours, 50 minutes each way so he could throw to Gonzalez for one hour in Columbus, Ohio.

A major story line surrounding tonight's game concerns the immediate impact of the Colts' young receivers.

Marvin Harrison retired, and Gonzalez suffered a season-ending injury in Week 1. During the playoffs, Pierre Garcon is the Colts' leading receiver with 16 catches for 185 yards and a touchdown. Austin Collie has caught 11 passes for 175 yards and two scores.

According to receivers coach Clyde Christensen, both are gym rats. To succeed as a young player with Manning barking directions in his no-huddle offense, you have to put in the time on the field and in the film room.

Christensen said he had to kick them out of the Colts' facility more than once this season. In fact, he had to stop Collie from running too many extra routes after practice Friday.

"I will control your volume," Christensen said. "You've got to let me control your volume, or you're going to run yourself in the dirt and not be worth a darn when we need to make some money in December and January."

But Collie didn't stop there.

"He bought a tennis ball machine," Christensen said. "That was his compromise. He wasn't running, but he'll still stay in here an extra hour to catch tennis balls. He's in our indoor facility. He's got them shooting high and low.

"If you've ever had a Labrador retriever, it's like that. They always want one more ball."

Those are the kinds of players the Bucs need to turn around the franchise.

General manager Mark Domi­nik has to draft them. Morris has to demand more of them.

And the seriousness needs to return to One Buc Place.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers could learn a lesson from Indianapolis Colts, New Orleans Saints 02/06/10 [Last modified: Saturday, February 6, 2010 9:33pm]

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