Talk of the town
Five topics suitable for inane debate on talk radio.
1. The great fade: Gag. Choke. Collapse. Choose any word you like, they all fit. No other team in the last 15 seasons (and there have been 40 besides the Bucs) has gone from 9-3 to 9-7 in the final month. The last team to tumble so suddenly was the 1993 Dolphins, and they fell apart after quarterbacks Dan Marino and Scott Mitchell were hurt.
2. The great fade, Part II: The most annoying part? The Bucs were in position to win each of these games, either tied or in the lead in the fourth quarter of all four losses. Troy Percival suggests back surgery will help.
3. The good news: The Bucs narrowly finish ahead of the Cowboys in the Mama Cass ham sandwich poll.
4. Simply inexplicable: Including the playoffs, Monte Kiffin has been the Tampa Bay defensive coordinator for 219 games. Never before has one of his defenses given up 72 points combined in back-to-back games.
5. And the dog ate their playbook: Injuries are not an excuse. We know because Jon Gruden mentions it every 39.2 seconds. But consider the injuries other NFL teams endure, too. Oakland came in without cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha and sack leader Kalimba Edwards, and then had its top two running backs (Justin Fargas and Darren McFadden) go down.
A list of five
Five signs the Bucs quit.
5. Offensive linemen were so bored they didn't even get a holding penalty.
4. Defensive game plan designed to stop Vanderbilt.
3. Joey Galloway left tickets for Mayflower movers.
2. Waived Patrick Chukwurah in third quarter so they could be an even $25-million under the salary cap.
1. Michael Bush? 177 yards?
Five needs for 2009
1. Pass rush: Not since Simeon Rice was in his prime have the Bucs had a defensive lineman with enough mayhem in his soul. Either the Bucs can make a bid for Julius Peppers in free agency, or they can keep telling themselves that Gaines Adams is on the verge of taking over games.
2. Quarterback: Jeff Garcia was undoubtedly the team MVP in 2007, and he gave the Bucs their best chance to win in '08. But he is soon to be 39, and his effectiveness diminishes as the season gets longer and the sad truth is the Bucs cannot invest another season in a shaky proposition.
3. Offensive coordinator: For the seventh consecutive season, the Bucs finish in the bottom half of the NFL in scoring. That is simply unacceptable. Bill Muir officially has the title of offensive coordinator, but Gruden is the one calling the shots. The time has come for the head coach to demote himself and hire a real coordinator.
4. An offshore bank account for Antonio Bryant: He is the only receiving threat they have, and his price for 2009 has gone through the roof. The Bucs are doomed if they lose him.
5. Cheaper ticket prices: The Bucs have raised prices six consecutive seasons. In this economy? With this product? The Bucs should do themselves, and their fans, a favor with a price decrease.
Five super picks
Checking out the best bets for Super Bowl XLIII in Tampa.
1. Steelers: Even if Troy Polamalu has to play quarterback.
2. Panthers: Began the road to the Super Bowl by stepping on Tampa Bay.
3. Titans: Figuring out a way to beat the Steelers 3-2.
4. Eagles: Philly fans have enjoyed a bit of revenge at Tampa Bay's expense in '08.
16. Bucs: Most painful December since 1976.
Final five words
A prayer for Cadillac Williams.