This week's electronic conversation between Sports columnists John Romano and Gary Shelton:
JR: Gary, don't you just love the idea of a Bucs throwback day? It's like a bunch of travelers throwing on their pearls and life jackets and celebrating the Titanic.
GS: Or, in this case, the S.S. Minnow, starring Raheem Morris as Gilligan. Either way, the life rafts are all filled by failed placekickers.
JR: Things have gotten so bad around here, the Bucs can take a week off and still manage to look worse. Another placekicker? To replace the one who only attempted one field goal in a month? Who replaced the one who barely made it out of September? Who replaced the one who held all the team records? It's as if they're trying to prove Darwinism by retracing Charles Darwin's steps.
GS: John, I am concerned. You have mentioned the Titanic and Darwin in conjunction with the Bucs. Did someone hit you with a history book? Or, as you used to call it, "that throwback manual."
JR: If it makes you feel better, I was burping and scratching myself at the time.
GS: Ah, multitasking. Seriously, though, you can look at placekicker as a microcosm of this entire offseason. The Bucs get rid of a familiar fan favorite. They make a mistake in bringing in a replacement. They throw that guy overboard and now bring in another guy. And that's the problem. There have been too many mistakes and not enough progress. And there are nine games to go.
JR: Nine games. Sheesh. How long do you suppose before Josh Freeman tries to re-enroll at Kansas State?
GS: K-State? Let's see. When Freeman was there, he had no receivers, a bad defense and shaky coaching. This situation is entirely different. Here, they wear orange instead of purple.
JR: So how are we supposed to grade young Josh? Wins can't be the barometer. And QB rating should not be the determining factor. What would you like to see from the man who would be savior?
GS: I want to see composure. I want to see competitiveness. I want to see flashes of the ability that made the Bucs draft a quarterback when they had other pressing needs. I want him to look like a kid who belongs. Does that sound fair?
JR: Paula Abdul couldn't have said it better. Well, maybe she could, but it would have been all slurred. The real danger is letting the circumstances influence our opinion of Freeman. If the Bucs keep falling behind, and the running game is continually abandoned and the opposing defenses keep … ah, you've seen the first seven games. You know what will happen.
GS: Absolutely. He'll get Vinnied. The problem is, Tampa Bay can't afford to protect him until they're good again, because by that time, he may be 47 and playing against the Sydney Wallabies.
JR: So let's all agree right now. No criticism of Freeman today. Unless, you know, he throws five interceptions. Or holds the ball too long. Or we have nothing else to write. Ah, who am I kidding? Josh is about to become a piñata for our pleasure.
GS: To be fair, Josh has been criticizing you for some time now. And if he hasn't, he should have been.
JR: Tell him to get in line. He can have the spot behind my wife and in front of my boss. So tell me, how are things going to turn out today? Will the week off help? Will the Packers be Favre-ized? Will the characters on Glee ever go to class?
GS: The Packers will have a throwback day of their own. They'll jam the stadium in Tampa, and they'll win. The week off might have helped if the Bucs had spent a little more time practicing. And the characters of Glee will be too busy playing on the Bucs defensive line to bother with class. Here's my question, John. In their own attempt to move back the clock, should Bucs fans wear leisure suits and boogie shoes?
JR: Trying to make your wardrobe relevant again?
GS: Hey, it costs a lot of money to dress like Starsky.