This week's electronic conversation between Sports columnists John Romano and Gary Shelton:
JR: Hey, Gary. Welcome back from Beijing. Let me catch you up on the Buccaneers preseason: Brett Favre didn't come, Joey Galloway didn't run, and Jeff Garcia didn't strike gold. Any questions?
GS: Sure. How did the whole not-signing-Bo-Jackson deal work out?
JR: Wow, China was a few more time zones away than I realized.
GS: Yeah, it's a long way. Just think of it: 1.3-billion people who have never seen the Bucs with a good offense. By comparison, only 2.7-million people in Tampa Bay can say the same. So tell me, John, do you see this season ending in confetti?
JR: Depends on your celebration threshold. If you're a big fan of 8-8, I say let the champagne flow.
GS: I only get giddy over a wild-card berth. Is that too much to expect?
JR: That's not true. I've seen you get giddy over a pulled pork sandwich. But, no, a wild-card berth is not too much to expect. I think the Bucs are similar to a dozen other teams that could go 7-9 or 9-7 depending on a few critical plays. Are we in agreement?
GS: Over pulled pork? Absolutely. Over the Bucs? That would be frightening. Let's break it down, though. Do the Bucs have enough offense to be a postseason team?
JR: I'll let you know when I see Galloway run a meaningful route. The Bucs are pretty deep at quarterback and running back, and they may have their best offensive line ever. But if they don't have a receiver who can run past a safety, they're in deep doo-doo.
GS: In other words, it's the same old offense, which makes it about as promising as John Edwards' career. Which brings us to the always-more-important question: How does the defense feel today, and shouldn't the offense be bringing pizza to Monte's meetings?
JR: I've always wondered why the defense did not file for divorce on grounds of abandonment. Monte worked a half-dozen new starters into the lineup last season and got the Bucs back into the playoffs. Is there any reason to think this defense couldn't be just as good?
GS: Sure. People could get hurt. People could get old. People could play bad. But I think it's safe to say that if this team is good, the defense has to be good. And for this team to make the playoffs, the defense has to be the best in the division. Nothing new there, is there?
JR: It's the greatest story ever retold. Here's what I'm wondering: The Glazers appear satisfied with the job done by Jon Gruden and Bruce Allen. But are the fans? Has the up-and-down nature of this franchise eroded what was once one of the most solid fan bases in the NFL?
GS: John, aren't most franchises in the NFL like that? Unless a team finds itself a franchise quarterback, it's hard to not bounce up and down. I think the frustration here has been the failure to get momentum going with young offensive players.
JR: Yes, but Tampa Bay's downs have been a little more severe. In the past five years, the Bucs are tied for 20th in the NFL in victories. Not horrible but not the best way to get a contract extension.
GS: Or to sell season tickets, for that matter. But again, I can live with the downs if the ups are more promising. Even in the Bucs' past two visits to the post-season, you never got the feeling they were a legitimate Super Bowl contender. I don't see that changing this year.
JR: Tsk, tsk. You never have any faith. I say give them a chance before you bury them. Say, 4 p.m. today?
GS: Hey, I'm Captain Optimism, remember? But bring your shovel, just in case.