Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Time to root for Tampa Bay Buccaneers to win or get better pick?

Getty Images

Getty Images

Their legacy is in order. There is nothing left to prove except to historians.

And so, as the stretch drive begins, the familiar question arises.

With this much on the line, should the Bucs consider resting their starters?

It is an important question, as important to Tampa Bay as it is for the undefeated Indianapolis Colts. Those guys are chasing the Lombardi Trophy.

These guys are chasing the Mighty Kong.

At this point, what would you rather see? The Bucs with one more victory or the Bucs in position to draft Nebraska defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh?

For the Bucs, it has been a long time since this sort of question has been asked. Would you rather see one more win, maybe two, to take a tiny bit of the sting out of a lousy season? Or are you willing to endure the embarrassment if it garners a higher draft choice?

While formulating an answer, consider this: One might last eight months. The other might last 10 years.

By now, you know all about Suh, the dominating Cornhusker. You know Mel Kiper has called him the finest prospect at the position in the past 30 years. You know he has been compared to Richard Seymour and Warren Sapp. You know his first name translates as "House of Spears" and that if you combine the first names of the Bucs' front four, it translates to "Britney Spears."

Yeah, as a consolation prize for a season in the outhouse, Suh would do just fine.

The problem is, of course, that the Bucs have picked a horrible year to be lousy. There is just so much of it going on. St. Louis is lousy, and Cleveland is horrible, and Detroit stinks on ice, and Kansas City is abysmal, and Washington is miserable. In describing the NFL, you will run out of adjectives before you run out of awful.

In other words, the Bucs are in a real dogfight, emphasis on "dog." As it stands now, not even a 1-15 record would guarantee the Bucs the first overall pick. The Rams could finish 1-15, and because they might do it against a weaker schedule, they could get the pick.

Excuse me? When did the NFL adopt the BCS? I say that, at this point, the Bucs and Rams play for the top pick, loser takes all. You could call it the Prayoffs. You could call it the Weakest Link Bowl.

Think of it like this: When, exactly, is the point where a Bucs fan starts pulling against the team? When does a team start hoping the measurement is short of a first down, or that Josh Freeman doesn't see a receiver, or that the Bucs start faking punts with four-point leads? When does a fan high-five another to celebrate a defeat? When does 1-15 look like a better record than 3-13?

And even though you might not want to say it out loud, is that point called "today?"

Right about now, some of you are outraged, aren't you? You are thinking that a fan should never pull against the team. On the other hand, if you had pulled for defeat all season long, wouldn't you feel better about 1-12 and the chaos of a season?

Of course, players aren't going to go along with this. Players never do, nor should they. Players care a lot more about their own situations. Either they are playing for contracts (Barrett Ruud and Antonio Bryant) or for their jobs (Chris Hovan and Ryan Sims) or for their starting positions (Sabby Piscitelli and Jeremy Trueblood). Even on bad teams, players want to win. Face it, the coaches are fighting for their careers, too.

On the other hand, if there gets to be a point today when Rudy Carpenter is handing off to Kareem Huggins, consider it a giant wink in your direction.

If you are old enough, you know this sort of thing has happened before. Back in 1992, a lousy Bucs team played an equally lousy Cardinals team. The two spent all afternoon sliding around in the sand, and the Bucs won 7-3. Just like that, their draft position fell from third to sixth (instead of potentially drafting Marvin Jones, they drafted Eric Curry. Well, oops.)

"We don't want a high draft pick," coach Sam Wyche said. "We want to win."

Of course, if Wyche had come away with the higher draft pick, he might not have been fired three seasons later. Then again, maybe he would have been.

"Tampa Bay has had a lot of high draft picks, right?" center Tony Mayberry said that day. "But it hasn't had a lot of wins. I would think a true fan would rather have the win."

Probably, that should be true. On the other hand, when is the last time you celebrated that 7-3 win over the Cardinals?

Here's what you're talking about, basically. Would you rather the Bucs finish 3-13 and take Oklahoma defensive tackle Gerald McCoy? Or would you rather see 1-15 and Suh?

Sure, the Bucs could still end up with Suh. The Rams might fall in love with Notre Dame quarterback Jimmy Clausen, for instance. Or they might trade down to someone who falls in love with Sam Bradford, assuming Bradford lights it up during his workouts. But when a player such as Suh is at the top of so many draft boards, do you want to risk it?

Think of it like this: The upcoming draft needs to be the best one since 1995, when the team took Sapp and Derrick Brooks. With three of the top 40 or so players, the Bucs have to get better.

Suh would be the perfect place to start.

Provided, of course, the Bucs are bad enough to get the job done.

Bucs at Seahawks

4:15 p.m., Qwest Field, Seattle

TV/radio: Ch. 13; 103.5-FM, 620-AM

Line, O/U: Seahawks by 6½, 39

Fast facts

Ndamukong Suh

College: Nebraska

Position: Defensive tackle

Height, weight: 6-4, 300 pounds

2009 regular season: 82 tackles, 23 tackles for losses, 12 sacks

2009 honors: First-team All-American; Lombardi Award, nation's top lineman; Bronko Nagurski Trophy, nation's top defensive player; Outland Trophy, nation's most outstanding interior lineman; Chuck Bednarik Award, nation's most outstanding defensive player; Big 12 defensive player of the year; Heisman Trophy finalist

Draft analysis from Scouts marvel at Suh's exceptional strength, power and athleticism. The Husker standout is a dominant interior player with the skills to terrorize opponents as a run stuffer or pass rusher, and his unique skill set makes him the top defensive prospect in the draft.

Time to root for Tampa Bay Buccaneers to win or get better pick? 12/19/09 [Last modified: Sunday, December 20, 2009 12:19pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Longest home run at Trop and Erasmo Ramirez's pitching doom Rays (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Kevin Kiermaier returned. The problem was, so did Erasmo Ramirez.

    Seattle Mariners first baseman Yonder Alonso (10) scores on the double by Seattle Mariners designated hitter Nelson Cruz (23) in the first inning of the game between the Seattle Mariners and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Friday, August 18, 2017.
  2. Rays journal: Kevin Kiermaier returns, Mallex Smith sent to Triple A

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — It didn't take CF Kevin Kiermaier long to make his presence felt during his return Friday to the Rays lineup. Kiermaier pretended to have Mariners DH Nelson Cruz's first-inning line drive lined up even as the ball went past him to his right and to the wall.

    Tampa Bay Rays center fielder Kevin Kiermaier (39) flies out in the first inning of the game between the Seattle Mariners and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Friday, August 18, 2017.
  3. Rays vs. Mariners, 6:10 p.m. Saturday, Tropicana Field

    The Heater

    Tonight: vs. Mariners

    6:10, Tropicana Field

    TV/radio: Fox Sports Sun; 620-AM, 680-AM (Spanish)

    This is a 2017 photo of Jake Odorizzi of the Tampa Bay Rays baseball team. This image reflects the 2017 active roster as of Saturday, Feb. 18, 2017 when this image was taken. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
  4. Bucs journal: Starting defense disappointed holding Jags to 1 rushing yard


    JACKSONVILLE — The Bucs' starting defense held the Jaguars to a total of 1 rushing yard on seven carries in the first half of Thursday's 12-8 preseason win.

    And its members were disappointed.

    Jacksonville Jaguars running back T.J. Yeldon (24) is thrown for a 1-yard loss as he is stopped by Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Lavonte David (54) and defensive end Robert Ayers (91) during the first half of an NFL preseason football game, Thursday, Aug. 17, 2017, in Jacksonville, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux) JVS102
  5. Jameis Winston's hardest lesson: He can't always save the day


    TAMPA — Ever wonder what in the world goes through Jameis Winston's mind when he tries to fit the ball in a keyhole as he is being dragged to the turf like he was during Thursday night's 12-8 preseason win over the Jaguars?

    Jameis Winston, left, tries to hang on to the ball as Jaguars defensive end Dante Fowler tries to strip it from him.