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Wyche takes offense, yanks Dilfer again

Published Dec. 24, 1995|Updated Oct. 5, 2005

On a night when his offense couldn't put enough points on the board to beat the Detroit Lions, Bucs coach Sam Wyche settled another score.

By benching Trent Dilfer for the fourth time this season, Wyche pointed the finger at his young quarterback for what is likely to become the worst scoring offense in the NFL this season.

If the New York Jets score five points or more against New Orleans today, Tampa Bay will finish 30th in scoring.

But Dilfer wasn't the only anchor on the offense this season.

The offensive line, which averages better than $1-million per starter, tied a club record by allowing 56 sacks. It yielded five sacks to the Lions.

Wide receiver Alvin Harper, the $10.6-million free agent, did not even lead the team in receptions (46 for 643 yards) and finished with just two TDs.

The running game, once thought to be the team's strength, did not find its stride until the second half of the season, when Errict Rhett recorded three of his four 100-yard rushing games.

"It's hard because we had a young quarterback," center Tony Mayberry said. "Offensively, we had a lot of struggles. It was not all his fault. He's made some improvement. If he's half the competitor I think he is, next year, he's going to be the man."

Harper, who missed the first three games with knee and ankle injuries, spent the season griping about not getting the ball.

He caught four passes for 49 yards Saturday but was not a factor.

In fact, Harper said he still is considering retirement.

"I've got a long off-season and a lot of things to think about," Harper said. "Everybody's talking about, "You're making all this money, you ought to be happy.' But money isn't everything. You want to be happy, you want to go out there and make plays.

"Everybody says I've been crying about not getting the ball. But s---, I haven't been getting the ball. I'm just being honest, he hasn't been throwing me the ball.

"I figure if I make $2.5-million per year, my tongue should be hanging by my ankles after every game. The offense wasn't productive this season, and that kind of reflected on me."

On Saturday, Wyche made sure it reflected on Dilfer.

Sacked twice and having lost two fumbles, Dilfer was replaced in the second quarter, after Cory Raymond's interception of his pass to Harper.

Wyche said he had planned to play backup quarterback Casey Weldon in the game but failed to communicate that plan to Dilfer.

"I was never informed," said Dilfer, who finished 8-of-11 passing for 100 yards.

"I totally disagreed with the decision. I heard somebody said there were no words. There were words. There were words on my part. I expressed my disappointment that that would happen."

Dilfer admitted he did not play well Saturday.

"I don't like getting hit twice, and fumbling, and getting my head knocked off on one of them," he said. "I don't like throwing an interception, either, but it happens."

But Weldon didn't fare any better. He finished 11-of-27 for 106 yards and an interception on the final play with the Bucs at the Lion 10-yard line.

Despite getting the early hook from Wyche most of the season, Dilfer said he made improvement.

"I truly believe that people who understand football and know the circumstances will realize I made strides and I made improvement," he said.

"I did not have as good of a season as I expected to have. But it doesn't mean I can't use the lessons I had this season to get better and come back stronger next year."

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