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TALK OF THE TOWN

Five topics suitable for inane debate on talk radio:

THE REAL BLUNDER: There were plenty of small mistakes made along the way, but do not get hung up on the details. The greater sin was the lack of vision. A year ago, this was an aging roster with a

salary-cap problem. Instead of formulating a plan for the future, Jon Gruden and Bruce Allen made it worse by acquiring older players and greater salaries. Now they're in a bigger hole. And they've wasted an entire season.

THE FUTURE QB, PART I: The best you can say about Chris Simms is he knows how to tease. He demonstrated enough talent to be intriguing, but made enough mistakes to show he's not ready to lead a team into contention.

SOMEONE HAD TO SAY IT: In retrospect, maybe Michael Pittman's hands slipped off the steering wheel.

THE FUTURE QB, PART II: Brian Griese led the Bucs to touchdowns on 24.5 percent of his possessions (not counting drives at the end of a half) while Simms and Brad Johnson combined for TDs on 7.8 percent. Even with his $8-million payday in 2005, the Bucs have to keep Griese. Simms, at this point, is not a sure enough bet to let Griese slip away.

NOT EVEN A DEFIBRILLATOR WOULD HELP: Gruden once said he would not count this team out because so many of these players had won a Super Bowl and had the hearts of champions. It's time to put that team to rest.

A LIST OF FIVE

Five things overheard in the Glazer suite:

5. "Does this mean we can't win the Super Bowl?"

4. "Dibs on firing Gruden!"

3. "Cheer up, Dad. We can always raise trailer park fees."

2. "Can we take these cold cuts home?"

1. "I feel like such a Steussie."

FIVE THINGS THAT MUST BE DONE

1. PUT SOMEONE IN CHARGE OF TOMORROW: Coaches care about their records, meaning they don't care enough about the future. There has to be some checks and balances in the front office or this franchise will continue to mortgage tomorrow. If Allen won't overrule Gruden, find someone who will.

2. DISCOVER WHO YOU ARE: The offense has no identity. The receivers aren't deep threats and the line can't run-block. Figure out what direction you want to go, then build with that in mind.

3. LISTEN TO SIMEON: He had a point. Too many turnovers, too many critical penalties. Considering the Bucs have the oldest roster in the league, they played with a remarkable lack of discipline.

4. APPEASE SEASON-TICKET HOLDERS: You raised ticket prices after the Super Bowl, so what will you do after back-to-back losing seasons? The Glazers should think of some goodwill gesture or perk because empty seats at Raymond James are multiplying.

5. STOP RATIONALIZING: It would be easy to pick out a handful of plays from a half-dozen games and say the Bucs were a blink away from contention. It also would be foolish. This team got what it deserved. Don't be fooled, and don't fall in love with the wrong players.

FIVE SUPER PICKS

Checking out the best bets for Super Bowl XXXIX in Jacksonville:

1. PATRIOTS: Go with the coach with a 7-1 postseason record.

2. STEELERS: The first 15-1 team the AFC has ever seen.

3. FALCONS: I'll see your McNabb and raise you a Vick.

4. EAGLES: Have past collapses gotten in their heads?

28. BUCS: Worst two-year collapse of any Super Bowl team.

FINAL FIVE WORDS

Could be worse in 2005.

Up next:CORRECTION

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