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GIMME 5

Five topics suitable for inane debate on talk radio.

1. APPROACHING TIME TO ASSIGN BLAME: Sometime in the past six weeks, the Bucs have gone from noncontenders to noncompetitive. They have been outscored 147-60 since Oct. 29. No excuses on the salary cap. No excuses about a lack of draft picks. Either you buy that injuries ruined the season, or you blame Jon Gruden and Bruce Allen for this mess.

2. BRING BACK CLYDE: Don't look down your nose at the last-second field goal because these guys need every point they can get. Unless the offense finds itself in a hurry, this group will go down as Tampa Bay's lowest-scoring team since Jeb Blount, Randy Hedberg and Gary Huff were the quarterbacks in 1977. It is averaging 12.1 points.

3. GEE, THANKS MICHAEL: The offensive line finally provides adequate pass protection on a deep route. Bruce Gradkowski finally hits a receiver in stride. And Michael Clayton drops the ball on the way into the end zone. Is it really that hard? Apparently so. The Bucs are last in the NFL in pass plays of 20 yards or more.

4. MEASURING THE VALUE OF EXPERIENCE VS. THE DAMAGE DONE: If you believe in Gradkowski's potential, do you get concerned about damaging his psyche? It's worth considering as the kid begins to struggle more and more, and the heat gets turned up higher and higher.

5. NOT QUITE BAD ENOUGH: The Bucs are tied for the third-worst record in the NFL and are fading fast. Even so, it's hard to see them coming up with the No. 1 pick. Detroit and Oakland have a one-game lead on the Bucs at 2-10. The Lions may win again, but not the Raiders.

A list of five

Five new marketing strategies for success.

5. Have beloved TV star Merv Griffin handle all news conferences.

4. Hit Show!

3. Keep reminding everyone it has only been 1,407 days since winning a Super Bowl.

2. Leak paparazzi photos of Monte Kiffin getting out of a limo sans undies.

1. Challenge Plant High for ultimate city dominance.

The five stages of Jon Gruden's grief

1. DENIAL: "We are no longer 0-4. We made a goal, I think, between ourselves, to just all agree we had a horrific start to the season. We went 0-4 in the first quarter, and let's not talk about it anymore." (After beating Philadelphia.)

2. ANGER: "Some (expletive) idiot wrote that article, okay." (After a report indicated he was sniffing around the Dallas job.)

3. BARGAINING: "We beat a good football team. I don't care what their record was." (After beating the Redskins.)

4. DEPRESSION: "What can I say? We have had a tough schedule. We haven't coached well enough. We haven't made plays to help us win those earlier games. We have a long way to go, and that is a fact." (When asked if the team's problems were larger than just injuries.)

5. ACCEPTANCE: Revealed on Dr. Phil next week.

Five super picks

Checking out the best bets for Super Bowl XLI in Miami.

1. COLTS: All bets are off if they lose homefield advantage.

2. BEARS: Even with Rex Grossman playing his way out of the lineup.

3. RAVENS: May not lose again in the regular season.

4. CHARGERS: Can no longer ignore the highest-scoring offense in the NFL.

30. BUCS: After starting 12-4, Gruden is 38-38 with the Bucs.

Final five words

Lower ticket prices for 2007?

JROMANO@TAMPABAY.COM

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