The Buccaneers have invested nearly $50 million in this season’s defensive line, more than any other team. About half that will go to newcomers Beau Allen, Mitch Unrein, Vinny Curry and Jason Pierre-Paul.
In return, the Bucs are supposed to get sacks.
Sacks, in case you’ve forgotten, are these plays where a defender tackles a quarterback behind the line of scrimmage before he can throw a pass.
Even if the sacks don’t materialize, the Bucs have ensured that they will lead the NFL in at least one category: Chips.
That’s right. Chips. As in the ones that indignant athletes carry on their shoulders.
The Bucs have acquired a lot of chips this offseason.
So. Many. Chips.
Enough for both the left and right shoulders.
Pierre-Paul has one, general manager Jason Licht confirmed recently.
“Jason, we feel, is still a premier defensive end and still has a lot of gas left in the tank and still has a lot to prove,” Licht said after the Bucs traded for him last month. “He has a chip on his shoulder.”
Whoa, he has a chip on his shoulder and gas in the tank? To make a long story short, if he can sack the quarterback more than once in a blue moon, he’ll be the best thing since sliced bread.
The Bucs added chips on offense, too. Meet Ryan Jensen, the new center. He didn’t emerge as a full-time starter until last season, but he has been carrying a chip on his shoulder for what must feel like forever and a day.
“I’ve played with a chip on my shoulder my entire career,” he said. “You know, (being a) Division II guy, a late-round draft pick, stuff like that, you can’t lose that chip on your shoulder. Once you get comfortable, that’s when things start to regress.”
You might say that Jensen’s under-the-radar career has been a blessing in disguise.
Heck, even the new kicker is holding a grudge.
“I was always practicing on the side, and out of college (kickoffs were) kind of my ‘knock’ coming out,” Chandler Catanzaro said. “People said that I couldn’t kick off. So I’ve always had that chip on my shoulder, and it seems that each year I’ve gotten better and better at my touchback percentage, my hang times, my distances.”
That’s the way to quiet the critics. Actions, they say, speak louder than words.
You don’t have to be the sharpest tool in the shed to understand what’s going on this offseason. Licht is trying to do more than overhaul a roster. He’s also trying to shape a culture. To that end, he has sought not only proven players but also players who feel they have something to prove.
“The players that I in the past have missed on, haven’t been the player,” he said at the NFL combine in February. “It’s been the person.”
So Licht is convinced that the Bucs need better people — people who are more committed, more internally motivated. And maybe he’s right. The problem is, though, that he doesn’t know how his acquisitions will fit. He can’t know. No one knows.
Case in point: T.J. Ward. When the Broncos released Ward before the start of last season, general manager John Elway’s statement noted the safety’s leadership, attitude and … the chip on his shoulder. One of the primary reasons Ward chose to sign with the Bucs? Their culture. “I felt like Tampa had the best locker room,” he said. “With the players they have, it seemed like a good mix of vets and young players and guys hungry to win.”
Not good enough, it turns out.
All this talk about chips reminds me of a passage from Michael Lewis’ “The Undoing Project” in which Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey talks about the charm of tall people:
“The bigs could bring you to tears with their story about their love of the game and the hardship they had to overcome to play it. ‘They all have a story,’ said Morey. ‘I could tell you a story about every guy.’ And when that story was about perseverance in the face of incredible adversity, as it often was, it was hard not to grow attached to it. It was hard not to use it to create in your mind a clear picture of future NBA success.”
The very things that affirm our decisions also are the things that can impair our judgment. If we weigh a player’s history too heavily, we risk falling victim to the halo effect and overlooking potential red flags. “He plays with a chip on his shoulder” might be helpful in constructing a narrative, but is it any more of a meaningful statement than "he has an ugly girlfriend and that means he has no confidence”? That could mean something. Or it could mean nothing at all. Really, it’s up to us. It means something if we want it to mean something.
Contact Thomas Bassinger at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @tometrics.