Warren Sapp is not coming back to the NFL. He doesn't think Simeon Rice is, either. But the Bucs Hall of Fame tackle, who with Rice helped underwrite one of the great defenses in NFL history with a menacing pass rush, can't stomach what he's seeing.
"I'm a little lost right now," Sapp said. "This is hard to watch."
He's talking about the current Bucs pass rush, which is nonexistent. It goes beyond the fact that the Bucs have a league-low seven sacks. To Sapp, it goes to what he thinks should be the heart of the defense: Bucs perennial Pro Bowler Gerald McCoy.
"If you have a lead dog and if it's not GMC – that's what I call Gerald, like a big wide-body GMC – you put the Volkswagens and all the rest of them around him and you allow him to work," Sapp said." You've got five one-on-ones and you designate Robert Ayers as the one with the one-and-ones? Gerald's the better player. What are we doing here?
"Wasting isn't even the word. Gerald has more sacks since he came into the league than any other defensive tackle. Tell me why Robert Ayers, who's a defensive end, now has the free reign to where he wants to go and you got to get out of his way?"
Sapp says he talks a lot with McCoy, and senses frustration.
"Beyond imagination. I talk to him. He ain't happy with nothing that's going on."
There will be no quick fixes to the 2-4 Bucs' defense or pass rush. But Sapp sees unleashing McCoy as a start in the right direction. He thinks McCoy isn't being used properly by Bucs defensive coordinator Mike Smith and defensive line coach Jay Hayes. As for McCoy …
"That man doesn't take a day off," Sapp said. "You don't have to worry about what he's doing outside the workplace. He ain't Sapp. He's not going out at night. I had a rule: I was going to hang out with the owls and soar with the eagles. Gerald isn't like that. He's just a guy who loves to play the game. That's just who Gerald is. Let him play the game.
"To have that 'Gerald' game, he needs to be released, to be told that you are the man, you are the man that drives this, it starts up front. It's frustrating to me because I know how good of a kid he is and how much he wants to help this football team. But for some reason, the D coordinator and the D line coach don't feel that he's that guy. For some reason, they haven't set him up, they haven't made him the lead dog."
Sapp points to his days as one of the Bucs lead dogs, and his relationship with defensive line coach Rod Marinelli.
"They just don't Gerald what they gave me," Sapp said. "Rod Marinelli would come in there and say, 'I'm going to find you six one-on-ones.' Rod Marinelli spent his Sunday, his Monday, his Tuesday and his early Wednesday trying to find me one-on-ones.
"They were setting me up for the one-on-ones, but if I didn't get there, I had other ways, pushing the pocket, disrupting the pocket, get him out of the pocket, then everybody else would clean up what I left around. That's what they need to do with Gerald. He's your lead dog. He disrupts it and everybody else cleans up."
The Bucs' pass rush has been so bad that for a brief instant, the 43-year-old Rice, the last Buc to have a 10-sack season (in 2005), is talking about a comeback to help his old team. The Bucs have been so bad that absurdity has actual traction.
Sapp, 44, was asked if he's returning to get the band back together.
"I've already told you, brother: I have my gold jacket. (Simeon) is looking for his, I guess. I have no idea what he's thinking. Even when he was talking, you didn't know what he was saying. He's just talking. He's not coming back. He just like to talk."
Back to the Bucs pass rush.
Gerald is the most talented guy, the hundred-million dollar guy, and you ain't going to put it on him? He has the skill. Why are you going the other way? You can't get Gerald the one-on-ones? We're not building rockets here. Find the baddest guy on your team, find the matchup and let him beat the hell out of everybody."