Well If It’s A Splash You Wanted To Make Then This Wasn’t It ………
Fans have long labored under the belief that at times the fresh influx of talent be it on the field or in management can really turn things around for a franchise that has been perceived to have fallen on hard times. Well nowhere is this becoming more apparent than with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Well with the firing of Jon Gruden and that of General Manager Bruce Allen in the offseason and the promotion of Raheem Morris to the position of head coach. It can be said the change direction sought was about as expedient and drastic as one would expect. The explanation coming from ownership can’t be viewed as enthusiastic for the most fervent of Buccaneers’ fans. But then again throughout much the Glazers’ ownership, their custodianship of the franchise has been executed clandestinely. Though the firings of Gruden and Allen came out of the blue. It can be said from a PR perspective the way it was handled left an unsavory taste in one’s mouth.
Added to that fact was the release of several long established players. None more so than veteran stalwart and defensive player Derrick Brooks. He may well be viewed as the face of the franchise . And in terms of his loyalty to the franchise it was unquestioned. He was the epitome , heart and soul of what it meant to be a Buccaneers’ player. And to say that many a Bucs’ fans weren’t aggrieved at his release would be understatement. Nevertheless life must go on and so does the business of making this franchise competitive.
Coming off a disappointing season with a 9-7 finish within the NFC South division. Where the team were viewed as a favorite to repeat as champions. Their season fell apart literally down the closing stretch of the season. As they succumbed to four consecutive defeats. So close but yet so far. One can attribute these losses on a number of things. But the ownership obviously felt that Gruden bore a great deal of responsibility for the team’s failings on the field. But a lot of that responsibility can be also attributed to the total naiveté on the path of the Buccaneers’ players who must’ve felt that they’d romping off into the playoffs before the season was over, without getting the job done on the field first. A lack of professional approach on the field and perhaps an even bigger lack of professionalism by the coaching staff ?
Well now the franchise under the auspices of Morris along with Mark Dominik as the team’s general manager have been entrusted in giving the team a new sense of purpose and identity. A task that has been made even tougher given the fact that both men are viewed as novices in their fledgling positions. And with the upheaval within the team’s roster . It’s hard now to view this team as being anything more than an afterthought at this juncture.
At the heart of this is all is the fact that on paper this is now a very young team. And with it comes no veteran leadership which every good team needs. One might point to Ronde Barber as one of the last vestiges of the Buccaneers from their halcyon days as Superbowl champions. But even he isn’t the player that he once was. Suffice to say this team may well struggle to acquit themselves this upcoming season even with the presence of players such as Chris Hovan, Jeff Faine , Antonio Bryant , Derrick Ward , Kellen Winslow Jr and Luke McCown. And even with the acquisition of Derrick Ward a proven commodity at the running back position. The Buccaneers’ deficiencies on offense at times bordered on sheer ineptitude. Their struggles to find the end zone when in the red zone territory was comedic at best and some times tragic. When your over reliance is placed on your kicker to garner the points needed . Then there has to be cause for concern. That being said that wasn’t only the major cause for concern on this team. The defense that was once lauded around the league as being one of the best in the league. It seemed as if overnight many of the players had forgotten how to execute a tackle much less cover an offensive player.
Morris and Dominik have let it be known that they’re satisfied with the direction that the team is going in. As to how they view their present roster, it can be said that they’re enthusiastic. But nonetheless they know that if they’re to succeed then they’ll have to pursue some of the team’s needs through the draft and quite possibly through free agency.
The crux of this piece however is to seek an explanation as to why the franchise would seek to offer an six year contract extension to Kellen Winslow. Given the fact that the player though talented. He’s certainly not viewed as a prodigious talent at the tight-end position. Mercurial at times , often outspoken and perhaps if anything his health has to come into question. Coming off knee surgery and an anemic season with the Cleveland Browns before his trade to the Buccaneers. This may well prove to be a gamble that the franchise could well do without. Capricious if anything is what one could best describe the motives behind this particular decision. It will make Winslow the highest paid player at the position in the league. A six year $36.1m contract with an additional $6.5m in incentives hardly something to sneeze at. But the question I would ask now is what is it that Morris and Dominik see in the player ? Outsiders looking in most certainly question the thought process behind the decision making . Especially given the player’s perceived lack of endurance with regards to his health.
A decision such as the one made here by the Bucs can has its attractions. But more often than not it tends to be more of an illusion that giving a player such an incentive will make him a productive weapon. And given the fact that as a player Winslow has yet to prove himself. I’ve got to believe that this was nothing more than an exercise to persuade the fans that as a franchise they’re seeking to prove to the fans that they mean business. When they state that they’re heading in a new direction and with a new resolve towards success.
Given the evidence of what we’ve seen from Winslow, the Buccaneers might as well have taken the money and lit a fire to it themselves. But then again can I be persuaded otherwise ? I very much doubt it given what we’ve all witnessed so far in the player’s short and none eventful career on the field. The events off it however play into the fact that the attitude possessed as a player at the University of Miami is still there. He may well have been perceived as a player with a winning attitude there. But it has yet to be translated over into the professional ranks of the NFL . I wonder why ?