This isn't another pointless piece on how Lovie Smith was too conservative and played another game "not to lose" which ended up in another loss. I'm here to tell you, from my perspective, the Bucs as an organization played to lose in Sunday's loss to the Saints.
The game was meaningless for both teams. While the Saints stuck with Drew Brees, Jimmy Graham, and the rest of their starters until the end, the Bucs were the team that got out to the 20-7 lead. You would assume a team that has not won a home game all season, supposedly has a coach with integrity, and has at least a few players who deserve to taste victory would stick with those key players who got them out to that 20-7 lead.
Your assumption would be wrong.
"We have a game plan each week," Lovie Smith said of benching certain players. "Now, I don’t tell you all the game plan, but we have a game plan each week. Our game plan was that. Those guys you saw in the first half, the game plan was for them to be in there. In the second half, we wanted to look at more football players. I don’t think that’s out of the realm of possibility to look at some other guys."
Bucs star linebacker Lavonte David apparently wasn't needed in the 2nd half.
“There isn’t anything to say," David said after Sunday's loss. "It was the coaches’ call to take guys out, and we just played the cards we were dealt.”
Star rookie wide receiver Mike Evans was supposedly "gassed" in the 2nd half? Is this a freaking joke?
“The whole second half I didn’t play," Evans said after the game. "They just pulled me because I was gassed. It was [the coaches’] decision.”
I mean, Mike Evans, a finely tuned athlete, who has played in most games this season was benched in the 2nd half of the last game because he was "gassed?" Lying to me makes it even worse!
Good news! At least Josh McCown played the entire game and assured everyone the Bucs were playing to win.
"I don’t think anybody tanked it," McCown said. "We played the guys that we played to rotate guys in to give them a look."
Do not insult my, or any other Bucs fan's, intelligence. I think it is one thing for some fans, me included, to root for their team to lose to get a better draft pick, but for a franchise to openly tank a game by playing all reserves in the 2nd half of the game is truly embarrassing.
"We felt like we could get a look at some of our players," Lovie Smith said. "We did want to get a look at some of the players we haven’t seen, yes.”
It wasn't just the benching of key players either. Josh McCown threw the ball 20 times in the 1st half for 106 yards and a touchdown. In the 2nd half he threw THREE PASSES. The Bucs were giving Drew Brees and the Saints every chance to come back and win the game, and they did. Not even Marcus Arroyo could be that blatantly intentional with his play calling.
I was definitely one of the fans openly rooting for the Bucs to lose on Sunday and secure the 1st overall pick, but I know many Bucs fans who went to Sunday's game hoping for a victory. They were hoping for a victory that hasn't happened at Raymond James Stadium all season. To bench your key players and dummy down your playcalling with a 20-7 lead and find a way to lose that game 23-20 in the 4th quarter is a slap in the face to the loyal fans who actually paid money to see that garbage.
I'm happy, the Bucs got the 1st pick in next year's draft. However, the fans who spent money and went to Sunday's game to witness the Bucs and Lovie Smith doing what they did deserve an apology.
We will never truly know if the Bucs tanked Sunday's game against the Saints on purpose because no one would ever admit to such a thing, but it sure doesn't add up well for the Bucs. They either tanked Sunday's game or they are one of the worst run franchises in all of sports.
The safe answer is that they are probably both!
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