AN OPEN LETTER TO QUINCY CARTER
You've got to be excited about starting your first real NFL game this week against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. I can guess what you're thinking. You're thinking how it will be a big challenge going against one of the better defenses in the NFL and how, privately, you wish that you could line up under center for the first time against the Cincinnati Bengals defense instead of the Buccaneers'. I agree with you. It would make for a smoother, and perhaps healthier adjustment to the NFL.
You seem to have a good deal of potential and are probably buoyed by the fact that you have had some success in the preseason against some tough foes such as the Oakland Raiders. You're probably brimming with confidence heading into the season opener, and internally trying to extinguish the thoughts of you only seeing some vanilla defensive fronts in the preseason with a few blitzes sprinkled in for good measure. The Bucs defense won't be vanilla on Sept. 9, it will be Tooty-Fruity-Make-You-Loopy.
Tampa Bay defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin has made a career of helping destroy young quarterbacks' careers over the years. In Seattle, Jon Kitna's young career was flying high in 1999 and there was talk that the Seahawks would make the playoffs. Kiffin disguised coverages, blitzed unexpectedly, and at times flooded the defense's zones with seven defenders and rushing only four after faking young Kitna out by showing blitz.
Chicago's Cade McNown, Philadelphia's Donovan McNabb and Minnesota's Daunte Culpepper also had their struggles against the Bucs defense in their first seasons as starters.
Warren Sapp said it best on Wednesday when he suggested that the best thing Dallas coach Dave Campo can do is to have you handoff to Emmitt Smith all day. If Smith has 30-plus carries, there's a good chance that you'll leave Texas Stadium with your health, and perhaps a win under your belt. If you have to throw the ball 30 times, you'll definitely have a loss in your debut and you might not make it to pass attempt 31 if Sapp and Co. throw you to the turf enough.
So much has been made about you running a little bit of the option offense in Dallas. Quincy, the worst thing you and the coaching staff could have done was to let the Bucs know that that's in your playbook. You should have surprised them with it. The Bucs have practiced against the option for two weeks now and have it down pretty good. Tampa Bay has an old option quarterback in Joe Hamilton, who is probably faster and quicker than you, to go against in practice. This defense has been running the same scheme since Kiffin's arrival in 1996. It's a veteran group who has their assignments down pat. They won't be wasting any practice time preparing for it, even if you don't run it because they would have only been going over pretty much the same old stuff, anyways.
As I sign off, here's a few tips:
1. Don't hold on to the ball too long. If you do, you'll be screaming "The Red Coats Are Coming! The Red Coats Are Coming!" in your bad dreams Sunday night after you absorb a beating.
2. Don't listen to Warren Sapp. He'll try to intimidate you all day. Actually, he will intimidate you, and he'll remind you that you're helping him establish a new NFL sack record.
3. Don't lock onto a primary receiver. Donnie Abraham, Dexter Jackson, John Lynch and Ronde Barber are all capable ballhawks. They'll make you pay for looking their way.
4. Don't run the option. You seem to have a decent career in the NFL ahead of you. Let's not make it a short career. Please don't run the option. This is the fastest defense in football. It blows away anything Florida, Mississippi State or South Carolina had when you faced them in college.
In closing, a Tampa Bay Buccaneer will end up being the NFC Defensive Player of the Week in Week 1. It's up to you to pick which one. Hold onto the ball, and it's Simeon Rice. Listen to Warren, and you'll get Sapped. Lock on to a receiver, it could be Abraham or Lynch. Run the option, and it's Derrick Brooks or Jamie Duncan.
Good luck, Quincy, you'll need it.
Buccaneer Magazine editor-in-chief