SR's Fab Five

December 15 - Forecasting the future in Tampa Bay is tough, the Bucs lucked out when Rod Marinelli got passed over at Cal, Tampa Bay is a slow starter, the Bucs vs. Saints contest is a playoff eliminator, and KJ is the man this year. Here's another installment of SR's Fab Five.

Here's five things that caught my interest this week:

1. With the season winding down, I've been asked a lot of questions about what the Bucs will do in the offseason. Will Clyde Christensen be fired? Will Tony Dungy be fired? Will Bill Parcells coach in Tampa next year? Will Warrick Dunn be re-signed? Will Mike Alstott be traded? Will Jamie Duncan be re-signed? Will the Bucs draft a wide receiver with their No. 1 pick?

All good questions. All impossible to answer right now.

If Dungy is fired and Parcells becomes the head coach, the personnel on this team would change drastically. Parcells may not re-sign Dunn, trade Alstott and go with a different running back altogether. If Dungy sticks around for another year, he'll likely want to re-sign Dunn and probably keeps Alstott. This uncertainty makes it very difficult to forecast the Bucs' decisions in free agency and the draft. Tampa Bay's current coaching staff likes smallish, quick defensive linemen. The next regime may prefer bigger, stouter defensive linemen.

Here's what I think may happen. Based on the woes of the offense this year, the entire offensive staff may be fired by Rich McKay or the Glazers - not Dungy - after the season. Dungy may not like that, just as he did not like firing Mike Shula after the 1999 season, but he may have to accept that to keep his job. Dungy is a hands-off coach who gives his coordinators free reign to call the offense and the defense. The Glazers may take advantage of that, and literally hand him a new offensive staff and system with McKay's input and little input from Tony himself.

If Dungy were to balk and not want to fire his assistants then the Glazers thank him for playing, give him a nice parting gift, show him the door and hire Parcells, Steve Spurrier or another head coach.

2. The dynamics of the Buccaneers coaching staff really changed on Wednesday when the University of California hired Oregon offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford instead of Tampa Bay defensive line coach Rod Marinelli. Marinelli was a finalist for the head coaching position at Cal, but told the university that he would not be able to leave until the Buccaneers' season had concluded. This obviously cuts into potential recruiting time and Cal needed their man, which turned out to be Tedford, right away.

Not only does it mean that Marinelli likely stays on through next year, if there is not a head coaching change in the offseason, but it also means that his son-in-law, Bucs linebackers coach Joe Barry, will likely stay on board. There was some speculation that he might follow Marinelli to Cal and take an assistant coaching position or a coordinator position there.

Although Marinelli was passed over for the Cal job, he is considered one of the league's top defensive line coaches and might be in line for a defensive coordinator's position in the NFL next spring.

3. Here's an interesting stat for you. The Bucs have only scored 16 total points in the first quarter of their first 12 games this season. That's hard to fathom - only 16 points. Tampa Bay is the ultimate slow starter, but that doesn't only apply to the first half. Coming out of the tunnel after halftime, the Bucs have only scored 47 total points in the third quarter this season. There must be something about odd quarters.

In the even quarters - the second and fourth quarters - the Bucs have fared much, much better. The second quarter has been Tampa Bay's strongest of the season, with the team scoring 91 points in that quarter. The Bucs have scored 81 in the fourth quarter.

Not surprisingly, Tampa Bay has been outscored 30-16 in the first quarter and 72-47 in the third. But the Bucs have outscored their foes 91-43 in the second quarter and 81-57 in the fourth quarter.

4. The Bucs vs. Saints game at Raymond James Stadium on December 23 might be the most important game of the season's remaining four games. This week's contest at Chicago is key because it is an NFC game, as is the season finale on January 6 at home against Philadelphia.

But while the Bears or Green Bay Packers seem poised to win the NFC Central division and the loser likely securing a Wild Card berth, and the Eagles are in the driver's seat in the NFC East, the Bucs will probably need a head-to-head win against the 7-5 Saints to secure a Wild Card playoff spot. The loser of the NFC West showdown between St. Louis and San Francisco also in the running for a Wild Card game, the loser of this game could likely be on the outside of the playoff picture looking in come January 7. And don't forget that Washington and Atlanta, both 6-6, are still hanging around.

5. In the world of sports journalism, reporters are supposed to be objective, fair and impartial. We here at Buccaneer Magazine strive for this objectivity even though we have a vested interest in the team's win-loss record.

Let's face it. Everybody loves a winner, and the more wins this team complies the more subscribers we get, which is great from a business standpoint. We've had our share of subscribers cancel or not renew their subscription because the team lost a game it should have one or the offense is too conservative, not because of our writing or coverage.

That being said, we are a bit more partial than other media outlets who cover the team, but that doesn't cloud our objectivity. We have been just as critical as our media counterparts regarding the Buccaneers and have had confrontations with players and coaches who have been angered by something negative or critical that we have written. We may have a rooting interest in the team, but Buccaneer Magazine is not a sugar-coated homer publication - that's for sure.

It is with that disclaimer that I say that I have the utmost adoration for the talents of Bucs wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson, who thankfully scored his first touchdown of the season at the most opportune time last week in Tampa Bay's 15-12 comeback win over Detroit. I respect Johnson's grit, toughness, work ethic and consistent production despite constant double-teaming and the pounding he routinely takes going across the middle.

I remember when I first met Johnson at his inaugural press conference. I thought he was a cocky, arrogant punk based on the things that I had heard and read from his days in New York with the Jets. As it turns out, those were misrepresentations of Johnson by the vicious New York media. When I spoke with him at length at his first mini-camp, he came across as genuine, nice, charming and brutality honest. He wouldn't shy away from a question, just as he doesn't shy away from contact on the football field.

Johnson is a very private individual who does several discreet charitable deeds without fanfare or notoriety. He is not a cancer in the locker room, in fact he's quite the opposite as several players gravitate towards him. He's one of the most popular players in the locker room and is as laid back and easy-going as his Southern California roots.

He has told me of his several injuries this season while not making them publicly known, and how they have affected his play. His deep thigh bruises, knee contusions, ankle and foot sprains. His hip pointer and bruised back. His severely bruised ribs that literally prevented him from extending his arms and jumping up for what would have been his first touchdown catch of the season against Chicago.

Few knew that his ribs hurt so bad that he couldn't extend his arms out to prevent a costly interception in the waning minutes of the game on a Brad Johnson pass that was thrown just a little too far in front of KJ. Few knew the pain he played with for the better part of 60 minutes against the Bears, yet he still managed to set a team record with a 12-catch game.

Keyshawn is one tough son-of-a-gun and easily the team's most valuable player this year. Love him for his production or hate him for his cockiness, ask yourself where the Bucs would be without his presence on the football field this season. How many wins would the Bucs have without No. 19 this year? When you think of it like that it's easy to really admire and appreciate his 93 catches for 1,077 yards this season.

BONUS: We received a letter from Michelle Dungy, one of Tony Dungy's family members a few weeks ago, which we published in Buccaneer Magazine's Voices From The Grandstand. We've also received other letters from family members of players and coaches, including Brad Culpepper's mother a few years ago.

The Voices segment is the most popular section of Buccaneer Magazine and is well-read by the Bucs players and coaches. We send 300 issues to One Buc Place every Monday and the locker room is littered with our publication (including the bathroom stalls). So if you want to voice your opinion on the team, Bucs players or coaches, drop us a letter or an e-mail and we'll publish it in Voices.

Send your comments to:

Voices c/o Buccaneer Magazine
14823 N. Florida Ave.
Tampa, FL 33613

Or e-mail me at sreynold@tampabay.rr.com or BucMag@fdn.com


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