The big news this week is that Arron Sears is back. What is still at issue is why he was gone so long. It will probably be some time before we get a straight answer, as Sears and the Bucs have been tight-lipped throughout this saga.
So what should the Bucs do with Sears once his two-week roster exemption is complete? Well, they won't release him. They've been steadfastly in Sears' corner since this saga began. The larger question is whether or not he should be placed in the starting lineup immediately.
I'm of the opinion that Sears is the second-best lineman on the team behind center Jeff Faine. Yes, I think Sears is better than RG Davin Joseph, who is no slouch. Sears is a more punishing run blocker and less of a liability in pass coverage. And Sears is definitely better than Jeremy Zuttah, who has done yeoman's work as Sears' replacement.
I think putting Sears into the starting lineup would be a good idea, if he's in shape to handle a full game. Think about it – if Sears is better than both Joseph and Zuttah, then he should play if he's in shape. In a lost season such as this, there is no reason to sit Sears at this point. Let him play and get reacquainted with his linemates and start building chemistry toward 2010.
We'll know in two weeks whether or not Sears is ready to perform. I think it would be disappointing to find out he's not ready, given the slack the team has given him the past several months. I would think there would be an expectation that Sears would have stayed in shape.
I can't decide what to think about Raheem Morris' assertion that he doesn't have the personnel he needs on defense. On one hand, that seems like a given. This was a Cover 2 team before he turned the defense over to Jim Bates, who likes his personnel bigger and more physical. It's not like you turn that around overnight in the NFL.
On the other, I do think it seems like he's whining a little bit, or at the very least trying to keep a clamp on expectations going into 2010. He says they're going to evaluate every player on defense going into next season. Don't teams do that anyway? One wonders if Morris is truly aware of how long it might take to get this team turned around, in which case he may be seeking to make sure everyone around the Bucs understands that. I don't think anyone is going to confuse the 2010 Bucs with the 2009 Bengals. But everyone expects these Bucs to be better next year. So why not just coach them up for seven more games and see who cuts the mustard for next year, Raheem? As that great philosopher Toby Keith once sang, "A little less talk and a lot more action."
Oh, and Morris will be $20K lighter in the wallet, if what he told the media on Wednesday is any indication. Apparently the NFL saw fit to fine him $20,000 for his conduct toward officials during the Dolphins loss last Sunday. You may remember that play as the one in which Morris was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct after a potential reception for Michael Clayton was instead ruled an interception. Oh, and Morris said he cursed at the officials.
Well, that will do it. You have to go easy on the swears.
Jon Gruden is now firmly entrenched at ESPN. That new multi-year deal doesn't rule him out of taking a head coaching job one day, but it certainly appears as if he's taken to being a talking head. Some coaches bounce back and forth between TV and coaching (see Lou Holtz and Jimmy Johnson), and I see Gruden in that category. The contract affords him a nice salary and the luxury of waiting for the "right job." In other words, not Buffalo.
Time to check in Tampa Bay's draft placement, a weekly feature here in the Dime Package.
Tampa Bay, Cleveland, Detroit and St. Louis are locked in a tie for dead last in the NFL with one win each. Kansas City broke their way out of the tie with a win on Sunday. According to the standings on NFL.com, the Bucs are dead dead last (or at least that's how the standings read). So does that mean they would get the first overall pick if the season ended today?
As we mentioned before, strength of schedule breaks the tie in this situation. So you have to look at the records of each of the opponents for each of these four teams thus far (in other words, only the opponents they've played so far). Here's how it breaks down:
Tampa Bay: .506; Cleveland: .555; St. Louis: .580; Detroit: .580.
So, for right now, the Bucs have the No. 1 overall pick, thanks to having the worst strength of schedule. But things are about to get tricky. The Bucs face the Saints this week and that will inflate their strength of schedule rating. The Rams and Lions have already played the Saints. In fact, the Rams get the double whammy. They're the only one of the four teams that has both undefeated teams on their schedule this year, which helps inflate their strength of schedule. The Lions have the 9-0 Saints and the 8-1 Vikings (twice) on their schedule.
If you're the Bucs, you want the Saints and the Colts to keep right on rolling so they'll keep the Rams and Lions out of the mix for the No. 1 pick, should they tie. And if you look at the rest of the Bucs' schedule, it's pretty inviting, in terms of strength of schedule. Aside from the Saints, each of the Bucs' remaining opponents are around .500, which will help keep the Bucs' strength of schedule on the low side.
So if you're a Bucs fan, you're rooting for the Bucs to keep right on losing.
Former Bucs assistant coach and current Bears head coach Lovie Smith could be in danger of losing his job, in my opinion. It won't be his fault, though. The Bears defense is aging and their offense isn't talented enough to move the ball effectively.
The Bears have a great deal invested in QB Jay Cutler. I wonder if the offseason might see the Bears fire Smith and take a shot at hiring Mike Shanahan, who mentored Cutler in Denver. For the QB, it would be a fantastic move, frankly. Shanahan has enough moxie to get him the personnel he needs to be successful. The only problem would be talking GM Jerry Angelo into taking a lesser role in the franchise. Shanahan likes to have the final say.
BTW, kudos to the Bills for finally ending the Dick Jauron experiment. Anyone who gives this guy a head coaching job willingly should be committed.
And Jauron is not the only head that will roll this year, either. Remember, Shanahan, Mike Holmgren and Bill Cowher are still out there. And Tony Dungy. And Brian Billick.
I think the Bucs' next real chance for a win will come next Sunday against Atlanta. The Falcons will really miss Michael Turner.
I'm 8-1 going into this week's game. That is, the direct opposite of the Bucs' 1-8 record. It's pretty easy to make the choice when the New Orleans Saints come to town. QB Drew Brees always torches the Bucs. It'll be a laugher. Saints 48, Bucs 10. Give your tickets to that brother-in-law you hate.