I feel like the Billy Mays-lookalike guy in that Bud Light "Tailgate Tested, Tailgate Approved" commercial. The Bucs have won two in a row? Whaaaaaaaaaaa!
The Saints seem to be losing their grip on what made them a great team for the first three months of this season. Still, I don't think they underestimated the Bucs going into that game. After that Dallas loss, the Saints should have been sharp, and quite frankly, ticked off. And for the first quarter of that game, that's exactly how they looked.
But give the Bucs credit for a couple of things. First, they made the necessary defensive adjustments to frustrate the Saints offensively. Playoff teams are going to look at that game film and see some things they can try against New Orleans in January. Second, the Bucs didn't abandon the run, something they've been guilty of this season. The Saints run defense is the weak link in that unit, and offensive coordinator Greg Olson kept feeding Cadillac Williams the ball, and it worked.
I was in Raymond James Stadium the day MIcheal Spurlock ended 30 years of kickoff return frustration and scored the Bucs' first kickoff return for a touchdown. I would argue that his punt return for a touchdown against the Saints – less than two weeks after being re-signed by the Bucs – was a bigger play. I don't think the Bucs were going to tie that game with QB Josh Freeman leading a two-minute offense.
To win games like that against great teams you have to get a break or two. The Bucs should send Saints PK Garrett Hartley a thank you card. The Saints may have made a big mistake cutting Jon Carney. Hartley may not be ready for the pressure cooker. Of course, there aren't many kickers in the NFL that are. Look around at how many have been cut the past few weeks.
And for those of you that are wondering when the Saints might re-sign Carney, they can't, nor can any other team for the balance of this season. Since the Saints signed Carney as a kicking consultant right after they cut him, he's ineligible to return to an active playing role until next season. So the Saints are now stuck with Hartley, a kicker they may be losing confidence in after two sub-standard weeks at home.
The Bucs did not get a Pro Bowl nod this year. Not that I was really expecting anyone do earn a nod. But it's pretty criminal how the voters have ignored LB Barrett Ruud the past few years. Hopefully the Bucs don't ignore Ruud this offseason when it comes to giving him a new contract. If they do, they'll miss a key building block on defense for a long time.
The head-coaching wish list is dwindling, if you believe what you hear. Mike Holmgren has already taken the head coaching job – I mean, the "team president" job in Cleveland. Mike Shanahan seems like a lock for the Washington job, and if the Panthers do fire John Fox, Bill Cowher will likely get that job.
The odds are looking better that Bucs head coach Raheem Morris will get a second year as head coach. But you can bet if that happens that the leash will be mighty tight.
Of course, Cowher may not end up in Carolina, if you believe NFL.com's new big-wig reporter, Jason LaCanfora. He reported on Sunday that the Bucs organization has contacted Cowher's representatives about his interest in the Bucs. Credit Cowher for setting precise ground rules for potential job interviews. He won't talk about jobs that are filled and he won't interview for jobs until after the regular season is concluded. Here's a guy that respects his fellow coaches.
The Glazers are notoriously tight-lipped about these things. Like with the Gruden firing, I wouldn't expect to hear much in advance, nor would I expect the Glazers to make a move unless they've already gotten their new selection to agree to come to Tampa Bay before they fire Morris. Given Cowher's criteria, that kind of eliminates him as a suspect, doesn't it?
Bruce Allen is now the new general manager in Washington. I've heard a lot of people make a big deal out of Allen being a "football guy." Being the son of a former Redskins head coach does not necessarily make you a football guy. However, he is the perfect guy for THIS job.
Why? Shanahan is going to be the head coach and de facto GM. Allen is there for two reasons – to take questions (and give vague answers, as he did in Tampa Bay) and to massage the salary cap and get contracts done (which, to be fair, is a skill Allen possesses in spades – remember, Allen never had a holdout as Bucs GM and he did accelerate the Bucs' escape from cap purgatory). Allen is the football version of Queen Elizabeth – you trot him out for state dinners and parades, but the heavy governing is left to the prime minister. That's how it worked in Tampa Bay with Jon Gruden and that's how it will work with Shanahan in Washington.
Now, if for some reason Shanahan isn't the head coach, this is going to blow up in Redskins owner Daniel Snyder's face. The stumbling block won't be money. We all know that Snyder treats money like fireplace kindling. The REAL reason this doesn't get done is if Shanahan doesn't feel he has the necessary power to make decisions and chisel this football team in his image.
Which is EXACTLY why Allen is the perfect GM.
Time for our latest edition of the 2010 NFL No. 1 Overall Draft Pick Derby. The Bucs have pretty much blown their shot at the pick.
With the win over the Saints, the Bucs cannot claim the No. 1 overall pick, which up until Week 15 they had every right to take. But thanks to two victories in a row, the Bucs are now the No. 3 overall selection, and there's still one more game for the Bucs to hurt their position further.
The Rams are still No. 1 and will likely have the first shot at whatever they want. That may not necessarily be Nebraska DT Ndamukong Suh, who many see as the draft's No. 1 player. The Rams really need a young quarterback to groom, and they may take a chance on drafting Oklahoma QB Sam Bradford, bum shoulder and all.
So Suh could drop, but I don't see him dropping past Detroit at No. 2, which is where the 2-13 Lions are now. The Bucs are No. 3, with their strength of schedule putting them ahead of Kansas City. Now, if the Bucs win on Sunday against Atlanta, they could drop out of the Top 5 entirely, depending upon how things shake out. I'm not saying the Bucs should "throw" the game. But it would be nice to see Atlanta play the way it did against Buffalo on Sunday and keep the Bucs at three wins. A loss like that would be better for the team's long-term future.
Oh, and just so you know. Right now Notre Dame QB Jimmy Clausen is No. 3 on Scout.com draft analyst Chris Steuber's overall draft rankings. Too bad Gruden isn't around. It would be fun to watch him salivate over Clausen for four months and then NOT select him.
Unlike the Bucs, I've lost my last two games to drop to 12-3 (I listed my record as 12-3 last week, but I guess that was more Nostradamus than getting ahead of myself). I'm trying to make like Vince Cellini and finish up strong, but this weekend's finale with Atlanta is a tricky one. Neither team has anything to play for, plus a win by Tampa Bay probably damages their draft position. Also, the Bucs played these guys close in Atlanta, and RB Michael Turner will likely be on the sideline again. This is more of a passing team now in Atlanta, and the Bucs are stopping the pass better now. Still, I can't quite bring myself to do it. Falcons 23, Bucs 20.