Where are we, Buccaneers fans? A very bad place
The smart fans were gone by now, fleeing the scene of the latest misery in the desperate speed of a convict whose cell did not lock. If they hurried, perhaps they could get away before the security guards made them watch any more.
A few hundred fans remained, most of them in blue jerseys, squeezing the last smirks and the last taunts out of an afternoon that had belonged to them. This was their house now, and their day, and just like everything else, there was nothing the Bucs could do about it.
For the Bucs, this is their place in the world now. They live in a dark, lonely place somewhere between despair and sorrow, just down the street from hell's garbage dump. There is a gas leak in the yard, and up above, the lightning just keeps flashing.
Yeah, it's an ugly neighborhood, and by the week, it is getting worse. Tampa Bay is 0-3 now, and a bad start is about to turn into a bad year. After the way the Giants manhandled the Bucs 24-0, no criticism is too harsh and no doubts are misplaced.
Three games in, and the Bucs are winless. And helpless. And hopeless. And clueless. And no, they do not look like a team that is getting better.
For most of Sunday afternoon, the Giants did pretty much whatever the Giants wanted to do. It was like watching the 1985 Bears play, say, Southwestern Louisiana. The Giants were like weightlifters playing with Silly Putty, squeezing and shaping the Bucs however they wanted. There was never a series, never a down, when it did not feel as if the Giants were in control.
"They outmanned us, outgunned us, outcoached us," Bucs coach Raheem Morris said. "They were more physical. They were bigger. They were faster. They were tougher on all aspects of the game. Every single one."
The worst part? There was nothing, not a play and not a player, to make you think next week will be any better. Or the one after. That was the worst part of this loss. The Bucs simply didn't compete. For the record, Morris said he wasn't embarrassed. For the record, he should have been.
You know where we are today? We're back in 1985, watching Leeman Bennett on his way to 2-14. I know, I know. For Morris, the model was supposed to be 1996, Tony Dungy's first season. But back in '96, the Bucs began to show some improvement — and closer losses — by Week 3. And they had young players such as Derrick Brooks, Warren Sapp and John Lynch on defense. You see any of those kinds of players this year? Me, neither.
You know where we are? We're back in 1987, waiting for the head coach to decide when it's time to start the No. 1 draft pick at quarterback. After all, what else is worth talking about, except for maybe next year's draft pick? For the record, Vinny Testaverde started for the first time in Week 9.
You know where we are? We're back in 1993, when the Bucs were looking at Eric Curry to be their pass rusher. These days, Gaines Adams is playing the role of Curry. He's invisible, too.
When a season turns flashback bad, it is a sad team. But consider this: The Bucs have been 0-3 11 times, and only one other time — in 1993 — have they lost all three games by double digits.
And so it goes, underachievers and disappointments. To be honest, you also have to wonder about the accountability of this team. Kellen Winslow had nothing to say, again, after this loss. Derrick Ward wouldn't talk. And, no, this isn't a whine about not having quotes; it's an observation that every great leader I have ever covered — Brooks, Lynch, Ronde Barber, Mike Alstott, Dave Andreychuk — knew that part of being a leader was standing up and talking after a rotten game.
When it comes to rotten, yeah, this one qualified. You call that an offense? For goodness' sake, the Bucs were like a car stuck in a ditch. For the first 50 minutes, the Bucs gained 35 yards and had one first down against a run defense that, frankly, had been as bad as the Bucs' during the first two weeks. Byron Leftwich completed only seven passes, none to a wide receiver, and left with a rating of 25.0. The running backs ran seven times for 10 yards.
You call that a defense? The temptation is to think of this game as an improvement, because the Bucs didn't have the huge breakdowns of the first two games. Still, the Giants had 397 yards. Think about that. That's 1,297 in three games, which would be bad even for a four-game total.
So it goes on, the bad play and the bad crowds and the bad outlook. Soon, there will be talk of blackouts. Soon, there will be talk of quarterbacks. Soon, there will be talk of draft picks. Two more losses, three at the most, and there will be talk of locusts.
Gary Shelton, The St.Petersburg Times 27 September 2009