Time to draw the curtain on Wyche's act
Sam Wyche admits he "didn't have the team ready." Tampa Bay's coach was "embarrassed" over Sunday's flimsy first-half emotion and deadly ineptitudes of his Bucs, as Minnesota bulled ahead 28-7. Tampa Bay's spunk escalated in the third quarter. It must've. I mean, how often does a quarterback get ejected for fighting? Trent Dilfer did. Who was the last? Jim McMahon? Bobby Layne?

But back to Sam. After the Vikings strolled to a 31-17 win, Tampa Bay's fifth loss in six games, Wyche did some self-assessment. "I think it's just me," he said. "I didn't push the right buttons."

Somebody must. Next button that should be pushed by Bucs owners Malcolm, Bryan and Joel Glazer, along with general manager Rich McKay, should be eject. It is now obvious. This has to be Wyche's last season as Bucs head coach. As a community, we can only hope, against increasingly scary odds, that it won't be Tampa Bay's final season in the NFL.

So much is at stake: new stadium, franchise credibility, Bucs artistic and geographical future. As businessmen, if not sportsmen, the Glazers and McKay should be ravenous for positive strokes. Let's take a vote. What do you think?

Wyche likely will suggest that I, or any such negative critic, is an amateurish jerk for asking that he be fired. Realism isn't one of his strengths. How could anybody take a fair look at the Bucs over their past half-dozen games and conclude that this is a team absolutely aimed for good times?

Sam is a unique study. To Shakespeare, all the world was a stage. To Wyche, football seems more a drama than a sport. With him, almost everything seems to be an act. Think about it. At times, his Bucs theater has worked, even becoming hopeful, like this year's 5-2 start. Or last season's upbeat 4-1 finish. But too often, in their most decisive scenes, Sam's actors forget their lines and go stumbling about. Are they ineffectively cued?

Tampa Bay audiences understandably boo. Wyche is producer, director and responsible. Before this Bucs show gets closed in Tampa, moving after 20 seasons to a new stage in a new town, it must be rebuilt. To have any hope. Sam is where you start.

His 22-39 record (.360) makes Wyche the winningest coach in Bucs history, if winningest is really apropos. Having wilted from their jubilant 5-2 start of October, to the akin-to-hopeless 6-7 of now, Tampa Bay and its situation cries for dramatic change.

This won't be easy. It never is. If the Bucs do change coaches, which they must, it will mean new ideas, new systems, new relationships, new philosophies and new mentalities. Tampa Bay's team must take a step backward before attempting to leap forward.

Wyche caught a break last season. His job was saved by a 4-1 windup to 1994 plus a slow, evolving change of team ownership from the estate of Hugh Culverhouse to the Glazers. By the time Malcolm and sons had control, it was no time to even consider such a move. Although, if the Tom Shannon group had gained ownership of the Bucs, an immediate coaching change was planned.

Then along comes a 5-2 start in 1995. Added to the 1994 finish, it meant nine wins in 12 Tampa Bay games. Wyche's Bucs were operating with Dilfer as a first-year QB. They were playing opportunistic if not dazzling football. Oh, how that has changed.

At 6-7, the Bucs are long shots for a winning season. Even a break-even 8-8 will be challenging. A 7-9 bottom line is a good guess. Most humiliating of all would be a continuing slide that winds up in a 6-10 record, a 13th consecutive Tampa Bay double-digit-loss year.

Tampa Bay's owners and GM should act. If not now, at season's end. But whom might they hire? Not only do the Bucs need an effective motivator, stabilizer and football mind, this franchise has a huge marketing need for a leader who can win hearts and sell seats. They'll not get Jimmy Johnson. Steve Spurrier should be their overwhelming target. There are other sensible choices, but I'm not sure any of them can significantly juice ticket sales. Especially Sam Wyche.

Hubert Mizell, The St.Petersburg Times 1995