Unhappy New Year, Bucs To Their Fans
Tom McEwen, The Tampa Tribune, published 1 January 2007

Over your burned over too long eggs broken over lump grits-day old—burned toast and oleo, glass of buttermilk and weak coffee, these greetings!

So the Tampa Bay Buccaneers wished their loyal fans on the Eve of 2007, with that lousy effort in the 23-7 drubbing by Seattle Sunday. Dreadful, it was.

Just an awful holiday mistreatment at a reportedly sold out, but very nearly empty Raymond James Stadium before the last unsuccessful effort of the bum afternoon — to get the ball away from a team that was ahead 23-7 and anxious to get on their plane and get home — to get home with a good win that give the Seahawks a winning season, a division title and movies to watch of the outhouse beating just dealt the Buckados.

It was a game unworthy of these rostered Bucs, and this staff, headed by Jon Gruden who pretty much agreed with this assessment and that added ingredient of a fine game by Seattle, its solid quarterback, Matt Hasselbeck, who played like the Buc faithful want their quarterback to play. In this game, it was, again, Tim Rattay, a game guy, but who isn’t likely to be the starter next year. Gruden wants the quarterback to be Chris Simms, who is now recovered from a busted spleen. He has the genes, and the equipment, and looked good pre-game on the field. He said he will be fine for next year. But, the truth is, he remains regular-season unproven.

No, Coach Gruden isn’t going anywhere, of his own volition. He likened his circumstance to golf, and his still being on the course playing. Thought here is ownership, the Malcolm Glazer family, won’t make a change. Plenty say they should. Not me. Not yet. Got to have more time. Got to have this big draft ahead, this good-sized treasury in the bank, and a change in his offensive schemes.

He does it all now. Maybe too much. It certainly isn’t payback for all the money the fans pay to see these games, then buy what you buy at the stadium at those prices.Word is seat prices will go up this off-season. Surely an increase is not merited if judged on performance. It will be made on the come, if it is made at all.

A special pity was that this game was to be in part a tribute foremost to fullback Mike Alstott, a fine player for 11 years, and a genuine hometown hero, and to center-tight Dave Moore, both fishing friends of mine. Alstott fumbled twice, could get nowhere with the football, and Moore fumbled once, perhaps the outcome-turner.

It was close and QB Rattay hit him perfectly over the middle. He ran full steam for the touchdown, it seemed, but was hit inside the five, hit a couple more times and fumbled the ball. It stopped the Bucs from taking, perhaps, a 14-10 lead, and led to a Seattle lead of 17-7. Moore, the long-snapper for punts and field goals, is a smart, reliable player and person.

He’s not likely to forget that one. It also was a blow to the loyal fans on this New Year’s Eve game. What looked like a cause for a holiday celebration was holocaustic — the start of the Buc blowout by Seattle, and that was what it became. It was just terrible for good-guy Alstott and others, who played hard and well.

Yes, the Bucs have a core of good players, money and draft picks, including one in the first round now with the loss. They need a lot — better quarterbacking, which may be rostered now with Simms and Rattay. No, not Bruce Gradkowski, the ill-advised Gruden choice of starter a few games back, over Rattay.

The Bucs have a cadre of veterans and young players, and again, dough to spend under the overall salary cap. Veterans who played very well against Seattle were corner Ronde Barber, linebackers Shelton Quarles and Derrick Brooks, center John Wade, punter Josh Bidwell and FG man Matt Bryant. He missed one Sunday against Seattle he should have made but don’t forget the 60-plus yarder that beat Philadelphia.

The Buc future is bright, a reason Gruden has no plans to leave and I do not believe ownership has the inclination to dismiss him. But he should be on a search for personal humility. Can’t always be above the rest all the time. Buc fans and friends want to help, Coach. And, again, practically, who would replace him?

Bring in a new guy and he’d promise a winner in three years. All do. Gruden has the players, ability, place to play (how about that weather?), owners and fans to get it done. My gosh, but this is a great place to live and work, and with the workplace, the fine fans, and the associates Jon Gruden has. Not those Seattle guys.

Frankly, some thought the weather, the heat, the humidity would make a difference, as it has at times in the past, and may have had that effect if the game had not turned with the Dave Moore fumble when it was only 10-7, visitors. “It is brutal,” said Seattle’s great running back Shaun Alexander, of the weather. “I think is was more brutal because we played in snow, we played in freezing temperatures, we played in rain, and a wind storm and to come out here and play and play in this last game of the season, it was great, but it definitely, took your body time to deal with things.”

That said, the Bucs should have won, to give their patrons a far, far happier New Year than a 23-7 drubbing on its eve. Bah, humbug, Buccaneers.