Bucs cut Chandler and Haddix
The Tampa Bay Bucs cut their losses at quarterback on Tuesday, hoping it will finally make a winner out of Vinny Testaverde. Chris Chandler, who was 0-6 as a starter in Tampa Bay and who cost the Bucs next year's first-round draft pick, was waived in an attempt to boost Testaverde's sagging confidence, according to general manager Phil Krueger.
In another surprise move, the Bucs also on Tuesday waived cornerback Wayne Haddix, their lone selection to the Pro Bowl last season. The news stunned both Chandler and Haddix, whom the Bucs said they had been trying to trade since the beginning of the regular season. "It clears the way to take pressure off (Testaverde) to do everything he can to become successful," Krueger said of the decision to release Chandler. "That's exactly what the perception is and it's exactly what the perception should be."
Bucs head coach Richard Williamson took responsibility for the decision to release Chandler and Haddix, neither of whom are expected to clear waivers today.
Since neither contract is guaranteed, the Bucs will save about $402,000 by releasing Chandler and Haddix. Chandler was scheduled to earn a base salary of $525,000 this season while Haddix would have cashed $425,000 in base pay. In fact, the Bucs just paid the Pro Bowl cornerback a $25,000 roster bonus last week he was scheduled to earn after the eighth regular-season game. Both Krueger and Williamson said that financial constraint did not enter into the decisions.
Although Williamson said Chandler had earned the starting quarterback job over Testaverde two weeks ago, he was benched after committing three turnovers in five possessions against Green Bay and was demoted to the Bucs inactive third quarterback Sunday at Minnesota. Last week, Williamson criticized Chandler for making statements aimed at Testaverde that characterized the Heisman Trophy winner as "one guy who can be totally incompetent on the football field."
However, Williamson said Chandler's comments were not a factor in his decision to waive the 26-year-old quarterback - a position contradicted Tuesday by Krueger. "I think anytime in this business that you let personalities and statements in the National Football League becomes a reason that you make decisions on players, you'll be making decisions everyday," Williamson said. "Because this whole business is personalities and all these players are vocal and there are egos involved. That had nothing to do with the decision that was made today. I told both of them the same thing: I don't think their contributions will make us better at this point in time or in the future."
But Krueger said that Chandler's comments had been disruptive and were another factor in Tuesday's decision. "We didn't feel given the situation, that he could help us win," Krueger said. "Coupled with the controversial situation, that was just a little more thrown in there."
According to Krueger, the Bucs tried desperately to seek trades for Chandler and Haddix, but no offers were forthcoming. Krueger said he had asked for a second- or third-round draft pick in exchange for Chandler, but that he was willing to part with him for less. At least one team proposed a deal to acquire Haddix in exchange for another player, Krueger said, but decided not to go through with it just prior to the trading deadline. "I always start asking a little higher than what I'm willing to accept," Krueger said. "But I never asked for a first. It kind of surprised me that nothing materialized."
By placing Chandler on waivers, the Bucs will not be able to recoup anything from a deal with Indianapolis which will cost them what could become the first overall pick in the 1992 draft. Based on standings today, the Colts (0-9) would have the first pick in next year's draft, with Tampa Bay, Cincinnati and San Diego (all 1-8) close behind.
Krueger said he also expected a fallout for failing to trade Haddix, who signed with the Bucs as a free agent last season and was selected to the Pro Bowl after recording seven interceptions - three of which he returned for touchdowns. "These thing were all discussed," Krueger said. "I know it's not a popular (decision). I think you know my IQ is not gone. I realize the implications. But sometimes you've got to do things that aren't popular."
Despite being demoted to third string last week behind Testaverde and free agent Jeff Carlson, the move apparently caught Chandler off guard. He was summoned to Williamson's office Tuesday morning when he arrived at One Buc Place to study film of the Detroit Lions. "It was a total shock," Chandler said. "I never expected this at all."
Chandler said things got off to a bad start almost as soon as he was acquired by the Bucs as an insurance policy by then head coach Ray Perkins. "I really didn't know what to expect," Chandler said. "I thought might be some competitition between myself and Vinny during training camp this season. I had no problem with the way things were going. But once it was said I'd earned the right to start, I felt I wasn't given a total chance at it. When they said I'd earned a chance to start, I wanted it to be more than a game or two."
While Chandler lost all six games he started for Tampa Bay, only one of those chances came at home. During that stretch, the Bucs were 3-18, with one of those victories credited to Chandler in relief. But Chandler's frustration over being pulled out of the Green Bay game two weeks ago prompted him to lash out for the second time this season against Testaverde - statements he apologized for on Monday.
Chandler said he didn't think the outbursts were a big factor in the Bucs waiving him. "I don't know. I'd be suprised if had lot to do with it," Chandler said. "I tried to apologize for what I said. A lot of it was said out of frustration and shouldn't have been. The only thing I can say is I don't know what reason their reason is. They have their business decisions and decided to make one. That's life in the NFL."
Chandler said he said little during his meeting with Williamson on Tuesday. "What was the point?" he said. "It's kind of like arguing strike three."
Haddix rarely got to bat for the Bucs this season. He missed nearly all of training camp during a contract dispute and had trouble adjusting to the Bucs new scheme under defensive coordinator Floyd Peters and lost his starting job to Carl Carter, whom the team claimed off waivers from Cincinnati.
Haddix also reported to camp out of shape and missed three weeks with a nagging hamstring injury before returning to the lineup as the Bucs seventh defensive back Sunday at Minnesota. "I was shocked," Haddix said. "It's something I didn't expect. I wasn't even thinking about getting cut. I knew I wasn't playing and I knew I was in the doghouse, but I that would work itself out. I think it was an economic decision that was made. I know I was playing inconsistently when the season started, but half the team was playing inconsistently."
Agent Steve Austin said Haddix had a personality conflict with Bucs secondary coach Steve Shafer. "Shafer was never going to play Wayne Haddix," Austin said, "because he doesn't like him. That's it. You've got a guy like Shafer, who's on a sinking ship, and you've got a group that ha a seige mentality. They're constantly looking like they're going to be fired."
Shafer denied he had any personal problems with Haddix and indicated he would've preferred to keep the Pro Bowl cornerback on the Bucs roster until next season. "I wish I would've had him in training camp and we could've worked on all the skills and all the schemes and competed," Shafer said. "And then at the end of that time period, if he isn't more productive than he's been at this point, then I'd send him down the road."
By waiving Chandler, Williamson said he is prepared to go with Carlson as his backup and rookie Pat O'Hara as the third quarterback. Carlson has played in basically just one regular season NFL game in three pro seasons while O'Hara threw just nine passes in his college career at USC. "I think potential-wise, (Carlson) gives us a chance to do some things in the future," Williamson said.
But Williamson still defended the Bucs trade last season for Chandler. "I don't think making the trade was a mistake," Williamson said. "What happened was, it just didn't turn out."
Does Williamson think trading Chandler will revitalize Testaverde? "I hope whatever he does, however he feels, makes him better," Williamson said.
Rick Stroud, The St.Petersburg Times November 1991