Why the Bucs are so bad and the Saints are so good
Well there has to be a reason why New Orleans is 11-0 and the Bucs are not. Why the score was 38-7 Saints two weeks ago. Well there has to be doesn't there?
You can talk about bad coaching, bad drafting or poor performance all you like. But the Bucs are not the only really bad team in the NFL right now and the Saints are not the only truly outstanding one.
And as far as I am concerned, it comes down to the salary cap. And the fact that it is not a concern right now to most teams.
The cap was introduced to the NFL in the mid 1990s to promote more of a level playing field, the "Any Given Sunday" mantra that was so dear to former Commissioner Pete Rozelle. It prevented certain teams from spending wildly to hog all the talent like happens in Major League Baseball.
And it is also prevented the legendary cheap owners, Hugh Culverhouse being one, from not spending enough to make their teams competitive. And it worked as every NFL team made the playoffs in the first decade of its operation.
Remember the Bucs' Super Bowl team of 2002? Keenan McCardell was released by the Jaguars in June 2002 in a desperate cap move and the Bucs signed the veteran receiver as a free agent. Two touchdowns in San Diego later ....
But right now the salary cap is high enough that practically every team, even the wild-spending Washington Redskins, have no problem in staying within its confines. When was the last time you saw a player released due to cap issues?
And hence the level of free agent eligible players each year has gone downhill steadily and the so-called big games from 2009 free agency, Haynesworth, Houshmandzadeh and the like, have been big in name and short in performance.
So without the artificial levelling of the playing field, the good have become better and the poor poorer. Hence we have more really excellent teams than ever before (Saints, Colts, Vikings and Chargers), and half-a-dozen really poor ones (Bucs, Chiefs, Raiders, Lions, Browns and Rams).
The impending problem round a new Collective Bargaining Agreement for 2010 is currently putting a hold on almost every contract extension around the NFL and only Jay Cutler and DeMarcus Ware have signed long-term deals in the past year. Until the CBA isssue is resolved, no-one is prepared to make any kind of commitment.
So for the present time, the chances of the Bucs staging a dramatic turnaround revolve solely around the draft. Because there is no magical free agent to turn things around and this is a boat that every other struggling NFL team currently finds itself in.
Paul Stewart, TBO.com, December 2009