It's over, but is he out
Rick Stroud, The St.Petersburg Times, published 23 December 1991

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are not the most putrid team in the National Football League. That distinction shamefully belongs to the Indianapolis Colts, who stole the title Sunday from the biggest losers in league history. In a game ornamented with seven giveaways, the Bucs proved they do not belong on the bottom of the 28-team heap. They're standing on the Colts' shoulders.

The Bucs did it by beating a dead horse, sacking Indianapolis quarterback Jeff George five times in a 17-3 win over the Colts before 28,043 in the Regretta-Bowl at Tampa Stadium. The crowd was the second-smallest ever for a Bucs non-strike home game. The victory "improved" the Bucs to 3-13, mercifully wrapping up the sixth-worst season in franchise history. The Colts finished 1-15 and lost their chance to own the first two picks in the 1992 draft. "It wasn't pretty at times, but it was a win," said Bucs coach Richard Williamson. "It was a big win and one that was badly needed for everybody's disposition, because everybody's leaving here and going home for the off-season."

Williamson, however, may wind up just taking the next season off. Bucs owner Hugh Culverhouse recently met with Bill Parcells at a private airport in New Jersey to discuss the possibility of bringing the former New York Giants coach to Tampa Bay, according to a report by CBS on Sunday. Culverhouse had no comment on the story. He has tentatively scheduled a news conference for sometime after Christmas regarding the Bucs' coaching situation.

Williamson said he was unaware of a meeting between Culverhouse and Parcells and would not speculate on his future. "I'm not aware of anything," Williamson said. "He hasn't told me, and I assume he'd tell me about whatever happened."

What happened in the game against Indianapolis on Sunday likely will have little bearing on Culverhouse's decision. The Bucs played their usual brand of schizophrenic football. Quarterback Vinny Testaverde threw three interceptions and misfired on seven consecutive passes in the first half. Despite terrific field position and three Colts fumbles, Tampa Bay trailed 3-0 until the final seconds of the first half.

But for a team with horseshoes on their helmets, the Colts did not have much luck Sunday. Testaverde finally warmed, completing four passes and driving the Bucs 58 yards for their first touchdown - a 29-yard scoring pass to Mark Carrier. Testaverde finished 15-of-31 for 168 yards and three interceptions. That is good enough to get you beat on most Sundays. Against the Colts, it's good enough to win.

That's because Tampa Bay's defense sacked George five times - including two by linebacker Broderick Thomas, who also forced a fumble. "It was nice that the guys kept (George) semi-corralled most of the day and kept the pressure on him," said Bucs defensive coordinator Floyd Peters. "He's a good little scrambler, and I think he's the quarterback of the future if he doesn't get busted up. He throws darts, and he's extremely accurate. So the only way you can affect those guys is to put pressure on them. I'd like to have five games where you have a big lead like that where they got to throw. Then you can have all the sacks you want and have some fun."

The Bucs put the game away midway through the third quarter when Lawrence Dawsey scored on a 9-yard reverse. The play capped a 68-yard touchdown drive, with most of it coming on the strong running of tailback Reggie Cobb. Testaverde said Sunday's game was a microcosm of the Bucs' season.

"I think it just sums up the year to the fans and their ups and downs all year," Testaverde said. "Just how the season has gone. A lot of mistakes hurt us. But through it all, we stayed together. Hopefully, this will sum up things for us (from) here on. We stayed together throughout the hard times in the first half. And the second half, we kept on fighting and we conquered all the mistakes and won the game. We won the battle. Hopefully, that will sum up what's about to happen with this team the next few years."

What will happen to Williamson is uncertain, although it seems unlikely he will return. According to wide receiver Mark Carrier, that could be a mistake. "We know we're better than a 3-13 team," Carrier said. "We are. The key thing we didn't do is play consistent week in and week out. Some weeks, we looked like we can play with anybody and beat anybody. Other weeks, we looked like we didn't belong on the football field. I think it's going to come once guys start playing together a little while longer. That's why I think everybody's hoping there's no wholesale changes. Because I've been here five years, and I don't want to go through another rebuilding year and having the youngest football team in the league again. But that's something we can't control."

Even Testaverde, who has one season remaining on his six-year contract, is uncertain whether he will play another game in Tampa Bay. "A lot will depend on if there is a change, who it is, and how it goes," Testaverde said. "If they bring in a totally new team, it's going to be another long year in my opinion. And it has been up to this point."