© St. Petersburg Times, published December 30, 2002
TALK OF THE TOWN
Five topics suitable for inane debate on talk radio:
NO NEED FOR GREED: A team record for victories. A first-round bye. The first victory with the thermometer below 40 degrees. So who needs an offense?
UPON FURTHER REVIEW: Remember the fuss about Tampa Bay fattening its record against sorry teams? It was the difference in the season. The Bucs were a mediocre 4-4 against teams with winning records, but 8-0 against losing teams. By comparison, New Orleans was 5-3 against winners, 4-4 against losers. That's how the Saints could beat the Packers, Steelers, 49ers and Bucs (twice) and still miss the playoffs.
BETTER LATE THAN NEVER: For 13 games, Michael Pittman looked like the season's greatest disappointment. The past three weeks, he has begun to justify the faith placed in him by coach Jon Gruden. Pittman is running with a more purposeful gait. He has shown speed around the corner on toss plays and has done a better job hitting holes between tackles.
SIMPLY THE BEST: Would somebody please hand Derrick Brooks the NFL defensive player of the year award. The guy has had the ball in his hands so often, he's starting to direct blockers like he was a running back.
GOT YOUR BACK: Stress fracture or bruise, it doesn't matter. Bucs need a healthy Brad Johnson in the playoffs. In three games without him they averaged 11 points. Or 36 possessions with one TD.
Five possible compensation ideas for Bill Parcells:
5: A nip or a tuck. Whichever Jerry Jones can spare.
4: Custody of Lawrence Taylor.
3: His lower vertebra -- in case Brad Johnson needs it.
2: Happy Meals for Bryan and Joel.
1: His word. (We all know how valuable that is.)
5: The first 250 or so games this season? Hors d'oeuvres. The Packers-Jets had everyone on edge. It clinched a playoff spot for Jets and Browns, eliminated Dolphins and Patriots, gave Eagles homefield advantage in the NFC, knocked the Packers out of the No.1 seed and gave the Bucs a chance to earn a bye. That's all.
4: Atlanta was 1 yard from the end zone on second down with the game on the line. Give the ball to Michael Vick? Not on second down. Or third. Or fourth. What do you call that? A loss.
3: Tony Dungy is the league's only coach with four straight postseason appearances. As a reward, he faces protege Herm Edwards and the Jets in the first round.
2: Mike Shanahan and the Broncos fail to make the playoffs for the third time in four seasons. Geez, maybe the Gators were better off with Ron Zook.
1: Three minutes from the playoffs with an 11-point lead and the Dolphins blow it. So that's where Esteban Yan ended up.
Checking out the best bets (and the Bucs) for Super Bowl XXXVII in San Diego:
1. RAIDERS: Unlike the snow game last season, Oakland won't give a tuck.
2. TITANS: Another prescription refill, Mr. McNair?
3. EAGLES: Suppose the Giants would sell their game plan?
4. JETS: Worst record among playoff teams, but as hot as anyone.
6. BUCS: A road win and a healthy Brad Johnson? It's too much to expect.
The best Bucs defense ever.