RUNNING ON EMPTY: Jon Gruden wants to run. Loves to run. At one time, in Oakland, he had the league's No.1 rushing team. But after three years in Tampa Bay, he hasn't found a hole between the tackle and guard. The Bucs are averaging 95.1 rushing yards, the fewest in Gruden's tenure.
THEY COULD HAVE STUNK BETTER: Sorry to say, this lost season does not necessarily guarantee the Bucs a high pick in the draft. Tampa Bay is tied for fifth in the draft order but could fall out of the top 10 if it screws up and wins in Arizona.
YEAH, AND THAT WASN'T BRUTUS' KNIFE IN CAESAR'S BACK: Poor Mark Fields. He tried arguing his way out of a facemask penalty, but it's never a good sign when a quarterback can read his own name on the back of his jersey.
SAFETY FIRST: Brian Griese is smart. He also is competitive. Sometimes they get in the way of each other. Griese has got to pay more attention to where he is throwing. Games are literally decided on his decisions. He has a 29-19 record as a starter when he throws one interception or fewer. He is 5-13 when he throws two or more.
THAT'S HOW TO RESPOND: Three turnovers, 10 penalties and one dropped snap by a punter. Good thing Simeon Rice called for more accountability or the Bucs might have looked sloppy.
A LIST OF FIVE
Five signs your team is planning an overhaul:
5. GM starts calling everyone "Keenan."
4. Steroids are being rationed.
3. Dates for offseason minicamps are on "need-to-know" basis.
2. Coaches ask if you have vocational skills.
1. Owner got a soccer team for Hanukkah.
FIVE REASONS TO START CHRIS SIMMS
1. THE STORY HAS BEEN TOLD: By now, the Bucs know what they have in Griese. He will complete a high percentage of his passes, he'll find the end zone regularly, and he'll occasionally throw recklessly.
2. FAIR IS FAIR: It would not be an indictment of Griese's performance to sit him one week. Just as it wasn't an indictment of Simms' performance when he lost his starting job during injury rehab.
3. SALARY CAP: Hate to dwell on it, but Griese is not playing like an $8-million quarterback. Even if the Bucs renegotiate his contract for 2005, it would help to know more about their No.2 guy.
4. PROTECTING AN INVESTMENT: Simms is about to finish the second season of his three-year contract and the Bucs still don't know what they have in him. Isn't it common sense to get an appraisal of your assets? Teams that know they're out of the playoffs should start backups to figure out their value.
5. CURIOSITY: What the heck, it will give us a reason to watch next week.
FIVE SUPER PICKS
Checking out the best bets for Super Bowl XXXIX in Jacksonville:
1. PATRIOTS: Yes, yes, even if they have to play in Pittsburgh.
2. STEELERS: Playing for an AFC-record 15th victory next week.
3. EAGLES: Though they're starting to hear Michael Vick's footsteps.
4. FALCONS/COLTS: McKay or Dungy? Make your own revenge pick.
21. BUCS: Can begin and end the season with four-game losing streaks.