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History a risky thing to ignore

By GARY SHELTON
Published September 28, 2005


Somewhere else, times are hard. Wagons are circling. Vultures are ordering lunch.

Here, the sky is blue.

Elsewhere, wide receivers whine. Teams unravel. Coaches get dumber by the day.

Here, the birds are singing.

Say this much for 3-0. Pretty much, it can clear up a rash.

Isn't it funny? Losing teams always want to talk about how close they are to winning, but winning teams never stop to measure. Losing teams never stop thinking about what it would be like to win, but winning teams never want to ponder their alternatives.

Such is the way of the world. Losing stinks. Winning deodorizes.

And so the surprising Bucs are all about holidays and banquets, sunny days and cool breezes. Everyone is smart, everyone is charming and yesterday's critics have turned into today's choir.

When life is good in the NFL, there are two rules: Don't look back, and for goodness' sake, don't look down.

That said, perhaps it is time for the Bucs to remember where they were, what they were, this time a year ago.

You remember, don't you? A year ago, the Bucs lived at the corner of Famine and Pestilence, halfway between doghouse and outhouse. They were 0-3, stopping briefly at 0-4 on their way to 5-11. The quarterback would soon be benched. The running back had just been injured. It had taken the team 11 quarters to find the end zone and, evidently, no one remembered to write down the directions.

For other teams, it is still that way. Look around. Losing is as ugly, as spiteful as ever, and there but for the grace of Booger go the Bucs.

In Green Bay, the fire around Mike Sherman's feet is already burning brightly. Everyone in town seems to know all about Brad Childress, the Eagles offensive coordinator and rumored replacement. If you read the stories, Sherman doesn't motivate or hold players accountable.

Ask yourself: At 0-3, would those conversations be going on here?

In Houston, scapegoats have been designated. Already, offensive coordinator Chris Palmer has been fired by Dom Capers, which is sort of like a head coach sending an assistant to scout the unemployment line.

Ask yourself: At 0-2, would the headhunting have a local flavor?

In Arizona, the honeymoon appears to be over for Denny Green. Arizona Republic columnist Dan Bickley suggested Monday that the problem with the Cardinals was Green's arrogance, which has led to faulty personnel decisions and lost games.

Ask yourself: At 0-3, do you think the criticism might be harsher?

In Buffalo, the defense has given up back-to-back huge rushing games, yet, when defensive coordinator Jerry Gray ran off the field Sunday, he grumbled about the officials. Of course he did.

At 1-2, is it possible the Bucs might have noticed the officials along the way?

In New York, the Jets have all but written this season off, and they are busy trying to relive the 1998 season. At least, that's what it looked like when they re-signed Vinny Testaverde, who reinvented himself in '98, to replace injured Chad Pennington. Testaverde, almost 42, could be in the lineup by the time the Bucs play the Jets on Oct.9.

Ask yourself: At 1-2, might the Bucs be looking for reinforcements from the waiting room?

In Minnesota, the Vikings can't even get winning right. This week, two players were charged with disorderly conduct at Bobby and Steve's Auto World, a gas station and deli, at 3 a.m. When a team celebrates its lone victory at a gas station, it's time to raise the standards.

Ask yourself: At 1-2, might the Bucs make a silly decision or two?

In Oakland, the Raiders are still talking about playoff percentages (4 percent). In San Francisco, Mike Nolan is talking about trust. In Denver, there have already been grumbles that the defensive players don't like the coordinator. In Baltimore, there are grumbles about the offensive coordinator. In New York, Giants receiver Plaxico Burress is upset he got into the game late because he showed up for meetings late.

That's what underachievement does. It turns everyone into Terrell Owens.

Even winning teams can have problems. Dallas is 2-1, there are meltdowns. Did you see where guard Larry Allen went after his own kicker, Jose Cortez? (Actually, the Bucs can't be accused of this. As bad as the kicking was last year, no one attempted to throttle anyone.) The Colts are 3-0, but all anyone can talk about is how Peyton Manning has been stopped cold ... by Tony Dungy.

The point is, in the NFL, you are never far removed from trouble.

Let's be honest. It is not as if the Bucs have invented the cure for defeat. They are a play here, a play there from being 1-2 and, even though it is a play-here, play-there league, no one should fool himself. If the winning is going to continue, there has to be more of a passing game and less of a penalty situation.

Still, it beats the place where the Bucs used to live. Risky as it is, they should remember that.

After all, how are they going to avoid a neighborhood if they don't remember where it is?

[Last modified September 28, 2005, 02:30:38]


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