tampabay.com

General manager disappointed but will not be rash

By RICK STROUD
Published November 13, 2006


TAMPA - Chris Simms lost his spleen. The mighty defense lost its high ranking, and the Bucs haven't lost this many games at the midway point in 10 seasons.

"I've compared losing to having a root canal without the novocaine," general manager Bruce Allen said.

Can it be all pain and no gain for the Bucs? Not necessarily. Allen sat down with the Times' Rick Stroud last week for a halftime assessment. Among other topics, he discussed Simms' future, the aging defense and whether the NFL will ever handcuff a team with three games in 11 days.

What would be your assessment of what has happened to this point?

Well, by injury and by play, we're getting a lot of development from some young players. (Simms) being injured is really the reason Bruce (Gradkowski) is playing. I think Bruce is having a good go at it and learning a lot on the job on one side of the ball. On the other side of the ball, we haven't made some of the plays that we've needed to get off the field at various times.

Simms' injury was devastating on a lot of levels. How difficult was it to put him on injured reserve?

We discussed all of the various scenarios over the month or so that we were contemplating it and talked further to other doctors in getting some insight, some other opinions on it. It is tough for Chris in that he had put so much into this season, as did the staff and as did the organization. For it to end so abruptly, it's painful for both.

What does it mean for Simms and the Bucs? Is he a good fit?

I think it's early for that. I think those type of questions are more for his representatives than they are for us.

So how did you leave it with Simms?

We're going to continue that dialogue. He's here every day.

What does it do to the quarterback position? Does Bruce Gradkowski have a chance to become the quarterback to take this team forward?

Yes. Right now, we're focused on the Carolina game. But at the end of the season, you'll evaluate everyone's play. If you look at how he's done compared to other rookie quarterbacks, if you look at how he's done compared to young quarterbacks in previous seasons, he's standing up pretty tall.

In hindsight, do you wish you had done something in the offseason so you wouldn't have to go to a rookie quarterback at this point?

You didn't anticipate going into the fourth game that you were going to go with your second quarterback, no matter whether it was a veteran, rookie or an eight-year guy. But we did, and we like our group of quarterbacks. Ironically, if Luke (McCown) doesn't get hurt in the offseason, I don't know if Bruce gets that many reps in training camp. You can look at it, as I do, that he was fortunate that we gave him so much work in training camp and he did so well. We had some comfort with him.

What do you think has happened to the offense? Is it as simple as saying we have a young quarterback?

No, and I know it's hard for you in your job looking for ways to dissect. I always look at it as the team. When you don't get the ball back, when you're 25th in turnover ratio, it's all inter-related. We haven't done the things necessary in some of these games to win them. We've had some opportunities to do it as a team, but we haven't made that big play.

The Eagles game is a great example where the big plays make a team victory. Ronde (Barber's) two sensational touchdowns on defense. But when he does that and you have a lead, you don't want to make any mistakes. You're more conservative. And then you make a 62-yard field goal, which you don't count on doing every week, and that becomes a victory. But you made the plays. We haven't made enough plays as a team to win.

How is the offensive line developing?

I think it's developing. They're a very competitive group, which is a quality we like. There's a toughness in the group. The other guys that we had brought in, if they were better, we would've kept them. But these guys came through. I think Jeremy (Trueblood) is going to be better and better and better. You know, you didn't want to lose Kenyatta (Walker), but we did. We didn't want to lose Davin (Joseph) for three games, but we did. And so they'll get better as the unit works together more.

Kenyatta has a history of knee problems. Did his season-ending injury develop after he came back?

I don't think it's been a secret he's had some pain with the knee over time. Something occurred that took it to a new level because he's been able to play with the disability for a while.

Defensively, you had 10 starters back and five over age 30. Is there an expiration date on some of those players, and did you ignore it?

Nine months ago, they were the No. 1 defense in the NFL. I don't think a period of a pregnancy changes them that much. We need to play better as a group, and once again, it feeds off the offense as well in different ways. I don't think you can just look at the age.

Do you have the players that, in time, will eventually replace the older ones on defense?

You have some players probably, but each year, your team is going to change by 15-20 players. So I don't know you can say you have all the answers right there.

What factor have Jethro Franklin and Greg Burns, two new coaches, had on the defense?

I don't think you can judge that after eight games. One replaced a legend (Rod Marinelli). Rod's an excellent coach. There's no denying it. But Jethro is a good coach in his own right, and to compare the two wouldn't be fair. I don't think you should compare Nick Saban to Don Shula. I don't think that's a fair comparison. But they're working into the system. They have familiarity with the system, and the players have responded to both of them.

What is your assessment of the safety play?

Once again, I'm not going to get into the particulars by position. We haven't done it. So much of secondary play is pass rush. And if a team isn't behind, they aren't going to pass the same. That's not to avoid it, but it is all interrelated in my mind.

How do you feel on Mondays when you lose?

Terrible. Terrible. I've compared losing to having a root canal without the novocaine. It hurts, but your hurt is for the individuals. Your hurt is for the fans. But it's comforting to know that in football, really after Monday at 4 o'clock, you're on to your next opponent. Right now, we're in one of those once-in-a-lifetime experiences because they're never going to do it again where you have three games in 11 days. So you have enough to concentrate on what's upcoming to not worry about the past.

What makes you certain the NFL will never do it again?

They'll never do it again. I think it was a mistake. They haven't done it since 1994, and they won't do it again.

Have you been given assurances from the NFL commissioner?

No, I'm just telling you they won't do it again.

What kind of disadvantage does that give your team?

There's several issues, and that's why they won't do it again.

So you seem very confident about that.

I am. And no one has told me they won't, but I'll bet you they won't do it again to anybody.

Dallas played three games in 10 days last season, but two of them were at home.

It's not even close. When you fly on a Wednesday, that's a different world.

There's a possibility that this could be the third losing season in four years under Jon Gruden. Is there anything on the field that would prevent Jon from being back next season?

I'm not going to get into the hypothetical and all of that stuff. I don't believe in that. Our focus as an entire organization is to try to beat Carolina. The fact is we're two games out of the playoff spot right now because the sixth team would be 4-4 right now. And we've left some points on the field, and we've left some wins on the field. So we're going to fight that way. Who knows what's going to happen in the coming weeks, but our focus is on Carolina."