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National audience awaits a really bad offense

By JOHN ROMANO AND GARY SHELTON
Published November 13, 2006


This week's electronic conversation between Sports columnists Gary Shelton and John Romano focuses on the Bucs' appearance on Monday Night Football.

GS: Whenever I think about television on Monday night, John, I think about speed, I think about power, I think about creativity. Of course, that's the new NBC show Heroes. As for the Bucs, they will be on ESPN.

JR: Do you suppose they could play with camera angles and lighting to make the Bucs look better? You know, the way they make Tom Cruise appear to be tall. And Ann Coulter appear to be a human.

GS: I think ESPN's experts are using all their special effects to make Joe Theismann seem awake. Making the Bucs offense look good is just too much to ask. Poor ESPN. They get the Raiders and the worst offense in the NFL one week, the Bucs and the second-worst the next. If Howard Cosell was still alive, this would kill him.

JR: Do you really think the Bucs have the second-worst offense? When you get to midseason and a cornerback is tied for second on the team in touchdowns, I think you have a legitimate claim as the worst offense in the world.

GS: Well, they've gained the 31st-most yards in the league and scored the 31st amount of points. But give them time and a gusting wind, and they can make it all the way to last. I have confidence.

JR: Isn't that mind-boggling? How do you return every starter on offense, add two high draft picks to the offensive line and still see a 32 percent drop in scoring?

GS: By playing a grown-up schedule? By building your game plan with a Magic 8 Ball?

JR: Jon Gruden actually referenced Kenyatta Walker's knee injury as a cause. For four years, Gruden talked about Kenyatta like he was a pinata. Now that he's hurt, it's like losing Anthony Munoz.

GS: Soon, Chris Simms will be Phil Simms and Brian Kelly will be Ronnie Lott and Booger McFarland will be Alan Page. Not that anyone is using excuses.

JR: Maybe they should borrow a page from Mark Foley and blame the booze.

GS: Nah, blaming the wind is working just fine. Meanwhile, there are going to be viewers who watch ESPN through the paintball, through the poker, through the dominoes, who are going to say this is just too boring to watch. I know Tony Kornheiser hates to fly, but I predict he hangs onto a helicopter rudder to get away from this. It's a game only Keyshawn could love.

JR: Okay, so everyone can agree the first half of the season was a disaster. The second half begins tonight. What is the solution? Do you go younger, i.e. Barrett Ruud at linebacker, Maurice Stovall at receiver, Jerald Sowell at fullback, Alan Zemaitis at corner and find some chubby kid to play at center? Do you give Tim Rattay a shot? Do you petition the NCAA to drop to Division I-AA?

GS: Every time I see Torrie Cox play, I wonder how bad Zemaitis must be. You could line up backward and cover better. And when I say you, I don't mean you as in most defensive backs. I mean you as in John Romano. And that may be the meanest thing I ever said about anybody.

JR: Funny you bring that up. I had plans to play football with my son this weekend. Unfortunately, I pulled a groin muscle while reaching for an Oreo and had to shut it down.

GS: You gotta play hurt, John. So do you think there is any way this game is interesting? Or any way the Bucs win?

JR: I would like to say yes. I would like to say the offense will be more aggressive throwing downfield. I would like to say some blitzes actually reach Jake Delhomme. I would like to say the Bucs could win 23-20. I would like to say all of that, but I'm afraid of being struck dead by a bolt of lightning.

GS: Can Gruden throw lightning?

JR: Yes, but only on a 3-yard route.