St. Petersburg Times Online: Sports
Place an Ad Calendars Classified Forums Sports Weather

printer version

Bucs have forgotten they are running team

Click here


© St. Petersburg Times, published October 20, 2000

TAMPA -- It ended, all of it, in the hands of the wrong guy. Maybe that is what you should remember about the short, tortured season of the Tampa Bay Bucs.

It ended, the game and the season and the hopes and the energy, when a second-year quarterback in the midst of an awful second half rolled to his right and threw another incompletion. That's when the sky started falling and the roof started leaking and the swimming pool filled with sharks.

It ended on a fourth and 1, supposedly a running down, when the Tampa Bay Bucs, supposedly a running team, chose to ignore Mike Alstott and Warrick Dunn once again. It ended in underachievement and underproduction and under the cleats of a mediocre team the Bucs had mauled a month ago.

And in the end, for those of you totaling the casualties, the Bucs turned out to be a team that was much ado about very little. A contender? They weren't even average. A Super Bowl in Tampa Bay? The Bucs will be fortunate if they're allowed to watch it.

So what happened? And why did it happen so quickly?

When things are this spectacularly disappointing, there are plenty of things to blame. Try this one: On their way to trying to be somebody special, the Bucs forgot who they were.

Go back to the last two plays that counted, when the Bucs trailed by only a touchdown with four minutes to play. It was third and 1. If you have spent any time around Tony Dungy's teams, you know what that used to mean. Run and rerun. Alstott and Dunn. Maybe Dunn and Alstott if the Bucs felt tricky.

Ah, but the Bucs, from all indications, are no longer a running team. They barely seem interested in the concept anymore. Which makes you wonder. Have the Bucs forgotten about their running backs? Or worse, do they still believe in them?

Say this about great teams. They know who they are, and they know what they do. It doesn't matter if you run it like the old Packers, hunt and peck like the 49ers, or bomb it like the Rams. A team knows its knockout punch.

Which leads us back to the Bucs, the artists formerly known as a running team.

They kick field goals.


In case you haven't noticed, the Bucs aren't a running team anymore. More and more, they seem intent on taking the ball out of the hands of Dunn and Alstott (who fumbles too much) and getting it instead to Jacquez Green and Keyshawn Johnson (who fumbles too much). Which is fine, until you remember the second option involves putting your fate in the hands of Shaun King, who is not yet ready to grip it.

Yet, all Thursday night, the Bucs kept allowing King to throw it (he had three interceptions in the second half, two with the score tied). Meanwhile, there are cobwebs on Alstott and Dunn. They combined for three carries in the second quarter, three more in the third, one in the fourth. Silly me. I would have thought the Bucs' chance of winning would be better with Alstott and Dunn.

Now for the key question:

What does the shift in philosophy mean? And is it indicative of Les Steckel's faith, or lack of it, in his backs?

Let's be honest. The image of the Bucs as a relentless running team really isn't accurate. They were 15th last year, and the last three-fourths of the season they were awful. For instance, only once in their final 12 games did their running game average 4 yards per carry. And the image of both Alstott and Dunn has been inflated by the highlight reels. Both can make special plays, but both have flaws. Alstott is slow, and his hands leak. Dunn is small, and he tends to turn a lot of first downs into second and 9.

Already there are those with the Bucs who believe Dunn is a third-down specialist and Alstott is a game closer. But the team needs a back for first and 10. They probably have a point.

But this is the midpoint of a nightmare. And when a team needs to hurry, it seems running would be a fine idea.

Look, there is nothing wrong with the forward pass, Mike Shula's protests to the contrary. It was completely logical that the Bucs open up their offense just to give the opposition the idea they might. But eventually the opposition figured the Bucs would come back to the run.

Maybe, you thought, that time would be early, when the Bucs were in the red zone. Maybe it would come later, when it was obvious it wasn't King's night. Or maybe when the Bucs were tied at 14. Or maybe on that last fourth and 1.

In the end, it didn't come at all.

In the end, the Bucs sputtered and spewed. Identity? Sometimes Clark Kent isn't really Superman. Sometimes he's only Clark Kent.

In the end, it doesn't matter that the Bucs didn't bother to run. Turns out, they aren't in such a hurry after all.

Back to Sports
Back to Top

© 2006 • All Rights Reserved • Tampa Bay Times
490 First Avenue South • St. Petersburg, FL 33701 • 727-893-8111
Contact the Times | Privacy Policy
Standard of Accuracy | Terms, Conditions & Copyright

From the Times sports desk

Hubert Mizell

  • In their hour of need, Buccaneers fall flat
  • Gary Shelton

  • Bucs have forgotten they are running team
  • Bucs

  • Knocked silly
  • Bucs offense starving for more touchdowns
  • Defense can't salvage an inept offense
  • Almost really special
  • Turn out the lights
  • Fire and ice
  • Quick hits
  • Game balls
  • Bucs-Lions quotebook
  • Their own worst enemy
  • Baseball

  • Outside hype, you'll find Mets' best
  • Experts predict Subway Series will keep entire nation intrigued
  • Subway Series inspires the Web to offer coverage as big as N.Y.
  • Mets opt for Leiter in opener
  • Baseball briefs
  • Golf

  • U.S. blasts to 5-0 lead in Presidents Cup
  • Hulbert captures the first round
  • How to be on the road when you're at home
  • Locals Kraft and Heintz play to varied extremes
  • Lightning

  • With Devils on the horizon, Ludzik shuffles top 3 lines
  • College football

  • Iowa State trip smooth for Griffin
  • 'He is critical to this program'
  • College football around the state
  • College football around the nation
  • Preps

  • Players of the week
  • Tampa Bay top 10
  • The Pinellas top 10
  • Tampa Bay football
  • Short-handed Hudson pulverizes Ridgewood
  • Pinellas football
  • Big men on campus ... literally
  • The playoff chase
  • Familiar foes meet for title
  • Lions not taking Titans lightly
  • Crusaders' silence only fuels speculation
  • Et cetera

  • Ring renegades Tyson, Golota battle tonight
  • Tempest ready to stir in Tampa
  • Sports briefs
  • NFL briefs
  • NBA briefs

  • From the wire

    From the state sports wire
  • Jacksonville's Spicer placed on IR after leg surgery
  • FIU-Western Kentucky game postponed because of Jeanne
  • Brown anxious to face old team for first time
  • Dolphins' desperate defense readies for Roethlisberger
  • Former Sarasota lineman sheds tough-guy image with Michigan
  • Rothstein rejoins Heat as assistant
  • No. 16 Florida has history on its side against Kentucky
  • FSU and Clemson QBs both off to slow starts