TAMPA — Know what might be the most sobering part of the Bucs' disappointing season?
We're only halfway through it.
Doesn't it feel like the Bucs already have played like 14 games?
Ugh. Eight more games to go.
While Bucs players are saying all the things they are supposed to say — one game at a time, we can still get back into this thing, we're not giving up — it is hard, if not full-blown impossible, to see this season ending in anything other than a 10th straight season of missing the playoffs.
So what's the point of the second half of the season? What do we have to look forward to? How can we choke down what is left?
Well, I'm here to lend some help. Here's some stuff to watch for in the second half.
Stink for Saquon
Good gosh, it's incredibly depressing to be talking about next year's draft only halfway through the season. Draft talk is equivalent to waving the white flag.
But there is a silver lining.
If the draft was held today, the Bucs would have the fourth pick. They clearly need a pass rusher, and it's never a bad idea to draft an offensive lineman. And, it might be a bad idea ever to draft a running back that high. Then again, the Bucs could have a crack at the most exciting player in college football: Penn State running back Saquon Barkley.
So, go ahead, Bucs. Feel free to tank. It's Barkley or bust. Stink for Saquon.
Ring of Honor
I tell you what, man. (That's a Jon Gruden imitation there.) The Dec. 18 Monday Night Football game at Raymond James against the Falcons could get really awkward but incredibly delicious, too.
That night, Gruden goes into the Bucs' Ring of Honor. And, by that night, the Bucs could be swirling down the toilet with only three or four victories. If that's the case, everybody in the stadium will be thinking whether the only Bucs coach ever to win a Super Bowl should be the next Bucs head coach.
Let's be frank: Current coach Dirk Koetter and general manager Jason Licht are fighting for their jobs in the second half.
Speaking of Jameis …
How the Bucs perform over the next two weeks will go a long way in determining whether or not quarterback Jameis Winston should play much more the rest of the season with a bum shoulder. If they lose the next two and fall to 2-8, there's no need to rush him back, and if he sits out the rest of the season, so what?
If the Bucs win their next two games and move to 4-6, then maybe Winston comes back sooner rather than later. (Although, that would have meant Ryan Fitzpatrick led them to back-to-back victories.)
What if Bucs go 1-1? Well, if we're looking at this honestly, they aren't playing for a playoff spot this season and Winston's shoulder should take priority over everything else.
Who's going to quit?
Always interesting to see which players give less than 100 percent when there's little left to play for the rest of the way. The players insist that hasn't happened yet.
"I don't sense that at all,'' Winston said.
But, at some point, are guys going to dive headfirst into piles for a loose football when a game's outcome means nothing?
Hey, it's still football. Would you rather watch that or do yard work?
After all, bad football is better than no football at all.
Contact Tom Jones at [email protected] Follow @tomwjones.