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Tuesday, Sep 19, 2017
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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Rebuild is timely, necessary

TAMPA - Be wary. If you find yourself in close proximity to members of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers coaching or front-office staff, talk to them about the weather or President Obama's health care plan. Talk about anything you want, with one exception. Avoid use of the word "rebuilding." You'll thank me for this. "Rebuilding" is a bad, bad word in the language of Bucspeak. If you speak it in their presence, be prepared for a legitimately hostile response. If the Bucs admit they're rebuilding, they seem to believe it gives the impression they're OK with blowing off this season because the plan is to be good in another year or two. It implies low expectations and built-in excuses. With training camp opening Saturday, that's probably not the message the Bucs want to send to potential ticket-buyers.
Hence, the misdirection plays. They talk glowingly about the energy and fire Raheem Morris brings, which he does. Of course, the guy Morris replaced as head coach - Jon Gruden - never lacked for energy and fire either, but that's not important right now. And there's the "open competition" among a cast of quarterbacks faceless enough as a group to qualify for witness protection. Well, who doesn't love competition? We could even see the start of a new era if Josh Freeman, the first-round draft pick, wins the job. Pay no attention to the fact that if a rookie has a legitimate chance to win that open competition, you're probably rebuilding. Has anybody seen Derrick Brooks, Warrick Dunn, Cato June, Jeff Garcia or Joey Galloway lately? That's right, they're not here! Isn't that rebuilding? If you happen to be in Knoxville, Tenn., in the near future, say hello to Monte Kiffin. The architect of one of the finest defensive units in NFL history lives there now, preparing for his first season at the University of Tennessee. The defense he left behind is, um ... what's the word? Rebuilding? Remember how the Bucs used to call running plays only when the wide receivers needed a break from all the pass patterns? They're going to be a running team now, with a new featured back (Derrick Ward) and a new emphasis on power and control. That's different. It's also rebuilding. It used to take about a minute and a half just to call a play because Gruden's offense could take a couple of years to master. Quarterback Luke McCown told me at one of the minicamps it took about two weeks to learn the offense of new coordinator Jeff Jagodzinski. That's rebuilding. And it is good. The Bucs needed to do this. They have to do this. It's the only way to get better. There are new faces all over the defense, and as Bob Uecker once famously said in the movie "Major League," they hope soon to have some names to go with those faces. If that's not rebuilding, tell me what it is. Pundits see that Brooks is gone and wonder who will take his place. We wonder that too, and it will seem mighty weird not seeing No. 55 out there this fall, but the truth is that player has been gone for a while anyway. The Brooks we saw last year wasn't close to the player who will one day take his rightful place in the Hall of Fame. It's time. Maybe they can rebuild on the fly and still win like Atlanta and Miami did a year ago, but I'm not seeing it. This won't be a short-term fix, but it's the only fix that has a chance to last. The Bucs had become a treadmill team, stuck in the NFL's murky middle. The Bucs had gotten old; they had gotten brittle. They spent years resorting to Band-Aids and short-term solutions, and we saw the results. Even when they made the playoffs, they didn't make it past the first game, and the four-game death spiral at the end of last season proved that it was time for something more substantial. When they built into a Super Bowl champion, the foundation came through the draft and patience. You have to build from the ground up. Or rebuild. Say it out loud, Bucs. It's long overdue.
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