Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Sounds of silence booming for swooning Bucs
TAMPA - The worst part isn't the losing streak, which has reached six games following Sunday's 38-19 loss to the Carolina Panthers. Nor is it the fact the Tampa Bay Buccaneers had to use backup quarterback Josh Johnson after Josh Freeman's injured shoulder kept him out of the game. Nor was it even that the defense was shredded like so much saturated Charmin by rookie quarterback Cam Newton, or that the Bucs' offense consisted of Connor Barth and, uh, Connor Barth. No, the worst thing is that fewer and fewer people who call themselves fans seem to care. Folks who turned out for "Throwback Sunday" to watch this one appeared so beaten down by the proceedings that they could barely muster a respectable boo, even as the Bucs fell behind 14-0. There were smattering sounds of disapproval, but nothing to indicate the faithful who still show up to watch this team are anything but resigned to the retching mediocrity that this season has become with now six successive losses – several of them, like Sunday, being one-sided.By the time the Bucs scored their first touchdown, just 6:35 remained and they managed to cut the deficit to 19 points. This wasn't an excellent San Francisco team taking the Bucs to task, nor was it a very good Houston team with a grizzly bear defense. This was 4-8 Carolina. Rampant indifference does not bode well for the owners, the general manager, or the head coach and his staff. And frankly, I think that's where we are now. If I owned this team, the charge to Raheem Morris for the remaining four games would be simple: This team better improve, a lot – or else. It's easy to look at Josh Freeman's absence Sunday and peg this tawdry display on that, but the defense never gave Johnson a chance. Carolina went 83 yards in seven plays for a touchdown on the opening drive. The Panthers drove 43 yards in eight plays for a score the second time they had the ball. The Bucs were down 14-0 and there was still 5:07 left in the first period. If it wasn't for four field goals by Barth – MVP! MVP! – this would have been one of the all-time futile efforts for the mighty Bucs. Once again, they couldn't stop the run. Every bad thing seems to flow from that. Defense is supposed to be Morris' specialty, but the head coach has to seriously think about firing his defensive coordinator – if he's even in position to do that. Look, let's be clear about one thing: Changing the head coach isn't always the best course, and I'm not saying it is this time. But I've watched enough football to get a feel for when a coaching change is in play, and I believe it is now. Fans were streaming for the exits with 10 minutes to play. They didn't care enough to serenade the Bucs with boos. They sat back and watched as Carolina chewed up large amounts of clock with drives as long as 91 yards. Passive observers tend to shrug when hit with season-ticket sales pitches. And if you don't think that can impact a coach's job security, I would simply refer you to the way Raheem rose to his current post. It was when the public finally had enough of the patchwork ways of Jon Gruden and the owners finally heard the cry. There is no outcry now, though. There is nothing, really. Of all the things affecting the future of this franchise, it's impossible not to hear the silence.