Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Answer Man, Series 6, Volume 6

After a brief hiatus while the Bucs concentrated on the 2010 draft, the fans' inside man returns with another long Q&A

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Okay, before we get to the Q&A proper, first this from Andy in Greencastle, Pennsylvania:
Did you know that you look a lot like a pirated-out Chris Kattan? Anyway, I realize that there is a youth movement in Tampa but why would there be no interest in T.O.? He'd obviously be an upgrade and has shown the willingness to help younger receivers.

Yes! Nice call! Or, at least, I used to look like that.

Andy's question didn't do that much for me, but I've got to hand it to him with the Kattan reference. Since I'm not dying to be too closely associated with Corky Romano, perhaps it's for the best that I have undergone yet another transformation, as you can see above. Yes, I'm getting back to my superhero roots. Swashbuckling was fun and all, but nothing beats flying. The work schedule is better, too; easier to get to the kids' Little League games.

As for T.O., this question is a little easier to answer now that the draft has taken place. Obviously, the Buccaneers believed that they were in good position to help the receiving corps in the draft, and if you like Arrelious Benn and Mike Williams you'll probably now agree. Those two rookies have to prove themselves, of course, and nothing is guaranteed, but is it guaranteed that T.O. would still be a difference-maker? I can't tell you for sure that there was no interest, but I think it's clear that, where possible, the current Bucs administration favors addressing its areas of need with youth and the draft first. As of this writing, T.O. still has not signed with any NFL team, so it doesn't seem as if the overall league interest is anywhere near what it was a few years ago.

And then there's this one from a frequent contributor named Richard Schilling, a former Pennsylvanian now living in Dallas. Richard is good for maintaining my accuracy of the little details (sometimes after the fact) but not so good for my psyche. Let the whipping commence:

I felt a great kinship reading your introduction to series 6, vol. 5 this week, but first I have to bash you for errors. You said that "... Tampa Bay was in a five-team division (the NFC Central) and thus had 10 division games every year instead of the current eight." Jeff Foxworthy would show you that even a fifth grader knows that in a five-team division, each team has four opponents and plays eight division games, not ten. And in the current four-team division, they play six division games, not eight.

  • You also said that "The 1997 Buccaneers went into December in good shape with a 9-5 record but then dropped games against the Packers and Jets in Weeks 15 and 16.That left them needing a win at home against Chicago in the final week ..." But if they were 9-5, then lost two games, they would have been 9-7 (16 games played) before the final week. They were actually 9-4 at the beginning of December.*
  • Perhaps the transformation from an almighty superhero to a bitter-looking pirate, with the expression of one who drew the short straw and has to stand around holding the answer scroll instead of getting drunk with the rest of the crew, has dulled your keen sense of technical accuracy. But I choose to believe that you, understandably, spent a little too much time "reviewing" the announcement of the cheerleading squad and had to rush to complete your intro this time. Either way, I expect better next time.*
  • Now for the good stuff. I share your excitement about the intra-division games in week 17. It is a good first step toward what I have argued (mostly to myself and whomever else would listen, and even some who didn't want to listen - gotta love a captive audience) would be a better way to schedule the end of the season. I would like to see all intra-division games played in the last six games of the season.*
  • With this arrangement, any team has it within its own power to gain two games and a tie breaker over each of the other teams in its division. Imagine a division with three teams at 8-2 and one team at 6-4 after ten weeks. That 6-4 team can still win the division based solely on its own performance, without relying on other teams to win or lose. We would surely see more competitive end-of-season runs with the additional chance of swinging the standings.*

Ouch. Obviously, those were errors of haste, and I wish I had caught them, but the "fifth-grader" remark was a little harsh. I hope now that I'm back to being a superhero such moments will become less common. It wasn't so much the cheerleaders that distracted me (come on, my wife reads this!) but that new pirate gig and a little problem with seasickness. It's hard to concentrate on your writing when you're constantly running over to the railing.

The errors and corrections Richard points out are on the money, so I'll let his haranguing words stand for themselves. I also agree with Richard's agreeing with my original points, and his additional support for the new system. I'm not sure I agree with backloading all of the intra-division games at the end; those contests often have a little extra emotion built in, and it's nice to have some of those rivalry games sprinkled throughout the season. Still, that discussion almost took away from the sting of Richard's verbal slap to the face. Almost.

And finally, there's this one from a much gentler fan named Sean Quinn from Jackson, Tennessee.

*I love your column. No questions this time, but a correction: there's a tiny little mistakelet in vol. 5, where you talk about first-overall picks being signed before the draft, and mention that the trend seems to have started with Tim Couch. It may have started as a trend with Couch, but he wasn't the first, and there's an example from Buccaneer history. In 1987, the year after the Bo Jackson disaster, the Buccaneers had Vinny Testaverde wrapped up several weeks before the draft. By the time the draft rolled around, the no. 2-selecting Colts were already negotiating with Cornelius Bennett.

Again, thanks for the good work.*

Nice work, Sean, and thanks for both the hard work and the heads-up. And for the word "mistakelet." I love that. Made me feel like I had mad just the teeniest little error, no big deal. You taking notes, Richard. For everyone else out there, it's obvious that Sean knows his Buccaneer history, right? Here's more proof…if you head to Wikipedia and search for "1976 Tampa Bay Buccaneers season," you'll find that there's a very detailed history available. That's Sean's work, and he says he's got most of the seasons done through 1987. Check it out, and since it's Wikipedia, if you have any information to add, you can get in on the act.

Alright, now that I've used several e-mails to point out all my mistakes, I'm sure your confidence is sky-high in my continuing ability to answer your questions. So let's move on to that part and see if I can avoid the Wrath of Schilling this time.

**

Oh, wait, one more fan wants to yell at me…

  1. gdcanfield@__.com of Canfield, Ohio asks (or, more accurately, yells in an all-caps format that I altered to spare the rest of you):
    I already tried you (twice) and in 30-60 days I received no answer. You Suck! One simple question and you never answer me (twice). I know more about the Bucs than you do and I'll put money where my mouth is considering I was in Tampa Stadium the very first season and have been a diehard fan ever since. You suck. Get a real job.

Answer Man: Strangely, this arrived two days after I printed my last column, in which I did answer Mr. gd's question about the history of the team's general manager position. A pretty good question, really, that I addressed at some length. Click here to go to that column and read it.

Anyway, I'm not trying to get back at this contributor by printing his e-mail; I think it's likely he or she expected me to send the response back via e-mail rather than answer it here in one of these columns. I don't need to emphasize that point to the rest of you, because if you're reading this I think you've already figured it out. However, I do want to remind everyone that I can't quite get to every submission.

In some cases, it's just not a question I feel like I can answer adequately. For example, I got an interesting one from my Romanian friend Bogdan recently that asked me to pinpoint the youngest team that had ever won a Super Bowl; that is, by average age of all the players on the roster. I might be able to find the full roster for every Super Bowl winning team, and if the rosters had birthdates on them (a big if) I might be able to calculate all of the ages and come up with averages. But do you know how long that would take?! I think research is my favorite part of this gig (with Richard Schilling's harsh but accurate corrections being my least favorite), but if I tackled that one I think this would be a one-question column this week. I'm not too worried about it, though, because I'm willing to bet Bogdan will come up with another good question by next week.

And sometimes, to be honest, I just can't get to them all, even the good ones. I do read all of them eventually (really, I swear), but if you think I've skipped a good one you sent, please feel free to send it again. But please don't yell at me.

And, gd, I'm not going to take you up on your offer of a Bucs trivia-off because I believe you, and if you've been following the team since Day One, I might get my cape handed to me.

**

Answer some questions already, Answer Man!!

Alright, alright…how about we start with these three, because this topic, strangely was by far the most common one in my mailbag this time around. As you'll see from the tenor of these three questions, there seems to be some rising hysteria about something that is almost a complete non-issue.

1a. Mike B. of Sarasota, Florida asks:

Did Cadillac Williams get released?

1b. And James Craig of Kissimmee, Florida follows with:
When are the Bucs going to re-sign Cadillac Williams? He has been one of the most respected running backs this team has ever had.

1c. And Edward Perez of Kingsville, Texas sounds a bit worried when he asks:
I have the all-time question, it's been bugging me since the report of Cadillac Williams, UFA. Is he going to sign for more years with Bucs or is he going to sit out? Please don't trade him! He's a major role in the offense and the last report I read about him was that he was given a tender offer but still waiting on the press release for him, "Signed or Not Signed." I am waiting patiently, wearing the #24 Jersey in Houston, Tx. Proudly.

Answer Man: Everyone, relax.

First, no, Cadillac was not released. Second, yes, he is and deserves to be one of the most respected (and feared) running backs in team history. And third, just to clarify, Williams was never a "UFA." That stands for "unrestricted free agent." Due to the new rules under the final year of the collective bargaining agreement (most notably, it takes six accrued seasons to become an unrestricted free agent, not four), Williams still fell into the restricted free agent category this year.

That meant, as Edward accurately points out, Williams had a one-year tender offer extended to him just before the start of free agency. That was the case with six Bucs, actually, many of whom have already re-signed. A restricted free agent can negotiate with other teams, but his original team retains a right-of-first refusal by making that tender offer. In addition, depending upon the size of the tender offer that was extended, if a player signs with another team, his new team may have to give back draft-pick compensation. In Williams' case, any team that signed him would have had to give the Bucs a first-round pick in the 2010 draft if the Bucs chose not to match the offer.

You'll notice I said "2010 draft" and "would have had to." That's because that part of the offseason is now over for all restricted free agents around the league (and there are A LOT of them this year, thanks to that six-season rule). RFAs have until the week before the draft to find a deal with another team, precisely because of the possible draft-pick compensation that would have to change hands. Now that the draft has passed, so has the possibility of that compensation. All restricted free agents who have yet to sign may now only negotiate with their original teams.

Now, a team and an RFA are more than welcome to work on a longer-term deal. However, the vast majority of RFAs re-sign, either before or after the draft, simply by agreeing to that one-year tender, which usually carries a pretty decent salary number. In most years of the CBA, these players know that they can sign the one-year tender, play one more season and then next year become an unrestricted free agent. There is no telling, however, what the situation will be next year for all of these players around the league, because the new CBA, whenever it is finally in place, could reset those standards to anything. It could go back to four years to become a UFA, stay at six or change to three, five or anything else.

As of this writing, Williams has not actually signed that tender offer with the team. But it is highly likely that he will because there is no other obvious alternative. Some guys just choose to do it sooner than others. And he is allowed to work out with the team in the meantime. I bet what Williams is thinking about a lot more than the tender offer these days is that he finally gets a chance to work with a healthy body throughout the offseason, rather than spending his time on rehab as he has the last two years.

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  1. Brian & Danielle White of Portland, Oregon, Tampa, Florida and currently Torrance, California ask:

AM: I have read many articles lately about how the Bucs drafted during the Gruden/Allen era. You even went into detail about who was still with the Bucs and even who was out of the league. So, I was just wondering how the numbers compare around the league, more specifically in our division. I am trying to figure out how to word the question properly...of the 4 teams in our division, during the Gruden/Allen era, how would our draft picks stack up with the 3 other teams?

Answer Man: This one almost rivals Bogdan's Super Bowl question in terms of amount of research needed, but I think it's manageable. I say, let's do this!

Full disclosure first: I edited some of that question, which I don't normally do beyond capitalization and spelling of players' names and such. It was very nicely presented, but there was mention of "scapegoats" and bad drafts, and I just don't think it's appropriate for me to weigh in on that part of the topic. Consider me an analytical tool (and try not to emphasize the second word when you say it in your head); I'm not going to make value judgments between one era of management and another.

But there's no harm in comparing the drafts of the four teams in the NFC South during that period, to see by some concrete values how they stacked up against each other. Will that be good enough, Brian and/or Danielle? (I'm confused by the dual-submitters but then the question beginning with "I" and not "we.")

The years in question are 2004-08. Let's take a quick skim of the four teams' five drafts during that span before going more in depth.

· Atlanta: Drafted 43 players during that span, 21 of whom are still with the team…Drafted five first-rounders, four of whom are still with the team and four of whom were starters in 2009…Picks that have worked out the best: Roddy White, Matt Ryan, Curtis Lofton, Justin Blalock…Some other picks that have to be considered successes: Jonathan Babineaux, Jerious Norwood, Stephen Nicholas, Sam Baker, Thomas DeCoud…Most obvious misses: Jimmy Williams, Chris Houston.

· Carolina: Drafted 41 players during that span, 22 of whom are still with the team…Drafted five first-rounders, all of whom are still with the team and four of whom were starters in 2009…Picks that have worked out the best: Chris Gamble, DeAngelo Williams, Jon Beason, Jonathan Stewart…Some other picks that have to be considered successes: Travelle Wharton, Richard Marshall, Ryan Kalil, Charles Godfrey, Jeff Otah…Most obvious misses: Eric Shelton, Rashad Butler.

· New Orleans: Drafted 34 players during that span, 18 of whom are still with the team…Drafted five first-rounders, all of whom are still with team and four of whom were starters in 2009…Picks that have worked out the best: Will Smith, Jammal Brown, Marques Colston, Tracy Porter…Other picks that have to be considered successes: Devery Henderson, Roman Harper, Reggie Bush, Jahri Evans, Sedrick Ellis, Carl Nicks…Most obvious misses: Courtney Watson, Josh Bullocks.

· Tampa Bay: Drafted 47 players during that span, 15 of whom are still with the team…Drafted five first-rounders, four of whom are still with the team and four of whom were starters in 2009…Picks that have worked out the best: Barrett Ruud, Davin Joseph, Tanard Jackson, Aqib Talib…Other picks that have to be considered successes: Michael Clayton, Cadillac Williams (on the previous list if not for injury misfortune), Jeremy Trueblood, Jeremy Zuttah, Geno Hayes…Most obvious misses: Chris Colmer, Dexter Jackson.

A couple of notes on the number of players that remain from those drafts on their respective rosters. Keep in mind that, with 80 players on the roster, the numbers for all teams are going to be higher at this time of the year than they likely would be during the regular season. For instance, a seventh-round pick from a couple years ago might not have made his respective team as a rookie, but he might have been re-signed a time or two, maybe spent time on the practice squad, and is back for another try in 2010. A good example is WR Adrian Arrington, a seventh-round pick by New Orleans in 2008 who was on the practice squad all last year but is now back on the Saints' 80-man roster.

On the other hand, also note that a player no longer being with his current team isn't necessarily an indication of a failed pick. Some of those 2004-05 selections have already moved on via free agency or trade, such as Atlanta's Matt Schaub or the Bucs' Alex Smith. Also, in all cases, any players who are currently unsigned restricted free agents were considered to still be on their respective teams (see the question above if you wonder why).

Just from the most basic raw numbers in the above paragraphs – the number of players drafted and the number of players remaining for each team – Carolina leads in most picks still around, though the Panthers just barely edge the Saints in terms of percentage of picks still around (53.7% to 52.9%). Every team had five first-round picks during those five years (though not necessarily one each year) and the late Gaines Adams from the Bucs' 2007 class is the only one of those 20 who is not still with his team. Each team had four starters last year from those five picks, though I was splitting hairs with some of those. New Orleans' Jammal Brown, for instance, likely would have been a starter in 2009 if he wasn't hurt all year; on the other hand, I gave them credit for Reggie Bush as a starter when he only opened half the games.

I think it would be beyond the scope of this discussion, and also awfully subjective, for me to break it down in terms of most boom and bust picks. Here's just a few guys from those four teams I would have a difficult time categorizing: Jamaal Anderson (Atlanta), DeAngelo Hall (Atlanta), Dan Connor (Carolina), Dwayne Jarrett (Carolina), Sedrick Ellis (New Orleans), Alex Smith (Tampa Bay), Arron Sears (Tampa Bay). The issues are myriad, from injuries to assessments of what qualifies as a success, and I don't want to open that can of worms.

So how about we do this, since it's just numbers, black and white: Let's look at how many of the starts and games played for each team last season were made by players drafted in those five years. I'll present the numbers and you can decide if they mean anything definitive. I'm including games played as well as starts because I don't want to diminish the impact of role players, special-teamers, return men and the like. Every team had 352 player-starts in 2009, but the games played will differ because of DNPs in various games.

· Atlanta: Of the team's 352 player-starts and 694 player-games in 2009, 177 and 269 were made by players drafted from 2004-08. That's 50.3% of the starts and 38.8% of the games played.

· Carolina: Of the team's 352 player-starts and 699 player-games in 2009, 177 and 298 were made by players drafted from 2004-08. That's 50.3% of the starts and 42.6% of the games played.

· New Orleans: Of the team's 352 player-starts and 699 player-games in 2009, 144 and 213 were made by players drafted from 2004-08. That's 40.9% of the starts and 30.5% of the games played.

· Tampa Bay: Of the team's 352 player-starts and 691 player-games in 2009, 177 and 204 were made by players drafted from 2004-08. That's 50.3% of the starts and 29.5% of the games played.

Okay, first off, how bizarre is that? Of the four teams, three got exactly 177 starts out of their 2004-08 draftees in 2009?! Yes, I went back and double-checked the math to be sure. So that's a three-way tie for the top, with New Orleans in fourth.

Among total games played by 2004-08 draftees in 2009, the NFC South ranking goes Carolina, New Orleans, Atlanta and then Tampa Bay. Couple that with the numbers from above and it appears like the Bucs have a relatively normal number of starters out of those five drafts, at least compared with their three division mates, but they haven't filled out the roster as fully as the Falcons, Panthers or Saints. Perhaps that's why General Manager Mark Dominik has stressed making the most of out the team's fifth, sixth and seventh-round picks the last two years.

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  1. Ronald J. Mulholland of Deltona, Florida asks:

My question is about trading up or down in the draft. I can see trading up but why would a team trade down to get a player they can get at the same spot they are at? Is there a good explanation to the reasoning for it?

Answer Man: Why yes, there is, and I'll not only give you that explanation but also a practical example from the Bucs' past.

A team trades up, obviously, because there is one specific player that it feels it must have. That's why it's worth giving up multiple picks to get in position to take that specific player. But you already knew that.

A team is most likely to trade down, on the other hand, when there are multiple players still on its board that it would be happy to select in that particular part of the draft. Or, in a slightly riskier move, one player it has targeted but a belief that no other team is going to draft that player between the spot it vacated and the spot it ends up in.

Hypothetically, let's say you're the G.M. of the Pottsville Maroons and you are due to pick 10th in the first round of the draft. You desperately want to draft a top-flight cornerback, and as luck would have it this draft appears to be deep in good cornerbacks. Maybe to make the situation even juicier, there isn't one particular cornerback that anyone believes is worth the 10th overall pick, but there are a handful that are expected to go in the 20-30 range.

If you like three or four of those cornerbacks roughly equally, and you believe from your pre-draft work that most of the teams picking 11-19 are not in the market for a corner in the first round, you may convince yourself it is safe to trade down to pick #20. And if it's safe to trade down, then it's also wise to trade down. The team that trades downward on draft day picks up extra picks, sometimes very good ones. To move down from 10th to 20th overall in the NFL draft, a team is likely going to demand something in the range of a second-round pick. Miami traded from 12th to 28th in this year's draft and got a high-second-rounder in return (also moving up 16 spots in the fourth and giving back a sixth-rounder). Denver moved from 13th to 24th and gained two extra third-round picks.

So, as the Maroons G.M., you've added maybe a 2nd and a 5th-round pick and you're still going to get the player you like. Or at least, one from a group of players you have rated as relatively equal to each other. Oh, and while it is debatable how much motivation this provides, trading down in the draft also means you're going to end up with a player whose salary requirements are lower.

Such maneuvers are pulled constantly during the draft each year, and surely every team in the league has done it multiple times. Here's an example from the Bucs' past:

In 1998, following their breakout 10-6 campaign in '97, the Buccaneers went into the draft scheduled to pick 23rd. You probably recall the team using many of its high picks in this period of time on defensive players, as the unit was being rebuilt into a Cover Two monster by Tony Dungy and Monte Kiffin. The Bucs were interested in cornerbacks and receivers, and this draft was deep in 'em, especially at cornerback. By the 23rd pick, Charles Woodson, Duane Starks and Terry Fair had already come off the board, but the Bucs thought there were plenty of good ones left.

So Tampa Bay traded with Oakland and moved from 23rd overall to 45th. That's an admittedly big drop, but the Bucs obviously felt as if the depth would hold out. Sure enough, six more cornerbacks would go between picks 23 and 46: R.W. McQuarters, Corey Chavous (he switched to safety several years into his NFL career), Artrell Hawkins, Patrick Surtain, Brian Kelly and Samari Rolle.

Those last four, by the way, went consecutively from picks 43 to 46, and obviously it was the Bucs who nabbed Kelly. Kelly would go on to play 10 seasons in Tampa, appearing in 130 games with 79 starts. He led the 2002 Super Bowl squad with eight interceptions during the regular season.

What did the Bucs get in return for their move of 22 spots down? Not one but two second-round picks, one of which was the fourth pick of the round (#34 overall). That one the team used on wide receiver Jacquez Green, who admittedly didn't pan out as well as the team had hoped though he had a couple decent years. With three second-round picks in hand, the Bucs didn't hesitate to pounce when San Diego called offering its first-round pick in 2000 in exchange for the 29th choice in the second round in 1998. The Chargers made something of a habit of that kind of maneuver in those days (the Bucs had made a similar deal with San Diego, in fact, just two years earlier) and in this case they coveted Stephen F. Austin wide receiver Mikhael Ricks. You may remember Ricks as a big guy who eventually converted to tight end. More likely, you don't remember Ricks at all. The Bucs subsequently packaged that first-rounder with their own first-round pick in 2000 in order to pry Keyshawn Johnson away from the New York Jets.

You would have to have been in the Bucs' draft room on that April afternoon in 1998 to know if Kelly was the cornerback they wanted most out of that list, and the Answer Man wasn't there. We're assuming that they were very happy to get Kelly, who was very highly-regarded coming out of USC. It's possible, though I have no reason to suspect it is so, that the team coveted Hawkins or Surtain more and were disappointed when both went off the board right before them. If so, then the trade down was a gamble that only really paid off when Kelly proved to be well worth the pick.

The much more likely scenario was that the team had similar grades on all four of those cornerbacks (thus also prompting them to pass and go receiver at pick #34, since all four were still available) and figured that at least one would be left when their next pick rolled around. They were right, and the trade down eventually helped them land Keyshawn Johnson.

**

  1. J.P. Short of Reno, Nevada asks:
    I was curious as to what recent Buc greats Mike Alstott and Derrick Brooks have been doing since the end of their careers?

Answer Man: It's your question, not mine, so I'll let the "end of their careers" phrase stand even though I don't know if it's really official in Brooks' case. I know Derrick said earlier this spring that he will "keep the door open" but doesn't think it's likely that the perfect situation is going to come along at this point. Brooks last played for the Buccaneers in 2008.

Fortunately for Tampa Bay fans, who were understandably saddened to see those two incredible Buc careers end, Alstott and Brooks both still live in the Bay area and both are very active in the community. Brooks told a local newspaper columnist that he feels like he gets a formal retirement day every time he "come[s] across someone in the community. I didn't think about it until people started showing their gratitude, telling me they appreciate the way I played the game and what I do for the community."

Both Alstott and Brooks are family men, both are committed to helping others in the Bay area community and both are active businessmen. Here's a more specific look at each, which I got from reaching out to Mike and Derrick after I got your question. And, yes, being able to "reach out" to such Buc greats as #40 and #55 and get an answer right back is indeed a great aspect of this job.

Alstott:

Since officially retiring in 2008, Alstott and his family have remained in the Tampa Bay area. Mike and his wife Nicole have three kids, so that would obviously be enough in itself to keep him busy.

But Mike is far from "retired" from anything beside playing in the NFL. For one thing, he's got the Mike Alstott Family Foundation, which he and Nicole formed in 2007. The foundation's mission is to uplift the minds, hearts and spirits of families and children on their way to realizing their full potential through various events, assistance programs and celebrations. The foundation works with various agencies and organizations in addition to helping individuals overcome life-altering obstacles.

And then there are his business ventures. Alstott manages and develops business opportunities through his parent company 'Alstott Enterprises.' Some of his business ventures include a Durable Medical Company and commercial real estate development.

Oh, and yes, Mike Alstott also remains active with the Buccaneers organization, as he said he would. Mike participates in several team functions each year, and that's not likely to end any time soon.

Brooks:

Brooks rarely slowed down off the field when he was still playing for the Buccaneers, so that wasn't likely to change in the months that have followed. Derrick summed up what he's doing in just a couple sentences for me, but frankly I don't see how he fits it all into one day.

In terms of the sports world, Brooks has remained involved by working as an analyst for both ESPN and Sirius satellite radio during the NFL season. He's a natural for that type of work, of course, because he was such an intense student of the game while he was playing.

Derrick makes motivational speaking appearances, which seems like another natural fit. His work in the business world also includes serving as a real estate consultant for CLW Real Estate Services.

Then there's his community work, which has always been conducted on a grand scale and was begun long before he finished playing for the Bucs. For instance, he helped found the ambitious Brooks-Debartolo Collegiate High School, which opened in the fall of 2007 to a first-year enrollment of 183 students. Brooks-Debartolo is a college preparatory school serving students in grades 9-12 that seeks to provide a rigorous and relevant academic environment where both students and teachers achieve excellence through high expectations, collaboration and support. (Yeah, I took that directly from the school's web site; sue me. This thing is taking long enough to write as it is.)

At capacity, BDCHS will serve 125 students in each grade, or 500 overall. Brooks spends plenty of time raising money for the school and working to build its enrollment. He also raises money for Derrick Brooks Charities, which was founded in order to provide educational opportunities for socio-economically challenged youth. Brooks has always been concerned with education and building leaders for tomorrow, as anyone who remembers his Brooks' Bunch trips to places like Africa will recall.

Oh, Derrick also coaches his son's football team, unsurprisingly. How much fun would it be for a kid to play on that team. And, as Derrick said himself when I reached out to him, there are two pursuits that stand above them all – in his words, "Always trying to serve God and be a great father."

**

  1. Nando Miranda of Helsinki, Finland asks:
    Hi Answer Man, Thanks for coming back after your hiatus. Have you any idea for which home game the Bucs will don their throwbacks this season? I'm hoping that they consider either WK3 vs. Steelers or WK7 vs. Rams. Flashbacks of the 1979 postseason and what could have been a killer Super Bowl XIV.

Answer Man: I think this is the second time this year that I've included a question that I can't really answer, and I hate to do that. But I got a ton of similar questions the last few weeks (second only to the Caddy questions) and I thought I should at least acknowledge it and let us talk about it for a few paragraphs.

Last season, the Buccaneers wore their orange uniforms with the Bucco Bruce logo for the first time since making the switch to pewter and red in 1997. The uniforms were actually based on the 1976 version designed for the team's inaugural season, and if you ask the Answer Man, they were downright beautiful. Personally, I would never give up our current uniforms to go back to the orange, but it was definitely cool to see them make a cameo. It didn't hurt that the game was also Josh Freeman's first start and, in the end, the Bucs first win of the season, as the orange-clad Bucs took down the playoff-bound Green Bay Packers.

That was the first Throwback Game ever for the Buccaneers, and by choosing to do one they also agreed to hold at least one more each season for the next four years. I've made it clear in previous columns that, yes, there will be another Throwback Game this fall; now, understandably, everybody wants to know which one it will be.

The thing is, that hasn't officially been determined yet. The schedule has only been out for a few weeks, and this is a decision that deserves some careful consideration. Last year, the Bucs didn't announce the date of their Throwback Game until July 31, as training camp was opening. It may not take that long for the announcement to come this year, but I honestly can't give you a very solid guess as to when it will be out.

But Nando gets to the fun part anyway: Guessing! If this was a draft, I think you just took my two favorite choices, Nando. For those who don't get the references, the Buccaneers lost the 1979 NFC Championship game to the (then-Los Angeles) Rams, thus missing out on a chance to face the Steelers in Super Bowl XIV. I'm not sure a potential game that never happened really makes the Steelers an obvious choice; I just think our orange on the field with their colors would look amazing. And I always think of the '70s when I see the Steelers, so it would make visual sense to me.

The Rams, though…I like that choice a lot. Not only did that 1979 game happen, but we played them again in the 1999 NFC Championship Game and then launched into a terrific regular-season series of rematches over the next few years. Remember the December 2000 game at Raymond James Stadium, when the Bucs won 38-35 after that crazy Dunn-King pitch-back play? The Bucs-Rams rivalry wasn't played in orange, so that's an obvious flaw in the logic, and the bad blood has cooled a bit lately, but there is still that 1979 game.

I guess after that the Seahawks in December make sense since Tampa Bay and Seattle were expansion twins in 1976. And any of the three division rivals would have some added spice in those games.

We'll have to wait a little longer to find out. In the meantime, if you have an opinion as to what game it should be and a fairly detailed justification, send it in. If I get a handful of them, I'll print them in the next column.

**

  1. James Wilson of Crewe, UK asks:
    Hey Answerman, while thinking about players who have bust and boomed over this festive draft period a few similar names kept coming up, Johnson being one with, Brad, Josh and Keyshawn most recent. But that got me wondering... Which name has appeared most on the back of the hallowed Bucs jersey?

Answer Man: Bless you, James, for sending me a question I can find the answer to in no time. A few of the ones above this took some serious research!

Of course, I have to make this as complicated as possible. So here we go!

First of all, I had to make a decision before the count began: Should we or should we not count the 45 men who only played for the team during the three replacement games in 1987, when the players were on strike. As it turns out, it will make a difference. My verdict: Yes. They played, whatever the circumstances, and a handful of guys who played during those games and also saw action with the Bucs before or after the strike are included in the regular all-time roster.

Second, I had a guess before I even started counting. (You'll have to take my word for it, but I am unfailingly honest. Which you'll have to take my word for.) I thought the answer was going to be Davis, only because I remembered that we had a whole lot of players by that name in the early years including, if I remember correctly, three or four different running backs. Picking Davis over Smith, Jackson, Johnson or Jones? Yeah, it was risky, but I went with my gut. And then I counted…

//Jeopardy music…

Was I right? Sort of. I would have nailed it straight out if not for my decision to count the replacement players, and somebody's decision in 1987 to sign a reserve offensive tackle named David Johnson, who never even got into a game but was on the roster. Curse you, David Johnson! (No, if you're reading this, Mr. Johnson, I'm sure you're an awesome dude.)

There have been 14 Davises who have played for the Buccaneers, and thanks to that replacement player, 14 Johnsons as well. The only other surname that comes close is Smith, with 13, including one replacement player. There have been 10 Thomases, nine Joneses, nine Williamses, eight Carters, eight Wilsons…what the heck, let's put this into a chart.

Surname

No.

First Names

Davis

14

Anthony, Anthony, Charlie, Don, Gary, Greg, Jeff, John, Johnny, Reuben, Ricky, Sammy, Tony, Tyree

Johnson

14*

Brad, Cecil, David*, Dennis, Dirk, Essex, Greg, Josh, Keyshawn, Marcus, Melvin, Randy, Rob, Tracy

Smith

13*

Alex, Barry, Clifton, Corey, Don, Dwight, Herman, Jeff, Johnny Ray, Justin, Reggie*, Sean, Shevin

Thomas*

10

Broderick, Derrick*, Ed, George, Kelly, Kevin, Lamar, Norris, Robb, Zach

Jones

9

Gordon, LaCurtis, Marcus, Mark, Milton, Rod, Roger, Thomas, Victor

Williams

9

Carnell, David, Doug, Ed, Jimmy, Karl, Mark, Roland, T.J.

Carter

8**

Blanchard, Carl, Gerald, Kevin, Louis, Marty, Steve, Walter

White

8

Brad, Charlie, Dewayne, Stylez G., Jamel, Jeris, Robb, Steve

Wilson

8

Bernard, Charles, Jerry, Karl, Reinard, Robert, Rod, Steve

Harris

7*

Jackie, Leonard, Odie, Paul, Roy*, Rudy, William

Jackson

7*

David*, Dexter, Dexter, Noah, Scott, Tanard, Tyoka

Anderson

6

Brandon, Darren, Don, Gary, Jerry, Jesse

Brown

6*

Aaron, Cedric, Lomas, Rufus*, Selwyn, Tim

Green

6

Cornell, Dave, Hugh, Jacquez, Rogerick, Willie

Moore

6

Bob, Dave, Dre, Kyle, Manfred, Maulty

* Includes one replacement player, who is also marked with an asterisk

* Includes two replacement players, who are also marked with asterisks*

So, if we want a clear-cut winner in this made-up contest, how can we break the Davis/Johnson tie? How about the number of total games played by the 14 players under each surname? Votes? Aye. The motion carries, 1-0.

As of the end of the 2009 season, the 14 Davises had played 429 games for the Buccaneers and the 14 Johnsons had played 348 games for the Buccaneers. The Johnsons do have an ace in the hole, with Josh on the current roster, but it's hard to imagine him playing in 81 games anytime soon. An undrafted defensive end named George Johnson was also signed just after the recent rookie mini-camp, and he looks promising too, but it would still take the George/Josh combo a long time to catch up with the Davises.

I will say this: If you go by games started rather than games played, the Johnsons surge ahead, with 230 starts to the Davises' 196. Cecil, Keyshawn and Brad carry the day for the Johnsons here, while several of the Davises (Don, John, Tony) were career-long reserves.

Oh, there's another way in which the Davises have been more prominent than the Johnsons in team history. For the first 17 seasons of the franchise's existence, there was at least one Davis on the team each year. That streak ended in 1993, but only for one year. The Davises also missed 1996, 2001, 2002 and last year, but that's it. Of the 34 seasons in team history, 29 have included a Davis in some way, shape or form. The Johnsons also had a player on the team for each of the first 10 seasons (1976-85) but then went on a nine-year hiatus before Melvin revived them in 1995. The Johnsons have been more prominent of late with the likes of Brad, Keyshawn and Josh, but they also missed 1998, 1999, 2005, 2006 and 2007. The Johnson's coverage is only 20 of the 34 seasons.

By the way, there are 25 players on the Bucs' all-time roster (including one replacement player) with names that start with "Mc," from Fred McAfee to Charles McRae, but not one repeated Mc surname. That doesn't really mean anything; just throwing it out there.

Finally, this question: Is it actually a surprise to see the Davises beat out the Johnsons, Smiths, Jacksons, Joneses, Williamses and Whites? In other words, how do these names rank in terms of how common they are among the U.S. population? The data I found was from the 2000 census, which is probably as good as we're going to get.

And it's not as big of an upset as it might sound. Smith, of course, is number one on the list, and Johnson is second, but Davis checks in pretty close at seventh. Johnson was counted 1,857,160 times in that census, while Davis came in at 1,072,335. Williams was third, Brown was fourth, Jones was fifth and Wilson was 10th. Where the Bucs appear to be lacking, historically, is in Millers, which ranks sixth on the list but only gets two on the team's roster, Solomon and the recently-arrived Roy.

**

  1. Jacob Sanchez of San Antonio asks:
    Do you think it was a good idea that the Buccaneers didn't select Dez Bryant??

Answer Man: I assume from your question that you do NOT think it was a good idea that the Bucs passed on Bryant. My answer to your question: Yes, I do, and it has nothing to do with any alleged character issues that we've all seen debated.

Simply put, I think it was a good idea because of who the Buccaneers did draft. Tampa Bay had the third pick in the first round and selected Oklahoma defensive tackle Gerald McCoy. McCoy's boundless potential and the Bucs' obvious need at the position made that seem like the perfect pick. Would you have approved of the Buccaneers taking Bryant at that pick, third overall, especially with McCoy still available? I don't think I'd have been on board with that (though I have no say, obviously).

And after that, Bryant was off the board before the Bucs picked again, so there really was no decision to be made. I suppose you could stretch it and say the Bucs could have tried to trade up to get in position to take Bryant, but I've got two responses to that: 1) There's no guarantee the Bucs could have made that move up, especially with another team also trying to do so (Dallas traded up to get to pick #24). And 2) This was, by all accounts a very deep draft. To move from pick #35 or #42 up to #24 would have almost surely been very costly (it cost Dallas a third-rounder, getting a fourth back, just to move up three spots), almost certainly both of those second-round picks. The Bucs eventually traded a fifth-round pick to move up three spots in the second round and get the next receiver drafted, Arrelious Benn, but that hurts a lot less than losing a second-rounder.

The Bucs had spent more than a year hoarding picks for this deep draft, and were certainly loathe to give up any of their premium selections. The second round brought in both Benn and defensive tackle Brian Price, and while it's too early to know how good McCoy, Price, Benn or even Bryant will turn out, on paper I'd say the Bucs come out looking good. I'm sure Dallas is thrilled to have Bryant, but do I think the Bucs made a mistake here? No, I definitely do not.

**

  1. Ken Thie of Apollo Beach, Florida asks:
    Hello Answer Man this is my first time writing in. Thanks for taking my question. I heard a rumor that former USF QB Matt Grothe was at the Bucs' rookie camp. Was this true and if it was did he do well enough to possibly make the practice squad? He could be a great backup but with his size I am not sure being a starting NFL QB is in his future.

Answer Man: My pleasure, Ken. Make it the first of many.

That wasn't just a rumor; Matt Grothe was definitely a part of the Bucs' rookie mini-camp last week. He was one of about 50 players who participated on tryout contracts, which means they were here for three days but they didn't yet have a spot on the actual offseason roster.

Coach Morris said all three young passers (also Mississippi's Jevan Snead and Texas Southern's Bobby Reid) did well, and it wasn't like it was an easy situation for them. They got their playbooks on Thursday night and the coaches didn't hold back over the weekend, going through a lot of it. That's quite a bit to take in in such a short period of time, but the Bucs believe in throwing a lot at young players to see how they respond. Morris spoke highly of the way all three guys handled the mental side of the challenge.

Now, the team signed five of those tryout players after the weekend was over and Grothe wasn't one of them. That certainly doesn't spell the end of the NFL for the former Bulls star, as a lot of young players take a couple cracks at it before they stick in the league. At the moment, the Bucs have four quarterbacks (Snead is on the roster), and that's usually the number it takes to training camp. I guess it's not likely that Grothe will sign with the Buccaneers this summer, for that reason, but the Answer Man is hesitant to completely right off a player who had so much success on the college level. What a great player. Here's hoping he gets a chance; he wouldn't be the first shorter quarterback to succeed in the pros.

**

  1. George Carlton of Clearwater, Florida asks:

Hey, I am in the Navy and I just wanted to know if it is possible to have a Buc re-enlist me at the stadium in July.

Answer Man: Great question, George. I'm not sure about July, but there is an excellent chance that we will have a large re-enlistment ceremony during a home game this upcoming season. It is usually part of a full Military Appreciation Day at the stadium. That event has not yet been approved or slotted for a particular game, but we do it almost every season, so I'd say there's a great chance.

If you want to try to be a part of that (and this goes for all the servicemen or women out there), I'd suggest you contact Sergeant Major Stephen Valley at MacDill Air Force Base. He coordinates the re-enlisting members of the military who take part in the ceremony at Raymond James Stadium, working with recruiters in all of the military branches. SGM Valley's e-mail address is stephen.valley@us.army.mil.

I hope that helps.

**

  1. Bill of Sarasota, Florida asks:

If a runner gains 20 yards and then fumbles the ball, does he get credit for the 20 yards rushing? When a QB throws the ball into the ground to stop the clock, does that count as an incomplete pass? Had another question but can't remember it. I'm getting too old to remember things. Thanks. I await your answers.

Answer Man: I feel ya, Bill. The Answer Man rarely makes it out of the house on one try anymore because I've forgotten my wallet, keys, phone, cape, helmet things like that. (Why am I wearing a football helmet if I have superpowers? You ask too many questions. Get out of here.)

Fortunately, these are pretty straightforward statistical questions for which I can easily remember the answers.

Yes, a runner who gains 20 yards and then fumbles does get credit for those 20 yards. Any yards subsequently gained or lost before the ball is recovered is considered "fumble yardage" and does not count for or against either the back's rushing total or the total yardage for his team's offense. Here's an example from one of the Bucs' games last year, when Sabby Piscitelli forced Miami running back Ronnie Brown to fumble. The play-by-play entry reads:

1-10-TB 46 (1:49) R.Brown right tackle to TB 37 for 9 yards (S.Piscitelli). FUMBLES (S.Piscitelli), RECOVERED by TB-T.Jackson at TB 32. T.Jackson to TB 37 for 5 yards (T.Ginn).

Brown ran from the 46 to the 37 and is credited with that nine-yard gain. He fumbled and the ball went another five yards forward before it was recovered by Tanard Jackson, but Brown doesn't get credit for those five yards. Jackson returned it five yards to the original spot of the fumble, and that counts as fumble return yardage but does not go into the yards gained category for either team.

And, yes, purposely spiking the ball to kill the clock does count as an incomplete pass. You didn't ask, but I've answered this before so let me repeat that it is not intentional grounding only because the rules specifically allow the quarterback to make an immediate spike of the ball to stop the clock without it being a penalty. There was such an occurrence in that same Miami game, when the Dolphins' Chad Henne spiked the ball at the Bucs' 34-yard line with 23 seconds left in the game, saving his team's last timeout. (Ricky Williams would then run for 27 yards, setting up Dan Carpenter's game-winning 25-yard field goal.) Henne was 17 of 30 passing before that down; he is credited as 17 of 31 at game's end, thanks to that spike.

Sometimes you have to take it for the team, statistically, in your effort to win the game. The same thing happens whenever a quarterback kneels down to finish off a game or a half when his team is ahead. He usually loses a yard "rushing" every time he does so, and if he takes a step back before kneeling, sometimes it's two yards. It's totally worth it, of course, as is the incompletion for spiking the ball.

If you think of that other question, give me a shout.

**

Okay, a few "quickies" to take us out. As always these are questions that I've answered before or which require little explanation.

  1. Christopher Gaines of Hays, Kansas asks:
    What does it mean to be a Tampa Bay Buccaneer?

Answer Man: That's probably a little too nebulous for me to provide an answer to it, particularly because the answer would be different for a player and a staffer, I'm sure. And because it wouldn't be fair, what with my superpowers and all, I've never actually played for the Buccaneers.

But I included this question as a chance to plug something my buddies here at Buccaneers.com have been doing recently. Check out some of the "Who Is?" video interviews they've posted in recent weeks, with players such as Gerald McCoy, Brian Price and Clifton Smith. They started with the draft picks and are now moving on to some of the vets, and some of the questions are along the lines of what you've asked above. Trying to give the fans a more personal look at these guys. I hear Stylez G. White is queued up for Wednesday, so stay tuned.

**

  1. Brian of West Palm Beach, Florida asks:
    When is this year's bucsfest?

Answer Man: Everybody has their own name for that event, but it's technically called FanFest. I knew what you meant! This year's FanFest, which is our most popular single event of the offseason and for good reason, is Saturday, June 19th. Everything you've come to expect will still be included, including extensive opportunities to get autographs from players, but there's one cool new wrinkle this year: It starts in the early evening!

Keep an eye on Buccaneers.com for much more information on FanFest as it approaches.

**

  1. Mary Zajac of Agawam, Massachusetts asks:
    My family and I will be visiting the Tampa Bay area the first week of June. Does the stadium offer tours to the general public? Thank you!

Answer Man: Yes. You can arrange a tour with the Tampa Sports Authority. For more information on cost and potential dates and times, please visit that page of the TSA website.

**

  1. Johnny Cantu of Corpus Christi, Texas asks:
    What college did Mike Alstott go to?

Answer Man: Purdue. My shortest answer ever! Well, it was until this part. Dang.

**

And finally, an aside to Rendrick Mitchell of Nashville, Tennessee: I couldn't ask Rendrick Taylor your question because he had to go back to school after mini-camp. I'll ask him when he returns for OTAs later this month and get your question into a later column.

And that will do it for me today. I've got places to fly and villainous plots to foil. Just so you all know, there were about four dozen e-mails in the inbox that I didn't even get a chance to open. Maybe, since I was gone for awhile during the draft/mini-camp stretch, I'll try to get in another column next week. Please bear with me, and keep sending me all these great questions.

  • A.M.
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