FanFest will be held on Saturday, June 19 at Raymond James Stadium.
Boom! Just wiped out half of my mailbag. Good thing I'm not paid by the hour.
I'm only exaggerating by a little. I'm wondering if my incoming mail is going to slow to a trickle by late June, because it seems like every other question is about FanFest. I certainly understand - it's the single most popular day on the Buccaneers' offseason calendar, and nobody wants to miss it.
Here's a link to more FanFest information here on Buccaneers.com. Long story short: Stadium gates open at 4:30 p.m. (it's the first-ever evening FanFest) and the event lasts until nine. Though there are many, many attractions - cheerleader performances, giveaways, games for the kids, Coaches Corner, etc. - one of the biggest draws is the chance for autographs. The windows for the vouchers needed for the special autograph stations in the Club Lounges open at 4:00 p.m. on the south end of the stadium. The lines usually start forming early.
Now, as I sometimes do, I'm going to start with a few bits of fan feedback, which not infrequently is a list of typos and minor mistakes I made in a previous column. Not this time, though. It is with great pleasure that I reprint the following two missives, because there's not a single Answer Man smackdown in either one. Yay!
Russ Randolph, a Tampa native now living in Valencia, California, sent me this:
Hello Answer Man. [Hello, Russ.] Just a couple of footnotes about an answer that you provided in this current forum. [Or the last one. Whatever] Gary Huff, the starting quarterback of the '77 Bucs that recorded the 1st victory in franchise history over the New Orleans Saints...if my memory serves me correctly, not only was he a Florida State alum, he was also an alum of Leto High School, there in Tampa. Given that I am a Jefferson Dragon, it took a lot for me to acknowledge my rival high school, but I am just trying to do my part. [Very big of you.] Also, as I recall, Archie Manning (the Saints' quarterback at the time) was quoted in the press the week leading up to the game as saying something along the lines of how much of a travesty it would be to lose to the Bucs, and that, "There's no way we are going to lose to that team." How nice it was to shut his loud mouth up. And lastly, again if my memory serves me correctly, Hank Stram (the coach of the Saints at the time and the Super Bowl IV-winning coach with the Chiefs) was fired shortly thereafter, probably as a result of losing that game. Just thought you might like to know. I am a big fan of your column, please keep up the good work.
Well, I knew all of that except the part about Gary Huff being a Leto High grad. It's true, though. As the Bucs' 1977 media guide points out, Huff "lived within two miles of Tampa Stadium during high school." Leto's just a little bit to the north of Raymond James Stadium, Jefferson just a little bit to the south. Before the team built its beautiful new headquarters just to the east of RJS, their original facility was within walking distance of Jefferson High, Russ's alma mater.
I don't know if the quote you provide is verbatim, but the story is accurate and it still follows Manning around. It was dredged up again in 2008 when the Saints were about to play a winless Detroit Lions squad. Manning realized after that 1977 loss to the Buccaneers that his comments had been used as motivation by the opponent, so he advised the Saints players to be much more careful with what they said. Manning called the loss to Tampa Bay and the realization that he had provided pretty effective bulletin board material as, "The worst feeling I ever had in football."
And, yes, Stram lost his job at the end of the season. No one officially said the loss to the Buccaneers was the reason (and it should be noted that the Saints were 7-21 in Stram's two seasons at the helm) but that has long been the speculation.
Okay, now one from a Bucs fan here in St. Pete named Justin:
In your last column about which Buc squad had the most rookie starters, you stated that there were 22 spots in which a rookie could be eligible to start. That sent up a bunch of red Buccaneer flags with me, as it seems you had forgotten the kicker and punter positions... then I got to thinking what if the good ole Answer Man didn't forget. What if, the kicker and punter and possibly kick/punt returner positions are not an official starting position. So in my effort to point out a possible oversight I have managed to turn it into a two part Answer Man-worthy question. Is the kicker and punter considered a starter, and if they are does it change the answer to the previous question?
See, isn't that one cool (for me)? By the time Justin is done explaining what he believes to be my mistake, he has essentially realized that it wasn't a mistake.
Yes, Justin, you're right with your second-stage musing. For better or worse, kickers and punters are not considered starters for the purpose of NFL statistics, nor are return men. Each team has 22 official starters in each game, which are the 11 players on the field for the first official offensive snap for that team and the 11 players on the field for the first official defensive snap.
In some cases, players who might not normally be considered "starters" are officially given starts because the situation called for them to be on the field for the first snap. For instance, fullback Chris Pressley actually started his very first NFL regular-season game last season when he played for the Buccaneers against New Orleans in Week 11. At the time, Earnest Graham was the primary starter at fullback, with B.J. Askew on injured reserve. In this case, however, the Saints had the game's first possession and when they ended up punting and Clifton Smith fair caught it at the Bucs' five-yard line. Backed up against their own goal line, the Bucs came out in a jumbo running package, with an extra tight end and the bigger Pressley in as a lead blocker. It worked, as Cadillac Williams' first two runs gained eight yards and the Bucs converted third-and-two. In fact, that started a 95-yard touchdown drive that was Tampa Bay's second-longest of the season. Pressley, who had only been on the roster for a few weeks and who had been inactive for his first two games with the team, was one of the 22 starters. Graham was not.
Now, another way to refer to "starters" would be to examine a team's depth chart. (Don't try to find the Bucs' depth chart here on Buccaneers.com right now; it's only official and active once training camp begins.) The players who are listed first at each position are who the team considers its starters, regardless of what happens on the first play of the game. And the depth chart obviously includes kickers and punters, as well as long-snappers and return men. Often, there is only one player listed at those spots (only a few teams carry an extra kicker or punter), but that still makes that player the "starter" by that definition.
So it basically comes down to statistics, Justin, and in the original question I was doing statistical research. You are more than welcome to think of punters and kickers as starters in every way other than statistically; they certainly deserve it.
Now, on to this week's questions!
- Rendrick Mitchell of Nashville, Tennessee commands:
Hey, ask Rendrick Taylor the story behind his first name. I'm 42 and have never met anyone with MY first name before. By the way, he looked great blocking for C.J. Spiller at Clemson last year. Hope he makes the final 53-man roster.
Answer Man: Okay, I'm starting with an answer that's really only going to help one person, but I've been promising Mr. Mitchell I'd track it down for three columns now, so I wanted to get it out of the way up top.
I talked to Rendrick Taylor a couple of days ago (a very pleasant guy, by the way) and got the story for you, Tennessee Rendrick. Well, actually Taylor says there really is no story. But he told me how the name came about, so I guess that is technically an origin story, right?
Rendrick has an older brother named Kendrick. Though they are not twins, his mother wanted to name her second son something similar, so she came up with Rendrick, which does have a nice ring to it. And it's definitely unique. I browsed through six online baby name sites (of the approximately 170 million that exist) and I didn't find Rendrick on any list. There was Renee and Renny, of course, as well as some more unusual entries like Rendor and Renske, but I never found Rendrick. It also became clear that most of these sites are basically reprinting almost the exact same lists, but they are pretty comprehensive.
Also, if you do a search on one of the popular internet search engines, and just use "Rendrick," the first five links that come up are all in reference to our Rendrick Taylor, suggesting he might be the most well-known Rendrick out there (sorry, Mr. Mitchell!). The sixth link is for the "Poetry of Bernice Rendrick," which was really just a review of the Poetry of Bernice Rendrick and not the poetry itself. I was kind of hoping for a little poetry break, but no go. The review was very positive, though. The search engine also suggests searching, "Rendrick Taylor hulk," which is a reference to the fullback's impressively chiseled physique. As Rendrick Mitchell points out, Taylor did indeed provide very good lead-blocking for Spiller, who was drafted ninth overall by the Buffalo Bills in April. What's even more interesting about the Bucs' rookie is that he was actually a wideout at Clemson for three years before converting to his current position. That's not a switch you see very often.
And his name is interesting, too. If he makes the team and thus gets a spot on the Bucs' all-time roster, Rendrick will go up there with the likes of Tyji (Armstrong), DeVone (Claybrooks), Chartric (Darby), Rockne (Freitas), Rogerick (Green), Tanard and Tyoka (Jackson), Essex (Johnson), Toddrick (McIntosh), Maulty (Moore), Tutan (Reyes), Edell (Shepherd), Alshermond (Singleton), Aqib (Talib) and Ronyell (Whitaker). There's no real unifying theme among those names; there just some of my favorite in Buc history.
I mean, how great of a name is Rockne Freitas?! I'd love to have a name like that (not that Answer Man doesn't have a nice ring to it, as well). Just for the heck of it, I looked up Mr. Freitas on Wikipedia and learned that his full name is Rockne Crowningburg Freitas. He also happens to be the chancellor of Hawaii Community College in Hilo, Hawaii. Learn something new every day.
2 and 3. Jay Forry of Tampa, Florida asks:
Answer Man I'm sending you a second set of questions since you were so nice and put my comments and questions on the top of your first Answer Man column at the beginning of the year. I hesitate sending you these questions because most questions you receive are very intriguing and even interesting to read but mine may be a little "ho hum" to you and everybody else - except me. Of course, a couple of the questions you've received have been as useless as John Travolta's 10-year-old film Battlefield Earth. (I don't want to receive any Answer Man wrath so I want to make sure to say your answers are also intriguing and interesting.)
Now on to my questions after some rambling just like --- well I won't mention any names. I always try to look ahead and I'm sure the Buccaneer organization does the same. First, last year when the Bucs played a game in the United Kingdom and lost a home game (they only played 7 in Tampa) what do they receive from not only traveling overseas which has to be tough but losing that home game? I can't imagine a team making a run for the playoffs losing one home game in the year. At least if they played it as an away game there is nothing lost. I don't know the percentages but I know winning at home is much easier. I'm hoping there's some kind of compensation in the future. When I say compensation, I mostly mean something like an easy schedule with a bye week later in the season instead of the third week or no three-week road game [stretches] or something else.
Second question - and I don't think you answered this question in any columns about the draft - has to do with the draft position of our picks this year. I know the year after we won the Super Bowl we obviously had the last pick at number 32 and we lost our first and second-round draft picks to Oakland which I think made our first pick at 96 which is horrible. Could you tell me if that was our worst year for draft positions and if this year was our best positions? I'm talking about both sets of draft picks and high draft picks combined, if you can do that. Why don't you take it up to the top 100 picks in each year or however you want to do it.
Answer Man: Okay, if you saw that big block of bold text and didn't feel like reading the whole thing, let me summarize Jay's two questions. 1) Do teams that have played one of their eight regular-season home games in London get compensated for "losing" a home game in subsequent seasons? And, 2) In what years have the Bucs' draft picks been positioned best and worst?
I read the whole thing, of course, because it was quite entertaining and it had just the right amount of buttering me up, but with a few light jabs thrown in there for balance. I suppose I could have edited Jay's missive for length, but that would have been kind of hypocritical of me, right?
So, question 1. There is compensation for losing a real home game, Jay, but not of the kind you're asking about. There is a very real loss of revenue, of course, when you don't play one of your 10 home games in your own stadium, so the NFL reimburses that team what it would have netted, using an average total from other home games.
But Jay wants to know about a competitive compensation, if there is such a thing. And, no, the home team in a neutral-site game is not given any sort of make-up advantage that season or any other season. Essentially, you're biting the bullet in that regard in order to get what is a pretty great experience. The NFL is always trying to expand its reach to the rest of the world, and it's exciting to be chosen to be a part of that. And, of course, losing home field advantage doesn't necessarily mean you're going to lose the game. Two of the four games played in London in the International Series so far have been won by the designated home team, two by the designated visitors.
As you can see, Jay, the Bucs did not get a later bye week in 2010; in fact, the Week Four bye is their earliest since 2003, when it was also in Week Four. It's hard to complain about that, however, as the Bucs have drawn very late byes in each of the last three years. (For those unaware, later byes are generally considered favorable because the more games that have been played the more likely it is that you have injured players who could benefit from an extra week of rest. In addition, general team fatigue is obviously going to be greater later in the season. In reality, how beneficial the timing of a bye becomes is largely a matter of chance; if you lose your starting quarterback for a couple weeks in Week Three, for instance, you're going to be pretty happy about that Week Four bye.)
The Bucs don't have any three-road-game stretches in 2010, but they do play four out of five away from home between Weeks Eight and 12. All of that is pretty good evidence on the face of it that there was no effort to "make it up" to the Bucs for their London home game in 2009, but I checked with management just to be sure and they confirmed what I told you above.
Question 2: Best and worst position for the draft.
Your kind of on the money with your example, Jay, but you've got a couple of the facts mixed up. The Bucs did draft in the 32nd spot in 2003, the year after winning Super Bowl XXXVII, but they still had their second-round pick that season. The Bucs lost their first and second-round picks in the 2002 draft, the same year they traded with Oakland for the right to hire Jon Gruden. The entire draft pick package in that deal was a first and second in 2002, a first in 2003 and a second in 2004.
So in 2003, when the team was picking 32nd, it actually still owned the last pick of the second round, number 64 overall, which it used on Louisville defensive end Dewayne White. That is not the lowest starting pick the Bucs have ever had.
All of the elements for the answer were in your example, though, because the lowest starting pick the Bucs have ever made was indeed in 2002, simply because that is the only year in team history in which it didn't have a single pick in the first or second rounds. The Bucs picked 21st in the third round that season, selecting Michigan wide receiver Marquise Walker with the 86th overall choice. That's 22 spots lower than the Dewayne White pick, which is indeed the second lowest starting point in team history. Third on the list is 2000, when the Bucs traded both of their first-round picks to the New York Jets to get wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson. That left them starting at the 20th pick in the second round, 51st overall, where they took Tennessee guard Cosey Coleman.
The highest the Bucs have ever started the draft is, of course, first overall. That's where they selected defensive end Lee Roy Selmon in 1976, as well as running back Ricky Bell in 1977, running back Bo Jackson in 1986 and quarterback Vinny Testaverde in 1987. The three-spot, where the Bucs nabbed Oklahoma defensive tackle Gerald McCoy this year, is indeed their highest starting point since that Vinny pick.
Jay wanted a little bit more analysis, though, suggesting I go through the top 100 picks of each draft. I think what he means is, in which years have we had the most and fewest picks in the top 100, so let's check that out, but add a little extra detail.
This year, Tampa Bay picked McCoy third, defensive tackle Brian Price 35th, wide receiver Arrelious Benn 39th and cornerback Myron Lewis 67th. Wide receiver Mike Williams just misses the cutoff as the 101st pick overall, but is certainly worth mentioning in this analysis.
That's four picks in the top 100 and in fact four in the top 67. Have the Bucs ever had that sort of windfall before? As a matter of fact, yes, and not long ago. In 2007, Tampa Bay made four of the first 100 picks, and all four were in the top 68. That was defensive end Gaines Adams at four, guard Arron Sears at 35, safety Sabby Piscitelli at 64 and linebacker Quincy Black at 68. There's even an analogous pick to Williams at 101, as the Bucs nabbed safety Tanard Jackson at 106.
The Bucs also had four of the top 100 in 2005 (Cadillac Williams, Barrett Ruud, Alex Smith, Chris Colmer), 1992 (Courtney Hawkins, Mark Wheeler, Tyji Armstrong, Craig Erickson), 1991 (Charles McRae, Lawrence Dawsey, Robert Wilson, Tony Covington), 1988 (Paul Gruber, Lars Tate, Robert Goff, John Bruhin) and 1982 (Sean Farrell, Booker Reese, Jerry Bell, John Cannon).
But I almost feel bad spending two whole paragraphs on those four-in-the-top-100 seasons because they're not even close to the top of the list. In fact, there have been seven seasons in which the Bucs have made five or more of the top 100 picks: 1997 (Warrick Dunn, Reidel Anthony, Jerry Wunsch, Frank Middleton, Ronde Barber), 1996 (Regan Upshaw, Marcus Jones, Mike Alstott, Donnie Abraham, Jason Odom), 1993 (Eric Curry, Demetrius DuBose, Lamar Thomas, John Lynch, Rudy Harris), 1986 (Bo Jackson, Rod Jones, Jackie Walker, Kevin Murphy, Craig Swoope), 1979 (Greg Roberts, Gordon Jones, Jerry Eckwood, Reggie Lewis, Rick Berns) and 1976 (Lee Roy Selmon, Jimmy DuBose, Dewey Selmon, Steve Young, Steve Maughan).
If you're counting, you'll notice that I promised seven seasons but listed only six in that paragraph above. That's because I was saving the winner for last. In 1987, the Buccaneers executed an incredible seven of the top 100 picks in the draft: Vinny Testaverde, Ricky Reynolds, Winston Moss, Don Smith, Mark Carrier, Don Graham and Ron Hall. Those are mostly very recognizable names in franchise history, too, and that draft also produced Bruce Hill, Curt Jarvis, Harry Swayne and Mike Shula (who didn't make it as a player but later came back as a pretty prominent coach for the team).
That draft also has this year's class beat in terms of the top 67 picks, as Testaverde, Reynolds, Moss, Smith and Carrier were all among the first 57 selections.
The year in which the Bucs made the fewest of the top 100 picks was, again, 2002, when the Marquise Walker pick at 86 was followed next with Travis Stephens at number 119. Jermaine Phillips, the only player in that class to make any sort of lasting impact, was taken in the fifth round, at number 157 overall.
It took me awhile, but I think I finally exceeded the length of Jay's question with my answer. You're welcome.
- Jake G. of Ishpeming, Michigan asks:
Hey Answer Man, I've got a question for you (bet you didn't see that coming). I don't think you usually answer questions like this, but being that you are the only person within the organization that I know how to contact, my question is coming to you. Basically I just want to know more about Mark Dominik. Where did he go to college, what did he study, how did he get into the Bucs organization to begin with? This all seems very interesting and I believe it to be worthy of your column. Besides, I know that Super Bowl is two words, that's gotta count for something.
Answer Man: I like Jake. He's obviously a long-time reader. I think it's been some time since I've railed against my personal pet peeve (Superbowl...man, it pains me just to type it that way).
Sure, I answer questions like these, Jake, and indeed, it's worth knowing the background of the general manager of your favorite team. Let's check it out.
Mark's father was in two-way radio sales (technology that later transformed into cell phones, so obviously a good business choice). That prompted the Dominik family to move around quite a bit during his childhood and adolescence. He was born in St. Cloud, Minnesota but the family left there when he was about three to head to Memphis, Tennessee. Subsequent stops included Albemarle, North Carolina (home of American Idol Kellie Pickler, I'm informed), Sioux Falls, South Dakota and Lawrence, Kansas. Ending up in Lawrence proved important because Dominik then chose to attend the University of Kansas and study sports management, for which he earned a bachelor of science. To complete that degree, Dominik needed to serve an internship, so he gamely applied to the Kansas City Chiefs and was selected as the first intern ever in the Chiefs' scouting department.
After a year and a half with the Chiefs, Dominik was hired by the Buccaneers in 1995 as a pro personnel assistant. From there, it was a steady climb through the ranks to his current position, which he assumed in January of 2009. Along the way, he was promoted to pro scout in 1998 and coordinator of pro personnel in 2000 before beginning a long tenure as the team's director of pro personnel in 2001.
Dominik's ascension to general manager was a validation of nearly a decade and a half of outstanding work in the team's player personnel department. He had gained a reputation for having a keen eye for talent, frequently uncovering such hidden gems as Shelton Quarles, who he discovered in the Canadian Football League, and Donald Penn, who was plucked off the Minnesota Vikings' practice squad.
That's a brief summary of Dominik's career path for you, Jake. I hope that's what you were looking for and, please, any questions you have in the future, continue to assume that I'm your man.
- Taylor of Phoenix, Arizona asks:
How many wins do you think we can expect this year? Last year we ended up with three due to various reasons. Along with various growing pains with our rookies, would it be too much to expect closer to an 8-8 record? Maybe even push 9-7 and fight for a wild card?
Answer Man: Look, we might as well acknowledge the elephant in the room here, Taylor. I mean, you know I'm going to be optimistic when it comes to predictions like these, right? I could say that I fully expect the Bucs to be contenders in 2010 (which I do) and I could actually be sincere about it (which I am), but given who I am and my admitted bias, you probably wouldn't put too much stock into it.
And that's one of the reasons why I generally don't field questions like these. How good will the Bucs be? Who's the team's best running back? Would we better if we signed Player X? I'm not going to bite the hand that feeds me and, anyway, I'm not likely to do that because I'm an utter optimist when it comes to my team. I do feel like I'm a well-informed optimist, however, so I have some very good reasons to believe that 2010 is going to be a very exciting year for the Buccaneers.
But does that mean I should delete Taylor's question. Oh, no! It's at this point where my fevered and not always well-aimed brain starts whirring...how can I turn this into a statistical challenge? What sort of research might apply? And, bingo! An idea!
Why don't we take a look at all the teams that have been in the Bucs' current situation, or at least a large number of them. Let's say, teams coming off a season with four or fewer wins since the NFL went to a 16-game schedule in 1978. That's three decades worth of data; maybe it can tell us something.
So I whipped up a list, as I love to do (seriously, I love this job). I listed all of the teams that finished with four or fewer wins in a season from 1978 through 2008. I did have to exclude some teams/seasons due to incomplete date. That included the 1981-83 campaigns, because the 1982 season was shortened to nine games by a players' strike, so the data for that three-year span didn't really fit. I also didn't include Jacksonville in 1995, Houston in 2002 or Cleveland in 1999 because they were all first-year expansion teams, with no previous season to complete the statistical analysis. And I didn't include last year's results because those teams don't yet have "next seasons" to complete the three-year set. (The 2009 season was used, however, to complete the analysis for any four or fewer-win teams in 2008.)
So, in that time span and with those few exclusions, one comes up with 118 teams that fit the bill. That's a pretty big sample size, I think, enough at least to make this exercise worthwhile. For the sake of brevity, I'm going to refer to the four-or-fewer-win season just as "the zero season," the year that preceded that one as "-1 season" and the year that followed as " 1 season." Got it? Good. (Just nod your head.)
I'm going to start off by saying that, in the end, I don't think the data is particularly conclusive as to one specific trend for these teams. Gotta be upfront about that. I do a lot of these little strolls through the stats, and if I tried to claim that every one returned results that fit my planned argument, I'd start to lose credibility.
That said, there are some rather interesting numbers here to which you can choose to attach whatever importance you wish.
For instance, here's one that kind of shocked me: If you take the combined records for those 118 teams in their -1 seasons and 1 seasons, you end up with an almost identical number. Those teams combined to win 753 games in their -1 seasons before dropping to a combined 382 wins in their zero seasons. Amazingly (I think), those teams then combined for 749 wins in their 1 seasons.
Let me be clear: Individually, those 118 teams are all over the map. There are plenty which improved only slightly or none at all, and some outliers like the 1998 Colts and 2007 Dolphins which made huge, 10-game leaps. But collectively, the teams that won four or fewer games in a season in that span rebounded to almost exactly where they were the year before the zero season. That's not necessarily great news, if your favorite team was only a four or five-win team in the -1 season, but for a club like the 2009 Bucs, which won nine games in 2008, it seems encouraging.
As I said, there are all kinds of teams on this list. You've got clubs like the 1991-2004 Cincinnati Bengals, which never won more than eight games in a season in that span and was often in our four-or-fewer range. And you've got teams like the 2002-08 New York Jets, which yo-yoed annually from nine wins to six to 10 to four to 10 to four and back to nine. Weird. But that actually gives us an opportunity to sort the list of 118 teams a few different ways.
For instance, lets look only at teams that dropped at least six wins from their -1 season to their zero season, as the 2009 Bucs did. As it turns out, 25 of the 118 teams fall into that category, and their collective 1 season improvement was pretty good. Of those 25 teams, not one of them actually got worse in their 1 seasons (though, obviously, at four or fewer wins there is much more room for improvement than decline) and only three stayed the same. Twelve of them, or almost exactly half, improved by four or more games. If the Bucs did that, Taylor, they'd be right on the edge of that 8-8 season you are hoping for (though the Bucs themselves plan on doing better than that). The average improvement of these 25 teams in their 1 season was 3.28 wins.
Drop that requirement a little bit more, so that you're considering all teams that declined by at least four wins from their -1 seasons to their zero seasons, and now you have a field of 56 seasons to work with. Of those 56 teams, only four of them got worse and only five others stayed the same. Twenty-six of them (again, very close to half) improved by four or more games. The average improvement of these 56 teams was 3.16 wins.
That's actually pretty close to the average improvement of the entire field of 118 wins, which was 3.11 wins in their 1 seasons. Again, I want to make it clear that the individual results for these 118 teams is all over the board...but perhaps that is the conclusion we should draw here. There is absolutely no reason to believe that a three or four-win season is a jail sentence for the next campaign. It appears that absolutely anything can happen, and in fact it already has, in that 1 season. I choose to believe - thanks to such factors as Josh Freeman's expected emergence, the additions of such potential difference-makers as Gerald McCoy, Brian Price, Arrelious Benn and Mike Williams to areas of great need and a stable coaching staff - that the Bucs will rebound significantly in 2010 and be contenders.
- Howard Johnson of Hobe Sound, Florida asks:
Hey, Answer Man this is a tough one! Back in the late '80s or early '90s there was a movie made about Ricky Bell. It appeared on network television only and I think Mario Van Peebles played the part. It was the most emotional movie I've ever seen. My question is how can I get a copy of that movie?? I looked on the internet but no luck. Someone with the franchise must have a copy somewhere in the archives. Can you pull that off? Thanks, Hojo.
Answer Man: Is this THE Howard Johnson? Because I happen to know he's a big Buccaneers fan, and has been for a long time. In fact, the Answer Man has actually met Hojo, the former Mets slugger, in the Buccaneers' old headquarters, the original One Buccaneer Place. The sign-off makes me think so.
The movie you're talking about is called Triumph of the Heart: The Ricky Bell Story, and as you say it was a made-for-TV biographical film. The movie covers Bell's playing career, of course, including his five great seasons with the Buccaneers, but really pulls on the ol' heartstrings by focusing on his battle with a terminal illness and his befriending of a young handicapped man.
Anyway, I was prepared to be skeptical about your claim that you couldn't find it for purchase on the vast, vast internet, but man! I just spent a good amount of time searching, and every time I thought I was close I would get a "This title is not currently available for purchase" slapdown. I did find it at the end of a long list of football games and movies on something called columbus.backpage.com. You might want to give that a try.
I say that because, surprisingly, I have never seen a copy of that movie here at the office (or the aforementioned old offices) despite a pretty extensive library. That means I can't get it to you personally. However, I have one other suggestion. Go to www.bucpower.com (really, that's always a good idea - that site is endless fun for Buccaneer fans). You'll see there a way to contact the site's founder, Paul Stewart. I know Paul has an extensive Buccaneer video library. Maybe he can help you out, one Bucs fan to another.
- Waylon Wickliffe of Nowata, Oklahoma:
Other than [Lee Roy] Selmon, [Davin] Joseph and [Gerald] McCoy, are there any more Sooners who played for the Bucs?
Answer Man: I almost tossed this one down there with the quickies, but I figured out a way I could flesh it out a little bit more (keep reading), and the mailbag was a bit slimmer than usual this time around. So you get the full treatment, Waylon.
(Also, in the interest of full disclosure, I have to tell you that I've been a lifelong Sooners fan, thanks to family connections that I won't get into here. So I can't turn down an OU-related request.)
Selmon, Joseph and McCoy are an intriguing trio because they were all first-round draft picks out of OU. That makes Oklahoma the top producer of Buccaneer first-rounders, barely edging out Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Florida State, LSU, Miami and Wisconsin, with two each. However, those three are far from the only Sooners ever to suit up for Tampa Bay.
In fact, Oklahoma is one of the top 13 schools when it comes to producing Buccaneers, as no fewer than a baker's dozen of OU products have appeared on the team's regular-season roster. And that doesn't yet include Gerald McCoy, so that total is certain to go up by one in a few months. There were actually three Sooners who played for the Buccaneers last year alone.
Who are they, you ask? I present the OU 13 (so far) alphabetically, along with their positions and when they were Bucs: Jerry Anderson (safety, 1978), Mark Bradley (wide receiver, 2009-present), Ricky Brady (tight end, 1997), Corey Ivy (cornerback, 2001-04), Davin Joseph (guard, 2006-present), Corey Mayfield (defensive tackle, 1992), Kevin Murphy (linebacker, 1986-91), Donte Nicholson (safety, 2005-08), Greg Roberts (guard, 1979-82), Dewey Selmon (defensive tackle/linebacker, 1976-80), Lee Roy Selmon (defensive end, 1976-85), Derrick Strait (cornerback, 2006) and Jimmy Wilkerson (defensive end, 2008-09).
Now, it's probably true that Selmon and Joseph (and probably soon to be McCoy) are the most prominent names on the list and that a few (Anderson, Brady and Strait) barely played for the team at all. Still, the list also includes some very prominent others in Dewey Selmon, Wilkerson and Roberts. Ivy was a member of the 2002 Super Bowl team and Roberts was a key figure on the 1979 breakout squad.
So far, Notre Dame and Oklahoma have produced the same number of Bucs, and you know OU fans want to beat Notre Dame, so go Gerald McCoy! (Oklahoma set the still-standing NCAA record for consecutive victories with 47 from 1953 to 1957; the streak started right after a loss to Notre Dame and a tie with Pittsburgh and ended with another loss to Notre Dame. Boo.)
If no Clemson or Pittsburgh newcomers arrive in 2010, Oklahoma will catch those two schools (though the aforementioned Rendrick Taylor could help out the Tigers) for 10th on the list. The school that has produced the most Buccaneer players through 2009 is Florida, with 31, just edging out Florida State and its 30 Noles-turned-Bucs. The rest of the top nine is USC (28), Alabama (22), Miami (19), Tennessee (18), Ohio State (17), Nebraska (16) and Penn State (16).
- Mario of Japan asks:
Have we signed all of our draft picks?
Answer Man: You know, I went to Japan with the team in the summer of 2003, and I'll tell you, you sure run into a lot of Marios over there.
But that's neither here nor there. As to your question, Mario, no the Buccaneers have not signed all of their 2010 draft picks yet. In fact, no team in the league has. The team got off to a good start last week, though, when it signed Mike Williams, the fourth-round pick out of Syracuse. At the time, Williams was just the 20th player out of the 255 drafted this year to sign his first contract, though a few more dominoes have fallen since then.
None of that is surprising. The vast majority of draft picks sign their first contracts in July, or at least late June. There's a very good reason for this. During the offseason, teams are allowed to carry 80 players on their rosters. The draft picks, however, don't count against that limit until they have signed their contracts. Thus, a team can really carry 80 plus however many draft picks it has not yet signed. That's why the Bucs had to cut rookie lineman Michael Shumard when they signed Williams last week.
Basically, there's no rush, though Williams was personally eager to get his deal done because he wanted no distractions from his focus on football. You'll probably see most of these Buccaneer deals done in mid to late July, and if form holds, there will be no lengthy holdouts to worry about. The Buccaneers haven't had a rookie training camp holdout of any significance since Trent Dilfer in 1994.
I normally call this last section the "Quickies" and say, "As usual, these are questions that I've either answered before or which need little elaboration." However, I think I'm going to temporarily rename this section the "When-are-FanFest-and-the-Throwback-Game?" addendum. I answer the first two questions below in pretty much every column, but that's fine by me. It's what the people want.
- Michael Daniher of Santa Clara, California asks:
Will the Bucs ever wear the white and orange throwback jerseys again?
Answer Man: Yes. By choosing to play a throwback game in 2009, the Bucs actually committed to having at least one throwback game a season through 2013. The team has not yet announced which game that will be in 2010, but the Answer Man believes that information is just over the horizon.
- Donnie of Winterhaven, Florida speaks for dozens of other fans when he asks:
Will there be a 2010 FanFest and do you know when?
Answer Man: Yes, and I sure do. See the very first sentence of this column.
And as I wrap this thing up, a shout out to Damian of Sacramento, California, who has sent me some fine questions in the past. He has dreamed up another one regarding the average draft position of starting Buccaneer receivers...but it arrived in my inbox very late Thursday night as I was wrapping this sucker up. You, fine sir, have just locked up the pole position for my next column.
And the rest of you, if you want to join Damian in Series 6, Volume 9, get to typing! I've just about cleared out the mailbag to this point, so now's a good time to get your question in ahead of the clutter. Until next time: Go Bucs!