The Answer Man wonders what Alex Smith had for his father this weekend.
Cologne? Grill accessories? A Sports Illustrated football phone? Whatever Ed Smith got from his son, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' rookie tight end, it wasn't the unique gift Alex is likely to present to him in a couple months.
And this has nothing to do with the fact that Smith hasn't signed his first NFL contract yet.
On September 11, assuming Alex Smith is in uniform for the Bucs to start the 2005 season as expected, Ed Smith and his son will become the newest members of the NFL's exclusive father-son club. Heading into 2005, there have been only 140 father-son pairs and threesomes to have played in the National Football League.
Actually, the Bucs will almost surely add two players (and four men!) to that list, as rookie linebacker Barrett Ruud is also the son of a former NFLer, Tom Ruud. And, if college free agent linebacker Richard Glover beats the odds and makes the Bucs' roster, those two will be the third new Buccaneer pair on the list, as the elder Glover, by the same name, played in the league in the 1970s.
Now, the Answer Man won't lie. All this information is blatantly lifted from a recent NFL release, and it's also pretty close to being just the type of holiday-related intro I swore off of just before Groundhog Day. But the fact is, the list of NFL father-son pairs has some very interesting entries, and you and I may not be presented with this information for another year, until Father's Day rolls around again in 2006.
Before this note is replaced by the list of NFL players Born on the Fourth of July, then, let's take a look at the more noteworthy pairs on the father-son list.
- First off, we should mention the three current Buccaneers who have already joined their fathers in making the multi-generational cut: quarterback Brian Griese (father: Bob Griese) linebacker Ryan Nece (Ronnie Lott) and quarterback Chris Simms (Phil Simms). The Bucs' quarterback corps is a real NFL family affair, as newcomer Luke McCown has a brother in the league, Arizona quarterback Josh McCown. * Former Buccaneer player and coach Jim Pyne is part of a rare three-generation entry on the list. His father, George III, played for the Boston Patriots in 1965 and his grandfather, George II, played for the Providence Steam Roller in 1931. That's right, the Providence Steam Roller. That's a team name they should bring back. * Current Washington Redskin and former Seattle Seahawk cornerback Shawn Springs is considered one of the best young players at his position. It's doubtful that many Buccaneer fans know that Shawn is the son of a former Tampa Bay player, running back Ron Springs. Springs the Elder played two years in Tampa (1985-86) after spending his first six years with the Dallas Cowboys. * Current Oakland Raiders quarterback Marques Tuiasosopo is the son of well-known NFL defensive tackle Manu Tuiasosopo (Seahawks and 49ers, 1979-86). The Answer Man included this one only to see if I could spell Tuiasosopo without looking (I did, but, unfortunately, I got Marques wrong before double-checking). * Linebacker Ted Washington played for the Houston Oilers from 1973-82. His son, gargantuan defensive tackle Ted Washington, has been in the league since 1991 and is currently with the Raiders. Thus, there has been a Ted Washington playing defense in the NFL for 25 of the last 33 years. * Famous Cowboys quarterback Danny White was the son of an NFL player. Wilford White played running back for the Chicago Bears in 1951 and 1952. * Archie Manning, a Heisman-winning quarterback who played most of his 14-year career with the New Orleans Saints, has two sons who have had obscure NFL careers: Peyton of the Colts and Eli of the Giants. * A few other former Buccaneers who had NFL daddies: Santana Dotson (Alphonse Dotson), Conrad Goode (stepfather Irv Goode), Charley Hannah (Herb Hannah), Alonzo Highsmith (Walter Highsmith), Mike Shula (uh, some guy named Don) and Robb Thomas (Aaron Thomas). * Probably the mother of all NFL fathers, if that makes any sense, is Clay Matthews, Sr., a defensive lineman who played four seasons for the 49ers in the 1950s, sandwiched around several years of military service. Matthews brought into this world Clay Jr., a linebacker for the Cleveland Browns and Atlanta Falcons, and Bruce, an offensive lineman for the Houston Oilers/Tennessee Titans. Few men in the history of the league have played as many games as either of the younger Matthews, both of whom stayed in the league for 19 years and almost never missed a game.
Alright, well, Father's Day is past us now, and so is this little trip through the NFL's daddy notes. The Answer Man hopes you enjoyed it, and if you're a dad, I hope you enjoyed the weekend, too.
Now, let's get to your questions!
Actually, let's start by wrapping up the Bucs-in-the-movies topic. For those just tuning in, a question sent in by a "Mike from the suburbs of Philly" sent me off on a hunt for mentions of the Buccaneers in major (and some not so major) theatrical releases two columns ago, in Series 2, Volume 16. Responding to my plea in that post, Answer Man readers sent in a long list of such references that were included in Series 2, Volume 17.
So, overall, we covered the topic pretty well. Still, I mentioned that I would include any further contributions on the topic, so that's what you'll see below. The relative lack of response to Volume 17 tells me we've probably identified most of them.
Roger of Orlando, Florida says:
There's a line, I believe in the film "Semi-Tough," that as a die hard Buc fan made me cringe. In the wedding scene the owner of the team yells that if the Kris Kristofferson doesn't marry his daughter that he'll "...Trade you to Tampa Bay!"
Answer Man: Too many of these references have been like this, don't you think? I assume we're off the hook now, since the Bucs have been one of the league's better teams for most of the last decade. Who gets those lines now? The Bengals?
Ray Moglia of Lakeland, Florida says:
One movie that I distinctly remember having a Buc influence is "Running Scared" with Billy Crystal and Gregory Hines portraying Chicago Police Detectives. They went on vacation to Florida, and came back, one wearing a lowly 'Fins hat, and the other wearing a nice Orange Tampa Bay Buccaneer hat. Brought a tear to my eyes, as this movie came out in the mid 80s while I was stationed in Texas amid all the 'Boy fans. Another was Cocoon which was filmed mostly in Pinellas County, where the mother of the boy was wearing a nice Orange Bucs t-shirt.
Answer Man: I actually mentioned both of these films in my original discussion, in Volume 16. Still, I did so in passing, with few details, while Ray here has provided a much better description of both references. Thanks, Ray.
And that's it. There were a number of other e-mails on the topic, but all of them were submitting answers we've already included, most notably the "Warlock" mention. Thanks again to all the readers for their help on this topic. I'm sure Philly Mike is satisfied by now.
Okay, now on to the new questions, beginning with a couple that I punted from the last column:
- Kyle McClamma of Clermont, Florida asks:
Including postseason games, which teams do the Bucs have an over-all winning record against?
Answer Man: Well, Kyle, the list isn't as long as the Answer Man would like it to be, thanks to those struggles through the '80s and early '90s. The Bucs have closed some of the all-time series gaps in recent years, but there are some pretty tough deficits to overcome.
Personally, I would separate the regular season and postseason records when addressing this topic, but it's your question, so we'll do it your way. Here are the teams against which the Bucs have an all-time winning record, postseason included, listed in order of best winning percentage:
Okay, that's it. As it turned out, none of the teams against which the Bucs have an all-time winning record have also been a playoff opponent of Tampa Bay at any time, so your stipulation didn't change the results at all. By the way, the Bucs do have winning postseason-only records against four teams: Detroit (1-0), Oakland (1-0), San Francisco (1-0) and Washington (1-0). They are also 2-2 all-time in the playoffs against Philadelphia.
Getting back to the original list, I think it's fair to disregard Houston, which has had only one crack at the Bucs and that was only in the Texans' second year of play. Baltimore has only had two tries to beat Tampa Bay, but they at least weren't an expansion team either time.
Even though they rank the lowest on the list in terms of the Bucs' winning percentage, the Atlanta Falcons are probably the most significant opponent among the five, given that there have been 23 games played between the two teams. The Bucs and Falcons will also get a chance to work on that series record twice a year now that they are division mates.
A note on Buffalo: Surprisingly, all seven of the games between the Bucs and the Bills have been played in Tampa.
There are quite a few teams against which the Bucs could hope to get on the winning side of the ledger in a few years. That includes Arizona (7-8), Carolina (4-5), Indianapolis (4-6), Jacksonville (1-2), Kansas City (4-5), Miami (3-4), New England (2-3), Philadelphia (4-5) and Washington (5-7). The Bucs will get a chance to even their records against Miami and New England this season, and could pull back ahead of Carolina with a two-game divisions sweep.
- Justin Reed of St. Petersburg, Florida asks:
Dear Answer Man I have a simple question and hopefully it has a simple answer. It's about this whole horse collar tackling thing. I simply would like to know (because I've seen it happen) would grabbing someone by their dreadlocks to tackle them be considered a horse collar tackle?
Answer Man: For anyone who's not in the know on this topic, the NFL recently passed a new rule banning the so-called "horse collar" tackle, in which a defender grabs a player by the back of his shoulder pads and yanks him down backward. By the new rule, this is only illegal in the open field; that is, you can still do it if you get to a back in the backfield, and you can still do it to the quarterback. And, if you grab the shoulder pad and use it as leverage to pull yourself to the player, that's okay, too. It's the grab and immediate yank that has been outlawed. For reference, what Dallas safety Roy Williams did to Philadelphia's Terrell Owens is illegal under the new rule; what Green Bay linebacker Hannibal Navies did to Carolina's Steve Smith (grabbed him but let go, although Smith was still injured) is not illegal. This rule has become unofficially known as the Roy Williams rule, because he has been involved in several such plays were opponents were injured.
To answer your question, Justin, no the rule does not apply to dreadlocks, or any hair that might be hanging out the back of a player's helmet. You said you've seen it happen; it was probably either the time it happened to Miami running back Ricky Williams or Indianapolis running back Edgerrin James. James, in fact, trimmed his locks after he was taken down in this way.
After Williams was tackled in this way in 2003, NFL Director of Officiating Mike Pereira publicly ruled that the back's hair was fair game. Pereira's quote at the time, included in a videotape showing the tackle, was, "You've got the hair being pulled, and the locks are like the shirt, I guess. If you pull the locks, it's okay. If you're going to wear your locks out like that, you're the one that's at risk."
The horse collar rule didn't change that because the new rule specifically says that the jersey is not included. Players can still grab a fistful of jersey and pull a player down that way, so they can still pull the hair.
- Joey D. of Venice, Florida asks:
Hey Answer Man, what's up? Thanks for answering my first question but now I have another. This year in the NFL draft, Heisman Trophy winner Jason White was not drafted. Now while this didn't surprise me at all, has it ever happened that a Heisman winner did not get drafted? Thanks!
Answer Man: White was actually the fourth Heisman Trophy winner not to be drafted, and you'll probably recognize several other names on the list.
The one you might not recognize (the Answer Man didn't) was the first Heisman winner to go undrafted: Pete Dawkins. That's not to say that Dawkins is an obscure figure; on the contrary, he followed up on his brilliant Army football career by going to Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar, where he played rugby. He then went to Princeton and earned a PhD. In the military, he rose quickly to the post of Brigadier General, serving 24 years in the Army. Upon retirement from the military, he moved seamlessly into the business world, becoming the CEO of several major corporations.
Something tells me that Dawkins never worried too much about not being drafted (perhaps his military commitment was a factor).
The next one on the list is Nebraska running back Mike Rozier, in 1983, though that is quite misleading. In fact, we might want to take him off the list, because he was eventually drafted into the NFL.
Rozier came out of Nebraska during the short stint that the USFL was trying to sustain itself as a rival to the NFL. Like Steve Young, Rozier went to the USFL (he played for the Pittsburgh Maulers and the Jacksonville Bulls) but ended up in a "supplemental draft" into the NFL when the USFL bit the dust. The Houston Oilers drafted Rozier and he ended up making two Pro Bowl appearances.
The most recent name on the list before Jason White is Florida State quarterback Charlie Ward, in 1993. Most fans, particularly those of us in Florida, are familiar with Ward's story. A quarterback better known for his legs than his arm, he was not considered a strong NFL prospect. However, he was an NBA prospect, and sure enough he has enjoyed a 13-year professional basketball career, most of it with the New York Knicks.
Technically, there is a fifth Heisman Trophy winner who has not been drafted, as USC junior Matt Leinart took the award this past year and subsequently chose to remain in school for his senior year. Thus, Leinart has not been drafted, though that is sure to happen next April.
This might be a bit of overkill on this question, but it's worth pointing out that there are a number of past Heisman winners who were drafted, but might not be if they were in today's abbreviated, seven-round selection process.
For instance, 1990 winner Ty Detmer went in the ninth round of the 1992 draft; on the other hand, he was the 230th player taken, and even with only seven rounds the league drafted 255 men this past April. A better example would be Doug Flutie, who was an 11th-round pick in 1985, going 285th overall. Flutie has proved, however, that he probably should have gone a bit higher.
- Chris Lundquist of Tampa, Florida asks:
Answer Man, I have a question about our division history. I was at the FanFest on Saturday and the question was asked at one of the on field activities, "What division did the Bucs start out entering the league in?" I naturally said the NFC Central only to be surprised. She said the AFC West. Was this lady pulling my chain or what?
Answer Man: I hope you didn't lose any money on that one, Chris, because that's one of the real trick questions about Buccaneer history, right up there with, "Which of these players was never a Buccaneer: Jeff George, Reggie White or Derrick Thomas?" (See below for the answer to that one.)
That lady was not pulling your chain. The Buccaneers spent the 1976 season – and only the 1976 season – in the AFC West. That year, both Tampa Bay and Seattle entered the NFL as expansion teams. Seattle was put into the NFC West (which made some sense) and the Bucs were slotted into the AFC West (which didn't, really), as those were two of the four divisions with only four teams each.
It was never meant to be a long-term decision. The following year, the Bucs were moved into the NFC Central, where they would stay through 2001, and the Seahawks took the Bucs' spot in the AFC West.
I can even tell you the date on which the Buccaneers were told they would begin play in the AFC West: November 4, 1975. Even at that time, though, they were told that they would switch to the NFC Central in 1977. In addition, they didn't really play a traditional divisional schedule that first year, as they weren't paired up twice each with Denver, Kansas City, Oakland and Seattle. Instead, they played 14 different AFC teams, once each.
So, you see, this lady was armed with a little piece of obscure Buccaneer history that makes for a good bar bet because the answer seems so absurd.
The same can be said of my question above, which is even more ridiculous. The answer is Reggie White, but the question is tricky because you would think that none of those high-profile players ever wore a Buccaneer uniform. Well, that may be true, but different men named Jeff George (a defensive back) and Derrick Thomas (a running back) played for the Buccaneers during the three replacement games brought about by the 1987 players' strike.
- Andrew Deeson of Tampa, Florida asks:
**Dear Answer Man, I have two questions for you, one that will require a good amount of research (which I know you enjoy) and the other, you may already know the answer.
First, I saw the "Bucs Fan Poll" on Buccaneers.com today asking everyone which overtime rules they prefer. I believe that the current NFL OT system with the coin toss to choose which team gets the ball should be changed so both teams get a chance, but you don't deal in opinions so I'll get to the question. What percentage of the teams that win the OT coin toss win on that initial possession?
And second, I read in your last column (maybe the one before last) about those new jerseys the Bucs have been practicing in this off-season. I know those are just practice jerseys but they look really cool. (Way cooler than those black alternate jerseys... sorry, another opinion.) Will those practice jerseys be available to buy?
Thanks and Go Bucs!**
Answer Man: Well, Andrew, your first question wasn't as hard to research as you might think, because this was sort of a hot-button NFL issue during the 2003 offseason, thanks to a league-record 25 overtime games in 2002. The problem wasn't so much that there were that many overtime games – I mean, as long as they don't end in ties, overtime games are fun – but in the way many of them ended.
That year, 15 of the 25 games, or 60%, were won by the team that won the coin toss. Ten of the 25 games were won on the opening possession by the team that won the coin toss, or 40%...and that is what gets some people riled up.
At the following spring's owners' meetings, overtime thus became a hot topic, though to be honest it is something that is discussed almost every year. And this time around, there was more sentiment than usual for a change, but not enough to change the rule, as it turned out. The proposal to give both teams at least one possession in overtime drew 17 votes, but it needed 24 of the 32 teams in order to pass. In the two subsequent offseasons, it has been overshadowed by other pressing concerns.
Let's take a little look at the history and the numbers regarding the NFL's overtime policy.
Actually, there was no overtime at all before 1974, when the league adopted its current system. In one way, that 1974 rule change has worked very well – no more ties (almost). During the 10 seasons prior to 1974, 78 games ended in ties. In the 10 years after the new rule was put in place, only seven games ended in ties. That's why the current system still has its supporters, because it has effectively solved the problem towards which it was directed. The Buccaneers, for instance, have only one tie in their 29-season history.
Now, there have long been complaints that the sudden-death format is unfair, that it places too much emphasis on whichever team wins the coin toss. Nobody, not the league's coaches, players or fans, wants a game decided by a coin flip. If the team that wins the flip does not win on its opening possession, then there isn't much of a problem, because then at least each team has had a shot.
The thing is, the numbers haven't really supported that fear. Before that anomalous 2002 season, the percentages always held steady at around 28%. That is, only about a quarter of the games were decided on the game's first possession. Here's a great breakdown from the most recent NFL Record & Fact Book (since it was published before the 2004 season, it covers the 30-year period from 1974-2003, and the numbers in parentheses refer to the 2003 season):
"There have been 365 overtime games in regular season play since the rule was adopted in 1974 (23 in 2003 season). Breakdown follows: * 261 (16) times both teams had at least one possession (71.5%) * 189 (12) times the team which won the toss won the game (51.8%) * 160 (11) times the team which lost the toss won the game (43.8%) * 16 (0) games ended tied (4.4%). Last time: Nov. 10, 2002, Atlanta 34 at Pittsburgh 34. * 102 (6) times the team which won the toss drove for winning score (75 FG, 27 TD) (27.9%) * 9 (0) times the team which won the toss elected to kick off (4 wins) (2.5%) * 255 (19) games were decided by a field goal (69.9%) * 93 (4) games were decided by a touchdown (25.5%) * 1 (0) games were decided by a safety (0.27%)"
The Answer Man figured he might as well update the numbers to include the 2004 season, which wasn't too hard since there were only 12 of them, or roughly half as many as each of the 2002 and 2003 seasons had.
Interestingly, while there were fewer overtime games in 2004 and thus fewer complaints about the system, the numbers may have provided ammunition for those who wish to change it.
Nine of the 12 games, or 75%, were won by the team that won the overtime coin toss. Four of the 12, or 33% were won by the toss-winning team on its opening possession.
By the way, eight of those 12 games were won on a field goal and three were won on a touchdown. That means that, yes, for only the second time in NFL history, a game was won on a safety in overtime. That honor belonged to the Chicago Bears, who beat Tennessee 19-17 on Adewale Ogunleye's safety on November 14.
Also, the three games won on touchdowns all ended on long pass plays, each won at least 36 yards long. That's not surprising, really, as coaches generally tend to go for the field goal as soon as they feel they are close enough to be safe. The short overtime touchdown is really a rare beast.
I don't have much of answer for your second question, Andrew. The Answer Man has never seen a practice jersey go on sale before, but I guess you never know. I doubt you'll see the current ones in the stores, but I promise to lob the idea past the Bucs' equipment manager.
One more note on this question. Andrew, it's okay – more than okay, really – for you to express your opinions in your e-mails. Fans got 'em, and the Answer Man likes to hear them. What I stray away from is answering questions with my opinions. As a Buc employee, I don't think it's my place to say, for instance, how good I think Cadillac Williams will be or who should start at right guard. I skirt around that rule from time to time, but try to stick to it most weeks. You, and the other fans, should be encouraged to speak your minds.
- Rick Neel of Tucson, Arizona asks:
You answered a question from Jill in Seattle that I found very interesting, about the players weekly schedule during the season. But it caused me to wonder what kind of schedule that the coaches follow, in order to get the players ready for the game on Sunday. Thanks for the (usually) interesting column.
Answer Man: I would have answered this question anyway, but Rick ensured its inclusion with the best insult I got this week. My column is "(usually) interesting?" Ouch. That's a backhand worthy of Rafael Nadal. Nicely done.
The schedule for an NFL coach during a season is, in a word, brutal. Not that any of these coaches would be looking for sympathy, as most of them absolutely love their jobs and are well compensated, but almost all of them work ridiculous hours during the season.
Obviously, every coach is going to be in the building while the players are there, so we can start with that baseline right there. If you remember from my last post, players generally get Tuesday off during a normal in-season week, and then work hours that are pretty comparable to a 9-5 job on the other days. Their Saturdays are relatively free between a morning walk-through and the evening meetings at the hotel, and their Sunday's are obviously very busy.
Players, in fact, are required to have one off day during a game week. The same is not true for the coaches, who generally work all day and evening on Tuesdays, breaking down videotape on the opponent and drawing up the game plan. Look at it this way: the Monday after a Sunday game is mostly used on game review, so coaches are breaking down the tape from their own game in order to grade their players and tell them where improvements are needed. After that, players will take off Tuesday and come back Wednesday expecting to dive into work for the next opponent. Thus, coaches have to use Tuesday to make that transition to the next game.
On a day like a Wednesday, when most players work very hard from early in the morning to about 5:00 or 6:00, the coaches will do that and then some. After the players have left, they'll have meetings to go over the game plan for the upcoming contest and continue working the videotape machines to find the opponents' tendencies. There usually isn't a specific time they are expected to stay until in the evening, but the Answer Man can tell you that most of the coaches work very late. They get out a little quicker on Friday and, like the players, can get some free time on Saturday if they want.
Of course, many coaches – Tampa Bay Head Coach Jon Gruden and Defensive Coordinator Monte Kiffin are great examples, though far from the only ones – use that open-ended schedule to work almost non-stop during a typical in-season week. Gruden's early rising is famous, of course, and Kiffin is seemingly haunting the halls at One Buccaneer Place 365 days of the year.
In short, the Answer Man can't tell you exactly what time the coaches usually leave during an in-season week, because I'm usually gone by then. But it's a whole lotta hours, believe me.
- Brandon of Woodbridge, Virginia says:
When showing the Bucs' last minute wins and losses you left off one very important (to me, anyway) game. In 1983, the Bucs were 0-5 and the Cowboys (whom I have hated since I was born) played to a tie at the end of regulation. The Cowboys drove for a chip-shot FG attempt and missed, but Buc defender Thomas Morris roughed the kicker. The kicker got another opportunity and nailed it and the Bucs lost. Important game for me as perhaps if both teams weren't at opposite ends of the win-loss spectrum, if James Wilder hadn't shown me what a monster RB he was, if the Bucs hadn't lost such a close game to the hated Cowboys, and Morris hadn't given away a possible victory, I might not have been rooting for the Bucs for the past 22 years.
Answer Man: First off, I have to admit that I edited Brandon's question just a bit. The Answer Man likes to let you speak your piece in your own words, but there was a little bit of that question that probably should remain unsaid.
Anyway, I love the rest of it, even though it's calling me out for a "mistake," and even though Brandon is wrong in calling me out (we'll get to that in a minute). What's great about this is the story of how randomly a person's attachment to a specific team can come to be. The Answer Man has a buddy, another emigrant from the home planet, who likes the Bills to this day simply for the play that Don Beebe made against Leon Lett in Super Bowl XXVII. Heck, the Answer Man roots for the Padres to this day just because I liked watching Tony Gwynn shoot line drives to left off of every pitcher he faced. And hatred of one team is often a powerful motivator – it's probably resulted in more than a few Red Sox fans out there.
So your story's a good one, Brandon, and the facts are on the money right down to the name of the cornerback who drew the roughing call. However, that does not mean the game should go on my list of last-minute decisions. As I stated several times while defining the project, the list purposely did not include overtime games. I did, however, provide the Bucs' all-time record in overtime games (10-13-1), so that, if you felt they should be included on the list of last-minute wins and losses, you could add them to my results of 17-18 and come up with an overall number of 27-31-1.
- E.C. of Winnemucca, Nevada asks:
hey, just a quick question for someone as awe inspiringly knowledgeable about the NFL as you, but i wanted to know what percentage of NFL players came from either Florida, Texas, or California.
Answer Man: Well, Sports Illustrated put out a very interesting issue about this type of thing earlier this year, complete with informative, colored maps and so on. But I don't want to plagiarize their information, so I'll go with what the NFL has put out.
The last set of numbers I could find from the NFL were from the 2003 season, which I think is close enough. Obviously, a handful of players will have come and gone in 2004, but I'd bet the percentages remained pretty much the same.
First off, you've definitely nailed the big three. California, Florida and Texas – in that order – ranked 1-2-3 in producing NFL players in 2003, and the number-four state, Georgia, wasn't even close.
The NFL's list, which included 13 players from other countries (eight from Canada), added up to 1,695 men, which means it was drawn from in-season, 53-man rosters. If you multiply 53 by the 32 teams, you get 1,696 players, so this is a thorough analysis we're talking about here.
California led with 195 players, but Florida was close behind with 187 and Texas was just on our state's heels with 181. That means players hailing from those three states made up 563 of the 1,695 NFL players in 2003, or 33.2% of the collective league roster, which was your question.
Georgia had 94, Louisiana was fifth with 74 and Ohio was sixth with 68. Washington D.C. was included on the state list, with 10 players, equal to Idaho and one more than Utah. Wyoming and Montana were credited with just one player each, but that's still better than Maine, Vermont and Rhode Island. Those three states did not have one NFL product among the 2003 rosters.
- Patrick of Tampa, Florida asks:
Hey Answer Man! I was just curious to know why Terrell Davis suddenly went down-hill after racking up 2,000 rushing yards in a season? Also, who currently holds the record for the most rushing yards in a season? Thanks!
Answer Man: Well, this is stretching it a bit for me, since I'm really the Buc Answer Man, but it's easy enough, so I'll help you out.
Davis didn't just fall off the map after his 2,008 season in 1998. Rather, a very fine career was cut short by a series of injuries, beginning the very next year.
Davis did burst onto the NFL scene rather suddenly, as he was an unheralded sixth-round pick by the Broncos in 1995 but a 1,117-yard rusher as a rookie. His next three seasons defined him as a superstar, as he averaged 1,765 yards and 16 touchdowns per season from 1996-98, peaking in just the fourth 2,000-yard rushing season the NFL had ever seen. (There are five now, thanks to Jamal Lewis' 2,066-yard campaign in 2003.)
He led the AFC in rushing in each of those three seasons, finishing second to Barry Sanders in the NFL in the first two, and was the league MVP in 1998. He is one of only three players to rush for 6,000 yards in his first four seasons.
It seems enormously likely that Davis would have continued to pile up big numbers had the injury bug not found him four games into the 1999 season. It must have been particularly galling for Davis and the Broncos how the injury occurred, as the hustling back ripped up his right knee while tackling New York Jets defensive back Victor Green after an interception.
The result was a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL – the big one in terms of knee injuries), a partially torn medial collateral ligament and additional cartilage damage. His season was over, and there were more troubles ahead.
After making it back for the start of the 2000 season, Davis suffered a foot/ankle injury in the season opener and was never right the rest of the year, appearing in just five games. Later, a stress reaction shut him down for the season's final six contests.
In 2001, he had arthroscopic surgery on both knees at different points during the season and was limited to eight games, though he finished very strongly over the last five games, building hope for a comeback in 2002.
There would be no comeback, however, as his litany of injuries grew to include hamstring trouble and, most importantly, a degenerative condition in his left knee. Davis retired in August of 2002, and there are some who feel, even with his shortened career, he deserves a spot in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, a la Gale Sayers.
Davis' 2,008-yard campaign in 1998 currently stands as the fourth-best mark in NFL history. Eric Dickerson holds the record with his 2,105-yard season in 1984, and we've already mentioned the 2,000-yard seasons by Lewis (second on the list) and Davis. The other two belong to Barry Sanders, who is third with his 2,053-yard season in 1997, and O.J. Simpson, who was the first to cross the 2,000-yard mark with 2,003 in 1973.
- Matthew of Tampa, Florida asks:
Hey Answer Man! Remember me? I asked you if a rookie won a MVP award. Well thanks for answering it. But right now I have another question, who racked up the most tackles in a season and who made the most interceptions in a season. Thanks!
Answer Man: I'm only going to answer half of your question, Matthew, and not because you're a repeat submitter or because I'm feeling a little lazy here towards the bottom of the column. See, as we've discussed before, tackles are not official statistics compiled by the NFL, and as such there is no official record for that category. Teams compile them in different ways, and there's always been a suspicion that some teams pump up the stat tackles a little bit, either for everyone or for a particular player or two. Whether or not that's true – and the Answer Man has defended Buccaneer coaches against that claim in the past – it's still fairly irrelevant to compare tackle stats from team to team.
If you want to know the Buccaneers' record for tackles in a season, it's 214, by Hardy Nickerson in 1993. (Did that one off the top of my head, by the way.)
The NFL record for most interceptions in a season is 14, set by Dick "Night Train" Lane of the Los Angeles Rams in 1952. It's quite impressive that Lane's record has stood for over 50 years now, considering he set it in a season in which his team played only 12 games, and in an era were there was less passing than there is today. In fact, no player has had more than a dozen interceptions in a single season since 1980, when Oakland's Lester Hayes picked off 13 passes to tie for second on the list.
Tampa Bay's record was set just a few seasons ago, by Ronde Barber, who had 10 to tie for the NFL lead in 2001. Before that, Cedric Brown's Buc record of nine had stood since 1981.
As many of my columns do, this one will end with a handful of "quickies." These are questions that either don't need much elaboration or have been answered adequately in past columns.
- Zach Dunmire of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania asks:
We heard that the Buccaneers will be starting practices in August at the Disney Sports Complex. Can you give me dates and times the practices are to be held, and if any will be open to the public?
Answer Man: Now that FanFest is behind us, this question will replace "When is FanFest" as the most egregious stuffer of my e-mailbox.
Anyway, as we mention each week, the Bucs begin training camp on Thursday, July 28. That is just the reporting date, so there won't be any practices until the morning of Friday, July 29.
As always, all of the Bucs' practices at Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex are open to the public and free.
As of yet, the full practice schedule for this year's camp has not been released. However, the Answer Man has it on good authority that this information will be revealed by the Buccaneers very early this week. Keep an eye on Buccaneers.com for the schedule.
- James Caughlin of Brisbane, Australia asks:
Looking over some stats I noticed that people had been credited with half tackles and half sacks and I was wondering what distinguishes a tackle from a half tackle?
Answer Man: While multiple tackles can be assigned on one play (that is, one player might get a "solo" tackle while another gets an "assist" for helping to bring down the ballcarrier), there can be only one sack on any given play. So, if one player takes down the quarterback alone, he will be credited with a full sack. However, if the quarterback is simultaneously dropped by two men, each of the defenders will be given half a sack.
You won't see the half-tackle used much anymore. That is more a remnant of the early days of the sack, which only became an official statistic in 1982. Sometimes, in the early '80s, if two players were each given half a sack, the scorekeeper would also give each player half a tackle (as every sack is also a tackle). Nowadays, the scorekeeper is much more likely to split the sack but assign the solo tackle to the primary tackler and the assist to the second man on the scene.
- Brent Hulling of Tampa, Florida asks:
I don't have a question, but a correction for you. You've probably been flooded with this already. In your last post you wrote, "In his first regular season game, at Green Bay on September 13, 1988, wide receiver Jacquez Green took a punt that far for a touchdown at Lambeau Field." I believe you meant 1998. My dad bought me an official Jacquez Green jersey, which I still have because it's my only official one. I wish it wasn't such a bust but I can tell you, I wasn't 8 years old when I got that jersey. Have a great week answerman!
Answer Man: Oh, yeah, this "quickies" section is also where I include most corrections. (Because it's way down at the end of the column? How dare you think such a thing!)
This one didn't bother the Answer Man too much because it was obviously just a typo, but it's still nice to get it cleaned up. In fact, I fixed it after getting the first few e-mails on this (which is probably why it was only three or four, and not a flood, as you understandably predicted, Brent). That's one advantage of an internet column over one in the paper. Unless somebody printed the column out in its early hours, that mistake can no longer be proved in court (though this is a pretty obvious admission).
But, yeah, it was 1998 when Quezzie played his first Buc game, not 1988, when he was about 12 or 13 years old. Thanks for correcting me gently, Brent.
Okay, that's it for the Answer Man this week. A few of you probably expected to see your questions in this column, but the Answer Man is a daddy, too, and I just ran out of time on Sunday.
Therefore, we'll be addressing Brian's question about the "taxi squad" in the next column, along with another Brian's missive about unusual O-line arrangements. Greg's got a good one about NFL Europe and how players end up there, and our buddy Philly Mike sent us one that is going to require a good amount of research. We'll take the bait, Mike...next column.
Oh, and Craig Midkiff, you're probably particularly surprised to have been left out, considering the note at the end of my last column. Craig's question involves some obscure Cadillac Williams' trivia, which I punted to this week. Well, Craig, I had the answer ready to include here, but I decided at the last minute that I should verify the info with Cadillac himself during this week's mini-camp. So, I'm sorry to say that you've been punted a second time, Craig. Please bear with me.