Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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The Answer Man, Series 2, Vol. 4

The fans’ inside source tries and fails to write a shorter column, thanks to such meaty topics as the draft, Senior Bowl history and Super Bowl scheduling

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The Answer Man was afraid you would forget about him while he was away at the Senior Bowl (plus a few days of vacation).

No such luck.

The e-mailbag was bursting upon my return, making me believe that football truly is a year-round sport in the good ol' U.S. of A. I mean, there is no end to these questions, even as we're about to shoot past the Super Bowl into the offseason proper. Sure, the topics are starting to drift toward such offseason events as the Senior Bowl, the Combine and the NFL Draft, but there is still no shortage of the "intentional-fumble," rulebook type of queries. I sometimes wonder if we – and the Answer Man is definitely including himself in that "we" – will ever fully understand this great game.

Anyway, as I said, the mailbag is quite full, more than I could handle in one column this week. So I'm going to take a crack at two or three mini-columns, starting today. Rather than a dozen questions, I'll take on five or six, then come back with another five or six in a few days. Hopefully, we can make a dent in the backlog of questions before a new wave of e-mails puts us hopelessly behind.

In other words, bear with me if you sent in a good question and you don't see it below. I've started digging from the top (the newest questions), so the questions from 12 or 14 days ago could be awhile.

**

  1. Rick Roach of Rockledge, Florida asks:

Oh great guru of the Gridiron- love your contribution to Buccaneers.com.. made a tough season a little more bearable. This whole Senior Bowl coaching thing has been very interesting to follow. I know that it's only been a few years since the teams with, um.. shall we say, victory-deficient records got the opportunity to do the coaching for the Senior Bowl. I know it seems logical that the NFL Coaching Teams that participate would have a better period of evaluation of the key senior players. But do we know for sure? Have you, or Mel Kiper, or anyone of his ilk (i.e. draftniks) done any research on how teams have fared with their draftees following a stint as Senior Bowl coaches? Have they found some jewel in the rough, that would have been otherwise overlooked? If you can find it in your heart and/or schedule to do some of your first-rate digging, those of MY ilk (i.e. hopeful Buc Fans) would be interested, and no doubt, impressed at your resourcefulness and scholarly football acumen. GO BUCS!!

Answer Man: Well, since you asked so nicely, I guess…

Actually, I like this sort of research, so I'm happy to take the case for a small fee (my bill is in the mail, Rick). Let's set a little ground rule, though. The Senior Bowl site lists the game rosters for the previous five years (2000-04), so what say we go back only that far?

By the way, that does cover the period in which the two coaching staffs were chosen by the "victory-deficiency" method, to use your sensitive turn of phrase. Prior to the 2003 Senior Bowl (after the 2002 NFL season), the two staffs were supposed to be from the teams in each conference that had come closest to the playoffs without qualifying for them. (The Answer Man says "supposed to" because it is very common for the first team in line for the game to decline due to coaching changes. That's how the Bucs got into this year's game, as a matter of fact.)

Okay, time to go into the Answer Man's super-research mode…alright, done. (I'd still rather have X-ray vision, but we can't choose our superpowers, alas.)

The first thing I notice in the results of my research is a strange trend over the last five years: The 10 teams that coached in those five games have drafted a lot of Senior Bowl players, but they were more likely to grab guys off the other team. You know, the one they didn't coach. Go figure.

Last year, for instance, the San Diego Chargers drafted no fewer than five players from the North squad after coaching the South team. In all, the 10 teams in the study drafted eight players off their own teams and 21 off the other teams. Weird.

Anyway, that leaves us with a fairly small sample size for your specific question, or at least what I think your question was, Rick. The eight players drafted by a Senior Bowl coaching staff off their own Senior Bowl teams from 2000-2004 were DE Dave Ball (San Diego, 2004), TE Bennie Joppru, T Seth Wand and QB Dave Ragone (Houston, 2003), WR Jason McAddley (Arizona, 2002), T Matt Hill (Seattle, 2002), WR Sylvester Morris (Kansas City, 2000) and G Leander Jordan (Carolina, 2000).

From that list, the best fit for your "jewel in the rough category" is probably Wand, a third-round pick in 2003, and even that's stretching it. Most teams expect their third-round picks to contribute, and Wand has, starting 18 games in two seasons, including all 16 last year.

Ball was a fifth-round pick, but it's two early to tell with him; he played in six games and had three tackles last year. Joppru was a second-round pick but has missed his first two years with a groin injury. Ragone, a third-rounder, backs up David Carr and thus rarely sees the field (two starts in 2003). Hill started a couple games for Seattle in his second year (2003) but didn't fare especially well and wasn't in the league last year. Morris had a phenomenal rookie season with the Chiefs (48 catches for 678 yards and three TDs) but was a first-round pick and thus wasn't really overlooked. Plus, he has missed four consecutive seasons with injuries, including last year after he signed with the Bucs. Jordan is still with the Panthers but has started just five games in four years.

McAddley may be considered a find as a fifth-round pick, and he's still in the league. He played two seasons with the Cardinals and caught 29 passes for 415 yards and one touchdown, most of that as a rookie. He played for the Titans last year, appearing in 11 games and making two catches.

If you want to include the players that a Senior Bowl coaching staff saw on the opposing team, the list gets more interesting. The Chargers really hit the jackpot with the Cincinnati-led North team last year, drafting K Nate Kaeding, C Nick Hardwick, T Shane Olivea, DE Shaun Phillips and RB Michael Turner, all in the third round or later. Both Hardwick and Olivea (a seventh-round pick) ended up starting on the Chargers' line and playing well. Kaeding had a very good rookie season until the playoffs. Phillips contributed four sacks and Turner carried 20 times for 104 yards as a backup to LaDainian Tomlinson (a former Senior Bowl standout).

Others from this second list include Houston RB Domanick Davis, Pittsburgh LB Kendrell Bell, Arizona QB Josh McCown, Carolina G Jeno James, Detroit RB Artose Pinner, Green Bay CB Bwahue Joe and Kansas City CB William Bartee.

(Aargh, so much for this being a mini-column.)

Anyway, Rick, I guess that's not real strong evidence on the diamond-in-the-rough front, but it also goes back only five years. I do recall the Bucs finding their all-time leading scorer, K Martin Gramatica, at the Senior Bowl when they coached it in 1999. Let's check back on this story after the draft in April.

**

  1. Bob Sestile of Sarasota, Florida asks:

Practice squad info, please. Up to 5 players? Signed and paid? Squad member can be added to playing roster by any team at any time? In general, can you supply the rules relative to the practice squad? Thank you.

Answer Man: They're both polite, but Rick and Bob definitely have different styles of question-submitting, don't they?

Let's see if I can keep this one short. Practice squads were limited to five players until this past season, when it was expanded to eight. Practice squads are formed after the final round of roster cuts, in the week before the season opener.

Yes, these players are signed and paid. As is Buccaneer policy, I cannot reveal what they are paid, but it is a weekly stipend and while it does not compete with the salary of a player on the active roster, it is a good living.

Players can be signed to an active roster at any time – and that mean's any team's active roster. In other words, you can sign a player away from another team's practice squad if you are signing him to your active roster, but not if you just want him for your practice squad. Actually, such a move is actually several transactions; either the player or team "terminates" the practice squad contract, then a contract for the active roster is signed.

Where it gets a little complicated is a player's eligibility for the practice squad. Players can only spend two seasons on practice squads, and if you are on a practice squad for three weeks during the year, that counts as one of your two seasons. Any player who has been on an active roster AND dressed out for the game-day 45-man roster for nine games is no longer eligible for any practice squad. Those rules are actually a bit relaxed from a few years ago, when it was tougher to keep players eligible for practice squads.

I think that covers it, Bob.

**

  1. Damian Sivak of Sacramento, California asks:

I am glad that the Bucs have a lot of picks in this year's draft, but I wonder how many of them will make the team. Historically, what are the odds, by round, that a draft pick will make the team? What percentage of 4th-round picks have made the team? 5th? 6th? 7th?

Answer Man: Oh, man, I'm going to have my nose in the history books all day today (that "super-research mode" thing was a bit of an exaggeration).

Again, let's set a few ground rules. First, we're only talking about the Buccaneers. I'm not going to delve into every team's draft history. And, two, we're only going to look at players who subsequently made the Bucs' roster the same year they were drafted. Thus, a player like punter Tommy Barnhardt, who was drafted by the Buccaneers in the ninth round in 1986 but didn't play for Tampa Bay until 1996 after catching on with several other teams, doesn't count. I'm also not going to count guys who made it with other teams, such as Philadelphia/Green Bay cornerback Al Harris, a sixth-round pick of the Bucs in 1997.

(One exception: If a player spends his rookie season on injured reserve with the Buccaneers and then makes it the next year, he counts. Think Torrie Cox or George Ragsdale. There's even one player – Mike Simmonds – who spent his first two years on IR after being drafted, then played the following year. We'll throw him in there, too.)

On the other hand, the player doesn't have to make the Bucs' roster right out of preseason; he just has to play for Tampa Bay at some point as a rookie. Thus, a guy like tight end Nate Lawrie, who was drafted by the Bucs in the sixth round last year but spent time on the practice squad before being promoted to the active roster in Week 15, does count.

Hope those ground rules are okay with you. Not much you can do about it, really.

Below is a chart of the Bucs' all-time draft picks, round-by-round, displaying the percentage of players that make it from each group.

A note of caution, if you think some of those percentages seem high: Remember that we are only judging whether they made the team or not, as opposed to how much impact they made over the course of their Buccaneer careers. Many players make the team for only a year or two. Take the 1996 draft. All nine players the Bucs drafted that year "made the team;" however, you probably remember Regan Upshaw, Marcus Jones, Mike Alstott, Donnie Abraham and Jason Odom a lot more vividly than you do Eric Austin, Jason Maniecki, Nilo Silvan and Reggie Rusk. Maniecki actually played in 18 games over three seasons, but Austin, Silvan and Rusk played in a combined 14 games, all in 1996. That's not an isolated example. Many drafts break down like that. Another example: The Bucs' third and fourth-round picks in 2002, Marquise Walker and Travis Stephens, both made the active roster out of camp but they appeared in a combined one game.

Rd.*PicksMade RosterPct.Notables
1252496.0%Selmon, Williams, Gruber, Sapp, Brooks, Clayton
23131100.0%House, Wilder, Reynolds, Cobb, Alstott, Kelly
3293096.7%Brantley, Carrier, Lynch, Abraham, Barber, Gramatica
4273479.4%Heller, Hill, Mayberry, Singleton, Jackson
5202580.0%Wilson, J. Davis, Beckles, Dotson, Phillips
6212972.4%C. Washington, Ahanotu, Cook, Wyms, Cox
7153345.5%Leonard, Jarvis, Swayne, Pyne
871741.2%Sanders, Freeman, M. Carter, McDowell
971741.2%Mucker, G. Carter, Mallory, R. Davis
1061735.3%Hawkins, Igwebuike, Alexander
1161735.3%J.R. Smith, Witte, Pillow, Royster
1272035.0%Ragsdale, Logan, Morton
13010.0%
14010.0%
15010.0%
16010.0%
17010.0%

( The Bucs have drafted from 1976-2004. In 1976, there were 17 rounds. From 1977-92, there were 12 rounds. In 1993, there were eight rounds. From 1994 to the present, there have been seven rounds.)*

Most Buc fans know who that one first-round pick is who didn't "make" the team. In 1986, the Bucs drafted running back Bo Jackson with the first overall pick, but Bo Didn't Know how great Tampa is and he refused to sign with the team, opting to play baseball instead. He eventually did play in the NFL with the Oakland Raiders and was a thrilling, two-sport star and a commercial success, though his career ended early due to a hip injury.

Other than Jackson, the only Buccaneer pick in the first three rounds who didn't make the team was Utah State linebacker Steve Maughan in 1976. The Answer Man will tell you everything he knows about Steve Maughan: He went to Utah State and was drafted in 1976.

In the chart above, you can see that the first drop-off occurs as you head into the fourth round, which is really where Damian started his question in the first place. That drop-off is really more severe than it looks, as those percentages for rounds four through six are misleadingly high thanks to the many players who only made the team for a very brief time. That's particularly true in the fifth round, which has given the team such cup-of-coffee men (in Tampa, at least) as Chuck Fusina, Jamie Lawson, Tim Ryan, Rogerick Green, Clifton Abraham and Russ Hochstein. The Answer Man also doubts that you've heard much about such sixth-rounders as Andre Tyler, Derrick Douglas and Nilo Silvan. Still, it's clear that players picked in rounds four through six have a good shot at making the team.

The next drop-off comes when you reach the seventh round, and is more severe. You have less than a 50-50 chance of getting a keeper in the seventh round, and it's probably close to 25% when the cameo guys are removed. The extinct 8-12 rounds were even trickier, though not much more so than the seventh.

One could rightfully wonder if the early years are also skewing these numbers. After all, you would expect more draft picks to make an expansion team in its first few years. However, the Bucs really got few late-round contributions from the 1976-79 drafts, in part because they routinely traded picks for established players in those years. However, of the 23 players the Bucs drafted in the eighth round or later in those four years, only nine ever played for the team, and only four saw more than a cameo (Ragsdale, WR Larry Mucker, DT David Logan and DT/OT Gene Sanders).

The Answer Man's conclusion, Damian: Yes, if the Bucs draft well you can expect a good number of those 11 new players to make the team. That could be especially true if cap difficulties lead to more roster turnover in the spring.

**

  1. Don Denno of Waynesville, Missouri asks:

Oh Mighty Answer Man. Why is it that some years there seems to be only one week between the Conference Championship game and the Superbowl, and other years there are two (like this year). Is there a formula? Do they alternate? Does it depend on if the moon will be full? Is it the TV Network mafia that decides? Please enlighten me.

Answer Man: I like you, Don. You're funny, you referred to me as "mighty" and you're from one of my favorite states. So I'm going to give it to you straight: There is a two-week period before the Super Bowl when the league gets what it wants.

In other words, the league – and all of the teams in the league – greatly prefer the schedule that puts an extra week between the championship games and the Super Bowl. They only do the one-week break when forced into it. The Buccaneers drew one of the one-week years and the Answer Man can tell you, it ain't easy taking care of all of your Super Bowl business in one week.

A few years ago, the NFL decided that it would no longer start a season on Labor Day weekend, because all of the traveling negatively impacted game attendance and TV ratings. So if Labor Day fell later on the calendar, say the sixth or seventh of September, then the league wasn't starting until the 12th or 13th. Extrapolate out the season and you get the championship games on the second-to-last Sunday of January. Since the NFL always wanted the Super Bowl to be on the last Sunday of January, those seasons had to go to the one-week schedule.

After the last one-week Super Bowl – the Bucs' 48-21 atomizing of the Raiders in XXXVII – the league said, what the heck, we'll let the Super Bowl slide into February. Last year, they stuck their toes in the water with February 1; this year, they dove in all the way to the sixth. Amazingly, Western Civilization did not collapse.

Don't expect to see anymore one-week Super Bowl's, Don. I suppose it could happen, but it's not likely now that February is acceptable territory.

**

  1. Rick of Winter Springs, Florida asks:

To my hero, the Answer Man. Can you provide a summary of all of the Bucs who were awarded the esteemed honor of Pro-Bowler throughout their history? From your humble and thankful admirer.

Answer Man: But of course, Rick. It would be my pleasure.

Twenty-six different Buccaneers have combined to earn 76 Pro Bowl berths, with Derrick Brooks (naturally) leading the way at eight. Mike Alstott has the most appearances for a Buccaneer offensive player, with six. A handful of players – Jeff Christy, Randall McDaniel, Keyshawn Johnson, Brad Johnson, Simeon Rice and Keenan McCardell – made it as a Buccaneer after first making it with another team.

Here's the season-by-season breakdown:

  • 1976: None * 1977: None * 1978: DT Dave Pear * 1979: DE Lee Roy Selmon * 1980: TE Jimmie Giles, LB David Lewis, Selmon * 1981: Giles, Selmon * 1982: Giles, LB Hugh Green, Selmon * 1983: Green, Selmon * 1984: Selmon, RB James Wilder * 1985: Giles * 1986: None * 1987: None * 1988: None * 1989: WR Mark Carrier * 1990: CB Wayne Haddix * 1991: None * 1992: None * 1993: LB Hardy Nickerson * 1994: None * 1995: None * 1996: Nickerson * 1997: FB Mike Alstott, LB Derrick Brooks, QB Trent Dilfer, RB Warrick Dunn, S John Lynch, C Tony Mayberry, Nickerson, DT Warren Sapp * 1998: Alstott, Brooks, Mayberry, Nickerson, Sapp * 1999: Alstott, Brooks, Lynch, Mayberry, Nickerson, Sapp * 2000: CB Donnie Abraham, Alstott, Brooks, C Jeff Christy, Dunn, K Martin Gramatica, Lynch, G Randall McDaniel, Sapp * 2001: Alstott, CB Ronde Barber, Brooks, WR Keyshawn Johnson, Lynch, Sapp * 2002: Alstott, Brooks, QB Brad Johnson, Lynch, LB Shelton Quarles, DE Simeon Rice, Sapp * 2003: Brooks, WR Keenan McCardell, Rice, Sapp * 2004: Barber, Brooks

**

  1. Edward Potts of Front Royal, Virginia:

Dear Antennae Man, I need to find an answer quick. My wife hates everything about football and to torture me she tries to come up with questions I can't answer. Usually I know the answer, but during the NFC Championship she asked me if a team is attempting a two point conversion and the ball is either intercepted or is a recovered fumble and is returned for a "touchdown" how many points, if any, are awarded? Any help would be appreciated, even if it doesn't go on the website.

Answer Man: You should get her back by rearranging her shoes in the closet, Ed.

I'll help you with this one, though.

The answer – in the NFL – is no. Only the offensive team – the one that just scored the touchdown and is trying the conversion – can score on a "try," which is the official NFL term for an extra-point attempt. As the Digest of Rules states, as soon as [the] defense gets possession or the kick is blocked or a touchdown is not scored, the try is over.

That's not the rule in my flag football league – you can score two points by returning an interception on an extra-point attempt – and I believe that differs from the rules in college football, as well.

The Answer Man learned two things about extra point tries while looking up the correct wording in the Rulebook, by the way, and I'll share them with you, Edward, on the off chance that it might spare you some future torture.

One, the ball does not have to be spotted where it always is for the extra point try. The offensive team is allowed to spot it anywhere between the sidelines that is at least two yards back from the goal line. Theoretically, you could choose to run a two-point conversion from the hash marks at the 50-yard line. Obviously, you wouldn't, but you could, and it's good to know that.

Two, you can score one point on a safety as the offensive team during an extra point try. If the offensive team were to fumble, and a player on the defensive team were to bat the ball into and out of his own end zone – a chain of events that would ordinarily be a safety – it would count as one point for the offensive team. It's important that the defensive player not get possession of the fumble before causing it to go into the end zone, as his gaining possession would immediately end the play.

Oh, and "Antennae Man" – I like that.

**

Okay, that mini-column idea didn't really work out, except in terms of how many questions we addressed. As I said, there are tons more in the mailbag, so come back in a few days and we'll go at it again.

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