Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Answer Man, Series 7, Volume 1

The Buc fans' man on the inside returns with a series of answers on such topics as draft and playoff tiebreakers, schedule rotations and the infamous fifth down that wasn't in Washington

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Answer Man's last dispatch from the Answer, uh…Lair: August 8, 2010.

Now, in past January columns I've sheepishly apologized for being incommunicado for so long, but if you've stuck with me through the years you know the drill by now.  During the Bucs' season, the team keeps me busy employing my superpowers in other ways (rearranging the weight room, patrolling the airspace above One Buc Place for spies from the Falcons, filing files superfast, etc.).  My kinda-weekly column becomes a kinda-never column for four or five months or so, then the season ends and I get my free time back.

And my desk.  And my trusty NFL rulebook.  And my true calling: Answering your questions.

So I'll skip with the tired apologies this year around and start instead with some very exciting news.

Finally, someone has recognized that the Answer Man should be on camera!  Well, sort of on camera.  Maybe off to the side a bit, and maybe obscured a bit so as not to give away my secret identity.  But, one way or another, Answer Man is joining the ever-growing video library here on Buccaneers.com.

Beginning in February, I will be joining the Buccaneers.com video team once a week to field a handful of your questions.  We're shooting for Thursdays.  Thursdays cool for everyone?  Yes?  Great!

Now, the video editor here at headquarters may have noticed that some of my columns tend to ramble on for eight or 10 thousand words, and apparently there is a different sensibility when it comes to video.  So I'll probably have to tighten up the answers a little bit.  Well, a lot.  But I'll still have my written column, too, and that's where we'll take on the questions that simply demand a much longer response.

Like the ones below!  Dig in – we're going to try to roll through a lot of your e-mails today.  And if you prefer your answers in video format, check back on Buccaneers.com in February for my on-screen debut.

Now, as for the bag of mail…I mentioned that my last column was early August, right?  Well, a whole bunch of stuff has happened since then, interesting stuff, and you've been filling up the mailbag week after week.  Here's the deal: There were over 700 e-mails in there when I opened it up yesterday.  Seven hundred.  I'm not sure I've got that much free time.

The biggest dilemma for me was where to start.  On one hand, I'd like to at least see all of the accumulated e-mails, because you deserve it and there could be some hidden gems from August or September or November.  On the other hand, the newest submissions are likely to be the most relevant.

So here's what I'm going to do for the first few columns, until I have a better handle on everything that's in there: I'm going to strafe it from beginning to end, picking from here and there, almost at random.  I should end up with a mixture of questions from throughout the season and into January.  So, let's see what we've got.  On to your questions!

**

  1. Dan of Sarasota, Florida asks:

One thing I don't understand is why we didn't get the 19th pick in the draft. I understand the strength of schedule component, but if Green Bay had lost it's final game the Giants would have gone to the playoffs, which means their 10-6 was better than the Bucs 10-6. So, why now is our 10-6 better than theirs? Thanks.

Answer Man: The reason – and it's up to you to decide if this is fair or not – is that there are different tiebreakers applied to those two situations.

The draft actually applies only one tiebreaker before it goes to a coin flip: Strength of schedule.  Any teams that finished with the same record the previous season are put in a "segment" together, and then ranked within that segment by that one tiebreaker.

I know you get it, Dan, but in case anybody else out there is unfamiliar with "strength of schedule," this is what it means: the combined record of all of a team's opponents the previous year.  So, to figure out the Bucs' strength of schedule, you would combine the final records of Atlanta, Carolina and New Orleans (twice each, since we played those teams twice) plus Baltimore, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Arizona, St. Louis, San Francisco, Seattle, Washington and Detroit.  That comes out to 122-134, or a winning percentage of .477.  (Tangent: Isn't it a little strange that we often express percentages in sports in a non-percentage format?  Why don't we write that as 47.7%?)

Meanwhile, the Giants' 16 opponents combined for a record of 116-140 in 2010.  That's a winning percentage of .453.

So why do the Giants get the better pick with a lower number in that category.  Basically the theory is that the Giants played an easier schedule than the Buccaneers, and both teams finished 10-6.  So the Giants are considered the "worse" team because the Buccaneers accomplished the same record against a tougher schedule.  Hey, gotta rank 'em some way or another.

Now, this is a very thin tiebreaker, and the league obviously realizes that because the teams don't stay ranked in the same order in their segment throughout the draft.  The Buccaneers will rotate up to pick 19 in Round Two, then back to 20 in Round Three, and so on.  If there were, say, five teams in a segment, all five would rotate from round to round, with the last team on the list moving up to the top spot and all the other teams moving down one.

By the way, as you may have noticed, Green Bay and three other 10-6 teams (Indy, Philly and K.C.) are not in the same segment as the Bucs and Giants.  This is the result of a change the NFL made to the draft-order procedures in 2009, and to Answer Man's thinking, a good one.  Now the rules state that ALL of the playoff teams will pick after ALL of the non-playoff teams, regardless of record.  Those teams can still jockey among the final 12 spots depending upon how far they advance in the postseason, and they'll rotate within their own segments like the non-playoff teams do, but they won't drop any lower than 21st.

So, I'm really just getting to Dan's question now.  If the draft-order procedure seems to say that the Bucs had a better season, however marginally, than the Giants, why wasn't the same true when the playoff tiebreakers were being set?  And, to be clear, the Bucs were in a final tiebreaker with the Packers AND the Giants; it's just that, as Dan noted, the results wouldn't have favored the Bucs even if the Packers weren't involved.

The NFL has long followed an established set of tiebreakers for determining division winners and playoff entrants, and while strength of schedule is among those tiebreakers, it's nowhere near the top.  In this case, the Packers topped the Giants and Buccaneers on the tiebreaker that came right before strength of schedule, and if the Packers hadn't been involved, the Giants would have topped the Bucs on the tiebreaker that came two before strength of schedule.

Let's look at the top six tiebreakers that are applied when three or more clubs are vying for a Wild Card spot:

1. Apply the division tiebreaker to eliminate all but one club from each division. I could explain this further, but it actually didn't apply because the Bucs, Packers and Giants were all from different divisions.

2. Head-to-head sweep. For this to be put in play, all three teams would have had to play each other, and one of the three would have needed to beat both of the other two, or one of the three would have needed to lose to the other two.  The Packers and Giants did play in Week 16, with Green Bay winning, but the Bucs didn't play either of those two teams.  Doesn't apply.

3. Conference record. In other words, how well did each of those three teams do in their 12 games against NFC teams?  As it turned out, the Bucs, Giants and Packers were all 8-4 against the NFC.  Tiebreaker applies, but doesn't actually break any ties.  Worthless little tiebreaker!  Go to your room!

4. Record in common games. For this to work, all three teams would have to have at least four opponents in common during the 2010 season.  The Bucs did have four common opponents with both the Giants and the Packers, and the Giants and the Packers had four common opponents, but it wasn't the same four common opponents among all three teams.  This tiebreaker also does not apply.

5. Strength of victory. Now we get to the one that, unfortunately for the Bucs and Giants, made the difference for Green Bay.  As opposed to strength of schedule, strength of victory asks you to combine the records of only the teams you beat, not all 16 teams on your schedule.  The Packers' 10 vanquished foes combined for a .475 winning percentage, better than that of the Giants (.400) or the Bucs (.344).

Now, the very next tiebreaker, #6, is strength of schedule.  Had the three teams somehow been tied in strength of victory (very unlikely), the Packers still would have won with a higher s.o.s.  However, as we know from above, the Bucs would have leap-frogged the Giants into second place.

Had the Packers lost their last game of the season, it would have been the same set of tiebreakers above between the Buccaneers and Giants, except without the first step.  However, now the common games tiebreaker would have applied, since Tampa Bay and New York did have at least four common opponents.  The Giants would have won that one with a 5-0 record against Carolina, Detroit, Seattle and Washington.  The Bucs were 4-1 against those four teams.

So the answer to Dan's explicit question is: The Bucs were ranked lower than the Giants in the playoff tiebreaker and higher than the Giants in the draft-order tiebreaker because those two situations employ different tiebreaking procedures.

Dan's implicit question, if I'm not reading too much into this is: "Why?"  Why would there be this differing set of tiebreakers that creates two different rankings.  Specifically in the Bucs' situation, why would you say the Giants are the "better" team in one ranking system and then say the Bucs are the "better" team in the other?

My interpretation: It's a matter of rankings among differing subsets of teams.

Note that when you're trying to break a tie for a playoff spot, you're either comparing teams in the same conference or, even more narrowly, in the same division.  For the draft, there is no separation between the two conferences.  To determine the draft order, the Answer Man believes, the NFL wants one simple tiebreaker that applies to all the teams as broadly as possible.

To determine a playoff spot – which the Answer Man considers a more important function of tiebreakers anyway – you want to find out which teams are better in a more specific subset.  Look at how the tiebreakers are arranged.  Head-to-head.  Well, sure.  If two teams are tied and one beat the other, that first team is clearly more deserving of the playoff spot.  Conference record. We're trying to determine which six teams in the conference are best, so comparing how they fared against each other is logical.  Common games. We couldn't break the tie the more direct ways, so let's see how these teams fared against only the teams they all played.  It's only after those options fail that you go to the more broad strength of victory and strength of schedule tiebreaker.

Those playoff tiebreaking procedures seem to make sense to the Answer Man.  If you were going to argue either half of this, perhaps it's the way that ties are broken in the draft order.  It's tempting to say, "Let's just take the standings for the playoffs as they are determined by the various tiebreakers and put them in reverse order for the draft."  This makes some sense, but the big problem is that you would have two different sets of standings, one for the AFC and one for the NFC.  You'd have to combine them some way, and since the playoff tiebreakers focus so strongly on intra-division and intra-conference results, it's difficult to see how you could apply the same tiebreakers across the two conferences.

In the end, the current system seems just fine to the Answer Man.

(So, yeah, one of the things I was NOT doing during my five-month hiatus from this gig was taking a class on concise writing.)

**

  1. David Koesel of Lakeland, Florida asks:

Why hasn't anyone said anything about the call at the end of the game that let the Redskins have a fifth down? Look at the game film. You will see a first down at the 12-yard line. If you stop the tape just as the Redskins hike the ball you will see the line marker is on the three, not the two-yard line. That is how they made the first down. The play is down on the three, not the two.

Answer Man: Got quite a few e-mails about this.  I chose David's because he seemed particularly passionate about it.  It's possible that David and many of the other question submitters have since seen or heard an explanation of what happened…but let's discuss it anyway.

First, let's just make this clear up front.  Washington did NOT get a fifth down on their final drive of the Buccaneers' 17-16 win at FedExField on December 12.  Furthermore, there was no confusion as to this fact on the field among the players and officials.

The confusion was solely among the broadcasters and the people watching at home.  I'm not trying to pick on David here; his eyes weren't playing tricks on him and there was a good reason for the confusion among the broadcasters.  Even the NFL Network crew in the studio was still trying to figure out the play hours later during their highlight show.

Here's what it says in the game's official play-by-play (I added the bullet points):

  • 3-1-TB 21  (1:15) (Shotgun) D.McNabb pass short left to S.Moss to TB 12 for 9 yards (B.Ruud)
  • 1-10-TB 12 (:49) (Shotgun) D.McNabb pass short right to A.Armstrong to TB 2 for 10 yards (C.Lynch)
  • Timeout #2 by WAS at 00:32
  • 1-2-TB 2  (:32) D.McNabb pass incomplete short right to R.Williams
  • 2-2-TB 2 (:28) R.Torain right end ran ob at TB 6 for -4 yards (T.Crowder)
  • 3-6-TB 6  (:18) D.McNabb pass incomplete short middle to F.Davis
  • 4-6-TB 6  (:13) D.McNabb pass short middle to S.Moss for 6 yards, TOUCHDOWN.

* *

Now, if you're reading that play-by-play, you see no hint of a fifth down.  It's easy to follow the chain of events.  Facing a third down at the Bucs' 21, Washington got nine yards and a first down on a catch by Santana Moss at the 12.  On the next play, McNabb hit Anthony Armstrong for a gain of 10 to the two, making it first and goal.  The Bucs stopped the next three plays but Washington got it in on fourth down with a pass to Moss.

But David saw what he saw, and if you go here to NFL.com to watch the highlights you'll probably see it, too.

The play-by-play above states that the pass to Armstrong was for 10 yards, from the 12 to the two.  But on the replay you'll see that Armstrong comes down at the three, maybe generously the two-and-a-half.  Regardless, the ball is spotted at the three, so that's officially where he was ruled down.

So how did that become a 10-yard gain?  Well, in the real physical world (as opposed to the play by play), it didn't.  Not really.  Here was the glitch: The man holding the marker at the end of the chain had set up at the nine before the snap on that play.  His partner had accurately placed the first stick at the 12, but somehow the full 10-yard chain didn't get extended and the second stick was put at the three.

It was obviously an honest mistake, and presumably after spotting the ball at the three the official looked over and saw that the ball had reached the second stick.  To him, that made it a first down.  It was noted as such on the field, the marker was switched to a "1" to indicate a first down and the two teams played the next four downs without any confusion.  Note in the highlights that Buccaneer defenders are not celebrating after the third-down pass to Fred Davis is incomplete.  Had they thought it was fourth down, they would have been celebrating a victory at that point.

You can't have a nine-yard gain on first-and-10 and have it result in a first down on the play-by-play, so the play was officially called a 10-yard play and the next line of scrimmage has been officially recorded at the two.  As David said, though, you can clearly see the snap taking place at the three.

Because the play understandably confused the stadium's scoreboard operator and public address person, there were few clues to the FOX broadcast team that it was actually first down and not second-and-one.  The marker on the far side of the field correctly identified the downs all along, but you can't blame the announcers for not seeing that.

Now, I suppose that David may have known all this and is still arguing that the Redskins got a fifth down.  The argument would go that the incorrectly placed marker gave Washington a first down they shouldn't have had, therefore the next play would have been second-and-one, the next third-and-one and the pass to Fred Davis fourth-and-one.

To me, that logic doesn't hold, however.  Had the officials called the play second-and-one at the three, you can't assume that Washington would have then approached the next three plays the same way.  They threw on what they thought was first-and-goal.  If it was second-and-one, wouldn't it have made sense to run up the middle on that play?  If you get a yard, it's a first down and you still have one timeout remaining (note that the play-by-play says "timeout #2" just before this snap).  And if the back happens to break a tackle or find a big hole, maybe it's a touchdown.  Personally, the Answer Man thinks it's highly unlikely that Washington's play-calling would have gone the same if it had been marked as second-and-one.

It was a confusing turn of events for the spectators, but nobody in the Bucs' locker room believed anything unfair had taken place.  And lest we forget, there was a happy ending.  Here was the next line in the play-by-play after Moss's touchdown catch:

  • G.Gano extra point is Aborted. Center-N.Sundberg. Holder-H.Smith.

**

  1. T.J. Dobie of London, Ontario, Canada asks:

Loved the golf hats at the John McKay induction. How can I get one? And WHY did it take so long to induct Mr. McKay????

Answer Man: I hesitated to include T.J.'s e-mail because I don't really have a very pleasing answer for him to the first question.  With the help of Pewter Partner Hess, the Bucs created those hats exclusively for this one-time stadium giveaway.  They are not for sale at any Bucs store.  Giveaways like that are another reason why it's such a great experience to come to a game in person, if that's possible for you.  Judging from your location, T.J., I doubt you get that chance very often.

But I was compelled to respond to your follow-up question because of the fully-capitalized and obviously indignant "WHY" and the four – count 'em, four – question marks at the end.  I could picture Mr. Dobie raising both hands above his head and beseeching the sky: "Why?!!  Whyyyyy?!!!"  Very dramatic.

But that's my response, too.  Why?  Why the drama?

The Ring of Honor at Raymond James Stadium was just created in 2009.  One person has been inducted in each season so far.  The legendary Coach McKay was the second person inducted from the franchise's entire 35-year history, following only inaugural inductee Lee Roy Selmon in '09.

Selmon certainly seemed like a logical first pick.  He's the only player who was primarily a Buccaneer who is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.  Until the likes of Derrick Brooks and a few of his contemporaries came along, there was absolutely no question that Selmon was the greatest player in franchise history, and you could certainly still make that argument.  He's also one of the, if not the, most popular figures in team history, thanks in large part to his unfailingly generous and friendly nature.  The man is beloved in the Bay area.

You could definitely argue that Coach McKay was just as deserving.  I wouldn't try to debate that.  It's like deciding whether to eat the steak or the lobster first on your surf-and-turf plate.  You can't go wrong.  Selmon then McKay; McKay then Selmon.  Either one seems fine.  The point is, those two men are the only ones in the Ring of Honor so far, and that hardly seems like taking "so long" to get to Coach.

**

  1. Dan of Ft. Lauderdale, Florida asks:

Why do the Bucs play the Panthers twice, the Saints twice, and the Cardinals twice in the 2010 season but not the Packers at all this year?

Answer Man: Argh, that's two straight questions where I got all argumentative with the questioner!  That's not what I'm about, man.  We're supposed to be agreeing and having a happy fun time.  Let's move on quick and get to a less contentious question.

Here's a good palate cleanser, as a matter of fact.

Obviously, everyone reading has already spotted the little misprint in Dan's question.  The Bucs did indeed play the Panthers and Saints twice each in 2010, but they only played the Cardinals once.  I have two theories as to why Dan wrote it that way:

  1. He simply meant the Falcons and didn't notice that he accidently typed the Cardinals instead.
  1. He counted both the Arizona and St. Louis games as being against the "Cardinals."  I still make that mistake sometimes when I'm not paying attention.  The Arizona Cardinals moved to Phoenix in 1988 after 28 years in St. Louis.  The Gateway City was without a team for seven years before the Los Angeles Rams moved to St. Louis in 1995.  So now St. Louis is the Rams but I'm sure I'm not the only one who occasionally slips up and thinks of the St. Louis Cardinals.

Anyway, the answer is pretty easy, Dan.  The Bucs play the Panthers and Saints (and the Falcons) twice every year, or at least they have since those four teams were put into the newly-formed NFC South Division during the 2002 realignment.  That realignment created eight four-team divisions, and every team plays the other three teams in its division twice a year, once at home and once away.

Now, we did also play the Cardinals in 2010, though only once.  That's because the NFC South was matched up with the NFC West in the NFL's rotating schedule plan.  All four teams in the Bucs' division played all four teams in the Cards' division, which led to visits to Arizona and San Francisco and home games against St. Louis and Seattle for Tampa Bay.

Each year, every division is matched up against one other division from its own conference and one division from the opposing conference.  So, for the Bucs, that means a three-year rotation through the NFC East, North and West and a four-year rotation through the AFC East, North, South and West.  The next time the NFC South rotates back around to the NFC West, in 2013, the Buccaneers will switch and go to Seattle and St. Louis while the 49ers and Cardinals come to Tampa.

That rotation guarantees that each team in the NFL will play one home game and one road game against every other team in the league within an eight-year span.  Before 2002, the NFL's scheduling formula was based more on strength of schedule (and let's not get into that again); that is, more matchups were created between teams with similar records from the year before.  In that way, it was possible to go many, many years without ever playing a team or two, usually in the other conference.  For instance, the Bucs didn't play Denver once between 1981 and 1993, and they only played their first game in Buffalo in 2009.

All of that accounts for 14 games every year.  The 15th and 16th games are based on strength of schedule in a way – see, in each of the two divisions in your own conference that you're NOT matched up with that year (for the Bucs in 2010, that was the NFC North and NFC East), you play the teams that finished in the same spot in the standings in those divisions as you did in yours.  The Bucs finished fourth in the NFC South in 2009, giving them 2010 games against Detroit (fourth in the North) and Washington (fourth in the East).

Next year, the Bucs WILL play Green Bay, going back to Lambeau Field for the first time since winning 17-16 there in 2005.  Tampa Bay is matched up with the NFC North and the AFC South in 2011, so here come Chicago and Indy, to name a few.  The two strength of schedule games produced a home game against Dallas (third in the NFC East) and a road game at San Francisco (third in the NFC West).

**

  1. Emil of Tampa says:

Browns 27 Bucs 14.

Answer Man: Yeah, not so much Emil.

(See, that's the beauty of letting your mailbag fill up for five months!  I can be all "in-your-face, Emil!" with the power of hindsight.  Emil's e-mail – say that three times fast – was sent on September 8, four days before the opening game against the Browns.)

Here's hoping, 10 wins later, that Emil is a believer now.

**

  1. Chris Crawford of Tampa, Florida (at least, that is, he says he's a native of Tampa) asks:

Attended the Browns win -- noticed the giant flag waving after the game and wondered what are the measurements of that flag over by the new Buc complex?

Answer Man: Chris's question points out one of the great things about how the Buccaneers' weekday home and home field are now situated.  Stand in the right place and you can see three of the most distinctive sights in Tampa: One Buccaneer Place with its unique football-shaped entrance; the beautiful Raymond James Stadium; and the enormous flag in question, flying in between the two.

That flag, as you may or may not have heard, is the largest flying non-U.S. flag in the country.  When it catches the wind, it's very impressive and visible from miles around.

So how big is it?  Well, the pole it flies on is 146 feet high for starters.  While the flag has an uneven edge at the end to mimic the contours of the flag in the Buccaneers' logo, it is essentially 66 feet by 105 feet, for a total of 6,930 square feet.  You didn't ask, but here's a bonus piece of information: The flag is constructed from 70D nylon.

**

  1. Willem of Manila, Philippines asks:

I was looking at the Bucs' roster and realized we have 2 sons of HOFers, Winslow and Grimm, on our roster.  Is this a first in the NFL because it looks pretty unique? If you want you can as always expand my question to all sons of HOFers to make it actually in a NFL game. More power to you my answer man.

Answer Man: Right on, Willem.

I like the question.  The interesting thing about Grimm is that he wasn't a son of a Hall of Famer, technically, when he was drafted last April, but he was by the time he put on a Bucs' uniform in August.  His father, former Washington Redskins lineman Russ Grimm, was voted in last year before the Super Bowl but the official induction took place in August.

If we don't worry about that timeline, Grimm became the eighth son of a Hall of Famer to be drafted into the NFL.  The other seven were Winslow, LB Bobby Bell (son of Bobby Bell), CB Anthony Dorsett (son of Tony Dorsett), QB Brian Griese (son of Bob Griese), QB Mike Shula (son of Don Shula), DE Chris Long (son of Howie Long) and WR Matt Slater (son of Jackie Slater).  Mike Shula, by the way, was drafted by Tampa Bay in the 12th round in 1987, so the Grimm experience isn't even a new one for the Buccaneers.

Through the 2009 season, there were 183 documented father-son sets who had played in the NFL, including two three-generation families: the Matthews (Clay, Sr.; Clay, Jr. and Bruce; Clay III) and the Pynes (George II; George III; Jim).  Of those 183 sets, 14 include a Hall of Famer.  There are the eight aforementioned pairs where the son of a Hall of Famer was drafted.  There are also four more sons of Hall of Famers who played in the league but were not drafted: LB Ryan Nece (son of Ronnie Lott), RB Jarrett Payton (son of Walter Payton), WR David Shula (son of Don Shula and brother of Mike) and TE Josh Wilcox (son of Dave Wilcox).  Finally, there are two pairs in which the father was not a Hall of Famer but the son was: father Herb Hannah and guard John Hannah; father Clay Matthews, Sr. and son Bruce.

It's interesting that five of those 13 pairs have some ties to the Buccaneers.  Obviously, as Willem points out, Grimm and Winslow are on the team now.  In addition, Brian Griese played for Tampa Bay in 2004-05 and 2008; Mike Shula briefly made the Bucs' roster in 1987 but didn't play in a game, then came back to coach for the team from 1988-90 and again from 1996-99, the latter as the offensive coordinator; and Nece signed with the Buccaneers as an undrafted free agent in 2002 and eventually played six seasons with the team.  And while neither John Hannah nor his father played for the Buccaneers, John's brother Charley did from 1977-82, first as a defensive end and then as an offensive tackle.

So, to get back to Willem's initial question, are the Bucs blazing a new trail by having two sons of Hall of Famers on their active roster at the same time?  Well, let's just list the 12 candidates, add their teams and the years they played and see what overlaps we find:

  • Bobby Bell…N.Y. Jets, 1984; Chicago, 1987
  • Anthony Dorsett…Houston/Tennessee, 1996-99; Oakland, 2000-03
  • Brian Griese…Denver, 1998-2002; Miami, 2003; Tampa Bay, 2004-05, 2008; Chicago, 2006-07
  • Cody Grimm…Tampa Bay, 2010-Present
  • Chris Long…St. Louis, 2008-Present
  • Ryan Nece…Tampa Bay, 2002-07; Detroit, 2008
  • Jarrett Payton…Tennessee, 2005
  • David Shula…Baltimore, 1981
  • Mike Shula…Tampa Bay, 1987
  • Matt Slater…New England, 2008-Present
  • Josh Wilcox…New Orleans, 1998-99
  • Kellen Winslow, Jr….Cleveland, 2004-08; Tampa Bay, 2009-Present

Well, well, well…look at that.  It appears you were on to something, Willem.  The Answer Man is a little disappointed in himself for not having noticed that before.  It appears that the 2010 Tampa Bay Buccaneers were just the third team EVER to have two sons of Hall of Famers playing for it at the same time.

And the first two teams with that distinction: The 2004 and 2005 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, with Griese and Nece as teammates.  That's crazy.  I've got to give you props for the question of the week, Willem, and if I wasn't so lazy I'd move it to right to the top of this column.

And as long as you gave me permission to expand the question (as if I ever needed that sort of prompt), let's add one more part to the answer.  How many of those 183 father/son NFL playing pairs through 2009 have ties to the Buccaneers?  As it turns out, a whopping 20 of them!

  • Father Jeremiah Castille and sons Tim and Simeon Castille…Jeremiah played cornerback for the Buccaneers from 1983-86.
  • Father Randy Crowder and son Channing Crowder…Randy played defensive line for the Bucs from 1978-80.
  • Father Alphonse Dotson and son Santana Dotson…Santana played defensive tackle for the Bucs from 1992-95.
  • Father Rockne Freitas and son Makoa Freitas…Rockne played tackle for the Buccaneers in 1978.
  • Father Irv Goode and step-son Conrad Goode…Conrad played tackle for the Buccaneers in 1987.
  • Father Bob Griese and son Brian Griese…Griese played quarterback for the Buccaneers from 2004-05 and in 2008.
  • Father Herb Hannah and son Charley Hannah…Charley played defensive end and offensive line for the Buccaneers from 1977-82.
  • Father Walter Highsmith and son Alonzo Highsmith…Alonzo played fullback for the Buccaneers from 1991-92.
  • Father Kevin House and son Kevin House…The elder House played wide receiver for the Buccaneers from 1980-86.
  • Father Eddie Jenkins and son Julian Jenkins…Julian played defensive end for the Bucs in 2006.
  • Father Gordon Jolley and son Doug Jolley…Doug played tight end for Tampa Bay in 2006.
  • Father Ronnie Lott and son Ryan Nece…Nece played linebacker for the Buccaneers from 2002-07.
  • George Pyne III and Jim Pyne…Jim played center for the Buccaneers from 1994-97,
  • Father Tom Ruud and son Barrett Ruud…Barrett has played linebacker for the Bucs from 2005-Present.
  • Father Don Shula and son Mike Shula…Mike was on the Bucs' roster in 1987 but did not appear in a game.
  • Father Phil Simms and son Chris Simms…Chris played quarterback for Tampa Bay from 2004-07.
  • Father Ed Smith and son Alex Smith…Alex played tight end for the Buccaneers from 2005-08.
  • Father Ron Springs and son Shawn Springs…Ron played running back for the Bucs from 1985-86.
  • Father Aaron Thomas and son Robb Thomas…Robb played wide receiver for the Buccaneers from 1996-98.
  • Father Kellen Winslow and son Kellen Winslow, Jr…Kellen, Jr. has played tight end for the Buccaneers from 2009-Present.

There are a lot more sons than fathers on that list, which makes sense.  The Buccaneers are still one of the NFL's younger franchises, beginning play in 1976.  As the years pass and more players come and go for the team, the pool of potential fathers widens.  Who knows, maybe there's a five-year-old watching his current-Buccaneer father play these days who will eventually follow in those NFL footsteps.  Or, hey – isn't James Wilder, Jr. about to head to Florida State?

**

  1. Ed Hemminger of Tampa, Florida asks:

On the last play of the Rams game Barrett Ruud recovered a lateral. It looked like the ball was thrown forward, but the ref did not through a flag for illegal forward pass. Why didn't the Bucs get credit for a turnover?

Answer Man: You know, this one was a little trickier than I thought it would be at first glance.

First of all, it's clear that Ed here got a good look at the play AND that he knows the rules well.  I can tell by how the question was worded, and you'll see what I mean in a second.

Let's describe the play and situation first, because I have to admit even I didn't have a very good mental image of it when I read the question, and my visual memory is rumored to be enhanced by alien DNA.

Ahem.  On October 24, 2010, the Buccaneers beat the visiting St. Louis Rams at Raymond James Stadium, 18-17.  Tampa Bay scored the go-ahead touchdown with 10 seconds left as Freeman took a second-down snap from the St. Louis one-yard line, rolled right and eventually threw to Cadillac Williams in the front of the end zone.  The Bucs went for two after the touchdown but did not get it.

After the kickoff, the Rams had the ball at their own 22 with five seconds left on the clock.  They did what every team does in this desperate situation – they tried a crazy, pitch-it-around play that almost never works.  Almost.  I know I was holding my breath until that play was over, even though it never got within 60 yards of the Bucs' end zone.

So, to be exact, Sam Bradford threw a short pass over the middle to wide receiver Laurent Robinson.  Robinson ran a few steps to the right and then stopped, looking for somebody to pitch it to before the Bucs defenders could close in.  He eventually threw back and to his left to running back Steven Jackson.  Jackson caught the ball and ran to the right, in Amendola's direction but also into a group of Buccaneer defenders.  Safety Sabby Piscitelli tackled him by the ankles, but Jackson did try to pitch the ball to another teammate before hitting the ground.

Now, here is how the play-by-play reads:

1-10-SL 22      (:05) (Shotgun) S.Bradford pass short middle to L.Robinson to SL 24 for 2 yards. Lateral to S.Jackson to SL33 for 9 yards (S.Piscitelli.).

And that's the end of it.  To explain the second part there, the lateral wasn't to the 33-yard line.  Jackson caught it about a yard behind Robinson and then ran to the 33, adding nine yards onto the total play.  Sounds like Jackson was simply ruled down at the end of the play.

So I went back to watch the videotape.  What I expected to find is that Jackson's knee was down before he let go of the ball, thereby rendering all of ensuing scramble for the loose ball moot.  And it is close, but you can clearly see that Jackson gets the ball off before he's down.  He's tripped up by the ankles but he straightens his legs to keep his knees up and his entire body is horizontal above the ground by a few inches as he shoves the ball out with one hand.

As Ed notes, the ball went forward.  Since Jackson clearly releases the ball on purpose, and since it went forward, this is ruled a forward pass.  An illegal one, to be sure, but a forward pass, not a fumble.  Let's crack open that lovely NFL rulebook for the first time in 2011.

In the "Rule 8" chapter, which covers forward passes, backward passes and fumbles, we find this in Section 1, Article 1, Supplemental Note (5):

An intentional fumble forward is a forward pass.

And later in the same chapter, in a subsection about fouls, we find this in Section 4, Article 2, Exception (1):

If a runner *intentionally *fumbles forward, it is a forward pass. (Note that the word "intentionally" was italicized for emphasis in the rulebook.)

This is what I meant when I said Ed gets it.  He knew that the play looked like an illegal forward pass and, had a flag been thrown for that, there would have been a penalty but no recovery for Ruud since it wasn't a fumble.  There was no flag thrown, however, which may have led Ed to believe that the play was ruled to be a legal attempt at a lateral, and therefore a fumble, and therefore a fumble recovery by Ruud and another turnover to pad the Bucs' stats.

But let's go back to the play-by-play entry.  There is no mention of the ball being let loose by Jackson at all, whether legally or illegally.  As it is described, the play simply ended when Jackson was tackled by Piscitelli.  Therefore, it appears that Jackson was ruled to be down before he could get rid of the ball.  This may not be supported by the videotape, but it was admittedly hard to tell when I watched it at full speed the first time.  Since the play ended the game whichever way it was ruled, there wasn't any point in reviewing it or worrying about how the play was scored.

That was definitely interesting, though.  Had that play not been the one that ran out the clock, I think we would have been looking at it a lot more closely.

**

All right, let's play this out with a round of "Quickies."  As usual, these are questions that either require very little elaboration on my part or, in some cases, have been asked and answered in previous columns.

  1. Ed of Tampa, Florida asks:

Any truth that Champ Bailey was traded to the Bucs?

Answer Man: Nope.

**

  1. Andra Jackson of Boynton Beach, Florida asks:

Why don't they show Bucs games on Sun Sports Channel but they show Miami Heat and Tampa Bay Rays?

Answer Man: Simple.  All NFL regular-season and playoff games are part of the league's network package, which means the broadcasting rights belong exclusively to CBS, NBC, FOX, ESPN and the NFL Network.  MLB and the NBA do have broadcast packages with ABC and ESPN, but they have much longer seasons and the packages do not include all of the games.  There is plenty of room for local networks to get involved.

**

  1. Anne B. of Tampa, Florida asks:

Who sang the national anthem before the Bucs/Seahawks game  on 12/26/10?

Answer Man: The singer's name is Shelia Upshaw.  She has actually performed the anthem at a number of Bucs games in recent years.

**

  1. Jim Perrone of Tampa, Florida asks:

What is the Bucs' all-time record vs. the Detroit Lions?

Answer Man: Jim's e-mail was sent in before the Bucs' Week 15 game against Detroit, which the Lions won 23-20 in overtime.  The all-time series is close to dead even; the Lions now lead it 28-25.  That includes a 13-13 split in Tampa and a 15-12 Lions edge in Detroit.  Tampa Bay's 25 wins against the Lions are their most against any team.  The Bucs are also 1-0 against Detroit in the playoffs, having taking a 20-10 decision in a Wild Card game in 1997, which happened to be the last game played at old Tampa/Houlihan's Stadium.

**

  1. Perry White of Tampa, Florida asks:

How many times have the Bucs beaten the Steelers or the Cowboys during the regular season?

Answer Man: The Buccaneers' all-time record against Dallas is 3-9 and their all-time mark against Pittsburgh is 1-8.  The Bucs have also played the Cowboys twice in the postseason, both times in Dallas, losing a divisional game at Texas Stadium in 1981 and a "first round" game in the same location in 1982.  That '82 game didn't have the traditional round designations (Wild Card, Divisional, etc.) because it followed a season shortened to nine games by a players' strike.  The playoffs were referred to as a Super Bowl tournament and the eight playoff teams in each conference were simply seeded 1-8.

**

Okay, that will do it for this week.  As I mentioned at the top, keep your eyes peeled in February for my video debut on Buccaneers.com.  I'll also be writing throughout the offseason, and while I still have a pretty full mailbag to dip into, please feel free to send in any other questions you find relevant.  You'll find my question-submission page under the "Bucs Fans" tab in the upper menu bar.

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