Oh Facebook, you fickle muse!
If you read my last Q&A two weeks ago, you may recall that I received some very welcome help in soliciting questions from my pals who run the Buccaneers' Facebook page. An invitation was posted and our friends on Facebook responded immediately and impressively with some real stuff I could use. It was all joyful synergistic goodness.
So, obviously, we put the call out again this week. I had plenty to work with through my normal e-mail inbox (thank you, everyone) but you never know where the best questions are going to come from. And, once again, the response was immediate.
Useful? Not so much, not this time. Really, it was all a matter of timing, and it was actually pretty funny. See, virtually every question that was posted had the same word in it: Tebow.
"Do the Bucs want to trade for Tim Tebow?" "You should definitely trade for Tim Tebow." "Please don't trade for Tim Tebow." "I love Tim Tebow; just thought you should know." Bit of a collective one-track mind on the ol' Facebook page that day.
Many of you understand that these are not the types of queries the Answer Man is tasked with. I don't try to predict roster moves or draft picks, nor do I have any influence on the Buc decision-makers who affect those moves. And I'm not going to get roped into discussing how great or how terrible a specific player is, on our team or any other.
But the whole thing is moot, anyway, because not long after I got all those questions, the Broncos traded Mr. Tebow to the Jets (then the trade almost didn't happen, then it did). So I actually can answer the most common question sent in by Facebook this week: No, the Buccaneers are not going to trade for Tim Tebow.
But, wow, that man is popular, isn't he? Yeah, I know, tell you something you didn't already know. Still, it's pretty impressive to see it in action. Not everyone is on the same page as to how good of an NFL quarterback he will eventually be, but everybody seems to enjoy discussing it. I get the feeling that if I changed my name to the Answer Tebow, I'd have about two million readers in an instant.
Actually, that has kind of a nice ring to it. He's pretty much a superhero like me, as it is. Anybody know if Tim Tebow can fly?
To get back to the original point, this particular Answer Man edition won't have any Facebook flavor. I still think it's a valuable connection, though, so look for my social network friends here at One Buc Place to solicit more questions in a couple weeks. In the meantime, you can continue to send my questions in the usual way by clicking here – morning, noon and night, seven days a week. I'm always open for business.
Now, let's get to the good stuff I did get in my mailbox this week.
- Patrick Spence of Chesapeake, Virginia asks:
How many teams have hired new coaching staff after a losing season and turned it around the next year and made it to playoffs.
Answer Man: How many? Ever?!? Sheesh…you know the NFL's been around for, like 90-something years, right? Do we really need to know what became of the 1927 Dayton Triangles when they replaced Carl Storck with Lou Mahrt following a disastrous 1-4-1 campaign in 1926? (That's all true, by the way.)
Let's tighten up the terms here (my first and favorite act when taking on one of these open-ended questions you guys always send me) by including all teams that started a new season with a new head coach since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger (also my favorite cutting off point, very clean).
You cool with that, Pat? If not, you can get on the bus with Gus or make a new plan with Stan. (REALLY dating myself with that reference.)
So, how many teams have had a losing season, replaced the coaching staff (or rather, for our purposes, the head coach, so we don't have to get into all the nuances of teams that replaced the top dog but held over some of the assistants, like the Buccaneers did in 2009), and immediately followed with a season in which they made the playoffs? And can I go two consecutive sentences without resorting to parentheses? Boom, I just did it.
Yeah, that's doable. Let me just flip the switch on the supercomputer I call a brain and enter in the parameters. We should have a nice little list in no time. Aaaand…done!
Okay, before I present my findings, let me point out a few more decisions I made in my search. First, I eliminated all the instances where an interim coach took over for a fired coach at some point during a season and then was retained for the start of the next season. However, if a team had two different head coaches during a season and then hired another new coach to start the next one, that does count.
I also had to consider the unusual 1995-96 Cleveland-Baltimore thing. As many of you know and as I think I discussed as recently as my last column, the team that was known as the Cleveland Browns moved to Baltimore after the 1995 season. The NFL worked out a compromise of sorts to salve the wounds among the very passionate and tradition-minded Browns fan base. The team that landed in Baltimore became known as the Ravens and was considered a "new" franchise. That is, the Ravens' history officially begins in 1996. The Browns colors and history were left behind in Cleveland, where a new team picked them up and started playing in 1999. For all practical purposes, the '99 Browns were an expansion team, but it's the Ravens that were considered the NFL's new addition.
In reality, the team that played in Baltimore in 1996 was the same one that had played in Cleveland the year before. And that team switched coaches from Bill Belichick to Ted Marchibroda. To me, that fits the scenario. It didn't really matter much to the results you'll see, as both of those teams had losing records, but it's in there for the sake of completeness.
As is often the case with my answers, I've rambled on long enough that we should probably be reminded of the ground rules you set before I present the results. The specific scenario you want counted is this: Team has a losing record in one season; team replaces head coach after that season; team makes the playoffs the very next season. There are plenty of other combinations, such as a team making the playoffs, replacing the coach, and then making it again, and I'll touch on some of those in a second, but first your answer.
Now, even though I initially complained about it, it's to your credit that you asked "how many" times this has happened, and not "if" it has happened. If you had wondered whether a new coach had ever taken a team from a losing record to the playoffs in his first season, I would have said, "You could have done your own research just by, you know, watching football last fall." See, I liked that line so much I even used it despite the fact that it doesn't apply.
Last year, both John Fox in Denver and Jim Harbaugh in San Francisco took over teams that had losing records the previous season and guided them to the postseason in their first years at the helm. Fox's team actually finished with a .500 record, not a winning record, but a winning record in the second season wasn't actually one of Patrick's parameters, just a playoff berth.
In fact, this has been a fairly common occurrence in recent years in the NFL. It's happened at least once in six of the last nine years, including twice in Atlanta alone. Yes, this phenomenon has struck repeatedly in the NFC South since it was formed in 2002, with Atlanta's Jim Mora in 2004 and the Falcons' Mike Smith in 2008; and with New Orleans' Sean Payton in 2006. You surely recall that Jon Gruden took the Bucs all the way to the Super Bowl championship in his first year, 2002, but that scenario doesn't fit Patrick's parameters as Tampa Bay was a winning team in 2001.
You wanted numbers. Here they are: The Answer Man tallied up 224 between-season coaching changes from 1970 through 2011. Remember that we are not including instances where an interim coach took over at some point in Season 1 and then stayed on to start Season 2, so this isn't close to an exact tally of coaching changes over the last four decades.
Of those 224 instances, there were 26 occurrences that fit Patrick's parameters. That's not a huge chunk of the entire amount, but it's enough to inspire hope. That's especially true if one notices that such new-coach rebounds have been occurring with much greater frequency in recent years. Of those 26 occurrences, 16 have taken place since the 1996-97 season pair.
Furthermore, 19 of the current 32 teams have experienced this exact thing at least once. Three of the 13 that haven't are among the league's four newest teams – Carolina, Jacksonville and Houston – and they haven't had that many opportunities. The Buccaneers are one of the other 10 teams still waiting for that experience, so perhaps were due!
The actual coaches on the list surely would bring up a wide variety of reactions from long-time NFL fans. There are legends like Bill Parcells and Dan Reeves on the list, mixed in with coaches who are probably remembered less fondly, like Jim Fassel and Ray Rhodes. Only two coaches appears on the list twice: the very accomplished Chuck Knox and the possibly underrated Bobby Ross (don't kill me, Lions fans). Knox did it with the Rams in '73 and a decade later with the Seahawks in '83. Ross did it with the Chargers in 1992 and just a few years later with the Lions in 1997. Those were Ross' only two head coaching stops in the NFL.
George Allen, Bill Cowher and Tony Dungy make the list, too. Wade Phillips is on there leading a Buffalo turnaround in 1998. Phillips' 1993 Broncos made the playoffs in his first year but had been 8-8 the year before, and his 2007 Cowboys made it too but had been in the postseason the year before. That's impressive first-year work for Phillips on a repeated basis, but only one of the three fits into Patrick's specific question. The most curious entry on the list is Pete Carroll in Seattle in 2010. He took a team that had been 5-11 in 2009 and didn't quite get them over .500, at 7-9, but that was good enough to win the NFC West in 2010.
Oh, what the heck, here's the whole list, presented in chronological order. The years listed by each team indicate the year before the coach arrived followed by his first season at the helm. Similarly, the next two columns indicate the records of the season before his arrival and his first season:
Carroll's first year in Seattle was the weirdest case that made the list. The weirdest case that didn't make the list belonged to Herm Edwards in 2006. He took over a Chiefs team that had won 10 games the previous year under Dick Vermeil but had not qualified for the playoffs. Under Edwards, the Chiefs got one win worse in '06, but in that case 9-7 was good enough to make into the postseason.
You can switch up the parameters however you like and find at least one example among those 224 coaching switches. Teams have gone from a playoff season one year to a losing record the next under a new coach (example: Dennis Erickson in San Francisco in 2003). They have essentially duplicated their previous result under a new coach, making the playoffs with the same record (example: Lindy Infante in Indy in 1996) or not making the playoffs with the same record (example: Jim Hanifan in St. Louis in 1980).
They have gone from a team very close to the playoffs to one that got over the hump with the new coach (example: Herm Edwards again, with the Jets in 2001). They've gotten worse but still made the playoffs both years (example: Mike Martz in St. Louis in 2000). They've improved their win total dramatically but just missed the playoffs (example: Bill Parcells with the Jets in 1997). Some have gotten significantly worse under a new coach (example: Marty Mornhinweg in Detroit in 2001).
By far the most common pattern has been for the team with a losing record to improve somewhat but not enough to make the playoffs (example: Take your pick from dozens and dozens, such as Ron Rivera in Carolina last year). Still, there have been enough examples of what Patrick was looking for – new coach turns team with a losing record into an instant playoff qualifier – that it is no longer a surprise when it happens again. Obviously, we all know why Patrick framed his question in that specific way…let's hope Greg Schiano and the Buccaneers become #27 on that list in 2012.
- Will Davis of Portland, Oregon (formerly of Tampa) asks:
Hello Answer Man. I read your column every time it comes out, but am asking a question for the first time. This is in reference to your last column that had a statistical breakdown of some of the greatest defenses of all time. I am of the belief that the 2002 defense was not the best Bucs defense, and are only thought of as such due to their dominating performance in the Super Bowl. This may be just my perception, but I feel that the 1999 D was actually the better of the of the two. As I said it may be perception, or my love of a shutdown defense as opposed to a turnover-happy one. It may also be because of the dominating performance the '99 defense had in the playoffs that year. I guess I am asking for a statistical comparison of the great Bucs defenses and a comparison between the 1999 and 2002 playoff runs. I could probably look this up myself, and would probably enjoy doing so, however the need to finally ask a question is preventing me from doing so! Thank You.
Answer Man: Well, Will, I'm glad you didn't take the initiative and instead sent it to me, because this is just a super question. I grabbed this one out of my inbox before I was even a few sentences into it. The best thing about it is, whatever the answer is, I'm going to like it. Either the 2002 Bucs' defense was the best in team history, as you accurately point out that most people believe, or the 1999 version was even better, and that gives us two of the best defensive seasons of the last generation. I honestly am not going into this with any biases or preconceived notions. And, just to pay homage to the first generation of outstanding Buccaneer defenders, I'm going to throw the 1979 defense into the mix as well. The '79, '02 and '05 defenses are the three in franchise history that finished first in the league rankings (based on yards); the '99 team finished third, but I don't think anyone would argue that the 2005 defense was better than the '99 version.
Three things before we get started.
1) All three of the defenses in question capped their great regular seasons with at least one very memorable performance in the playoffs. The '79 team held a star-studded Eagles offense to 227 yards in the first postseason appearance and victory in Buccaneer history. The '99 team unforgettably shut down The Greatest Show on Turf in St. Louis before victory and the Super Bowl slipped away in the closing minutes. And the '02 team set a number of Super Bowl records in its demolition of the Oakland Raiders, most notably five interceptions, three returned for touchdowns.
2) All three of those teams also featured the NFL Defensive Player of the Year: DE Lee Roy Selmon in 1979, DT Warren Sapp in 1999 and LB Derrick Brooks in 2002.
3) I don't buy your initial premise, Will, that the '99 team was more of a shutdown-oriented defense and the '02 team was more of a turnover-oriented defense. I think they both were strong in both areas. I'm not looking at the numbers before saying that, so we'll see if I'm right. Okay, by the numbers (in all cases in this table, I left off the word "allowed" because we all know we're talking about defense here):
Yards Per Game
* - NFL rank*
Yards Per Play
Points Per Game
* - NFL Rank*
* - NFL Rank*
* - NFL Rank*
* - NFL Rank*
* - NFL Rank*
Opp. Passer Rating
Yards Per Rush
(Two questions, two tables, no NFL rulebook so far. This is my kind of mailbag!)
It's probably obvious, but I only included regular-season stats in that comparison. Your question indicated your belief that the 2002 team's playoff run is what put it over the top in the minds of most analysts. We're just judging how all three teams got to the playoffs. In addition, the 2002 team got to play three postseason games while the others had only two apiece.
Alright, what do we see? To be honest, I'm finding it hard to support your theory, at least by the raw numbers. The 1999 team gave up more yards than either the 2002 or 1979 team, and that seems to go against your theory that they were the best shutdown defense. The '79 team played in a different era, and we'll discuss that more in a moment, but still, the '79 and '02 teams ranked first in the NFL that season in that category, while the '99 team ranked third.
By now, somebody out there is screaming that it's not about the yards you allow, but the points you give up. Well, it's almost the same story in that category. The '79 and '02 teams ranked 1st in the league while the '99 team ranked third. The '99 team did allow slightly fewer points than the '79 team, but that only serves to underscore how much more dominant the 2002 team was in that regard, especially considering the different eras. Let's pause right now to take a look at that.
- In 1979, the NFL averages per team were 20.1 points and 315.9 yards per game.
- In 1999, the NFL averages per team were 20.8 points and 318.8 yards per game.
- In 2002, the NFL averages per team were 21.7 points and 328.4 yards per game.
Actually, I'm a bit surprised that there was a bigger jump in these averages from 1999 to 2002 than there was over the two decades from 1979 to 1999. Still, that further strengthens the argument for the superiority of the 2002 team.
I'll give you this: The 1999 team has a significant edge in yards allowed per play, which does support your theory a bit. The '99 team gave up more yards but they also had to defend more plays, perhaps because that team's offense wasn't as good and it didn't create as many turnovers. I can buy that. Point, Will.
However, the difference in takeaways really isn't all that glaring. The 1979 team had just as many as the 2002 squad, and the 1999 team was only seven behind. That may be a perception thing; the '02 team was constantly picking the ball off, but it didn't recover many fumbles, as compared to the other two. In fact, this is kinda hard to believe, but that 2002 team produced the lowest single-season total of fumble recoveries of any defense in franchise history. Wow. They could've been even more dominant if the loose balls had bounced their way more often.
All three teams were better against the pass than the run (though obviously not too shabby in either regard. The 1979 team looks like it had the worst run defense of the three by far, but that's not really the case. This is where the difference in eras really shows up. NFL teams averaged 135.6 rushing yards per game in 1979 as compared to 106.5 in 1999 and 116.1 in 2002. Compared to the league averages, the Buccaneers were 13.6% better than average in 1979, 17.5% better in 1999 and 16.4% in 2002. So, yes, the '79 team does rank last in that regard, but not by a huge margin. The 1999 team takes it, so another small point for Will.
Many things were pretty darn even – sacks, first downs allowed, third down percentage, yards per rush. The 2002 defense has an enormous edge over the other two – and over just about any other defense you can think of – in what the Answer Man has admitted on several occasions is his favorite stat about that team. That would be opponent passer rating, where the 2002 team gave up an incredible mark of 48.4. Only three teams since 1980 have finished with a better opponent passer rating ('80 Redskins, '82 Dolphins, 88 Vikings), and none since 1990. If you rank all the defenses in the league in that category since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger, only one of the top 75 is from a team that played in 1990 or later. Yes, the 2002 Buccaneers. So, so awesome.
Oh, darnit. I just re-read your question and I see that you DID ask for a comparison of their playoff numbers as well. Okay, fine, but in much quicker format.
- The 1979 team played two postseason games, gave up 298.0 yards and 13.0 points per game and totaled two takeaways and three sacks.
- The 1999 team played two postseason games, gave up 238.0 yards and 12.0 points per game and totaled five takeaways and three sacks.
- The 2002 team played three postseason games, gave up 269.7 yards and 12.3 points per game and totaled 13 takeaways and 11 sacks.
I've still gotta go with the '02 squad here, Will. The one main advantage for the 1999 team is that yards allowed figure. That is pretty sweet, especially since it included one game against that incredible Rams offense. However, points-wise it's almost a wash and the 2002 team created a ton more big plays. Oh, they also scored four times on defense (and had a fifth one overturned by a penalty on the return).
I will say this – that 1999 team actually played the two best offenses in the NFL that year in the playoffs. Those Bucs beat Washington in the Divisional Round, and while the Redskins weren't anywhere near as potent as the Rams, they did rank second to St. Louis in both yards and points.
On the other hand, the 2002 team also played the league's top-ranked offense, Oakland, during the playoffs, as well as the teams ranked eighth (San Francisco) and 10th (Philly). That was no easy road to hoe. The 1979 team got off comparatively light, facing the 15th (Philly) and 13th (L.A.) ranked offenses.
Like I said, there's no loser in this argument. Those were all incredible defenses, and of course the 1999 and 2002 squads had a lot of players in common, especially the core of Sapp, Brooks, Ronde Barber and John Lynch. The biggest addition in the interim was obviously Simeon Rice in 2001, and it's hard to overstate the impact of that signing.
I would also suggest that while, yes, the 2002 defense is remembered very fondly for helping the team hoist the Lombardi Trophy, I think a lot of Buc fans also vividly remember that incredible performance in St. Louis at the end of the 1999 campaign.
Still, I've broken down the numbers, as you asked, and I don't think they quite support your belief. I'm going to have to give the edge to the 2002 defense. So we're back where we started, but it was fun getting there.
- Joe Ditting of Tampa, Florida asks:
The Bucs franchised a kicker? What is the matter with that management team? This team will never be decent.
Answer Man: I bet Joe didn't really think I'd field this question. It was just an opportunity for him to vent, I suppose. And I don't normally answer questions about the wisdom of specific roster moves by the Buccaneers. That's not my place.
But I'm making an exception here because, seriously, is this really a legitimate thing to gripe about? In what way does using a franchise tag on a kicker signal any sort of incompetence, lack of priorities or misappropriation of resources?
Let me put it this way: Five teams used their franchise tags on kickers this year. A sixth team used it on a punter. SIX TEAMS. That's 19% of the league, for goodness sake. Will the Broncos "never be decent," Joe? They franchised kicker Matt Prater. All those Denver fans excited about the arrival of Peyton Manning probably don't realize team management already scuttled their Super Bowl hopes with that franchise-kicker thing. Will the Giants, who franchised punter Steve Weatherford "never be decent?" Wait, don't answer yet. I can't hear you over the sound of New York's two Lombardi Trophies in the last five years clanking against each other.
You know which franchise everyone agrees is run completely incompetently? Those bumbling Pittsburgh Steelers, of course. They've used their franchise tag on a kicker twice in the last four years; how in the world did they stumble into two Super Bowl titles since 2005? Pure luck…but for the most part, I'm sure they'll never be decent.
Hey, Joe, do you know what the three most common positions to receive franchise tags since 2007 have been? Well, that would be defensive tackle, linebacker and kicker. Has the whole league gone mad? Those kickers only use one leg!
One other thing. In trying to figure out how the Buccaneers brain trust could make such an inexplicable blunder as to use a franchise tag on a kicker, I stumbled across this little-known fact that might be of relevance: Connor Barth is a really, really good kicker. He just had the best season by a kicker in franchise history. He made 26 of his 28 attempts for a team-record 92.9% success rate. Know how many kickers were more accurate than that in the entire NFL in 2011? One.
Barth was ridiculously good in 2011, making his last 16 kicks, missing none from inside 40 yards and even banging home a 55-yarder at one point. He has gotten better every year since signing with the team in the middle of the 2009 season. He is the most accurate career kicker in the history of the team. Before he arrived, the Bucs were trying very hard to find a reliable kicker and not having much luck. I mean, maybe that has something to do with the team's desire to hold onto that solution now. You know, perhaps. Going out on a limb here.
Fact is, a good kicking game is very important in the NFL, even if you don't see a lot of fans walking around in Morten Andersen jerseys. You know who had a ridiculously good kicking game in 2011? The San Francisco 49ers. You saw how their season turned out, I assume. David Akers blasted 44 field goals, an NFL record. You know what he's going to make in 2012? $3 million. You know what the franchise tag value is for a kicker this year? $2.6 million? Jason Hanson, who is 41 years old, got $2.85 million from the Lions last year. Sebastian Janikowski got $4.85 million from the Raiders. Ten different kickers made at least $2.1 million in base salary last year. If the Bucs were to lose Barth and try to replace him with equal value, how much do you think they would have to pay?
Joe, was there another pending free agent you think the Bucs should have used their franchise tag on instead of Barth? Jeremy Zuttah re-signed before the start of free agency, and he seemed to be the team's top priority other than Barth. Would you feel better if the team had franchised linebacker Geno Hayes or safety Sean Jones? I'm not picking on those two guys, those just happen to be the only full-time starters other than Zuttah on the Bucs' UFA list. You are aware, right, that the Bucs get the franchise tag back next year and can use it on a different player, if need be? The team didn't declare that their kicker is the single core franchise player forever and ever, it simply used a valuable tool called the "franchise tag" to hold on to a valued asset. How could they have been so blind!
Tune in next week when Joe takes the Bucs to task for signing a punter in free agency last year.
One thing just occurred to me. Joe might have just been trolling with that question, trying to get a rise out of me. If so, OUTSTANDING job. I took the bait, and I'm not sorry about it.
On to a more enjoyable topic.
- Chris M. of Carrollwood, Florida asks:
Hello Answer Man, since you gave me such a hard time last time about what part of Tampa I lived in I figured I would get a little closer for you. I hope this makes you happier. On to my question, this time the topic is the NFL Draft. If a team lets their time lapse and doesn't make their pick in time I believe that the team following is immediately on the clock and the draft order continues. The team that missed their pick can then submit a pick at any time after that if I recall correctly this happened several years ago. Are there any actual guidelines for a team that missed their pick? Can they still trade their pick? So for example, Bucs miss their pick at 5 this year, St. Louis, Jacksonville and Miami make quick picks and now Carolina is essentially on the clock. Can the Buccaneers make a trade with another team to get ahead of Carolina still? Do they have to declare that they are ready to make their pick before Carolina picks? Are there any guidelines as to what they have to do at this point? Thanks for your time I always enjoy reading my new favorite superhero's adventures. You're the best.
Answer Man: Hmm. I don't really remember the hard time I gave you about Tampa-specificity. That doesn't sound like me at all! Well, maybe a little. Anyway, Tampa would have been fine but it's cool that you narrowed it down. I know Carrollwood well, have a bunch of friends there. Liked it better before the whole area went speed-bump crazy.
Anyway, there's a lot going on with your question there, but I don't think there's really too much mystery to the situation. That trade-back-up scenario you describe really doesn't make any sense. The Bucs, in that situation, wouldn't have to trade ahead of Carolina; they would just have to get their pick in first.
First, let's identify the instance you're talking about. I'm guessing it was the one with Minnesota and Kevin Williams in 2003, though another example of this took place just last year.
The Baltimore Ravens were on the clock with pick #26 of the first round last year and they were reportedly trying to work out a trade down with the Chicago Bears to pick #29. The Ravens reportedly believed the deal was done but their trade partner did not, and in the confusion Baltimore's time ran out. The Kansas City Chiefs, picking 27th, turned in their card immediately after Baltimore's time ran out, selecting Pittsburgh wide receiver Jonathan Baldwin. The Ravens, now aware their deal was dead and trying not to fall back any more spots, immediately turned in their pick, Colorado cornerback Jimmy Smith. Later, Ravens officials said they got the man they wanted any way so, essentially, no harm no foul. There's no way of knowing if this is true or not, but it probably was. Baltimore lost out on whatever they would have gotten in the trade they were trying to make, but otherwise didn't suffer any consequences.
Coincidentally, Baltimore was the "other team" in a very similar situation with the Vikings in 2003. That year, the Vikings were on the clock with the seventh pick of the first round and were trying to trade down with the Ravens. Time ran out on the Vikes with the deal still pending and the teams behind them swept in like vultures. Jacksonville immediately handed in a card with Marshall QB Byron Leftwich's name on it and Carolina, sensing blood in the water, followed right after with their pick of tackle Jordan Gross. Minnesota finally followed that with their selection of defensive tackle Kevin Williams and, really, didn't they get the best player. I suppose you could argue that Gross has been pretty darn good for Carolina, but personally I think Williams has had a more impactful career. Again, all teams claimed they got the player they wanted, and it's likely that's true.
So, as you can see from those two very public examples, the situation isn't too complicated – though I'm sure it's quite frenzied in the draft rooms that are involved – when a team runs out of time. When that happens, the next team picking immediately has their clock start ticking and they can pick at any time. At the same time, the team that ran out of time is still allowed to pick at any time. It becomes something of a race. Essentially, if a team ran out of time and didn't much care when it picked, it could remain on the clock indefinitely, free to turn in the pick in the middle of the seventh round if it so wished. That would be pretty amazing, wouldn't it?
So, in your scenario, there would be no need for the Bucs to trade up…and who would they trade with. All the picks before Carolina's would have been exercised by then. They would simply have to turn in their card before the Panthers did. And, yes, the Bucs could still trade that pick if they wanted to, although it's value would of course be diminished. It's interesting that both of the above examples were the results of trades that seemed to be almost completed, only to fall apart at the end. I wonder if a team has ever engaged in what seemed to be real trade talks with another team only in an effort to try to bleed their clock. That would be devious.
Ooo, ooo…the Answer Man just thought of an even more devious plot. First, a little explanation, as long as we're talking about turning in cards at the draft. See, while the NFL Draft is technically conducted at the Radio City Music Hall in New York City, all the real decision-making takes place in the 32 draft rooms scattered around the NFL's cities. Each team has a couple representatives who sit at a table in the RCMH and have a bunch of blank cards at the ready. There is a phone line between each draft room and its corresponding table in New York that is never broken during the draft. When it comes time to make a pick, somebody in the draft room tells the representative in New York what name to write down and when to turn it in.
Here's the point: Whatever name is on the card that the person turns in is who the team will be given in the draft. Period. Now, of course the person in New York writes down exactly what his team wants him to do, and to do anything else would be quite foolish from a I-want-to-stay-employed-and-also-not-be-hated-by-millions-of-my-team's-fans standpoint. The job of the person in New York is both critically important and essentially menial (and also a heck of a lot of fun, the Answer Man would wager). By the way, the person who usually does this for the Buccaneers is long-time Video Director Dave Levy. He is VERY trusted within the organization.
Ah, but what if Mr. Levy was the NFL version of Aldrich Ames? One of the most famous Soviet spies ever, Ames was a Wisconsin-born American who at some point after joining the CIA secretly went over to the other side. What if Levy, or someone in a similar position for another team, had secretly been a rabid fan of that team's biggest rival all along? What if he pursued a low-level job with the team he despised, just to get his foot in the door so that, eventually, he could gain that team's trust and earn more responsibility? What if, all along, his plan was to work his way into that New York City draft-card job, just so, at the worst possible moment, he could turn in the wrong name?
This NFL version of Ames would turn in the name of some obscure Division III punter (who was technically draft-eligible), watch all mayhem break loose, then stand up and walk out of the Music Hall. I mean, technically, this wouldn't be illegal, right? Would that be the biggest scandal in NFL history? Maybe the Answer Man should write a novel.
Okay, yeah, I'm REALLY rambling now. This is some high-level rambling, even for me. So, to get back on topic and summarize, when you run out of time on your draft pick, the draft moves on to the next team, which can pick at any time, but you can also pick at any time. This process continues until whenever you finally turn in your pick, so any number of teams could jump in ahead of you. However, there is no need – and, really, no way – to trade back up. You just have to get your pick in as quickly as you can.
- Mike D. of Santa Clara, California asks:
Sorry about the last question I asked. You replied but said it was a family site and I apologize if I offended you. I like many other fans was very disappointed with last season, even more so that I went to the 49ers game and expected so much more. So my question: I really like the throwback colors but would like to see the white jerseys with the orange trim do you think the Bucs will ever wear those jerseys in a throwback game? I know it's a home game and dark jerseys are traditionally worn but usually when we play the Saints early in the season we wear white at home (to make them wear black I assume). So will we have a chance to see those uniforms? They are sharp.
Answer Man: First, Mike, you certainly don't need to apologize and I wasn't in any way offended. The previous question you mention helped me. I used it as part of the intro to the first full edition of this year's series of articles. It was a joke set-up: Yours and a few other letters were presented as if I was given frustrated fans a chance to vent, but I cut each of them after about a sentence. Honestly, I never intended to print the full body of any of them. I don't have thin skin, but I also didn't see the point of actually printing a rather unhappy block of text. The point I made then, and will repeat now, is that nobody was more frustrated about what happened last fall than the people in this building, and they are doing everything they can to produce better results in 2012. And I believe they will.
I can tell, too, that you are motivated by the fact that you truly care about this team's success, Mike. We're on the same side, buddy. That 49er game was particularly tough because, at that point, the Bucs were 3-1 and the season seemed to be headed in the right direction after the 2010 breakout campaign. It was tough. So, anyway Mike, you and I are cool.
As to your question, I'm going to have to answer in terms of likelihoods and not certainties. That is to say, I don't know for certain that the white jerseys won't be used during throwback games, but I'm willing to bet they will not.
You are correct about the Buccaneers sometimes wearing white jerseys at home during non-Throwback games, and not just against the Saints. It's actually a very common occurrence during the first half of the season for the exact reason to which you allude. Since it is still quite hot and sticky in Tampa in September and even October, it makes sense from a competitive standpoint. The home team gets to decide whether to wear white or dark jerseys, and the visiting team has to go opposite. You'll notice the Bucs wearing white in almost every game during the first half of the season before they start breaking out the red. Teams also have to tell the league well in advance – like, in the spring – what they're going to wear for each game, so the Bucs can't wait and see what the weather is like on a specific weekend before making their choices. Therefore, it's safest just to assume heat and go with white in September and October.
As you know, the Bucs are three years into wearing Throwback uniforms, having first done it in 1999. By choosing to engage in the Throwback concept that some other teams have been doing for years, the Bucs committed to wearing them for one home game for five consecutive years. Thus, we know there will be a Throwback Game in 2012 and 2013, for sure.
Now, will we see white jerseys in either of those games? I highly doubt it. The thing is, those orange jerseys are really sweet. They've proved very popular among both players and fans. They are faithfully based on the 1976 uniform and the particular orange that is used is a lighter and smoother version than what the team was wearing in the 1990s before the switch to pewter and red. The team only gets one chance a year to throw back to the orange and white, and it's hard to imagine them not taking that opportunity to put on the orange. It's a much more dramatic way to identify with the past then to wear white jerseys.
Think about what we were just discussing about heat and white jerseys. The Bucs choose to wear white early in the season for strategic reasons, but most teams go with their colors for home games. It's a stronger identifier. I'm sure the Buccaneers would be wearing red a lot more in Raymond James Stadium if it didn't make more sense from a strategic standpoint to put on white. Red is our primary color now and we want to show it off. Same thing with orange when it comes to Throwback games.
So, Mike, I'm going to say no, I doubt you'll see Throwback white jerseys any time soon. I agree with you that you could come up with a pretty nice looking jersey, but I don't think I would choose it over the great orange ones the team has broken out during the last three years.
And thanks for caring.
- Mike King of Hudson, Florida asks:
Answer Man, I was wondering, what is former Defensive Coordinator Monte Kiffin up to these days and do you think he has a desire to come back into the NFL and coach again?
Answer Man: Monte Kiffin! One of the Answer Man's favorite subjects. Allow me to beat a drum here for a moment: Monte Kiffin, Pro Football Hall of Famer?!
As of now, there are no people in the Pro Football Hall of Fame based primarily on their contributions as an assistant coach. That awkward wording was needed to acknowledge that, yes, there are some Hall of Famers who were assistant coaches at some point in their careers – that's almost unavoidable when it comes to the 21 coaches in the Hall – but all of them got in for different reasons. Of course Chuck Noll is in the Hall, but he's in because of his 23 years and four Super Bowl wins as head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers, not his four-year stint as the Baltimore Colts' defensive coordinator.
Monte Kiffin was never a head coach in the NFL, though he probably had an opportunity or two along the way. He found a niche that worked for him and turned it into gold – few would argue that he's one of the most important defensive coordinators in the modern era. The Cover Two is now widely called the Tampa Two because of what Kiffin made of it during his time with the Buccaneers.
A couple years ago, ESPN.com's Len Pasquarelli, a man who knows A LOT about NFL football, wrote that the Hall should start considering some notable assistant coaches. His examples were the likes of Dick LeBeau, Frank Gansz and Bobb McKittrick. I say you could easily put Kiffin in that same group.
Okay, now, let me make sure I don't strain a muscle as I climb down from my soapbox and address your actual question, Mike.
The first part of your question is very easy. In fact, it's a good thing for me that I'm one of the select few people in the world who knows of these things called "Google" and "Yahoo." If some of my readers knew how easy it was to look up an answer like that, I might be out of a job.
So, yes, through painstaking research that only I am capable of, I have learned that Monte Kiffin is still the assistant head coach at the University of Southern California, where his son, Lane, is the head coach. The two Kiffins have been at USC since 2010; Lane had taken the head coaching job at the University of Tennessee in 2009 but moved on after one year.
Monte Kiffin was the Buccaneers' defensive coordinator from 1996 through 2008. He left to join his son at Tennessee after Lane had spent the previous two years as the head coach of the Oakland Raiders. The elder Kiffin obviously left the Buccaneers' franchise on very good terms – he had been the DC throughout the head coaching tenures of both Tony Dungy and Jon Gruden – and he still has many friends inside One Buc Place. That's not surprisingly, as Kiffin is a very nice, very engaging and very entertaining man.
The second part of your question is going to have to be answered, once again, with best-guess speculation. As I said, Kiffin still has friends in the building and has contact with them from time to time. The Answer Man definitely does not speak for Kiffin, but it is my best guess that he intends to stay with his son Lane for the remainder of his career. I suppose that could mean a return to the NFL if Lane gets (and wants) another shot at the pros, but that's going a little far to connect the dots. I would not guess that is a specific goal of Monte Kiffin's.
- Darian of a "hometown" called North Carolina, presumably in the state of "The United States" asks:
Hey Answer Man, it appears most mock drafts have the Bucs selecting cornerback Morris Claiborne or running back Trent Richardson with their 1st selection. My question is how many cornerbacks and running backs selected in the 1st round have gone on to have a big impact for their team in their rookie season, and which position tends to be more successful when selected in the 1st round? Thanks.
Answer Man: What is it with these huge, open-ended questions today? You know how many players have been selected since the NFL first began drafting in 1936? Somewhere between one and two bajillion, that's how many. There have been 719 players drafted whose names begin with "A" alone. I know that because I started to add it all up and decided after one letter that it wasn't necessary to know the exact number, just that it was a whole mega-google-ton.
What's that you say? You only asked about first-round picks, so why am I complaining? Oh yeah, my bad. You're absolutely right, because there have only been 1,706 first-round NFL draft picks in league history. I should have that covered before I'm done with breakfast.
Even if we're just talking about cornerbacks and running backs, you have a field of 231 first-round picks who were identified as either running backs or cornerbacks when they were drafted, and there's another category known just as "backs" from the earlier years. Cornerbacks are even tougher, because corners and safeties are largely just referred to in one big pool known as defensive backs, and I honestly can't tell you which one of those TCU's Jim Shofner (first-round pick of the Browns in 1958) played.
So I'm only doing this if we're seriously limiting the terms. How about the last 10 years? I think I can identify most of the cornerbacks and safeties in that span. In addition, I'm not going to spend a ton of time breaking down how much of a hit these players were as rookies – it's going to be a quick assessment for each, and you'll just have to accept it. We'll be here all day if we're splitting hairs between "busts," "solid players" and "stars."
Okay, this is doable. I come up with a list of 28 running backs and 41 cornerbacks drafted in the first round between 2002 and 2011. Let's break 'em down.
First, you want to know about the impact each player had as a rookie. Starting with the running backs, I would put them into these (awkwardly-named) categories, regarding only their debut seasons:
- Complete, star-level success (2): Chris Johnson (TEN, 2008), Adrian Peterson (MIN, 2007)
- Definite success, just below all-out star level (7): Marshawn Lynch (BUF, 2007), Joseph Addai (IND, 2006), Reggie Bush (NO, 2006), Cadillac Williams (TB, 2005), Kevin Jones (DET, 2004), Willis McGahee (BUF, 2003), William Green (CLE, 2002)
- Definite success, next level of production down (7): Mark Ingram (NO, 2011), Ryan Mathews (SD, 2010), Jahvid Best (DET, 2010), Knowshon Moreno (DEN, 2009), Jonathan Stewart (CAR, 2008), Ronnie Brown (MIA, 2005), Steven Jackson (STL, 2004)
- Somewhat productive, but probably less than team hoped for (5): Chris Wells (AZ, 2009), Darren McFadden (OAK, 2008), Laurence Maroney (NE, 2006), DeAngelo Williams (CAR, 2006), T.J. Duckett (ATL, 2002)
- Disappointing production (7): C.J. Spiller (BUF, 2010), Donald Brown (IND, 2009), Felix Jones (DAL, 2008), Rashard Mendenhall (PIT, 2008), Cedric Benson (CHI, 2005), Chris Perry (CIN, 2004), Larry Johnson (KC, 2003)
There is no doubt that in some cases, the player produced less than was expected due to injuries, which is why I'm not using the word bust here. Felix Jones with Dallas in 2008 is a good example, or Rashard Mendenhall with the Steelers that same year.
Looks to me like the majority of backs were at least moderately productive as rookies, and roughly a third of them played at a star level or close to it. In some cases, players were drafted into offenses that didn't necessarily need them to immediately take over as a 1,000-yard back, such as Mark Ingram with the Saints last year.
Now, how about career-wise? Keep in mind that it's a bit early to make an assessment of the backs taken in the last few years, so I've placed a few of them into a too-early-to-tell category:
- Unquestionably a star player (3): Chris Johnson, Adrian Peterson, Steven Jackson
- More star-quality seasons than not (2): Rashard Mendenhall, Willis McGahee
- Very solid careers with some star-quality peaks (7): Darren McFadden, Jonathan Stewart, Marshawn Lynch, Reggie Bush, DeAngelo Williams, Joseph Addai, Larry Johnson
- Some peaks, but more up-and-down than previous group (8): Knowshon Moreno, Chris Wells, Felix Jones, Ronnie Brown, Cedric Benson, Cadillac Williams, Kevin Jones, T.J. Duckett
- Overall unsatisfying careers (4): Donald Brown (so far), Laurence Maroney, Chris Perry, William Green
- Too early to tell (4): Mark Ingram, C.J. Spiller, Ryan Mathews, Jahvid Best
As you can see, when judging careers rather than first years, this group isn't quite as top-heavy. This isn't too surprising at running back, a position where it is not uncommon for a player to make a quick impact, and it's also not uncommon for a career to be shorter than at other positions. However, one could make arguments for just about everybody in the third and fourth categories that I have underrated them, and there haven't been too many out-and-out busts.
Now, let's look at the cornerbacks. There are a lot more nuances and shades of gray here, and 13 more players to assess. I could probably put them into a dozen different categories, but I'll try to stick to five and keep them at least similar to the running back categories. It's a little tougher with rookie cornerbacks, because in no small percentage of cases they aren't necessarily expected to step right into a starting role. Here's what I came up with:
- Complete, star-level success (4): Patrick Peterson (AZ, 2011), Joe Haden (CLE, 2010), Devin McCourty (NE, 2010), Dunta Robinson (HOU, 2004)
- Immediate success, just below all-out star level (9): Vontae Davis (MIA, 2009), Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (AZ, 2008), Leodis McKelvin (BUF, 2008) Darrelle Revis (NYJ, 2007), Leon Hall (CIN, 2007), DeAngelo Hall (ATL, 2004), Chris Gamble (CAR, 2004), Terence Newman (DAL, 2003), Marcus Trufant (SEA, 2003)
- Definite success, next level of production down or fewer chances to start (8): Jimmy Smith (BAL, 2011), Kyle Wilson (NYJ, 2010), Aqib Talib (TB, 2008), Antoine Cason (SD, 2008), Aaron Ross (NYG, 2007), Tye Hill (STL, 2006), Adam Jones (TEN, 2005), Sammy Davis (SD, 2003)
- At least solid (12): Kareem Jackson (HOU, 2010), Patrick Robinson (NO, 2010) Malcolm Jenkins (NO, 2009), Mike Jenkins (DAL, 2008), Johnathan Joseph (CIN, 2006), Kelly Jennings (SEA, 2006), Carlos Rogers (WAS, 2005), Fabian Washington (OAK, 2005), Marlin Jackson (IND, 2005), Ahmad Carroll (GB, 2004), Quentin Jammer (SD, 2002), Mike Rumph (SF, 2002)
- Low-level production and/or few starts (8): Prince Amukamara (NYG, 2011), Jason Allen (MIA, 2006), Antonio Cromartie (SD, 2006), Antrel Rolle (AZ, 2005), Andre Woolfolk (TEN, 2003), Nnamdi Asomugha (OAK, 2003), Phillip Buchanon (OAK, 2002), Lito Sheppard (PHI, 2002)
Really, that's not bad. Again, not all rookie cornerbacks step right into open jobs. That's pretty evident by looking at the last group, which includes some players who became quite good, as you'll see below. Nnamdi Asomugha only started one game as a rookie but he developed into a star when he got his chance. Moreover, a good number of these cornerbacks, when they did get a chance as a rookie, were productive right away. Very encouraging.
Career-wise? A lot of shuffling from that list above to this one below, as you'll see. Again, I'm trying to use similar categories to what we used with the running backs, and I'm immediately putting every player from the last two drafts into the too-early-to-tell category, even a pair of guys (Peterson and McCourty) who have already been to the Pro Bowl.
- Unquestionably a star player (2): Darrelle Revis, Nnamdi Asomugha
- Very good career, many star-quality seasons, just below above level (7): Leon Hall, Johnathan Joseph, Antrel Rolle, DeAngelo Hall, Chris Gamble, Terence Newman, Marcus Trufant
- Some star-quality seasons, more up-and-down or still to peak (6): Aqib Talib, Mike Jenkins, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Antonio Cromartie, Quentin Jammer, Lito Sheppard
- At least solid, with some peaks (8): Vontae Davis, Leodis McKelvin, Antoine Cason, Aaron Ross, Carlos Rogers, Fabian Washington, Dunta Robinson, Phillip Buchanon
- Overall unsatisfying careers or inability to win starting job (10): Malcolm Jenkins*, Tye Hill, Jason Allen, Kelly Jennings, Adam Jones, Marlin Jackson, Ahmad Carroll, Andre Woolfolk, Sammy Davis, Mike Rumph
- Too early to tell (8): Patrick Peterson, Prince Amukamara, Jimmy Smith, Joe Haden, Kareem Jackson, Devin McCourty, Kyle Wilson, Patrick Robinson
I put an asterisk by Malcolm Jenkins because he actually is a starter for New Orleans and it certainly wouldn't be fair to label him a bust or even a missed pick. Rather, Jenkins was moved to safety in his second season, and if this is an analysis of how much impact the player has had at cornerback, then that has to be taken into account. There are a couple players on this list that could rightfully be called busts, such as Ahmad Carroll and Andre Woolfolk, but there are other gray areas there, too. Kelly Jennings, for instance, has stuck around for a long time but doesn't have a high level of career production. Sammy Davis started out well but faded pretty quickly. Adam Jones (formerly known as Pacman) has had a potentially promising career hurt by off-field issues. Et cetera.
Again, this is overall a pretty successful group. On average, they've forged longer careers than the group of running backs analyzed above. To answer your initial question, while these results are far from conclusive, I'd say the running back would have a greater chance of making an instant impact on his new team but the team has a greater chance of getting a long-term star-quality player by selecting a cornerback.
To be clear – that opinion is offered in a vacuum, not in relation specifically to Morris Claiborne or Trent Richardson. The Answer Man thinks both of those players are going to enjoy long and fruitful NFL careers.
- Trey of Orlando, Florida asks:
Most people focus on whether the head coach has won a Superbowl or not as a head coach. However, most Bucs fans will remember that Mike Tomlin and Raheem Morris both have Superbowl rings as assistant coaches on the Buccaneers staff. I was just interested to know, how many rings or championships are currently on our coaching staff?
Answer Man: Actually, Tomlin and Morris don't have Superbowl rings, because there's no such thing as a Superbowl ring. Say it with me, long-time Answer Man readers: Super Bowl is two words!!!
One of these days I'm going to stop answering questions with the non-word Superbowl in them, but this is not that day. I like Trey's question, actually, and I can offer the answer rather easily.
The Buccaneers' new coaching staff possesses between five and eight Super Bowl rings, depending upon how you want to define it. I think what you meant by your question was how many of the team's coaches have previously been on a staff that won a Super Bowl, and that answer is five.
Offensive Coordinator Mike Sullivan won rings with the New York Giants in the 2007 and 2011 seasons. Defensive Coordinator Bill Sheridan was also on the Giants' staff for the first of those two Super Bowl victories. Special Teams Coordinator Bob Ligashesky won a ring with the Pittsburgh Steelers when they defeated the Arizona Cardinals at Raymond James Stadium in the final game of the 2009 season. And Defensive Line Coach Randy Melvin was at the same post for the New England Patriots when they won the Super Bowl at the end of the 2001 season.
Two other Buccaneer coaches have Super Bowl championship rings, but they won them as NFL players. Defensive Front Seven Coach Bryan Cox was on that same Patriots team as Melvin, which beat St. Louis in Super Bowl XXXVI. Running Backs Coach Earnest Byner got his ring with the Washington Redskins in the 1991 campaign.
Members of teams that lose the Super Bowl also get rings, though this receives far less attention. If you want to include that category of ring, then add Quarterbacks Coach Ron Turner to the list as he was with the Chicago Bears when they made it to the Super Bowl at the end of the 2006 season but then fell to the Indianapolis Colts.
Okay, I'm going to wrap it up now, and since I've already rambled on for more than 10,000 words, I think we can all agree that's a good idea. Please keep sending me questions (again, you can do that by clicking here) as I'll be back in a couple weeks to do it again. There were some great questions in my inbox the last couple of weeks, as you can see. Maybe somebody out there can top them.