Put this down on the list of superpowers the Answer Man does not have, but sure wishes he did: Flame-retardant fingers.
The ol' e-mailbag has been getting a little hot recently.
Usually, I know approximately what I'm going to get when I open the mailbag. A bunch of rulebook questions (a.k.a. Answer Man sedatives), some player-opinion inquiries on which I won't opine, some real eyebrow-raisers that I'm psyched to research and a smattering of insults that tend to center on a few specific portions of my anatomy, as pictured. That last group is kinda fun, if repetitive.
Lately, though, I've been taking a beating, and most of it centers around one little issue, what the Answer Man's readers obviously consider an oversight on my part as I sift through the mail.
It's the alternate-jersey question, of course. Wow, do you all want to know about alternate jerseys! Black jerseys, pewter jerseys, throwback jerseys, 30th-anniversary jerseys. Passes off crossbars? Feh. The passer rating explained? Bite me. Michael Clayton, salary-cap clarifications, defensive rankings, intentional fumbles…all the topics we've discussed over the past two months…whatever. They will all drift meaninglessly into the void like so much Rikki Lake talk-show drivel if I don't answer the alternate jersey question and answer it now!
Anyway, to this point I've sort of politely moved on when I've encountered those questions over the past two months. And, here at the season's midway mark, that apparently isn't sitting too well with some of you Answer Man readers out there. I won't get too specific with the aggressive language I've endured, but suffice it to say that not many of you believe I have the defensive prowess my chiseled physique would suggest.
So now we're bringing the topic out of the mailbag and into the open – before it sets the sack and all the other well-intentioned letters inside ablaze – so the Answer Man can say: Hey, take it easy!
The reason I haven't chosen to include any of those questions in my previous 15 columns is that I simply can't provide an answer that will illuminate the subject very much. It's not that I'm incapable of researching the issue, it's the timing that isn't right.
Here's what I can tell you, if it helps: There will be no alternate jerseys worn this year. The introduction of additional jerseys has to be planned and approved at least a year in advance in most cases.
Will the Buccaneers ever wear another jersey beyond their current red and white ones? Have the above alternate-jersey issues been discussed? These are the kinds of subjects team management likes to plan very carefully and in detail, in order to not only meet the expectations of the team's fans, but exceed them. The introduction of the current uniforms and team colors in 1997 is a perfect example.
One thing is for certain: If and when the team decides to jump into the alternate-jersey idea, it is not going to make it a secret. The team will make certain that its fans know about it well in advance.
There it is. That's what I can tell you on the alternate-jersey question. Hopefully, we can all move on and I can go back to sticking my hand in the mailbag without fear of pulling back a stump.
Okay, on to the questions I can answer with specifics:
- Greg Gorman of Halifax, Nova Scotia asks:
I'm a huge Tampa fan, and looking at the standings this week after their win, I see that Tampa and New Orleans are tied in the standings, but New Orleans is listed above Tampa. Am I being way too petty, or is this just an alphabetical listing or should Tampa be listed second in the division by way of their victory over New Orleans in Week 5. I thought intra-division games meant something for the standings.
Answer Man: Of course you're not being too petty, Greg. That win over New Orleans (and hopefully another one in December) could eventually be very important. What you are being, perhaps, is a bit prematurely insulted.
The simple answer is, yes, right now most publications and sites, including NFL.com, list standings with ties broken alphabetically. Thus 3-5 Cincy is above 3-5 Cleveland and the 5-3 Indy Colts look like they're in first place over the 5-3 Jacksonville Jaguars. The Colts and Jags have already split their two-game season series, so how do you figure that one?
Actually, that last question gets to the crux of the manner. Victories such as the one the Bucs got over New Orleans last month will eventually affect the standings, but it's too early to say just how. If the Saints win the rematch in December, then the head-to-head tiebreaker will be a wash. Basically, it's incomplete information, so the two teams are considered tied. To avoid a line in the standings that reads 'Tampa Orleans Saintaneers,' the two teams have to be separated, so they use the alphabet for the time being.
Sure, if the season ended now, the Bucs would win a tiebreaker over the Saints. But it doesn't end now (and that's a good thing, since a tiebreaker would currently be irrelevant for both teams).
Hopefully, the Bucs will catch the Falcons, too, and do so by beating them twice in the next four weeks. At that point, you could start taking a serious look at the tiebreakers, though the standings would still go alphabetically.
Just to add a little detail to the conversation, here is the order of tiebreakers between two teams in the same division:
- Head-to-head record. 2. Division record. 3. Record in common games. 4. Conference record. 5. Strength of victory (the combined records of the teams your team has beaten). 6. Strength of schedule (the combined records of all the teams your team has played). 7. Best combined ranking among conference teams in points scored and points allowed. (That's a weird one!) 8. Best combined rankings among all teams in points scored and points allowed. 9. Best net points in common games. 10. Best net points in all games. 11. Best net touchdowns in all games. (Yeah, take that kickers!) 12. Coin toss. (Phil Luckett not involved.)
- Bill C. of Largo, Florida:
Thank you answer man for doing such a fine job. (Now you can pay me.) Here's my question. I have seen a coach on the sideline relay a message or play to the quarterback before a play. I heard also that communication can only take place for a certain period of time. When is the coach allowed to send messages and who/how does the NFL regulate that communication stops at designated time? What would be the penalty for misuse? Thanks AM.
Answer Man: Bill, I'm not sending you a dime (of our agreed-upon fee) until you capitalize my name. What am I, some kind of generic, mail-order superhero you'd find in the back of a magazine? The court will please address me as Answer Man or Honorable Answer Man…I'm quite certain I've earned it (subtle A Few Good Men reference, huh?).
I do like the 'AM' abbreviation, though. Maybe I'll get the Answer Wife to sew that on my shirt below the Buc flag. (Please, no e-mails about antiquated marital roles. The Answer Man does all of the laundry.)
Wow, really getting off point here. Okay, that's a good question, Bill, and one with a very specific answer: The radio cuts off when the play clock hits 15 seconds.
The radio-to-helmet communication setup is really used very specifically by the coach to send in the next play. Sometimes you'll see a quarterback holding his hands over the earholes of his helmet to block out background noise and better hear the play. In addition, there is no return communication (beyond hand signals and screaming). It would not be a particularly efficient way to have a discussion.
And the NFL doesn't want its coaches in its quarterbacks' heads at all times. You wouldn't want a defensive coordinator upstairs telling the passer that a linebacker is creeping up to blitz or a safety is shading to one side of the field or another. Recognizing those things and reacting accordingly is the quarterback's job. That's why we sometimes call him the 'field general.'
What would the penalty be for violating this? There isn't one, because it can't be done. The radio system is in place when the coaches arrive; it's set up by home team employees but the cut-off button is run by a league official sitting in the press box. That official quite literally has a button he pushes to cut off the communication when the play clock hits 15.
On rare occasions, a technological problem interrupts communication either from the upstairs booth to the coaches or from the coach to the quarterback. In that situation, the other team is required to also give up its radio system until both sidelines are functional again.
Also, any employees or officials planning to use a radio system to communicate with others in the stadium on game day must visit a radio control center when they enter the stadium. There, officials make sure that nobody else is using the same frequency being used by the coaches' system.
Just thought I'd throw you a few extra facts, Bill…you know, in lieu of cash.
- Kasi V. Sridharan of Dunedin, Florida asks:
Ronde Barber indicated in the press how he and Brian Kelly practiced reverse running looking forward. Does this practice blow out the opportunity to tackle the wide receiver quickly immediately after a reception or help them to avoid penalties for defensive interference because they are looking forward at the play? Moreover, how many yards could a player move backwards when the wide receiver is moving forward?
Answer Man: You know, it's a funny thing about 'reverse running looking forward': it's all fine and dandy until you discover 'backpedaling.' It's kind of like summer camp, when you waste your time 'forward sitting while pulling oars back and forth' until the counselor teaches you to 'row.'
Okay, I'm sorry. That was wrong. I guess I'm looking for away to blow off steam after that blazing mailbag.
Anyway, Kasi, what you're talking about is backpedaling and the ability to do so smoothly and with speed is a key skill for NFL defensive backs.
First of all, cornerbacks don't necessarily backpedal on every play. If they're playing bump-and-run coverage, for instance, they're going to try to re-route the receiver at the line, then turn and stay with him wherever he goes. Backpedaling is more common when the defense is playing zone, but it's also needed in man-to-man when you're not pressing at the line of scrimmage.
A smooth backpedal does one of two things (or both) for a cornerback on a given play. It allows him to wait for the receiver to make his first cut, then follow him, and/or it allows him to keep an eye on the quarterback to see how the play is developing.
Backpedaling quickly and smoothly is not as easy as it sounds. Go out back and try it in your yard. But more important for a defensive back is how he turns his hips and moves in the right direction out of a backpedal. Defensive back coaches constantly run drills on this skill, particularly in training camp.
4.Trent Turner of Kansas City, MISSOURI asks:
Does anyone producing your cute web site intro realize that the Kansas City Chiefs play their home games at Arrowhead Stadium located in Kansas City, Missouri? The Oz is cute, but the stereo type is extremely overplayed! Good luck next week!!
Answer Man: Huh? Kansas City not in Kansas? Answer Man confused. Next thing Trent tell us, Panama City not in Panama. Ouch, Answer Man head hurt.
Come on, Trent! Lighten up. Have a little fun. Does the humor of the Flash Intro in question really hinge on the distinction between Kansas City and 'Toto, I've a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore?'
If you missed it, the Intro with which Trent has an issue was the one preceding the Chiefs game, in which Priest Holmes is depicted as the Dorothy character from Wizard of Oz, swept up by a twister and dropped into Raymond James Stadium. At the end, Holmes's dog actually speaks. We're pretty sure that's scientifically inaccurate too, Trent.
The Answer Man has actually spent quite a bit of time in Missouri, on both sides of the state. There is, of course, a Kansas City, Kansas, but the metropolitan area with which we're all familiar, and in which the Chiefs play, is indeed in Missouri. Our web designers were well aware of that. Still, 'you're not in Kansas anymore' – funny. Oversized Buccaneers as Munchkins – funny.
I'm not exactly sure what stereotype the Intro was guilty of perpetrating – Kansans are perpetually dodging tornadoes? – but Buccaneers.com apologizes if we drained the fun out of an overplayed idea. To our knowledge, it was the first NFL team web site intro juxtaposing a Pro Bowl running back with a state-hopping tornado. But we could be wrong.
And – no joke here – it would be wrong to make fun of Trent for the 'Good luck' at the end, not because we think it was insincere, but because he sent the e-mail last week, before the game, and we're only running it now, when we already know the result. Honestly, Buccaneers.com appreciates Trent's support of his hometown Chiefs and knows that the Buccaneers had to play a phenomenal game to come out on top of that one.
- Allen Prier of Panama City, Panama...uh, I mean, Florida:
Hey there oh most honorable Answer Man!! I was just wondering who was the first team to use a defensive player on the offense? I guess I'm asking it because I am watching the New England game and I just saw Mike Vrabel catch a touchdown pass, and he is a linebacker, and the Buccaneers are often contemplating using defensive players. Thank you sir.
Answer Man: The first team? Well, if you're referring to the NFL, then we'd have to say the Rock Island Independents in 1920.
That was the first year of the NFL, though at the time it was known as the American Professional Football Association. Teams did their own scheduling back then, and the Independents were the first team in the league to play a game, against the St. Paul Ideals (who lost by a less than ideal score of 48-0). The first game to feature APFA teams on both sides was between the Dayton Triangles and the Columbus Panhandles, so you could pick either of those two teams, if you wish.
Our point is, two-way play was common back in those days. Only through decades of league evolution have we gotten to the point where offensive and defensive players rarely play on the other side. When it happens these days, it's a notable story, such as Vrabel playing offense on the goal line or teammate Troy Brown, a receiver, playing cornerback for a banged up Patriots secondary.
So there's really no answer to who did it first. Answer Man remembers from his youth (I'm dating myself) watching Roy Green of the St. Louis Cardinals play both receiver and cornerback. Even here with the Buccaneers, we've done more than 'contemplate' using defensive players on offense. Warren Sapp and Anthony McFarland played several snaps on offense last year; Sapp even caught a touchdown pass.
About a decade ago, too, the Bucs had a cornerback named Curtis Buckley that they used on offense for a few snaps. Buckley was mostly a special teams ace, but he got in at receiver under Sam Wyche, who believed Buckley would do an outstanding job blocking downfield.
- Nicolas of Bogota, Colombia asks:
Hi, Answer Man, I have a very simple question: Where do the Tampa Bay Buccaneers get their name? I know for example that the Baltimore Ravens are called like that due to Edgar Allan Poe's poem. Is there any history behind the Buccaneers' name?
Answer Man: Okay, here's another one I get all the time, though with less vitriol attached. I've skipped this one in the past simply because the answer isn't very exciting, but I guess we've got to eventually give it an answer (don't want to become known as Ignore Man, after all...that's a whole costume change and everything).
Okay, here's the big exciting answer. About 10 months after the 27th NFL franchise was awarded to Tampa Bay, an advisory board was appointed to review possible names. Over 400 were submitted and Buccaneers was selected.
That's about all there is to it. The history of piracy in the Caribbean and in the Gulf obviously played a factor in the choice, and there are other local traditions centering on pirate legend, such as the annual Gasparilla celebration. And pirates are mean and ruthless, right? So that's cool.
Okay, that's it for the semi-difficult questions. Before we go, we'll answer a few more in what we call the 'I-Kick-Homerun' Section. In other words, we get the feeling that the following questions were sent in by folks who aren't necessarily football fans, or all that hip to football in general. But, hey, they still deserve answers!
- Leon of Defuniak Springs, Florida asks:
I'm looking to find out the team colors. I'm not a sports fan but my brother is a big Buc fan so I was thinking of getting something for him.
Answer Man: Leon, we suggest a red Jaguar S-Type with a pewter interior. (Actually, we checked, and they don't have pewter, but 'Dove' looks pretty close.)
The specific colors of the Buccaneers are Buccaneer Red, Pewter, Black and Orange. The last two are only used in accents, with the orange being particularly minimal in use. What is 'Buccaneer Red?' you ask. Why it's the red that's used in Buccaneer uniforms, of course!
- Waneda of Niceville, Florida asks:
I bought a "retired" jersey for my boyfriend's birthday. He loves the bucks. The name is Williams and has a number 12 on the back. Who is this guy and when did he play for the Buccaneers? What position did he play and what was he best known for?
Answer Man: Oh, man, where do we start?
First, Waneda, we appreciate what you've done for your boyfriend and we'd like to get you involved in the joy that is Buccaneer football, too, but if you bought a Bucks jersey, it might just be Scott Williams. Ha, ha. We'll bet you didn't get that.
Anyway, you've hooked your man up with a sweet throwback, if that's what you mean by 'retired.' That would be a Doug Williams jersey, and not only is he one of the greatest players in team history, he's back with the franchise now as a personnel executive.
Williams was a quarterback for Tampa Bay from 1978, when he was a first-round pick, through 1982. He was the starting quarterback for all three of the Bucs' first three playoff teams, in 1979, 1981 and 1982. Other than that accomplishment, he is probably best known for being a particularly tough and smart leader on the field.
At least as a Buccaneer. His personal professional apex came in Super Bowl XXII after the 1987 season, when he led the Washington Redskins to a 42-10 victory over Denver and was named the game's MVP.
Okay, that's it for this column. I've had enough of this monitor-facing key striking for one day. I've got some typing to do.
Actually, we'll leave you with this thought from Richard Schilling of Breinigsville, Pennsylvania, a past contributor to this column. Schilling wrote in to offer a little support after a fan last week offered to spruce up my image, as it were.
"Answer Man, You complained that you did not receive enough abuse this week. However, you buried the worst of it at the bottom of the page. You should feel insulted by Mark asking if you want a better picture for your logo. That's like a surgeon saying 'You know, I can fix your ears.' 'My ears? What's wrong with my ears? Oh no, I have ugly ears!' I think you should be accepted as you are, though your chin looks a little out of place."