After asking his own question (and making a shameless plug) about the Pro Bowl, the fans' inside connection tackles extra points, musical Bucs, roster designations and much more
If no one minds, before I get to this week's questions (and there are a lot of them), I'd like to reverse the roles for a minute.
That's right: The Answer Man has a question.
I'm not sure there's a good answer to my question, but I'm going to ask it anyway. I'm going to go to an expert on the subject and I'm still not expecting any great revelation. And I'm probably going to betray a little bias simply by asking it. But here goes.
My question is, How does a cornerback make the Pro Bowl?
Now, I'm not looking for a procedural answer here. I know that corners, like all players, are chosen through a three-pronged process that combines collective ballots created by voting among fans, players and coaches.
I know that fans can vote online at NFL.com and at stadiums on certain game days. (Click here if you can see where this is headed and you want to fill out a ballot.) I know that players get together on one afternoon after a practice and create their team's ballot, and that coaches fill out their own ballots in their offices. All of that will be happening in the next few weeks.
What I want to know is what a cornerback has to do to be the recipient of a large number of those votes. I think it's pretty obvious to NFL fans around the country which quarterbacks are having great seasons. I know great linebackers like Derrick Brooks and Ray Lewis get selected over and over because it's pretty easy to see that they are always in the middle of the action. But what makes a fan or a player or a coach choose one cornerback over the other for this not-unimportant honor?
It's not immediately clear. So the Answer Man asked the only Pro Bowl cornerback I know: Ronde Barber. I asked it just like that: "How does a cornerback make the Pro Bowl?"
Barber answered with one word: "Interceptions."
There was a pause as I waited for more. No more was coming. Apparently, it's as simple as that. And it probably shouldn't be.
Barber made the Pro Bowl following the 2001 season, in which he set a Buccaneer record and tied for the league lead with 10 interceptions. That's a very high number; the NFC leader this year, with only four games to go, has five. Two players in the AFC have seven.
Getting 10 picks was undeniably a huge accomplishment for Barber. But if you ask this eighth-year veteran, the player Buc fans tabbed as the best cornerback in team history this past offseason, if his 2001 season was better than his effort the year before or the two years since, he'll tell you that it was not.
"I think people thought I was a good player, but I don't think anybody thought I was a Pro Bowl player until I got 10 interceptions," said Barber.
This year, Barber's Tampa Bay Buccaneers have the league's top-ranked pass defense. A renewed pass rush is certainly helping, and the Bucs have talented young starters at the two safety positions. But Barber and Brian Kelly are the veterans of that group, and they obviously have been at the top of their games this year. Unfortunately for Barber, he only has two interceptions. The leading vote-getter in the NFC at cornerback is Philadelphia's Lito Sheppard, who is tied for second in the conference with four picks.
"It's reflected every year in the fan vote," said Barber, who it must be noted, discusses all of those without any discernable bitterness. "If you go look at it right now, the guys who lead the fan voting are the top two guys in interceptions. Coaches and players might be able to make somewhat more informed decisions, but interceptions are the easiest way to get there."
Kelly's case is a little stranger. He tied for the NFC lead with eight picks the year after Barber got his 10 and helped the Super Bowl-bound Bucs record number-one rankings in pass defense and overall defense, but he did not make the Pro Bowl. Kelly was hurt for most of last year, but he has come back strong in 2004 and is tied with Sheppard with four interceptions. He has led the NFL for much of the season in pass deflections and is obviously strong in both man-to-man coverage and rugged run support.
Barber and Kelly could be hurt by the fact that the Buccaneers are perceived to be running the Cover Two scheme on every snap, with their corners always in zone coverage. Safety Dwight Smith says that his two secondary mates would excel in any defense.
"I hear a lot of people say Brian and Ronde are scheme guys – you know, they can play the coverage, but…," said Smith. "Well, I'd like either one of them man-on-man with any receiver in the league."
So has the Answer Man too baldly turned into the Rah-Rah man? Maybe, but I think along the way I got an answer to my question.
How does a cornerback make the Pro Bowl? The answer just might be your votes. (Hint, hint.)
And that's true of any Buccaneer player whom you feel is deserving of all-star honors. I picked cornerback to look at here because it seems like its voting is the least predictable of any position, but the Answer Man is not trying to say that any particular Bucs deserve the Pro Bowl over any others. That's your decision to make. And to execute.
Okay (getting off my soap box), on to the questions. Before I start, let me say that there was a huge number of good questions sent in this week, more so than in any week before. I tried to get to as many of them as possible, but I had to skip some, and you'll notice some shorter answers below. I had to set aside some time for holiday shopping for the Answer Wife.
- Mark Arzillo of Clearwater, Florida asks:
Under what circumstances do you not kick an extra point after scoring a TD? I remember a game (can't recall the exact game) when the Buccaneers scored at TD with no time left on the game clock but they still kicked an extra point. The extra point made no difference in the outcome but they still kicked it. In overtime however if a team makes a TD they do not kick the extra point presumably since it would make no difference. Why would you kick the extra point with 0:00 on the game clock and the extra point not changing the outcome? Someone once told me the extra point was considered part of the same play as the TD and therefore was required but then why not kick it in OT? Thanks Answer Man...
Answer Man: Okay, those who read last week's column know that I punted this question to one Paul Fisher of Towanda, Kansas, who thought perhaps the Answer Man could use a sidekick. Paul responded quickly, then sent a follow-up to his answer the next day.
So how did "Answer Boy" do?
Just fine, in fact, though the most important part of his answer came in the second e-mail. First, let's read Paul's response as he worded it:
"The answer to Mark Arzillo's question is: The reason why the extra point is still attempted with 0:00 on the clock is because the touchdown was made during regulation play, so therefore, the extra point was also during regulation. Overtime is sudden death, which means as soon as someone scores, the game is over. Besides the extra point being insignificant to the outcome of the game, it would be pointless because the game is already over. Hopefully it is the correct answer."
(Addendum) "AM, I should have added in my answer that teams will always take the extra points when available because points in a game, in the right circumstance, could determine playoff spots, as described in Answer Man Volume 16. Oh, and I have had alot of fun, too. Thanks for giving me something to show those KC fans!!!"
My only quibble with the first part of Mark's answer is that he pins the reasoning on the fact that the extra point in overtime is irrelevant because the game is over as soon as somebody scores. Well, in the example of a team already in the lead scoring again as the last seconds tick off the clock, the game is already over at that point, too. The extra point after that touchdown will have no effect on the outcome of the game.
Paul got to the meat of the answer in the second paragraph. That is, teams will kick the extra point after the last-second meaningless touchdown because they can. Somewhere down the list of playoff tiebreakers is one that involves points scored (combined rankings in points scored and points allowed, to be exact) so every point could, conceivably, count. Since the extra point is known as an 'untimed play,' it can be run even with no time on the clock.
Teams would kick the extra point in overtime, too, if the rules allowed it. But overtime rules, unlike those at the end of regulation, specifically declare the game over as soon as the touchdown is scored.
So, nice job, Paul. I should also point out that one Allen Brown of Tampa, Florida took it upon himself to send in a correct and concise answer to the question, too. Allen offered to throw his hat into the Answer Boy running, should I choose to continue on the search for a superhero sidekick. We'll see…as Allen said, it would be nice to have more time to spend with the Answerlings.
For this week, though, I'm going to handle all of the questions. And there are a lot of them!
- Seth of St. Paul, Minnesota asks:
I know this isn't so much a football-related question but I guess it's something I've always wanted to know. Do any of the current Bucs players play a musical instrument? And if so what do they play?
Answer Man: Hey, Seth, the Answer Man has no problem with non-football topics, as long as they're still Buc-related. And this is an interesting one.
While I can't claim that I did an exhaustive survey of the entire roster, I asked around and found two players who have some skill with musical interests: fullback Jameel Cook and defensive tackle Chartric Darby.
Cook, who says he has been interested in making music since he was five years old, plays the drums. He studied music in college at Illinois and it remains one of his main passions in life.
Darby's instrument is the trumpet. He has played the trumpet in a band and studied the instrument in both high school and college.
Some other Buccaneers are or have been involved in the recording industry. Simeon Rice and Dexter Jackson come to mind. If the Bucs were to start a band, though, they might be a few instruments short. If I find a guitar player in the locker room, I'll let you know, Seth.
- Axel Lugo of Jacksonville, North Carolina asks:
Oh, Almighty Answer Man, how I need your help! My friend and I got into an argument the other day because I thought that Jay Taylor, even though he has tried out for other teams in the past, is a rookie. My friend on the other hand says he is a "first year player". Is Jay Taylor considered a rookie or not? Is there any difference between a rookie and a first year player? Please help me Answer man! I implore you!
Answer Man: Well, Axel, if you mean 'help you' as in 'tell you what you want to hear,' no can do.
Your friend is right. In the NFL, the term rookie specifically refers to players who came into the league that year. And by 'came into the league,' I mean joined a team at any point during the year, even if they never make an active roster.
So, if you're drafted in April, 2004, for instance, 2004 will be your rookie season. If you get cut two days later and never play a down, it doesn't matter; after 2004, you are no longer a rookie. It is quite different than baseball, in which you remain a rookie until you have reached certain levels of major league playing time. Of course, the difference there is that baseball has a minor-league system, and players go up and down, sometimes taking several years to establish themselves. They need a more flexible system for their rookie designation.
The term 'first-year' player, then is to differentiate between players who are rookies and players who have been around but have no (or not enough) regular-season experience to have accrued a year of free agency credit.
Once you have been on an active roster (or on injured reserve or another reserve list) for six games during the regular season, you have accrued a year of credit. The next year, your number will go up by one. When you are rookie, and you play enough to get a year of free agency credit, you go to a '2.' When you are a rookie, but you don't get those six games, you go to a '1,' and you stay there until you accrue a year.
So, five examples:
- Player 1 is drafted in April, 2004, makes the team and plays all year. Next year, he will be a 2. * Player 2 is drafted in April, 2004, gets hurt in training camp and spends the whole year on IR. Next year, he will be a 2. * Player 3 is drafted in April, 2004, makes the team but is put on the game day inactive list all 16 games and never sees the field. Next year, he will be a 2. * Player 4 is drafted in April, 2004, makes the team but is cut after two games and put on the practice squad for the rest of the year. Next year, he will be a 1. * Player 5 is drafted in April, 2004 and doesn't make the team. He goes to camp the next year with Miami and doesn't make the team. He is signed the next winter by Buffalo and plays in the NFL Europe League, but doesn't make the team. He spends two seasons playing Arena ball, freezes his butt off in the Canadian League for a year and bales hay on his farm in Nebraska in 2010. In 2011, he makes a comeback, signs with the Buccaneers and makes the team. He would be a 1 that year.
- Richard Schilling of Breinigsville, Pennsylvania:
Me again. This time it is statistics; specifically, Matt Schaub's passer rating from our latest QB-embarrassing game. The individual stats from the game give Matt 2 attempts, 0 completions, 0 TDs, 1 interception, and a rating of 39.6. From the formula I have always used, he should have 0 points for completion %, 0 for yards/attempt, 0 for TD %, and 0 for interception %. So, how does he rate 39.6?
Answer Man: Rich, we've got to stop meeting this way.
Seriously, you're like the Iron Man of the question-pitchers, never missing a week. Is that blood I see on your sock, Mr. Schilling?
As I mentioned, the good folks of Buccaneers.com-dom had an awful lot of questions this week, so I normally would have skipped Mr. Schilling's question in order to get some new folks involved. However, I really wanted to answer this one because it involves something we've worked on this week here at Buccaneers.com.
The basic answer is, you're absolutely right, Ricardo. Schaub's rating should have been 0.0, not 39.6. For those who are not aware of the specific spot on the site our questioner is referencing, it's the Individual Stats page from the Game Center. You won't see the mistake now, because we fixed it, but after the game Schaub's passer rating indeed read 39.6, just like Chris Mohr's.
That's how touchy the passer rating formula is. I printed my Excel version of the formula in Volume 14, but here it is again for your viewing pleasure:
In the formula, C=Attempts, D=completions, F=passing yards, G=touchdowns and H=interceptions. The repeated 42 is the specific row in Excel that I copied this from.
Translated into code for the web site, it looks a little different, but that's all gibberish to me. What we did wrong in coding it for the site was missing one of the nested if-then loops, specifically the one that controlled the lowest possible value for interception percentage.
Schaub's interception percentage was 50%, which is huge and rarely happens in a game. Even if a guy throws, say, four picks, he usually tosses about 30 passes, so his interception percentage might be 15%, or something like that. That is very high and will kill your passer rating, so 50% is way, way up there.
However, in the formula, there is a maximum value of 2.375 and a minimum value of zero for each of the four categories (which then goes through the formula and returns a maximum value of 39.6 and a minimum of zero).
That's why the mistake only showed up on an unusual sample like Schaub's. And we've fixed it now, so there should be no repeats of that issue.
I guess all of this is internal Bucs.com workings that may bore some of you, but I thought it was a good opportunity to look at the passer rating formula again and how complicated it really is. While we're on the subject, the Answer Man urges you to check out the Aikman Efficiency Rating that a certain former Cowboy quarterback is promoting on NFL.com. The effort seems very similar to the passer rating concept, which Aikman apparently believes is a good one. The AERs are a stats-intensive attempt to replace the one-dimensional NFL offensive and defensive rankings, which are based solely on yards gained and allowed, with a formula that combines many elements, including yards, points, red zone efficiency and third down percentage.
Here is a link to the current AER rankings on NFL.com and a bit of an explanation. By the way, the Bucs' defense is number-one in the AERs over the last three weeks. Boo-yah!
- Wil Smith of Irvine, California:
How often are players' weights taken? Specifically curious about Marquis Cooper and if he's gained some weight, so as to begin taking reps at LB.
Answer Man: Not sure how it's done everywhere, Wil, but all Buccaneer players are required to weigh in every Wednesday and Thursday. For most of the guys, it's a fairly irrelevant procedure, as they don't have any weight incentives and they have a good feel for what their playing weights should be.
More to the point, though, is how often the players' weights are updated on the team rosters around the league. Most of the time, unless a player or coach makes a specific point to tell his team's P.R. staff, a player's vitals don't change on the roster all year. There's not much point in changing the numbers by a digit or two every week.
Sometimes when a player moves from college to the pros, or from one team to another, the new team's staff simply copies the player's height and weight from his previous media guide bio. In this way, a player's listing can sometimes be inaccurate, though not deliberately so. The Bucs get a report on weights every season, and whenever it's relevant, from the strength-training coaches.
One interesting side note is the chart kept on players in the locker room at training camp. Each player weighs in before and after every practice, and the results can sometimes be amazing. It's not unusual to see a 290-pound player lose five pounds during a sweltering morning practice, put four back on before the afternoon practice, lose four more at the second workout and gain it all back by the next morning. Camp is rough, man.
- Dan Bettcher of San Diego, California asks:
On Monday Night Football, the Madden/Michaels tandem said that a Seattle player could have fair caught the onside kick by Dallas. I am pretty sure you covered that in recent weeks and stated that you cannot do that if the ball hits the ground first as it does on an onside kick such as the one on Monday night. - Bucs fan in San Diego. See You On Sunday...GO BUCS!!!!!
Answer Man: First, I have to admit that I edited Dan's letter a wee bit. I like to run them as is, but Dan had some unkind (though very politely worded) words for the MNF crew. Dan is definitely entitled to his opinion, but I don't want to use this column as a space to critique networks or other teams.
On this specific issue, however, I agree with Dan. This was one of those moments that had the Answer Wife rolling her eyes, because I wouldn't shut up about how the announcers got it wrong.
To summarize from our discussion on the topic in Volume 19 it is legal to call for a fair catch on a kickoff. However, you cannot make a fair catch on a traditional onside kick because the kicker hits the ball into the ground first before it bounces up. If the kicker were to scoop the ball off the tee directly into the air, then you could call for a fair catch, though it's unlikely that anyone on the field would think of it.
- Doug Bradley of Edgewater, Florida asks:
This is in response to your answer to Lisa in Venice, about getting married at the stadium. In 1997 or 1998, I attended the home opener against the 49's at the old stadium and at halftime a wedding ceremony was performed for about 50 couples. So I would believe that if you can't now, it must be due to a change in team (or maybe even league) policy.
Answer Man: Good point, Doug. Actually, the first time this happened at Tampa Stadium was on October 22, 1995, before a game against Atlanta. And there were nearly 200 couples on hand for the Moonie-esque event.
All the couples who agreed to hold their wedding ceremony on the field were given two free tickets to the game, a Buccaneer giveaway bag and a free cruise from Empress Cruise Lines.
Four couples were chosen at random for additional prizes from the Buccaneers. Three received a honeymoon package at the Tradewinds Resort on St. Pete Beach, and the fourth won a trip to Las Vegas. And all the fans at the game were given a packet of confetti to toss at the newlyweds, so that was fun.
I believe there was a similar promotion in 1996, but I can't find mention of it. I looked through all the programs and newspaper articles from before and after the San Francisco game in 1997 that you mention but can't find anything about it for that game. Were you perhaps thinking of the 1995 game? Either way, good memory and I stand (partially) corrected. However, I can tell you for certain that there will be no marriages at Bucs' games nowadays.
- Jeanette of Venice, Florida asks:
What Buccaneer returned a punt for a touchdown in 1994?
Answer Man: Are we playing a trivia game, Jeanette? The answer is Vernon Turner, who played parts of two seasons with the Buccaneers, appearing in 13 games. He wasn't around long, but he will always be remembered (by the Answer Man, at least) as the man who broke the drought. I can still see Special Teams Coach George Stewart sprinting down the sideline to embrace Turner in the end zone. That was the first kickoff or punt return for a touchdown in team history. Of course, we're still waiting for the kickoff…ahem.
Okay, now my turn, Jeanette. Who is the only player who has returned a punt for a touchdown as a Buccaneer who is still on Tampa Bay's roster in 2004? (Go to the Weekly Trivia page to find out.)
- Steve Stone of Riverview, Florida asks:
I have an accounting question for you. I'm taking a Financial Accounting class this semester in college and a tax question came up. My professor stated that all athletes have to pay state taxes and local taxes in the visiting city they play in. So for example, when the Bucs played in Atlanta a few weeks back, they would have had Georgia state taxes deducted from their check from that weeks pay. Is this correct? I thought one of the benefits of coming to Florida and playing was the fact that we don't have to pay state taxes. Please help, this question has been eating at my for a couple of weeks now.**
Answer Man: Sorry about that gig in Chicago going south, Steve, but you were right about the Cubs.
Anyway, I'm not going to answer this question with too many specifics because it is team policy not to discuss anything having to do with a player's salary or contract (incidentally, that's also why you won't always see stories about contract renegotiations and extensions on this web site).
But I can tell you this, your professor is right (as you probably suspected). And it's not just the athletes – everyone who travels with a team and does work in another state has to pay that state's taxes for the salary they made while they were there. The Answer Man has never personally been very fond of that law, and I would imagine that the players are not, either.
Still, the no-taxes benefit of playing in Florida still exists. There are 10 home games a year, you know? And there are things like bonuses and incentives that would not be affected.
- Andrew of Greenville, South Carolina asks:
o great answer man, i have two questions. i have seen a couple of players( example: brett favre ) wearing little bags on there pants. what are those? and, as i just saw one of the atlanta players just about catch the punt another atlanta player had punted to the bucs. Fortunately he dropped it. what would happen if he had held on to it? would atlanta have had the ball again? thanks answer man!!!
Answer Man: If you're asking about what I think you are, that's a hand-warmer around Favre's waist.
As for the punt, it didn't really matter to the Falcon player if he caught the ball or not, as long as he didn't let it go into the end zone. And the Bucs were not in danger of losing the ball to Atlanta on that play as long as they stayed away from the ball.
Unlike a kickoff, a punt cannot be 'recovered' by the kicking team unless it is first touched by the receiving team. All that Falcon was doing was 'downing' the ball. He could have let it hit the ground first, but then he would have been taking the risk of the ball bouncing past him into the end zone.
The very small downside to catching the punt in that situation is that it will be marked at the spot you tried to catch it, even if you drop it and it rolls closer to the end zone. If you let it bounce, it may roll even farther down and benefit the kicking team even more. You probably want to catch it if you're inside the 10, but not if you're outside the 10. Teams practice that play all the time in 'red zone' punting drills.
- Ron of Clearwater, Florida asks:
Have the bucs ever shut a team out if so when and who?
Answer Man: Ron's question is pretty lightweight for the Answer Man, but the interesting part about it was the timing. I checked the date and time on the e-mail, and it arrived in my box at 3:44 p.m. on Sunday. I think that would be about the time Brian Kelly was sealing the shutout over Atlanta with his goal-line interception in the fourth quarter. Ron presumably wanted to know if he was watching history.
Well, not exactly. That was the ninth shutout in team history. The cool part about that note is that seven of those nine shutouts have occurred since 1998. All hail Monte Kiffin!
(The first shutout was the famous 3-0 win over Kansas City in 1979 that put the Bucs in the playoffs for the first time. The most lopsided shutout was a 41-0 shellacking of Chicago in 2000.)
As usual, we'll wrap it up with a couple of repeat questions. Remember that the Answer Man's past columns are archived here, and each column is listed with all of the topics contained therein.
- Tammy Wilmer of Fort Wayne, Indiana asks:
As we all know, the Bucs were [UNKIND WORD DELETED] in the beginning. In fact, it was downright [UNKIND WORD DELETED] to be a fan. My question is, "How many perfect seasons at 16-0, do not include the playoffs, will it take the Bucs to be at .500 as a franchise?"
Answer Man: To run Tammy's question, I had to edit out some objectionable language. (Okay, that's not true. She really just said 'horrible' and 'painful,' but it was objectionable to me.)
Anyway, I answered this question in Volume 9, three games into this season, though I presumed a whole lot of consecutive 12-4 seasons (I'm a realist) instead of all 16-0 campaigns.
To update it through the Atlanta game last Sunday and change the criteria to 16-0 seasons, the Bucs would hit the magic number three games into the 2011 season. At the moment, the franchise is 172-275-1 all-time, or 103 games under .500. Assuming wins in the last four games of this year, you would then have six straight perfect campaigns (96 wins in all) to hit an even 100. The third game of 2011 (hopefully against the Falcons) would be the 103rd in a row from this point (104 if you count last Sunday's win as the start of the streak).
It's going to happen…I can feel it.
- Chris Thornton of Pinellas Park, Florida asks:
How can you become a member of or get passes to get on the Pirate Ship during the games? I am interested if you have to work there or what to be one of the ones that get to shoot off the cannons or toss out the beads during the games.
Answer Man: Covered this one in Volume 4. Short answer: The ship is staffed by military personnel from MacDill Air Force Base.
Gotta wrap it up for this week, sadly. There were two questions about drop kicks that I specifically hoped to get to this week, but they'll have to wait until Volume 21. I will get to them, though, so please bear with me, Ken from Greenville and Simon from Lake Mary.