Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Answer Man, Vol. 6

A bursting mailbag sends the Answer Man into the research room, chasing topics such as Super Bowl rebounds, O-line formations, opening-day records and stadium seat locations

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Could you move the rest of the offensive linemen far down the line, away from the center? Sure, but would you want to?

Statistics, as we all know, can be made to say anything.

Mark Twain ranked them below lies and damn lies, so he obviously wasn't a fan (and he was quoting another, so he wasn't the first to feel that way). Jean Baudrillard, a French semiologist, summed it up in a very cool way in his book series, Cool Memories: "Like dreams, statistics are a form of wish fulfillment."

Jean Baudrillard? you say. That's legitimate. No, Answer Man didn't know who Baudrillard was before he started looking into the subject. And I had to consult the dictionary to learn that semiology is the study of signs and their impact on society. And as for Twain, his attribution for his quote may not have even been correct.

But, still, those two societal observers raise an interesting issue. Are many statistics, as Baudrillard said, nothing more than wish fulfillment? Or worse, as Twain hinted, a lie of some sort?

We ask all this as a lead-in to answering Armen V.'s question below. Armen's curiousity sent Answer Man off on a little research jag, and the results are very interesting. On one hand, the answer would seem to be very encouraging for Buc fans; on the other, it may be no more than coincidence.

What am I talking about? Read on.

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1. Armen V. of Burbank, California asks:

Answer Man, Answer Man, I need to ask you a question. What is the record of teams when they win the Super Bowl and the following season have a losing year? Which teams have bounced back the next year with a winning record?

Answer Man: Gee, Armen, thanks a lot. Just what Answer Man wanted to do with his whole afternoon…research. Guess I'll be having lunch at my desk.

(Okay, secretly, I love this kind of research. I just want my boss to think it's a big, time-consuming pain. Oh, and I may have mentioned this before, but the key to finding a lot of this information is the NFL Record & Fact Book. It's a valuable tool around here, but it also happens to be available at many bookstores, if you're interested.)

Well, it's obvious why you've asked this question, and it is an intriguing notion, so let's get to it.

The first thing we need to look up is list of Super Bowl winners from I through XXXVII (Super Bowl XXXVIII winner New England hasn't played another season yet), and see which of those teams followed with a losing year.

(Imagine Answer Man working furiously.) Okay, done.

Now we need to take that pared down list (it's a total of seven teams) and look up their respective records two seasons after the Super Bowl.

(Again, picture Answer Man with sweat dripping from his furrowed brow, nose buried in book.) Got it.

Okay, here's the list (note that '+1 Year' means the year after the team's Super Bowl Victory, and '+2 Year' means the year after that):

**Super Bowl****Team****+1 Year****+2 Year**
XXXVIITampa Bay7-9???
XXXIIIDenver6-1011-5
XXIIWashington7-910-6
XXIN.Y. Giants6-9*10-6
XVISan Francisco3-6**10-6
XVOakland7-98-1**
IIGreen Bay6-7-18-6

1987 strike season, only 15 games played 1982 strike season, only nine games played*

Armen, methinks you might like that list. In fact, that might be just the kind of results you were hoping to see. Six times before, a Super Bowl-winning team has followed its championship year with a losing record, and every one of those teams then rebounded to a winning record again the following season. Note that most of those teams slipped to just under .500 the next season, as was the Bucs' fate last year.

The Answer Man's gotta hand it to you, Armen: That was a good one (if you believe in that kind of statistics).

**

2. Paul Chorney of St. Petersburg asks:

What is the Bucs' opening-game road record in team history and what was the largest victory for the opening game in history?

Answer Man: Now that's one the Answer Man can handle with his Record & Fact Book tied behind his back.

Paul, in the Buccaneers' 28 previous opening days, the team has a combined record of 12-16. The team has won three of its last four openers, including the last three it has played on the road. Perhaps, then, it's a good thing that the Bucs start this season with a visit to Washington.

As for the second half of your question, we assume you mean in Buccaneer history. Well, the Bucs' biggest opening-game blowout also doubled as the biggest blowout in team history, period, until recently.

On September 13, in the first regular-season game under Head Coach Ray Perkins, the Buccaneers flattened the Atlanta Falcons, 48-10, in Tampa. Steve DeBerg threw five touchdown passes that day, a team record that wasn't matched until Brad Johnson did the same against Minnesota on November 3, 2002.

The only time the Bucs have won by a wider margin was on September 10, 2000, when they demolished Chicago, 41-0, in their home opener for that season.

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3. David Majkowski of San Diego:

Hey, I wanted to know if you're able to move all of the linemen away from the ball, as long as they're still on the line. Kinda like this:

oo oox

where the x is the center and the ball and the o's are the linemen.

Answer Man: Ah, San Diego, beautiful town. Went whale-watching there once. Hmm, why else was Answer Man in San Diego not long ago? What was that event again?

Oh, yeah, the Bucs' dominating win in Super Bowl XXXVII! Just that little thing. (Stop living in the past, Answer Man.)

Anyway, that's a fun question, Majik Man, if we may call you that. Any relation to Don 'Majik Man' Majkowski, the immediate predecessor to Brett Favre in Green Bay?

Yes, you can do that. Some fans have probably even seen a 'split formation' like that once or twice. If a team is going to do that, they probably will line a running back up behind the removed part of the offensive line, so that the quarterback can either throw it to that back right away or at least give the illusion that he's going to.

In the NFL, you're most likely to see such an alignment on a PAT or short field goal. You might want to see how the defense reacts. Can they get reset quickly enough when you shift formations? Sometimes a team will start in something like the above, but then shift back to a normal line before the kick. If the defense doesn't immediately respond to the strange formation, then you can throw a quick pass out to the back.

Would you see it used on offense? Well, now that Steve Spurrier is out of the league, the chances go down. Spurrier was certainly not afraid of such tactics at Florida. Most coaches are likely to shy away from such a strategy because, in effect, you're wasting blockers by not putting them in front of your quarterback. You might be able to catch the defense sleeping, but it's risky because you can't be sure how they're going to react.

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4. Gilbert of Tampa, Florida asks:

Did the Bucs ever get their first kickoff return for a touchdown last year? I was in boot camp for the majority of the season.

Answer Man: Wait a minute…midnight runs, push-ups in the rain, scrubbing toilets with a toothbrush…and no football?! Boot camp is much, much worse than we ever imagined. Answer Man will just go on enjoying his civilian life, okay?

Anyway, Gilbert, I hope boot camp went well for you and thank you for serving our country. As to your question, that sound you hear is a thunderous 'No!' from Buc fans everywhere. The infamous streak is still intact as the Bucs did not return a kickoff for a touchdown for the 28th straight season.

Could this season be lucky number 29? Frank Murphy won a job on the 53-man roster largely thanks to his kick-return exploits during the preseason. He hit the seam quickly and with authority and almost always got back to at least the 30. On a few occasions it appeared as if he was one or two players away from breaking it. And there's reason to believe Murphy can go the distance. We saw him do it on the opening kickoff of the 2002 preseason.

**

5. Manuel Garcia of Fairfax, Virginia asks:

Can you explain why the NFL allows only 45 players to play when 53 players are paid to play?

Answer Man: We like the question, Manuel, but may we respectively submit that it is asked backwards? The game limit is meant to be 45; the answer lies in understanding that 53 is a compromise to those who thought 45 wasn't enough.

Roster sizes have gradually expanded over the eight decades of the NFL, representing more and more specialization and, presumably, more available and interested talent. In 1925, each team was allowed only 16 players, though the league expanded that to 18 from 1926-29 and to 20 from 1930-34. And so on.

By the '50s, the rosters had expanded into the mid-30s, though they strangely went up and down for a few years. In the '60s, the roster limits climbed into the high 30s, then hit 40 for the first time in 1964. The league stuck with that number for a decade, before suddenly jumping to 47 in 1974, then back down to 43 for the next three years. The highest number the league ever got to was 49, from the third game of 1982 through the end of 1984.

The concept of inactive players first came around in 1992, with two players each that year and the familiar eight-player system beginning in 1993. In effect, it was a replacement for the old injured reserve rules. Prior to that, a team could place a player on injured reserve but return him to the active roster during the season. Now, IR puts a player out for the year, but if you think your injured man is only going to miss three or four weeks, you can just make him one of your eight inactives during that span.

So the eight-man inactive group is basically a roster bonus over the real limit of 45. It gives teams flexibility in dealing with injuries and developing some more young players without exposing them to the waiver wire.

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6. Karen McKinley OF Sarasota, Florida:

Is there a procedure in place for current season ticket holders to upgrade seating or are newly-vacated seats released to the waiting list?

Answer Man: Current season ticket holders get the first priority, Karen.

We should say up front, however, that it is not an overly common practice simply because the account holders with the best locations are the ones least likely to cancel their seats. As the Season Ticket Holder Handbook puts it, "Opportunities for seating upgrades are rare and movement is gradual."

Still, current ticket holders get a shot at any prime vacated seats before they are given to the waiting list. If you are interested in an upgrade, please send a written request to the Ticket Office (One Buccaneer Place, Tampa, FL 33607). In your request, you need to detail what you consider to be better seating.

All such submissions are added to the relocation waiting list, which is sorted by length of time as a season ticket holder. When seats become available, the team first relocates current season ticket holders, then offers the remaining seats to the waiting list.

Please know, Karen, that every request will receive the personal attention of the Bucs' ticket office staff. They do their best to accommodate all of the fans each year; however, the limited availability of seats and volume of requests received makes it impossible to fulfill every request.

**

Okay, that's going to have to be it for today. Answer Man is tired and there's a list of chores on the refrigerator. We had some more inquiries we wanted to get to today, but they'll have to wait for the next column. Among them was a question about the north/south orientation of the field (by Scott Shaffer of Palm Harbor), another one about salary cap hits after players are cut (by James of Tampa) and another about which players have been with the team the longest (by Karla and Kayla of Bradenton).

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