Ask Gary: The Bucs had a better free agent plan

by Gary Shelton on March 12, 2016 · 1 comment

in general, NFL, Tampa Bay Bucs, Tampa Bay Lightning, Tampa Bay Rays

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Saturday, 6 a.m.

As I sit here in downtown St. Pete hearing the engine roars from the Grand Prix,​ I wonder how you rate race car drivers in terms of athletic skills (discounting the courage factor)?

Barry McDowell

Barry, you've hit on one of my favorite debates of all time. Back during the Barcelona Olympics, in the Media Village, we would sit night after night under the Happy Tents in the middle and argue over what was a sport and what was an athlete.

For instance, a trapeze artist is a fine athlete, but he's not playing a sport. A guy playing lawn darts is playing a sport, but he's not an athlete. And so forth.

Race car drivers certainly have a talent, and they certainly have courage. But they don't run or throw or skate or fight
(usually). So it can be debated. I come down on the side of them

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being athletes, that their reaction times are an athletic endeavor all its own.

An old friend of mine used to swear that anything you could do while smoking a cigar was not a sport, which of course includes golf. I know some sports sections still carry chess, but to me, that's a game more than a sport. If Chess, why not Clue?

Every Olympics, some writer tries synchronized swimming and writes a funny piece saying "Well, I can't do it." So what? I can't dance swan lake or play lead guitar for the E Street Band, either, but that doesn't make either of them a sport.

In my mind, there has to be competition, and it has to have some strain on your body. Next thing you'll be telling me is that Fantasy Football is a sport. It isn't.

Can we expect Peyton Manning to appear as a TV in-game analyst next season?

Howard Powders

I think you can expect him on the air, but I'd cast him more in the studio than limit him to a game. He's witty. He's charismatic. Lord knows, he has credentials.

I see him delving into a lot of topics rather than being limited to, say, the Chiefs.

Is draft as deep at DE as I hear? Do you think thats the route Bucs will take, knowing Rookie DE never pan out until their 2nd year minimum?

Nick Houllis

I think it depends on who falls to them. I hate that cliche, but its true. If Joey Bosa falls, as NFL.com suggests, I think they grab him with both hands. But there are questions about all of the others.

So if I'm there with an excellent grade on Vernon Hargreaves, I'm going to go with it over a risk like Noah Spence. Right? It's hard to tell until we see how defensive coordinator Mike Smith uses his corners.

You're right, though. Most defensive ends take a year or so to develop.

Well, we got Martin back, signed Sweezy, signed a few of our own - have the Bucs done enough in free agency thus far to instill confidence in the fans for the 2016 season? If not, what can they realistically do at this point?

Cecil DeBald

I think most of the hay is in the barn. The Bucs could look for a nickel back, or maybe a third receiver, but they've done more than I feared. Now, we just have to wait for Robert Ayers to convince us that he's not Michael Johnson (or George) and J.R. Sweezy to show us he's no Anthony Collins.

If they can do that, I think the Bucs did okay. What  you want out of free agency is to plug holes so you aren't held hostage by the draft. Now, with Ayers and Brent Grimes, the Bucs can draft a defensive end or a corner in the first round.

But, Cecil, I don't think fans are going to get confident in an off-season. They may be intrigued, or even excited. But this team has been ordinary for so long that it's going to take on-the-field improvement before any of us are convinced. Isn't that fair?

Bryce Harper, on ESPN, seemed to say that the old "code" of baseball players keeping their heads down, shutting up, playing the game, never showing up an opponent is "tired", and doesn't allow baseball to compete for the hearts of youth with other pro sports where players are flamboyant, show their emotions, celebrate and have fun - basketball, soccer, even football. By the way, Goose Gossage seems to feel otherwise. Your thoughts?

Cecil DeBald

A lot of people disagreed with Harper, but I wasn't one of them. I've never understood any unwritten code that says you're not supposed to act like a game-winning home run isn't fun.

Look, fans love fun. What? Are you supposed to protect the pitcher's feelings because he gave up the winning home run? Tell him to grow up. There is nothing wrong with a little emotion.

In general, I'm not a big guy about unwritten rules. Remember when Curt Schilling got bent out of shape because a guy tried to bunt his way on in a 1-0 game? Hey, the point is to win the game, not to protect the other team's no-hitter.

Look, if I hit a home run in the bottom of the ninth, I'm going to do the Watusi around first, the Electric Slide around second, the Macarena around third and the Twist coming home. Then I'm going to spend 10 minutes explaining what all those old dances were.

Want to stop it?

Don't give up a home run.

The top professional team sports in the USA in attendance and fans, in no order, are baseball, football and basketball I'd think. So why is the NCAA basketball season and tourney, and the NCAA football season and playoffs so huge, and NCAA baseball doesn't even get a mention in the sports pages, even the CWS? Always wondered about this.

Cecil DeBald

College baseball coaches ask this all the time. They have a great sport, and no one seems to care.

But I think it's because of this: We watch the NFL knowing it's the best football on the planet. We watch MLB because it's the best baseball. The same with the NBA or NHL.

But college baseball isn't the best baseball on earth. There are probably better minor league games going on every night than these kids with their metal bats. They didn't make Bull Durham about, say, Miami baseball, did they?

I don't like the College World Series format nearly as much as I do March Madness. I agree it's a better sport than it's given credit for, but someone has to be the 13th favorite sport in America.Thre is simply so much baseball to watch, including our kids' Little League games.

Besides, Bryce Harper would say that more payers need to be celebrating.

Do you think that Desmond Jennings career would have played out differently if he did not have to play his home games on the "carpet?"

Scott Myers

We can never know for sure, but I'll bet he'd like to try it. Carl Crawford hated the carpet, too.

Over his years, Jennings has had injuries that relate to the carpet (bad knees) and those that don't (oral surgery). With all the advances in technology, it's a shame that something can't be done to make artificial turf more like the real stuff. I walked across the field in Syracuse once, and it was like walking on pavement.

How do you rate the Bucs FA signings so far?

Jim Willson

I'm hopeful, which is about as good as you can be in free agency. Put it this way: I thought the Bucs had done well two years ago, and it was the biggest financial bath in team history. The club threw away millions to Josh McCown, Anthony Collins, Michael Johnson and Alterraun Verner. So I'm a lousy guy to ask.

The difference, to me, is they aren't asking part-time players to become stars. If Martin is the same guy next year, and the year after, the Bucs will be thrilled. J.R. Sweezy was a starting guard; they expect him to be a starting guard. Robert Ayers was a starting end, they expect him to be a starting end. Same with Brent Grimes. They obviously want a good year, but they don't expect Alvin Harper to be Michael Irvin.

Johnson had had a lousy year as far sacks the year before, and Collins was a part-time player. McCown was coming off a good year, but he hadn't had many. Lovie Smith expected them all to ascend. It doesn't usually happen that way..

Do you think that Manchester United will fire Louis van Gaal after the season?

Jim Willson

If not, why not? I'll be honest. I don't keep up with Man-U nearly as much as I once did (my kid is a huge fan; I've bought more Man-U gear than any other teams). But van Gaal is making all the excuses that coaches about to get fired make.

He says his program is on schedule. When did a coach ever say it wasn't? He compares his team to others who aren't doing as well. Well, the others aren't Man-U.

The Glazers, as we know, are impatient. Why would they fire Lovie Smith and not van Gaal?

Do you still think that Stammer stays in Tampa Bay?

Jim Willson

I change my opinion about four times a week. Today, I'm having a hard time imagining it.

I was talking to a longtime NHL scout the other night, and I asked him He just shook his head. If the Lightning and Stamkos were going to agree, he said, it would have already happened.

To me, it sounds as if the Lightning wants him back, but they aren't drooling over it. They certainly aren't going to make it tough to sign Victor Hedman and other players in the future.

I like Stamkos. I think he has a rare perspective as team captain, and his expectations are high. He also has more ability to put the puck in the net than anyone else on the team.

But from the sound of it, he wants a bigger piece of the pie than the team wants to pay.

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Howard Powders March 12, 2016 at 11:20 am

Yeah. I don’t think Peyton is anywhere close to being finished with football, either as a potential NFL owner or television analyst.

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