Bucs release frustrating running back Martin

by Gary Shelton on February 21, 2018 · 4 comments

in general, NFL, Tampa Bay Bucs

Martin had two great years, four bad ones ./CARMEN MANDATO

Martin had two great years, four bad ones ./CARMEN MANDATO

Wednesday, 4 a.m.

He ran out of gas. He ran out of chances. He ran out of patience over two-yard carries.

Now it is time for Doug Martin, the broken running back, to run out of town.

The Bucs cut their losses -- and he had a lot of them -- with Martin on Tuesday afternoon. Pretty much, they fired Martin. They pushed him toward the ocean side of the plank. They pink-slipped him. Anything else is spin. Anything else is folly. Martin was whacked for not being good enough.

There are few players who suffered the highs and lows of a career as did Martin. He was half way between being somebody and nobody.

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zahiere would you rate Martin among Bucs' backs?/CARMEN MANDATO

Where would you rate Martin among Bucs' backs?/CARMEN MANDATO

He was second in the NFL in rushing once. And he was second on the Bucs three times.

Martin had back-to-back seasons in which he averaged 2.9 yards per carry. In four of his last five Bucs' seasons, he had fewer than 500 yards rushing. Yes, he had two monster years, with 1,400-plus yards. But it had long passed the point where you could count on Martin, where you could give him the ball and be sure that he would make an impression.

It's odd. Early in his career, the insiders of the Bucs would make Emmitt Smith comparisons with Martin. That was always hyperbole, but in the early days, he was certainly a slashing back who could make a difference.

And now, he leaves, and you are left to hope that he isn't another talented player -- Bo Jackson, Vinny Testaverde, Doug Williams, Steve Young, Trent Dilfer , Warrick Dunn, even Aqib Talib -- that the Bucs threw away.

Certainly, it wasn't happening here. There were the drug suspensions. There were the wobbly third-and-ones. There was the lousy average.

In all, Martin finished with a 4.0 average, but only in his two big seasons did he surpass 3.7.

So how will you remember Martin? For the huge seasons of 2012 and 2015? Or for the mediocrity the rest of the time. Maybe you can remember him this way: In the end, he ran out of excuses to pay him big bucks.

Look, Martin just turned 29. That's an age when the NFL chews up a lot of running backs. O.J. Simpson's last big year came when he was 29. So did LaDainian Tomlinson's, and Eric Dickerson's. Curtis Martin was 28. So was Marshall Faulk and Earl Campbell and Marshawn Lynch. Gale Sayers was beaten up by the time he was 26. Barry Sanders walked away at 30. Jim Brown was 29 when he went to make movies.

Oh, a couple of guys lasted a little longer. Emmitt Smith had 1,000 yards at 32. Walter Payton was 32. Tony Dorsett was 31.

But you get the picture. The Bucs were assuming a lot of risk -- age, drug problems, etc. -- with Martin. At 29, there is only so much tread on the tires.

So where does Martin rank among Bucs' backs? Not at the top. Not when two of six years left him looking like a star.

Me? I'd rather have James Wilder. Wilder, too, had only two 1,000-yard seasons. He had 2,844 yards back in 1984 and 1985. In all, Wilder led the Bucs in rushing for six seasons, and he finished with a 3.8 yard average.

And I'd rather have Warrick Dunn, too. Dunn had two 1,000 yard seasons and one with 978. After moving to Atlanta, he had three more 1,000 yard seasons and a 927. He wasn't far off of seven 1,000 yard years, in other words.

How about Errict Rhett, who had 1,000-yard seasons in his first two before the most ill-advised holdout. A lot of Rhett's numbers were padded by runs in blowout losses; still, he didn't have a year with the Bucs when he gained fewer than 500 yards.

I'd put Martin behind Mike Alstott, the all-effort fullback. Alstott never had a 1,000-yard season (he gained 949 in in 1999), but some players are worth more than statistics.

If you're talking about effort, I'd rather have Earnest Graham, old Earn-it, than Martin. Graham's best year was 898 yards, but that was after the coaches kept underestimating him and keeping him on the bench.

Then there is LeGarrette Blount, who keeps picking up Super Bowl rings. He's had two 1,000-yard seasons, too, one of them with the Bucs. I'd say he's had a better career than Martin.

If he had stayed healthy, I'd like Carnell Williams over Martin. He started his career in fine fashion, but he ripped up the patellar tendon in both knees and was a shell of himself.

If he had signed the contract, I'd like Bo Jackson over Martin. Of course, Hugh Culverhouse sabotaged that signing. Jackson was a force, but it was for Oakland, not Tampa Bay.

Oh, let's be honest. I like Martin more than I did Jerry Eckwood, or Lars Tate, or Bobby Rainey, or Louis Carter. Those guys led the Bucs in rushing, too.

In the end, Martin wasn't a great player. Weigh his entire career, and he was mediocre. Most of the time, he underachieved.

Most of the time, he was run of the mill.

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Bruce Brownlee February 21, 2018 at 11:40 pm

Nice column Gary. I agree with you on Martin……too often he just didn’t run hard, focus hard, or play hard. The games we needed him most, he disappeared and lets not forget late season 2016 when we were pushing for a playoff spot and he…….TESTED POSITIVE FOR ILLEGAL SUBSTANCE. I, too, loved Wilder, Rhett, Dunn, Alstott, Graham, and heck even Pittman ran hard every time, every game.

In Bucs RB history only Blount and Dunn went on to successful careers after leaving Tampa Bay (Bo never played here unfortunately), so odds are not in his favor. I will be curious to see which team (and there will be suitors) signs him. I do wish him well…sorta,


Gary Shelton February 22, 2018 at 3:21 am

I know how you feel. He’s talented enough to catch on somewhere, but I’d hate to see him be an all pro.


Cecil DeBald February 21, 2018 at 8:44 am

I struggle with the Bucs moreso than the Rays, the Bucs have no real excuses, they have the same money as anyone else in the NFL to spend. I liked Martin, but it was obvious he wasn’t going to be who he was – how much of that is Martin running out of gas, or playing on a team that couldn’t block, wouldn’t be innovative with their offense, is hard to say. So long, Doug, hope you saved your money and have a great life.



Gary Shelton February 21, 2018 at 7:45 pm

I hope he saved, too. I don’t wish him well. I just wish he would have been better.


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