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Saturday, 4 a.m.
Atlanta has now lost both of their coordinators. Their diva running back, Devonta Freeman, is talking about wanting to get paid and possibly holding out, plus they have to deal with the choke label now. Do you see a major Super Bowl hangover for this team next year and a slide in the standings which would give the Bucs a golden opportunity?
That hasn't happened, well, since last year, when the Carolina Panthers went south. The Panthers were just the most recent team to stumble after success. The Cardinals didn't have a good year, either.
It happens (see: Tampa Bay Bucs, 2003). Success may be the hardest thing in the league to try to overcome. Everyone wants to get paid, and people leave, and small things fester into big ones.
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If I ran a rival team (see: Tampa Bay Bucs, 2017), I would expect the best out of the Falcons. Matt Ryan will still be good, and Julio Jones will still be the best receiver in the league. But will the defense have the run next year it had this one? Will the supporting players be happy they're still supporting players? Can the team stay healthy?
This year, the Falcons started 6-4. If that happens again, will the quarterback blame the receiver who will blame the offensive line who will blame the running back? Winning is such a delicate thing that it doesn't take much to push a team over the edge.
I don't see the NFC South as a runaway division for anyone. Carolina will get some of its mojo back, and the Saints still have enough to make you trip over them. The Bucs, of course, need a couple more weapons, and they can be a playoff contender.
I think the Falcons will be everyone's team to beat. Certainly, they're mine. But it wouldn't shock me if they have a bit of slippage along the way. If I'm Dirk Koetter, I'm counting on it.
I think it is a disgrace that Jerry Jones has been voted into the NFL Hall of Fame. What say you?
I keep asking this question: What did Jones do, ever, to earn his way into the Hall of Fame. I mean, ever.
I'll admit it. I'm slow to vote in an owner into any of the Halls of Fame. He has to establish himself as a cut above the owners who are counting their money in their big skyboxes. They have to advance the league through their work on TV committees, expansion committees, etc. All I see out of Jerry is that he hired his ex-college roommate (Jimmy Johnson) then sat back and patted himself on the back for Jimmy's work. Johnson was special; Jones is just another rich guy.
Art Rooney? Yeah, I'd vote for him. Wellington Mara? I'd vote for him.
Jones? Really. It sounds like Jerry found a short cut somewhere and greased the right palms. I certainly wouldn't have voted for him. Disgrace? That's a harsh word, because I roll my eyes when I see an owner's bust.
A story: When I was young, I was a student of the game's history. And I wanted to be a Hall of Fame voter. Someone on the committee said he was recommending me, and he had never recommended a guy who didn't get picked.
But, evidently, the owners name the voters from their city, and I had criticized the Glazers a lot over the years. So I didn't get picked. No sour grapes. That's okay.
Still, it begs this question. If owners are going into the Hall of Fame, should they really be hand-picking the voters? Isn't that a conflict of interest? Just asking.
Has a team that lost a regular season game to the Buccaneers ever won a Super Bowl the same season ?
It's happened a few times when the Bucs have played the eventual Super Bowl winner in the same season. And, no, I'm not talking about the 2002 season, when the Bucs played each other in practice every day and then won the Super Bowl in early 2003.
Here's the thing, though. The Bucs have never beaten a team that won the Super Bowl in the history of ever.
Start with the team's first season in 1976. They lost to Raiders 49-16. A year later, they fell to Dallas 23-10.
Skip to 1982 (again, the season, not the Super Bowl). and the Bucs fell 21-13 to Washington. In 1984, they fell 24-17 to San Francisco. And in 1985, the Bears beat them twice, 38-28 in week one and 27-19 in week five.
In 1989, the Bucs lost to San Francisco 20-16. In 1994, they lost 41-16 to the 49er. In 1995, Tony Dungy lost his first game to Packers, 34-3. Later that year, the Packers beat the Bucs again, but this time it was only 13-7.
In 2000, the Bucs lost to the Rams in the NFC title game before the Rams won the title. Similarly, the Bucs fell to the Giants 24-14, and the Giants went on to upset the unbeaten Patriots.
The Saints beat the Bucs twice in winning the title in the 2009 season, 38-7 and 20-17 in overtime. Seattle beat the Bucs in their 2013 title run, 27-24 in overtime to go to 8-1.
That's a season worth of games in championship season. The Bucs played some close games, but they didn't win any of them.
What do you think the chances are of the Bucs signing either Calais Campbell or Alshon Jeffrey in free agency?
I'd bet against both coming here. I think after the Bucs spent so wildly in Lovie Smith's first year, the team isn't looking for the high-priced free agents. They 've instead tried to find bargains (Robert Ayers, Brent Grimes).
Campbell would be a great addition for the short term. He's a beast. But would signing him hurt the progress of Noah Spence? Maybe. Again, Campbell is going to get rich. But he's only 30, and he should have some time left.
Jeffrey would intrigue me greatly. He's only 26, and he has a world of talent. But would he mess with the team dynamic of Winston-to-Evans? The last thing you need is a hand grenade in the huddle.
I think the Bucs may address both positions, but I'm not sure they want to pay the headline guys. I'd especially worry about Jeffrey, who has been popped for substance-abusing drugs. And I'm always concerned with whether a wide receiver can fit in in a team sport.
I'm assured that it is, that if a team isn't using electronics to steal the signs, it's considered fair play. I always thought that, in baseball, if you want to send people secret messages, well, someone's going to try to steal them.
A story. When I was young, I coached a 10-year old baseball team. In the first inning of the first game, my shortstop leaned over to me and said "coach...I've got their signals." And he had them. Of course, we had simple signals: The hat was the indicator, and the next sign was active.
I know this: Dungy stealing a signal is the equivalent of another coach committing murder. I was more surprised at who the allegations were pointed at than anything. It's like your priest cheating at Chutes and Ladders.
There is a level of gamesmanship where we're all going to disagree on what's cheating. I remember doing a story on it once. John Flaherty, the old Rays' catcher, was convinced that corking the bat was cheating, for instance. Other people act like it's driving 56 in a 55-mile-an-hour zone. Gaylord Perry cheated his way into the Hall of Fame, and everyone chuckled. People talk of Ty Cobb sharpening his spikes like it's no big deal.
So what I call cheating, you might call gamesmanship. Still, it feels wrong.
Do you see the Rays finishing above .500?
Tough call. I think this team will be a lot like the one two years ago that finished 80-82. A couple of breaks, and I think they could win, oh, about 86. That's if everyone stays healthy and if players like Brad Miller and Evan Longoria come close to the seasons they had a year ago.
To me, the key is pitching. Can Chris Archer keep his losses from looking like a phone number? Can Alex Cobb be effective after surgery? Can Alex Colome be a good closer again?
The Rays are betting on a lot of things to go just right. And that's the dangerous thing, because you know everything won't.