Ask Gary: Will Clemson-Alabama rivalry live on?

by Gary Shelton on January 5, 2019 · 4 comments

in general

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You wrote on Friday about the dominance of the Alabama and Clemson football programs. They seem to get better each year and are putting more distance between themselves and the rest of college football. Alabama and Nick Saban have been doing this for awhile now and Clemson seems to be inspired to keep up with them. How are they doing it and do you expect this to continue for several more years?

Larry Beller

I certainly think they'll be teams in the mix for some time to come.  Alabama  is once again the No. 1 team in recruiting, as it has been for the past several years. Clemson is fifth. That doesn't guarantee anything, because players still have to be developed and coached, but both programs are adept at that, as well.

So I certainly think they'll be among the contenders. They've whittled college football down a two-man show. Clemson has a freshman quarterback who will keep getting better. Alabama  has a sophomore. There is no reason for them not to keep the assembly line going. Neither has a really great rival in their conference (Georgia is close, but it plays in the other division).

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But I think there will be some others in the mix, too. Kirby Smart has his Georgia team humming. Lincoln Riley has to patch up his defense, and once again, he has to replace a Heisman winner. Ohio State picks recruits off of trees, and I think they might find new energy without Urban Meyer. All of these teams were close this year but stubbed their toes.
Who else? Florida isn't that far away. LSU is good. Someone on the West Coast, Southern Cal or Oregon, has to step up. Texas is improving. Wisconsin is capable of having a great year. (Of course, you know all about Michigan. You have the scars to prove it).
But college football isn't as deep as you think. There really aren't that many teams that can sit back and think that they were contenders this season. Or next season. N.C. State? Oklahoma State? Iowa? It's hard to take them seriously.
So how do they do it? They have great head coaches and great assistants. They have great history and great facilities. They're in states with no pro football, which adds to a rabid fan base. Oh, and other things help, too. Auburn hasn't challenged Alabama lately. FSU has become dormant against Clemson. Those are the two big games where a team is supposed to trip up every now and then.
So you have greatness surrounded by mediocrity. Neither is likely to change soon.
Think we have a shot at Alabama and Clemson again?
Who doesn't?

From 2013 to 2017, the Bucs' paid attendance and actual attendance varied little year to year. This year there was a noticeable decline of about 6,000 fans per game, even though the team performed pretty typically for this 6-year time frame, which is 5.2 wins and 10.8 losses. I believe the drop off in attendance is attributable to fan backlash regarding Jameis Winston. Now it appears that the Glazers have hitched their wagon to GM Jason Licht (27 wins and 53 losses) and Jameis. How can things not get worse for the Bucs before they get better?

BTW, the probability that an 'average' franchise goes 11 years in a row without a playoff appearance is .006. (1 - .375)^11

year    wins.    losses   paid attendance.     actual attendance     no shows

2013.     4          12                 58,819                        52,110                      6,709

2014      2          14                  59,659                       50,825                     8,834

2015      6          10                  61,560                       54,378                      7,182

2016      9            7                  60,625                       53,133                      7,492

2017      5          11                   59,952                       51,912                      8,040

2018      5          11                   54,357                       48,209                     6,148

ave.     5.2        10.8                 59,162                       51,761                       7,401

Scott Myers

Scott, if we've learned nothing else about the Bucs, we've learned that it can usually get worse. The Bucs don't have much defense, and they don't run it well or block well or tackle well or avoid penalties well. They turn the ball over and get stopped in the red zone and blame injuries for all the things that bad teams do. Would it shock any of us if they came out with a three-win season next year? Of course not.

I'll be honest. I would love to think that the drop in attendance was because of fans protesting Winston's behavior. I'm not sure we're enlightened enough for that. A nameless, faceless Uber driver from a faraway place with allegations, I'm afraid, isn't going to make much of a dent in whether people go to games. Maybe I'm wrong. I hope so. What's the old saying? That a man who won't stand for what's right will sit for anything?

My own guess is that at no time in the last five years did you ever think the Bucs were a legitimate contender, and that wears on people. We had the same coach. We had the same quarterback. We had the same general manager. It was almost as if the Bucs have reconciled themselves to last place.

I know, I know. The team got off to a great start. But they had only one chance after the 2-0 start to make a difference at the gate, and that was the upset against Pittsburgh. After that, they were blasted by Chicago, and everyone knew what the Bucs were...again.

It also doesn't help that the blackouts have been lifted. You can watch from your couch every week. What's going to drive you to the stadium? Fun? No. Thrills? No. Great prices? Heck no.

I'll be honest. There isn't a lot of reason to rush to the ticket window with the names the Bucs have floated around as far as head coach. You'll have the same coach. You'll have the same quarterback. You'll have the same secondary.

My guess? Attendance goes down again, and we're still discussion this after next season.

Do you think that the Bucs will cut loose of Gerald McCoy and his $13 million salary? Should they?

Jim Willson

Jim, an NFL scout told me once that defensive tackles get old in a hurry. They're dominant for a while, and then the pounding gets to them. Does that mean that McCoy's days as a quality player are over? No, but it means that he isn't a $13 million a year guy anymore.

So my assumption is that they'll ask him to take a pay cut. He'll decline, because he knows he can get picked up by a contender for his final two seasons. That'll give him a shot at those distant playoffs.

I wrote this the other day. I think the Bucs have been worse for McCoy than he has been for them. I don't understand the backlash against him. He's a great guy, a treasure in the community, and he's been a Pro Bowl player. No, he hasn't been Warren Sapp. He hasn't led the team to the post-season. But that's more because of the guys around him than it is him.

Look, it isn't our money. What the Bucs pay him -- unless it affects other players they want to sign -- is just a bunch of numbers. It isn't as if if he leaves, ticket prices are going to go down.

Personally,  if the payroll can be managed, I think the Bucs are better with him than without him. But if it isn't this year that the Bucs cut him loose, it will be soon. What's the old line from baseball? "I could have finished last without you." That's the question I'd have to ask if I were the Glazers. Does he provide enough bang for his bucks?

Probably not.

Do you think this may be the year for John Lynch to get into the HOF? He has been up for it a few times now.

How many times does it usually take for a player to get selected?

Bill Myers

Bill, I hope so, because as a guy who covered Lynch, I think he deserves it. He was great on the back end for the Bucs. Ask Derrick Brooks and Warren Sapp. I do think that winning two or three Super Bowls, even if he hadn't played any better, would have clinched it for him.

But I have to tell you. I'm getting a little skeptical if Lynch will ever make it. He didn't have great interception numbers -- he played in the box most of the time. And he played safety, a position where it a lot of great players can't get in. There is still the old cliche that a safety is merely a slow cornerback. It's not true, but too many people think like that.

Something else that will hurt Lynch is that a lot of safeties are coming up for a vote. Ed Reed is up for election this year. Troy Palomalu is eligible next year. It's a silly argument, but some voters want only one guy per position.

As far as the length of  the wait, that depends upon the player. Some players, like Brooks and Sapp, are inducted in their first year of eligibility (five years after their career ends). Others have to wait forever. Jerry Kramer went in last year after a 45-year wait. It took Bob Hayes 34 years. Claude Humphrey waited 28 years. It took Ray Guy 19 years. It took Paul Krause (a safety) 19.

Personally, I never thought there were enough voters for the Hall of Fame. Pretty much, each NFL city gets one. That way, I'm told, there is time for a presentation for the final election. But if they're Hall of Fame worthy, why do we need a presentation? Double, or triple the number of voters. It'll be more representative.

Or you and I could do it by ourselves.

Me? I say Lynch is in. Next candidate?

Do you think the Glazers decision to retain Jason Licht was primarily because neither they, or anyone else in the organization, has a clue how to conduct a proper coach / GM search on their own? If not, what other reason could there be for Licht to keep his job?

Larry Beller

Larry, I think that's exactly it. Licht's won-loss record is a game below that of Mark Dominik, and I don't think anyone would want him to come back. Licht has made mistakes that have cost the organization millions of dollars: Roberto Aguayo, Noah Spence, Ronald Jones,  the list goes on. And this is with gaping holes on his team. It's like he drafts with a copy of Mel Kiper's book and a dartboard.

Once, in the days of Bruce Allen, I had a conversation with a former Bucs' front office worker. He wondered if Bruce was the "guy" for the Glazers, the guy who interpreted the league, who knew the coaches, who contacted the free agents. That way, they could keep their shield up and still feel like experts.

Is Licht that guy these days? If not, who is? As you said, the Glazers have no clue how to hire or who to hire as a coach. They got lucky once, with Tony Dungy, who was an afterthought. Can you imagine this franchise if Dungy never came?

I'm afraid we're back there. The names that have been floated about are largely uninspiring. The odds are the turnaround doesn't occur, and we're back with the same conversation in a year or two.

Jason Licht must be quite the politician to remain in his job. How would you compare him to previous Buc GM’s? My sense is they don’t want to repeat 2009 when both Raheem Morris and Mark Dominik were new.

Carlos Ubinas

Carlos, that may be the reason. We have no idea. I suspect that Licht knows where the bodies are buried, and that's how he held onto his job through his own shortcomings. Certainly, they would be enough to get a g.m. canned.

Dominik and Morris didn't work out, did they?  So maybe they don't want two guys learning on the job at the same time. I know that in the press box before the final game, I asked several people "If you had to fire one guy between Koetter, Licht and Winston, who would it be?" I said Licht. Others said Koetter.

Licht has had two coaches, but remember, he only hired Dirk Koetter. Lovie was already here when Licht arrived, and that occurred only after other g.m.s turned the Glazers down. Maybe they didn't want to face rejection again.

As far as comparing him to other Bucs' gms, I'd rank him behind Rich McKay but ahead of Phil Krueger (the g.m. in the early days). He's on par with Dominik. I'd put him ahead of Bruce Allen, but Allen's winning percentage is better (he inherited great players, but he didn't bring any in.)

At best, he's average.

I know this: Licht would be on a very, very short leash if it was me. If he fizzles in the draft again, he's gone. If he doesn't fix the defense, he's gone. If he signs duds in free agency, he's gone. If I don't like his tie, he's gone.

Do you think that the Outback Bowl is right to pay Jim McVay a one million dollar salary?

Jim Willson

Jim, it's always been a mystery to me what executives get paid. I'm shocked that Roger Goodell gets untold millions every year for handing down a few four-game penalties and watching ballgames.NBA owners didn't announce Adam Silver's pay with his latest extension -- I think they were embarrassed.

So, yeah, the first time I heard McVay's salary, I was stunned. The SEC and Big 10 teams that come to the Outback Bowl are slotted, so there isn't any high-pressure to get them to take this bowl rather than, say, one in Orlando.

Now, I like Jim. And I understand that bowl executives make an obscene amount of money. Recent data hasn't been released since 2015, but a lot of execs were making from $750,000 a year to $1,000,000. Couldn't they find someone to do it for a third of that?

Hey, maybe that's why there are so many bowls. Goodness knows, we need a few more millionaires.

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Larry Beller January 5, 2019 at 6:41 am

I read in the Times recently that the Bucs have the worst overall won/loss percentage on any North American professional sports team. Let that sink in for awhile. It’s almost like someone decided that Tampa Bay is blessed with so much good stuff that we don’t get to have great sports teams too. So we get a football team that finishes last almost every year and a baseball team that can’t draw fans.

But we do have the Lightning. How ironic that in one of the hottest states we get a great hockey team. Go figure.

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Gary Shelton January 5, 2019 at 12:38 pm

Is that true? Even behind Cleveland? The Clippers?

Think I’ll watch hockey.

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Larry Beller January 6, 2019 at 9:42 am

Well if you include the Browns record of yesteryear when Paul Brown was winning championships then I’m sure the Bucs are way worse. All I know is what I read in the papers, lol.

Here’s a pop question. Would you rather have the future of the current Browns or the current Bucs? Remember my Ask Gary question of several weeks ago about Bucs passing the Browns as the most dysfunctional team in the NFL? I think we are there.

Reply

Gary Shelton January 6, 2019 at 1:58 pm

Oh, the Browns have much, much more momentum and play in an easier division.I’m not as big as fan of Mayfield as some people, but that defense is getting better. Chubb was a nice add.

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