Bucs have had bad moments vs. Jaguars

by Gary Shelton on August 19, 2016 · 0 comments

in general, NFL, Tampa Bay Bucs

Friday, 5:30 a.m.

In the moments before a football game starts, there are a thousand things to do in an NFL press box.

You schmooze. You go over your notes. You watch the teams practice.

What you never do — absolutely never — is read the game program.

So there I was, in the Jacksonville press box. It was 1998, and the Bucs were in the middle of a seasonal hangover. They had reached their first playoff in years the season before, but they fell back to a .500 record in '98.

It was the middle of November, and for some reason, I started flipping through the program. There I saw the picture of

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Regan Upshaw with the tagline “leads the Bucs' defense.”
Leads? Upshaw leads. Come on. If this was Batman vs. Superman, Upshaw would have been Alfred the Butler. That was the year I wrote about Upshaw that “he had one more sack than a dead man.”

So I turned and said something snarky to Reggie Roberts, the P.R. Director. Except Rich McKay, the general manager, and Tim Ruskell, his personal director, were sitting beside him. “Cold,” McKay said. “Mean,” Ruskell said.

And wouldn't you know it. On the game's first play — the first play – Warren Sapp burst up the middle and flushed quarterback Mark Brunnell … right into the arms on Upshaw, who seemed bewildered as to the reason a quarterback would run into his grasp. McKay and Ruskell took turns piling abuse on me.

They probably would have kept it up if the Jags hadn't won 24-23.

* * *

The worst game Trent Dilfer ever had — and there was a lot of competition — came in Jacksonville. In '95, he threw for 105 yards. In '98, his interception snuffed out the Bucs' last chance.

The play that sticks in my mind, however, came in that 1998 loss. Dilfer rolled out to his left on a play, and suddenly, there was a tunnel in front of him. No lie, Dilfer could have moonwalked for 25 yards.

But he was Dilfer, and so he pulled up and threw the ball over a receiver's head.

* * *

The Bucs lost the 2007 game, 24-23, when the Jags started quarterback Quinn Gray. Don't worry, no one has ever heard of Quinn Gray. He completed seven passes all afternoon long. But it was good enough to beat the Bucs.

Quinn won two NFL games as a starter. This was one of them.

* * *

Best Jags' player ever: Tony Boselli.

* * *

One thing I remember about Jags' games. The food was awful in the press box. Mystery meat and chips.

One day, I was picking at the spread with Ruskell before a game. To eat, of course, an attendant would hole-punch your media pass. Tim looked down at the food and shook his head.

“I want my hole back,” Ruskell said.

* * *

The Bucs beat the Jags in 1995, their first season ever. It took an interception by Martin Mayhew with 26 seconds to play.


* * *

The worst game that Josh Freeman ever had — and there are a lot of contenders for that honor, too — came in 2011.

The Bucs took a 14-0 lead in the game. And died. Jacksonville – behind the immortal Blane Gabbert, maybe the worst quarterback I've ever seen — threw for 217 yards to lead the win. It was the seventh of 10 straight losses by Raheem Morris on his farewell tour.

* * *

During the Super Bowl in Jacksonville, John Romano and I found ourselves at a Japanese steak house. If you know the Super Bowl, you know that a lot of foreign journalists show up. So opposite us sat Japanese writers at the Japanese steakhouse.

The Japanese waiter asked them: “You guys ever had Japanese food?”

* * *

In four years, Byron Leftwich was 24-20 for the Jags. In three games, he was 0-3 for the Bucs.

* * *

On the other hand, Keenan McCardell caught 499 passes in six years. But he caught six balls for the Bucs in a Super Bowl win, including two touchdowns.

* * *

Bucs' head coach Dirk Koetter used to be the offensive coordinator of the Jags. Defensive coordinator Mike Smith had the same job.

* * *

Jags head coach Gus Bradley used to be a quality control coach for the Bucs.

* * *

Monte Kiffin, my favorite all-time Bucs' assistant coach, is with the Jags. My favorite Monte story is that he figured out a blitz that would work and went sprinting down the hall to call his assistant coaches together...and whispered his plan. The coaches were at the Bucs' facility. At 10 o'clock. In the middle of the week.

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