Gators, Trask should handle Tennessee

by Gary Shelton on December 5, 2020

in general

Trask is facing a tough stretch./STEVEN MUNCIE

Saturday, 4 a.m.

It's about a trophy. It's about a memory. Heck, at the University of Florida, it might be about a statue.

For the Gators, and for Kyle Trask, all that's riding on the next three games is immortality.

Win or lose, Trask is quite the story. From being another guy named Ned on the sidelines, he has moved to the short list of Heisman candidates. Personally, I think he's still behind Trevor Lawrence of Clemson, and probably Mack Jones of Alabama. But he's been good enough to get a trip to New York for the awards ceremony, and that in itself isn't bad.

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Thirty-four touchdowns? Almost 3,000 passing yards? That'll do.

But if you know Florida football, perhaps that begs the question: Where are the other statues?

I'm serious. If Florida insists on giving out statues willy-nilly, then why stop at the three Heisman-winning quarterbacks?

How about Emmitt Smith? Wouldn't he look good in a statue? Wilber Marshall? Wes Chandler? Jack Youngblood. That's the thing about statues. You start carving, and pretty soon, they're everywhere.

For now, however, Florida draws the line at Heisman winners. Which can put Trask in the conversation if the Gators can get on a run and beat (in order) Tennessee, LSU and Alabama. That's a tough month of work, of course, but for Trask to win the Heisman, he has to win them all.

Today, the Gators play against Tennessee in a game that used to be quite the rivalry until the Vols gave up being a team that mattered in the SEC. Now, as cool as the Volunteer Navy is, and iconic as those checkerboard end zones are, it's just another building.

Prediction: Florida 29, Tennessee 17.

In other college games:

Notre Dame 35, Syracuse 10.

Alabama 38, LSU 20.

Miami 41, Duke 14.

Ohio State 45, Michigan State 21.

And in the NFL:

New Orleans 31, Atlanta 20.

Tennessee 24, Cleveland 21.

L.A. Rams 34, Arizona 32.

Analyzing Bucs at the 3/4 mark

by Gary Shelton on December 4, 2020

in general

David has been the Bucs' best player./CARMEN MANDATO

Friday, 4 a.m.

They aren't as horrible as they have been. They aren't as good as they were supposed to be.

There, in that no-man's land of being good but not good enough, lie your Tampa Bay Bucs, one of the biggest disappointments of the NFL season. They are not the tortoise, and they are not the hare. If you remember, no other animals even merited mention.

So here they are, at the three-quarter mark of the season, just another team having just another season. No one talks about Super Bowl anymore. No one talks about MVP. They are slightly ahead of the middle of the pack. Whoopie.

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Still, if we are to examine where they are, and where they are going, it is time to take a fresh look at your Tampa Bay Bucs, what they are and what they are supposed to be.

Team MVP (so far): Lavonte David, linebacker.

Offensive Player of the Year: Tom Brady, quarterback.

Defensive Player of the Year: David.

Team Coach of the Year: Mike Caldwell, inside linebackers.

Goal ahead: Tom Brady, 1200 yards to get to 4,500 with four games to go.

Worst injury: Vita Vea, defensive lineman.

Worst unit: Offensive line.

Most disappointing unit: Secondary.

Worst player: Donovan Smith, tackle.

Goal ahead: Mike Evans, 387 receiving yards for his seventh straight 1,000-yard season.

Most polarizing player: Ronald Jones III.

Best rookie: Tristan Wirfs, tackle.

Biggest improvement at a position: Ryan Succop, kicker

More noise than impact: Antonio Brown, receiver.

Goal ahead: Ronald Jones, 180 yards to get to 1,000.

Biggest win: Green Bay.

Ugliest win: New York Giants.

Ugliest loss: New Orleans Saints (twice).

Goal ahead: Lavonte David, 58 tackles to get to a person record of 148.

Best offensive lineman: Ali Marpet.

Best defensive lineman: Jason Pierre-Paul.

Goal ahead: Tom Brady, four wins to get to a team-record 11 in a season.

Five picks for the Pro Bowl: 1. David. 2. Marpet. 3. Brady. 4. Jones. 5. Pierre-Paul.

What happens if the team wins four games the rest of the way and lasts at least two rounds of the playoffs: Life calms down, at least until the team's playoff exit. Eleven wins would be team's most since 2005.

...if the team wins three of four: The grumbling continues. Heck, Josh Freeman won 10 in a season.

...if the team wins two of four: The team looks hard at its roster, especially Leonard Fournette, Antonio Brown and Rob Gronkowski.

...if the team wins two of four: It would be 9-7. Heck, even Jameis Winston won nine in a season. Jason Licht would be in trouble.

... if the team wins one of four: That would be a .500 season, a record that would mock all the efforts of the Bucs to buy success. If that happens, Bruce Arians might be nudged toward retirement.

--- if the team wins none of four It finishes with seven wins, the same as last year. The owners get nasty in the face of winless Decembers. They would probably blow things up.

Choices, choices. Everyone has a choice

by Gary Shelton on December 3, 2020

in general

Thursday, 4 a.m.

I like pecans over almonds. I like peaches over apples. I like coffee over tea.

But that's just me.

I like Betty over Wilma. I like Indian food over Chinese. I like coffee over tea.

You might disagree.

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In the world, there are choices. There is column A, and there is column B. There is this, and there is that.

I like keeping Blake Snell over trading him. I like Charlie Morton over $15 million. Given the way both had been pitching, I like keeping Snell in the game instead of relieving with Nick Anderson.

I like Trevor Lawrence over Kyle Trask for the Heisman. I like John Harbaugh over Jim. I like Willlie Taggart over Mike Norvell, but I may change my mind.

I like Tom Brady over Jameis Winston...still. I like a swinging gate over Donovan Smith. I like Chris Godwin over Antonio Brown, largely because I like calm over chaos.

I liked Brayden Point over Victor Hedman for the Conn Smythe. I like Steven Stamkos over Mr. Body in Operation. I like bacon over steak.

I like Casablanca over Citizen Kane. I like beaches over mountains. I like Springsteen over Dylan.

I like good Warren Sapp over grumpy Warren Sapp. I like Warrick Dunn better than all other Bucs. I like John Lynch and Ronde Barber over the negative voters.

I like chocolate over vanilla. Unlike the Denver Broncos' quarterbacks, I like wearing a mask better than wearing a toe tag. I like Star Wars over Star Trek.

I like the '72 Dolphins over the '20 Steelers. I like Colin Kaepernick the protestor over Colin Kaepernick the quarterback.

I like Patrick Mahomes over Aaron Rodgers. I like Jim Leavitt over every other USF coach ever. I like I like Andy Reid over Bill Belichick.

I still like Tony Dungy over Jon Gruden. I like Mary Ann over Ginger. I like Simon better than Garfunkel.

I like George Carlin over Richard Pyior. I like Jake Blues over Elwood. I like Spock over Kirk.

I like Muhammad Ali, even now, over Mike Tyson. I like Michael Jordon over LeBron James. In the upcoming college football playoffs, I like Alabama over Clemson.

I liked Wilt Chamberlain over Bill Russell. I liked Willie Mays over Hank Aaron. Even now, I like Johnny Unitas over Tom Brady.

I like warm over cold. I like ice cream over pie. In the category of soup, I like Clam Chowder over French Onion.

I like monkeys over elephants. I like dogs over cats. I like the mongoose over the snake.

I like no designated hitter over having one. I like holding over pass interference. I like going for it rather than punting.

I like Rambling Wreck from Georgia Tech over Wake Up the Echoes. I like The Kentucky Derby over the Daytona 500. I like Wimbledon over The Masters.

I like Venus Williams over Serena. I like Nancy over Tonya. I liked Evil Knievel over Eddie the Eagle. I like Jack better than Tiger.

I like sunshine over rain. I like laughing instead of crying. I like water instead of sand.

But that's just me.

Ranking the key men in the front offices

by Gary Shelton on December 2, 2020

in general

BriseBois helped the Bolts win it all./(Tampa Bay Lightning/Scott Audette)

Wednesday, 4 a.m.

Yeah, but away from the ball, who's the best?

The current skid of the Tampa Bay Bucs notwithstanding, it has been a good year for sports in Tampa Bay. And we should know. At one point or the other, the Bucs, the Lightning and the Rays have been considered the worst team in their sport.

Remembering those days -- the days of Hugh Culverhouse and Vince Naimoli and Kokusai Green -- the present tense isn't so bad. Ownership is more solid. Highlights are more frequent. Fans in uniforms are more visible.

But away from Tom Brady and Victor Hedman and Randy Arozarena, who deserves your cheers?

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Of the men in the shadows, who does the best job?

A look at the key figures in the front offices of the Tampa Bay teams:

  1. Jeff Vinik, owner, Lightning: From the time he walked in the door, Vinik has been the perfect team owner, one who cares without interfering, one who hasn't backed down from his financial commitment, one who has cared about the guys in the seats. The Lightning won this year's Stanley Cup for a reason: Vinik set the tone.

2. Eric Neander, Vice President, Rays: You don't hear his voice a lot, but he has consistently won on a shoestring budget, figuring out a way for his Tampa Bay Rays to win without a lot of hitting. His team reached the World Series this year. Now we get to see if he can do it again.

3. Jon Cooper, coach, Lightning: When the Bolts won the Stanley Cup, Cooper became the mot accomplished coach in Tampa sports history. He did it while his team played in a bubble, without Steven Stamkos, against a difficult list of opponents.

4. Kevin Cash, manager, Rays: It's easy to criticize a baseball manager, because not all of his moves are going to work out. Cash is still getting grief over pulling Blake Snell in the team's final loss of the season, which is a clearer memory than him winning the AL Manager of the Year award. But on most nights, Cash has been pretty good, and he's won a lot of games against higher-priced teams.

5. Julien BriseBois, general manager, Lightning: Few had heard of BriseBois when he took over for Stevie Yzerman, but his moves at the trading deadline this year juiced the championship run. So far, the signs are that he can hold things together well.

6. The Glazer Family, owners, Bucs: There have been years when the Glazers have been criticized for not spending enough, or for not caring enough. But this season, they have approved every high-priced addition. It isn't their fault that the team hasn't executed as well as you would like.

7. Bruce Arians, coach, Bucs: A lot of "experts" are bashing his play-calling lately, but the play-calling never looks good on a team that has lost three of four games and fallen far short of expectations. Arians won't get grief from me for being honest about Tom Brady's short-comings, but the head coach is responsible for a team not playing up to its potential.

8. Stu Sternberg, owner, Rays: There was a time I would have put Sternberg at the top of this list. I like him, and he's won more games than you'd expect on that budget. But it's still a little puzzling how Stu was pushing Tampa to build him the Taj Mahal, and shortly afterward, he was saying his team couldn't survive here. There isn't a middle ground?

9. Jason Licht, general manager, Tampa Bay Bucs: Licht had a good off-season, but the Glazers have fired a lot of employees who spent money wildly beforehand. Licht has a litany of second-round misses in the draft, which could cost him eventually.

10. Jeff Scott, coach, USF: You can argue that Scott didn't get a fair shot in 2020 between a shortened recruiting season, the Covid virus and the talent on the roster. Still, he's going to have to show more in a hurry.

Looking back at the Bucs’ loss to the Chiefs

December 1, 2020 general

Tuesday, 4 a.m. 5 Thoughts If I were Tom Brady, I’d be angry at Bruce Arians for his flaws. If I were Bruce Arians, I’d be miffed at Tom Brady for his mortality. So is it any wonder that the world thinks the two of them are disgruntled toward each other. Blaming someone else is […]

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Bucs avoid blowout, but still lose to Kansas City

November 30, 2020 general

Monday, 4 a.m. In the bad seasons of the Bucs — the helpless, hapless, hopeless seasons — this might have been enough. The Bucs rallied Sunday. They were playing a great team, and fell behind, and then they came back before narrowly losing. Despite the early images, they managed not to get beat by 100. […]

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Trask takes another step toward Heisman

November 29, 2020 general

Sunday, 4 a.m. As a piece of hardware, it has been scoffed at, dismissed, ignored. The Heisman Trophy is often not about excellence, and it’s list of mediocre wins is long and storied. Nevertheless, Kyle Trask moved a step closer toward being in contention Saturday afternoon. Trask, a backup who didn’t even start in high […]

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Chiefs favored behind Reid, Mahomes

November 28, 2020 general

Saturday, 4 a.m. These days, the world counts the Super Bowl titles. No one cares how many division titles you win, or even how many conference championships. No one cares how many winning seasons you have, or how many times you’ve had double-digit victories. These days, it’s confetti or concession. That’s it. And it the […]

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USF offense has big game in loss to UCF

November 28, 2020 general

Saturday, 3 a.m. There haven’t been a lot of moments, or a lot of performances, for USF to feel good about during their lost 2020 season. They lost eight of nine football games, most of them by lopsided scores. They gave up more than 40 points five times. They lost their last eight games. Still, […]

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Are expectations of Bucs’ Brady too high?

November 27, 2020 general

Friday, 4 a.m. He is the greatest quarterback of all time. Alas, he is not the greatest quarterback of right now. And that seems to be driving people nuts when it comes to Tom Brady, the immortal who seems to be quite mortal these days. He hasn’t played well in a month, really. But overall, […]

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