Ask Gary: Will Urban find renewal?

by Gary Shelton on December 8, 2018 · 2 comments

in general, NFL, Tampa Bay Bucs

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Do you think Urban Myer's latest retirement will be permanent this time or will there be another job opportunity that will entice him to make a comeback?

Larry Beller

If we've learned anything, it's that college coaches -- football and basketball -- are harder to force into retirement than pro boxers. So Meyer will sit on the coach, and he'll do some studio work, and his health will rally. So he'll get the itch again. Sure, he'll be enticed.

Here's the question, though. Where does he go?

When he was at Florida, he ran a program that had tons of advantages over most of them. He could recruit there. And in those days before Alabama, his program was the big mansion on the hill. Then he went to Ohio State, another school with built-in advantages in recruiting and facilities.

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From there, you don't go to Iowa State or Cal. There are only a few name brand schools left (Notre Dame, Texas, Oklahoma, Southern Cal). Are any of those going to hire a guy who might die on the sideline? Oh, some programs would, especially when a doctor signs off on it. But they'd get hammered in the media.

This way, Meyer at least gets to play the victim. Why, his health failed. There will be no more questions about what he knew and didn't know about domestic abuse, or all the criminals he recruited to Florida, or why he stuck by Aaron Hernandez when the darkness had already begun to envelop him.

I'll say this, Larry. I think Meyer will be willing to come back to the right program. He's only 54, which is far younger than Mack Brown or Les Miles. But I'm not sure he can find a place to give him all the advantages of the last two stops he made.

He'll be tempted. But unless his wife is mad at him, he's done.

I don't believe for a minute that Urban Meyer is done coaching. The pattern with him is 1) Get hired, 2) Win 3) Scandal 4) Resign for health reseasons 5) Start the process over again. Do you think he'll coach again, and if so where? And if not, why?

Peter Kerasotis

Peter, as I said to Larry, I think he'll go through the same lures that all head coaches do. Coaching is a great ego rush. Just look: Steve Spurrier is still doing it. Les Miles and Mack Brown are back. Spend your life chasing Saturday afternoons, and it becomes an addiction.

In his past jobs, I'd say the lines are blurred. You could say the pattern was to get hired, then the win and scandal kind of blur tougher, because they happened at the same time, and then health and starting over again blend togethers.

Here's the difference this time, though. Last time, there was another mansion on another hill. Both Florida and Ohio State have built-in advantages -- your grocer could coach those teams to a bowl game. They have money, facilities, tradition, and great in-state recruits.

You and I both know Urban, and we know that he likes to win, and he'll cut corners to do it. So like I told Larry, just another job isn't going to interest him. He's not going to N.C. State or Ole Miss or Texas Tech. It would take a brand-name job -- Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Texas, Southern Cal, a few others -- to get him back into the game. Would there be the right timing for any of those? Would they take a chance on a guy who has had health issues?

The difference between this time and last is this: This time, people believe Meyer has health problems. When he left Florida, not everyone did. But we've seen him contort on the sidelines to the point it was uncomfortable to watch.

Here's the thing, though. There is always a doctor who will give someone a clean bill of health. There is always a program ready to push the envelope. Yeah, in two or three years, he'll have another shot. Maybe when Notre Dame's Brian Kelley jumps to the NFL. Maybe when Southern Cal's Clay Helton is fired.

I wouldn't hire him, as you know. And it has nothing to do with his health. I think he's a snake, and I haven't been satisfied with anything he's said about the conduct of his players or coaches.

Here's a story you may remember. Meyer was at Ohio State when the Jameis Winston allegations at FSU came to light. I forget the interviewer, but he pretty much suggested that Meyer wouldn't have kept Winston, and Meyer agreed. Are you kidding me? The guy has had murders and domestic abusers on his  team. But he's going to draw the line against a player who was never charged? Sheesh.

MLB as a whole has attendance problems.  Attendance last season was 69 million, down 4 million from 2017, and down 10 million from its peak year of 2007.

Yet, MLB and folks in cities like Portland and Montreal continue to talk about adding of MLB teams.  How does this make sense?

Scott Myers

Scott, as you know, it makes sense only in the short term. The owners will split the franchise fees, and the new teams will draw (at first). But there will be no heavy input into the cash register. How much more TV money is there to be had by going into Canada again? Merchandise sales will be about the same. The overall product will be about the same.

Expansion is a move that makes sense when the economy is flush and fans are jamming into the gate. That could be interpreted as a demand for more product. But can we say that now?

For years, experts have talked about contraction as a way to make sure the talent fills the job openings to avoid dilution. I'm not sure that doesn't make more sense financially, although I feel for the fans who would be abandoned.

Still, do we really need more teams? Is that helping the growth of the game, or is it just splitting the available funds into two more pieces of revenue?

Do you think the Bucs’ Mark Duffner has made a difference by calling plays from the sidelines, rather than from the booth? 
Carlos Ubinas
I certainly think Duffner has made a difference. I'm not sure it really matters where he is. Some coaches love the press box. Some love the sideline.
The way I always felt of the situation was that the press box offers the better view, but it's easier to communicate with your players on the sideline. But I guess you could say this: If the press box really was an advantage, wouldn't the league's head coaches be there?
I think the primary difference is that Duffner has his players challenging a little more. The cornerbacks aren't in fear of knocking down a pass, and the pass rush has begun to click, and the team has discovered the joy of turnovers. It didn't hurt that they have played the 49ers and the turnover-prone Carolina team in the last two weeks.
But I think Duffner has also brought an energy with him. Let's be honest. Most coaches know how to diagram this defense or that one (or offense, if that's your side of the ball). The difference is how you relate to players, what extra you can get from them.
I think the final four games will tell us a lot about how many ills Duffner has cured. The Saints are terrific, and the Ravens aren't bad, and the Cowboys are talented. Then there is Atlanta, with the marvelous Julio Jones.
If Duffner can get through that run, I'd call him subbing for Smith to be the move of the year.
Do you think that Mark Duffner has done enough to earn another year as defensive coordinator?
Jim Willson
He's done better, that's for certain. But it's a rare defensive coordinator who is brought back without it being subject to the whims of the head coach. If Dirk Koetter is back, I'm sure that Duff will be, too. But if they're going to blow up the coach and maybe the general manager, well, the new coach will be in charge of the defensive coordinator. No one wants a d.c. forced upon him.
Also remember this: there is a difficult stretch coming up for the Bucs with New Orleans, Baltimore, Dallas and Atlanta.  If the defense plays well in those games, and has a few more sacks and a few more turnovers, his odds improve. But he still has practice squad grads in his secondary, and good quarterbacks still eat up this defense.
I like Duffner. But you don't hire interim defensive coordinators at the three-quarter-of-the-season mark. Especially if you're not sure who the head coach will be.
DeSean Jackson seems to be ready to shut it down for the year and with Chris Godwin doing so well there is no reason to take him out of the lineup. Have we seen the last of DeSean Jackson in a Bucs uniform? 
Larry Beller
A month is a long time to nurse a bad thumb, Larry. It'll be pretty transparent that if Jackson doesn't play again, it's because the coaches are as tired of his whining as the rest of us are.
By reputation, Jackson wasn't happy with how much he was getting the ball in Washington, either. Some receivers are like that. But if you look at the statistics, it's been several years since Jackson was the No. 1 receiver on a team.
I've said this, too. Publicly, the coaches keep defending Jackson. But in his last game as a starter, he dropped two passes. What does that have to do with chemistry with the receivers? Didn't Chris Godwin have chemistry? Didn't Evans?
It works that way in the world. You complain, and people feel your pain. You complain again, and people wonder how much of it is on you.
If Jackson pouts his way out of town, he'll hurt his legacy (he'll be a cross between Alvin Harper and Chris Baker). He'll also hurt his next paycheck.
Personally, I think we'll see Jackson again. Teams use 4-5 receivers, and I don't think he's worth paying not to play so you can play Bobo Wilson or Justin Watson. Besides, Dirk Koetter is trying to save his job. You can always ship Jackson off at the end of the year.
Just turned off another NFL stinker of a game on Thursday and changed
to the Lightning. They were tied 1-1 and two minutes later they were
winning 3-1.  I know it is early in the season, but do you think this
year's Bolts can make it to the finals?
Richard Kinning
Can they? Certainly, they can. They're fast, their deep, and they're great passers. They care about the right things.
But will they? That's harder to say in early December. So much depends upon injuries and just which opponents you draw. People don't talk about it, but in the year in which the Bolts won the Cup, they drew the most fortunate draw ever. They avoided Boston and Ottawa, and I think Calgary was the sixth seed. That's not taking anything away; they still survived a grinding journey.
I'll say this. If they stay relatively healthy, I don't know that anyone in the Eastern Conference can beat them.
How deep is this team? Every game, I think about the top five Lightning players on the roster, and it keeps changing. (Right now, I'd rank it as 1. Point; 2. Kucherov; 3. Hedman; 4. Vasilevkiy (despite his injury) and 5. Stamkos. But there are nights that McDonagh, Johnson and Sergachev enter that list.

Lets push it a little here this weekend.  In 1978-1983 Doug Williams received more hatred and vile reactions as a Tampa Bay quarterback than any other since.   That is until Jameis  Winston. Is racism alive and well in Tampa Bay in 2018? Or are the two unrelated?

Nick Houllis

Nick, that's a complicated question, so let me be careful as I answer it.
I would never deny that racism exists anywhere in the country, let alone in Florida. That would be foolish. So, sure, it could play a part. That said, it's certainly allowable for a fan to be fed up with his quarterback without it being about race. Neither Williams nor Winston is a Hall of Fame player. So I can see a high-minded fan shaking his head and noticing a guy's flaws without noticing his skin color.
I wasn't in Tampa Bay during the days of Doug (I've gotten to know him well since then). When he returned to work for the Bucs under Jon Gruden, he told me that he had been moved by all the people who came up to him and told him how much they hated it when he left. He was moved that he meant that much to fans of all races.
Do people notice that Winston is African-American? I'm sure they do. But I also know a great many people of varied backgrounds who have been frustrated by his glut of turnovers and his off-the-field troubles. I don't think that's racism, Nick. I think it's playing quarterback in the NFL. Ask Blake Bortles.
Again, I wasn't here for Williams, but he did guide this team from nowhere to the playoffs. Was the criticism worse for him than Testaverde? Dilfer? Freeman? People don't like mediocre quarterbacks, Nick.
I would never defend Tampa Bay (or any other region) against racism. There are too many examples of it. (Remember the radio guy who once made fun of Tony Dungy by pretending he was speaking to him in a black dialect?)
I'm not defending racism here. I'm simply saying that isn't the whole basis of the response to any quarterback.
Everyone is a Bucs fan again after 2 wins.  I am not sold yet, and with
the Packers firing a very good coach does Tampa make a move?  They have
a tradition of only keeping a coach 3 years so this would be the year.
Richard Kinning
Richard, I don't blame you for not being sold. But these last two games were a joy to see after weeks of being flogged. So let your neighbors enjoy it.
I understand the appeal of Mike McCarthy, who does have a Super Bowl win. (Although he has just one). This stat amazed me. Since 2016, when Dirk Koetter became a head coach, McCarthy has 21 wins. Koetter has 19.
Don't forget. McCarthy had Aaron Rodgers, and he had Clay Matthews. And he still won only two more games than a coach with this defense and Jameis Winston.
Granted, earlier in his career, McCarthy had 10 or more wins in seven different seasons. So he's not a bad bet.
So, no, I don't drop everything to run out and hire McCarthy. Not if John Harbaugh or Mike Tomlin pop free. But, yeah, McCarthy does have some credibility. Bucs' coaches haven't had much of that lately.
Why are the Rays not talking to Hillsborough County?  They were the ones that wanted to move so much. Now they don't make a peep. What gives?
Jim Willson
Jim, I'll be honest. I have no idea what is being said or not said in private between the Rays and the government officials. I do know that in any big-time negotiation, both sides generally assume that time is on their side, that the other guys will panic and give in. I wouldn't be surprised if both sides are reluctant to look too eager for a deal.
We know that the Tampa politicos are going to want the Rays to put in as much money as possible. But will they cough up more if they wait? Is the delay because the new politicians have new financial restraints? Do the Rays really want a deal that ties them to Tampa Bay for 30 more years or so? It's like two kids seeing which one will blink first.
I know that both sides have sort of acted as if they had the leverage here. I don't think Hillsborough does necessarily. The Rays can always stay in St. Pete, or they can wait out their lease and be flirted with by Montreal. I'm sure some of Stu's partners would love that. I think Tampas politicos think the Bucs are fearful of starting the whole process over.
The thing is, the sketches of the new stadium are gorgeous. If there is a reasonable price to it, one that can ease the taxpayers' burden, then I think they should proceed. But if it's dead in the water, why not call it a day and move on?
How many and which Buccaneer players do you think make the Pro Bowl this year?  
Bruce Brownlee
My mind reels with sarcastic comments, Bruce. But let me be serious here.
I'd start with Mike Evans, who has been very, very good. He's among the leaders in yardage and first downs. Personally, I think he's the best player on this team.
After that, how can Jason Pierre-Paul not go? His sack total is at its highest in years. Like Evans, Pierre-Paul plays a position where several guys will go. But it isn't just about sacks. Pierre-Paul is among the league leaders in tackles for defensive linemen, which means he isn't just playing the pass.
There is a substantial dropoff after that. If O.J. Howard had stayed healthy, he might have snuck in. I think more of Gerald McCoy than most fans, but players like McCoy, too. He could get in as an alternate.
To me, that's about it.
Nick Saban is seemingly on his way to another national championship at Alabama. Do you think he will ever venture or be lured to the NFL again?  
Bruce Brownlee 
I don't see it. I think Saban realizes his place is in college football, where he has more advantages than anyone. He can rig the schedule (the SEC teams play three creampuffs where most conferences play two). He is going to have among the nation's top recruiting classes (in the NFL, a coach gets one No. 1 draft pick; Saban gets 25). HEemakes more money than he can count.
Then there is this: Saban is 67 years old. What does he need with cross-country flights, balanced scheduling and Thursday night football?
He'll retire at Alabama. At this point, going to the NFL would be a step down.
In the world of sports writing to you feel it is easier or harder for a
youngster to start in sports writing these days versus the glory days of
Richard Kinning
What? Why, in my day, we had to type in the snow! And the hot dogs in the press box were stale!
I'm kidding, Richard. It's much harder to be a quality journalist these days, and it's not even close.
For one thing, there is less access than there ever has been. Once a week, I used to get a Buc player of my choice alone for 45 minutes to an hour. I had great interviews with Sapp and Brooks and Dunn and Alstott. That doesn't happen anymore. No one gets that kind of access. Teams want more control, and coaches schedule players from meeting to meeting.
There is less space in the local newspaper than there has ever been. I used to write 40 inch stories or longer; these days, a story half that size is pushing it.
There is a leaner staff. Buyouts and the general lack of health by papers contribute to that. There is less movement in the industry, which means a young guy might have be patient for longer.  There is less travel money, which means that instead of having four writers at an away game, most newspapers have two, and those two are worked silly instead of polishing and shaping their copy.
Now, Richard, all of this is based on good writing. There have never been more hacks in the business, people who "cover" teams without every seeing a practice or a game. I've told this story before. One website had a Bucs' "beat" writer who actually lived in Belgium. Now, that guy must have insight, right?
I'd sum it up like this. It has never been harder for the quality writers out there, and it's never been easier for the hacks. I'm sure you can tell the difference.

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