Ask Gary: Is New England the NFL’s best bet?

by Gary Shelton on January 23, 2016 · 5 comments

in general, NFL, Tampa Bay Bucs, Tampa Bay Rays

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Saturday, 6 a.m.

I have $100 to bet. Should I put it all on New England to win against Denver on Sunday? (no obligation on your part of course).

Howard Powders

Howard, the first advice I give to bettor is this: find better advice than me. I have no knack for wagering.

But, given the choices, I certainly have more of a conviction that New England will win than Arizona or Carolina. Peyton Manning simply isn't playing well, and I don't think Denver's defense will be enough. But Denver is at home.

I think the Patriots will win. But I wouldn't be surprised if it's a game in the fourth quarter. I'd hold onto my $100 if I were you.

In hindsight, do you think any of the jettisoned defensive players Lovie got rid of would have worked in Mike Smith’s D system?

Mark Barron? Dashon Goldson? Mason Foster? The elephant in the room is getting bigger… Darrelle Revis?

Nick Houlis

Defensive coaches are like art critics. Every one of them sees something different.

Revis could play for anyone in the NFL regardless of the system. It was absurd for the Bucs to let go of him. It was a money decision, but what three salaries of a defensive back were as good as Revis? It was just arrogance, a head coach thinking that anyone could play defense for him. Obviously, they can't.

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Barron, Goldson and Foster are the same guy, c-level players who are good enough to find a job but not good enough to make a difference. Sure, they could play for other teams. Maybe they could play for Smith. But they wouldn't be impact players wherever they played. Barron and Goldson couldn't play together; they were the same guy, and the Bucs were left with slow, big-hitting safeties.

Bill Parcells had a name for these players: Jags. As in "just another guy." They can play, but when they leave, you'd never notice they were gone.

Yeah, I think it’s possible that Smith might keep one of Barron or Goldson. But I don’t think he’d love him. I think he’d be gone as soon as Smith could do better.

In last weekend's Patriots victory over the Chiefs, the Patriots had only 27 yards rushing.  How can such a one-dimensional offense be so successful?

Scott Myers

The Patriots get away with it because they are so darned good at two positions: head coach and quarterback.

Think about it. The Patriots were behind the Bucs in total defense. They were one spots ahead of the Bucs in total offense. Yet, the Patriots know how to win. They make the big plays in the big moments. They own the fourth quarters.

They're solid across every unit, but their bread is buttered by Tom Brady.

Do you think it's wise for Dirk Koetter, as a rookie head coach, to call the plays on offense? Of the four remaining coaches, do any of them call plays themselves? I wonder how many head coaches in the league do call plays. Wouldn't it be better for Koetter to learn what it takes to be a head coach without deciding between a screen pass and an end-around? We saw how well it worked out with Lovie calling the defense.

Barry McDowell​

This year, there were 10 coaches who called their own plays, most notably Bruce Arians of Arizona. Sean Payton calls his own plays, although the Saints struggled this year, too.

It happens more with offense. No one said a word when Jon Gruden brought home a Super Bowl trophy calling the plays. Koetter  thinks one of the best things he does is call plays, and yes, that's what got him the job. He wants to be the guy to call an end-around.

I understand: you're concerned with him doing too much. Almost every Bucs' coach has more NFL power than he's ever had before. But with Mike Smith, it isn't as if Koetter has to worry about the defense. That'll be Mike Smith.

I'm curious as to how it will work, too. But if recent history is the guide. Koetter doesn't have a lot of time to prove himself. He might as well do it his way.

Who gets into the Hall of Fame first? Tony Dungy or John Lynch, Or neither?

Tough question, because it's hard for both safeties and one-Super-Bowl winning coach to get in.

I'd say Lynch, because ties usually go to players. It took Paul Krause a while to get in, but eventually, he did. The funny thing is that Lynch's coverage skills are doubted by the voters. It's true that Lynch wasn't a shutdown corner, but he was the finest tackling safety, and the safety of a lot of great defenses.

I'm not down on Dungy. I think he's the most important coach the Bucs ever had. He stopped the losing.  But he was favored in a few playoffs, and he won one.

Eventually, I think they both get in.  But it won't be easy for either.

Please explain to me, how  Amalie Arena, always sold out this season, was half red for the Chicago game.   Do that many people sell their tickets to out of towners?

Jim Willson

Evidently. I was amazed at how many Chicago fans were in the house. The Lightning certainly didn't check the zip codes on the credit cards, did they?

I hear chatter that the Lightning has inflated their crowds with giveaways. Who knows? Maybe everyone who thinks Jonathan Drouin is a knucklehead just wore red.

Do you think that the Glazers contacted Saban and/or Jimbo Fisher, or was it truly Koetter all the way?

Jim Willson

I think it was going to be hard to beat Koetter. I'm not sure he was  a slam dunk, but he was at least an easy layup.

The Bucs might have called Saban's representative, but they would have been laughed off the phone. As I wrote, Saban HAS a better job than the Bucs. He's at a place where they don't go through coaches every two years and a place where he can sign a half-dozen No. 1 draft picks a year.

Fisher always made sense to me. He's been in the mix for an NFL job before, and he'd obviously love to coach Winston again. But the Bucs are currently paying off two other head coaches. They weren't looking to break the bank financially.

Let’s play some fantasy football! What would the career of Tom Brady be like if he had been drafted in 2000 in the 5th round by, say, the Bucs? (And not traded immediately to the Pats for Derrick Cullors.)

Cecil DeBald

If the Bucs had drafted Brady, he'd be the finest insurance salesman in Michigan these days.

The Bucs simply had no system in place that would have allowed Brady to succeed the way he has in New England. Don't forget, he came in the year Trent Dilfer left the Bucs and Shaun King took over. The Bucs offense was horrible.

It took great conviction for Bill Belichick to go with Brady. A lot of people thought he should return to Drew Bledsoe for the Super Bowl.

So when would Tampa Bay, offensively, have realized what they had in Brady? Ever? That's the thing in the NFL.  A team has to have the coach and the quarterback. The Bucs had a good head coach in Tony Dungy, but Dungy never had a good offensive staff when he was here. My fear is that he would have come and gone like another Scott Milanovich.

What moves should the Rays make prior to Spring Training to enhance their ability to compete in 2016?

Cecil DeBald

They have to decide on their pitching staff: Who stays and who goes.

I'm not sold on Steve Pearce, the outfielder-dh they signed this week. But he's the same type of guy they always take a chance on, someone coming off a bad year who has the capability of the rebound.

I think it's a pretty good roster. But do they need a little insurance at shortstop? Do they need more power at first base? Do they need a reliever who can slam the door shut?

Steven Souza Jr. has to come through, too. He didn't hit enough last year. Maybe he will this year.

When the Bucs beat the Eagles for the NFC Championship I celebrated a Superbowl win, because I knew we were going to handle Oakland. Is it the same for Carolina and Arizona? Winner is the Superbowl champion?

 Cecil DeBald

I wouldn't say that with New England still in play. I agree that either Carolina or Arizona would be a large favorite over Denver, but Brady is so good that I wouldn't count them out.

By the way, I had the same thought after the 2002 season. I picked Philly to win the NFC title game (and was yelled out by readers) because I had seen the Bucs go to the Vet to die.  But I thought as soon as they won that game, they'd beat the Raiders. I didn't think it would be as one-sided as it was, however.


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