40 lessons for the Bucs and the NFL draft

by Gary Shelton on March 27, 2015 · 0 comments

in Florida State University, general, NFL, Tampa Bay Bucs

Friday, 6 a.m.

How can a team learn its lesson so many times and never get any smarter? How can a team act so smart and have the results make it look foolish so many times?

Such is the NFL draft, the humbling factor of a team that has rarely gotten it right.

How can a team learn what not to do so many times? How can it botch draft after draft, year after year, pick after pick, hope after hope? How can it turn so much potential into so many problems?

Shortly, the Bucs will try it again. They will step to

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the plate, and once again, they’ll grin and point to another kid, probably FSU quarterback Jameis Winston. They’ll wave to cameras, and they’ll praise their pick, and they’ll act like the smartest guys in the room.

Will the team win this time?

Will it ever?

There are lessons in the selection. Once, they all looked shiny and new, Ray Snell and Bo Jackson, Ron Holmes and Vinny Testaverde, Trent Dilfer and Erict Rhett, Eric Curry and Broderick Thomas, Keith McCants and Charles McRae, Kenyatta Walker and Gaines Adams, Sabby Piscatelli and Dexter Jackson.

Feel free to scream in terror at the flashbacks. Even the tears the Bucs were pretty good, except the '95 draft, they didn'T draft well.

So what went wrong? Usually, everything. Usually, the ownership was unstable, and the coaching was clueless, and the players didn’t have enough help around them. Usually, the promise was undelivered, and the losing continued, and the wandering through the forest went on.

Now, it happens again.

Can it go right this time?

Look back through the years, and you will find lessons. There was something to learn, good or bad, about the Bucs picks. The team should have been smarter. The owners should have been wiser. The players should have been better. The picks could have been used wiser. The team could have been in decent enough shape so the kid didn't drown.

,Yeah, all of that.

1976: Lesson 1: Character matters. The Bucs' first pick ever was Lee Roy Selmon. That should have told this team that what a guy is about matters, even if you’re picking an undersized defensive end (who made it to the Hall of Fame). Not a bad first day of school.

But a pattern emerged here, too. The Bucs went on for 17 rounds that year, and they didn’t find a lot. Dewey Selmon came. And Steve Wilson. But not much else … except a trade for Steve Spurrier. As an NFL quarterback, Spurrier was a pretty good college coach. That has been a lingering problem for this team. Other teams find great players in later rounds. This one drafts the guy who will be selling you tires in two years.

1977: Lesson 2: Size helps. The Bucs went with size when they drafted Ricky Bell over Tony Dorsett. Maybe they were right. Bell was solid behind a bad line before he became ill The Bucs didn’t want to wait on picks. They traded four picks for players. The good? Richard Wood. The bad? Mike Huff.

1978: Lesson 3: Stats don't matter. Sometimes, it’s not about stats. The Bucs should have learned that clearly when they picked Doug Williams, whose completion percentage was never that high. But Williams was a leader. If owner Hugh Culverhouse hadn’t been stingy, think of all the headaches he could have saved this franchise, especially that trade for Jack Thompson.

1979: Lesson 4: A veteran isn't worth your No. 1. Someone stop the Bucs before they trade again. Remember 1979’s No. 1 pick, which was traded for what was left of Wally Chambers. That pick became Dan Hampton, who was 10 times the player Chambers ever was.

1980: Lesson 5: Give  yourself a chance. Ray Snell? Really?

1981: Lesson 6: The whole draft matters. The Bucs had a pretty good start with Hugh Green and James Wilder. And then they picked 10 rounds of used car salesmen.

1982: Lesson 7: Use the phone properly. The Bucs wanted to tell their rep not to draft Sean Farrell. He heard Farrell’s name and called it out. Even worse, the team wanted to draft Booker Reese. So it traded the next year’s No. 1 pick for a second rounder to pick Reese, who was a bust. And that draft pick? It could have been Dan Marino.

1983: Lesson 8: Sometimes mistakes carry across two years. No, really. Booker Reese.

1984: Lesson 9: A bad quarterback is none at all. Do you still want this team to trade its top pick? This year, the Bucs traded for Jack Thompson, who was awful.  The other picks could have been made with a dartboard.

1985: Lesson 10: It's a big job. Get large people to play on the offensive line. Ron Holmes was pushed around far too easily. Eventually, he was pushed to Denver.

1986: Lesson 11: Bo knows exit routes. Bo Jackson was one of the iconic athletes of all-time. He just wouldn’t play here. The Bucs wouldn’t listen, however, and they ended up with nothing. Isn't communication wonderful?

1987: Lesson 12: Keep your expectations real. Vinny Testaverde eventually had a fine career, but the folly of the franchise was that it expected Vinny to be good enough to beat other teams by himself. He wasn’t.

1988:  Lesson 13: Silent warriors are good ones. It sound simple, but the Bucs have always needed to use all of their picks. In ’88, Paul Gruber was a fine choice. But Lars Tate and the other guys should have stayed home.

1989: Lesson 14: The Sandman Cometh. Here’s the lesson: Broderick Thomas was the Sandman. Crucial advice: Never give a good nickname to a bad player.

1990: Lesson 15: Make sure the guy knows a position. Keith McCants. Lesson: Avoid a guy you think can play at two positions. Odds are, he can’t play at either one.

1991: Lesson 16: Love of the game. Here’s a lesson. Make sure the guy likes football. Charles McRae, frankly, wasn’t that drawn to it. This just in: He didn't give change.

1992: Lesson 17: Don't pay a starter's price for a backup. Ray Perkins traded  the pick for Chris Chandler, who never won a game with the Bucs. Know this: How are you going to use a backup when you need starters? Another lesson: Don't be Ray Perkins.

1993: Lesson 18: A man has to have instincts. Eric Curry was stiff and not very physical. He once rushed the passer and went 18 yards deep. What quarterback drops back 18 yards?

1994: Lesson 19: A player has to control his ego. The team drafted Trent Dilfer, who had awful problems with self-awareness. He thought he was a Brett Favre. He was more like a Casey Weldon. But Dilfer will tell you never never received a drop of coaching here. What? Were the coaches just baby-sitters?

1995: Lesson 20: Coaching matters.  A coach on the Bucs thought that the No. 2 draft pick was terrible. Years later, Derrick Brooks was in the Hall of Fame. That coach also played him on the wrong side of the ball. Now, how smart are these guys?

1996:  Lesson 21: It isn't always the motor, Sometimes, it's the payload. The Bucs kept talking about Regan Upshaw’s motor. It was out of oil.

1997: Lesson 22: A team needs to be lucky. Sometimes, a team trips over a guy it drafts. The Bucs picked five players before they happened upon Ronde Barber. And a legend was born.

1998: Lesson 23: Make sure the player fits. It is important to keep in mind what a team runs and what a player can do. The Bucs had no business picking Jacquez Green in the second round. He didn’t block like a Tony Dungy receiver needs to. And he was gone quickly.

1999: Lesson 24: Spread the wealth. Don’t wrap up too much money in the same positon. From the moment the Bucs took Anthony McFarland, it was doomed that either he or Warren Sapp would have to leave. Sapp left, and McFarland didn’t live up to all he could be.

2000: Lesson 25: Keep the egos in check. Think of the mix of your team. The Bucs could live with Keyshawn Johnson for a while, but it made for too many egos in the dressing room.

2001: Lesson 26: Talent matters. The Bucs took Kenyatta Walker. His name should have been Piñata.

2002: Lesson 27: High prices are worth it. The Bucs traded four high draft picks for Jon Gruden. He won the Super Bowl. Yes, it was worth it.

2003: Lesson 28: Agreement is important.  Reports are that Rich McKay wanted Chris Simms, but Gruden never did. How hard is it to talk?

2004: Lesson 29: A team shouldn't compound its mistake. The Bucs picked Michael Clayton, who caught a lot of passes as a rookie because the team had no one else. The worst part? The Bucs also signed him a second contract.

2005: Lesson 30: Don't break your new toys. The Bucs did with Carnell Williams, grinding him into dust in his first month in the league.

2006: Lesson 31: Know who these guys are. Never draft your team by placing the names in a hat. With Jeremy Trueblood, Maurice Stovall, Alan Zemaitis and Julian Jenkins, what other explanation is there.

2007: Lesson 32: Make sure the guy has a resume. The Bucs couldn’t wait to cut Simeon Rice after signing No. 1 pick Gaines Adams, who really hadn't played a lot of football. Adams wasn’t close enough to call the quarterback most Sundays. The Bucs also drafted Tanard Jackson, who evidently really, really liked marijuana. He thought Cheech and Chong movies were documentaries.

2008: Lesson 33: Sometimes, there needs to be a grownup in the room. It never happened with cornerback Aqib Talib until he got elsewhere. Here, he was always about the next day’s headline. Still, he was better than Dexter Jackson, the second rounder who never caught a pass.

2009: Lesson 34: Work as hard as you say. Josh Freeman started skipping practice, and before long, he was done.

2010: Lesson 35: The draft gets harder as it goes. The Bucs did fine with Gerald McCoy, who anyone with a mock draft could have picked, but what about following him with Brian Price, Aurelius Benn and Myron Lewis. Egad.

2011: Lesson 36: Get an alarm clock. Da'Quan Bowers was supposed to be the sleeper of this draft. Isn’t it time for his wake-up call yet?

2012: Lesson 37: Some players don't fit.  Sometimes, the athlete has to fit the coach. Another way to put it: Whatever happened to Mark Barron, who was great in the national title game?

2013: Lesson 38: When in doubt, blame the last coach. This is the problem with changing coaches every couple of years. They love different players. Greg Schiano liked Darrelle Revis. Lovie Smith didn’t. Revis won the Super Bowl. Lovie won two games.

2014: Lesson 39: Use them or lose them. When a team has a terrible offensive line, don’t two fifth round picks have to play some. A bit?

2015: Lesson 40. Be right.

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