To All Fields: Which ex-player do Bucs miss most?

by Gary Shelton on January 31, 2015 · 0 comments

in College Sports in Florida, Florida State University, general, NFL, Tampa Bay Bucs, Tampa Bay Lightning, Tampa Bay Rays, University of Florida

Saturday, 6 a.m.

In Tampa...

As former employees go, they have landed on their feet.

As a trio, they are happy. They are needed. They fit into football's most glorious puzzles.

They are away from Tampa Bay, and for three guys with work to do on Sunday, they seem fairly fulfilled. Certainly life has gone better for them once each of them traded in the red jerseys of Tampa Bay. Out on the road, they have all found fame and fortune, and none of them seem to plan on coming back except as a visitor.

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But if you could get one of them back, which one would it be?

The cornerback?

The running back?

The defensive end?

In hindsight, it is hard to believe that it was the Bucs' idea to turn loose of Darrelle Revis, and of LeGarrette Blount, and of Michael Bennett. Oh, so that's why this team in the cellar.

But if you're asking me: Tampa Bay misses Bennett worst of all.

I know, I know. Revis is the best player of the three, a skilled cornerback who can erase half of a football field for the defense. If New England stands a chance Sunday, much of it is because of the impact Revis has on the rest of the defense.

Never mind that he was rehabbing much of the time he was here. Never mind that he was worth only a fraction of his contract. But when the Bucs asked Revis to take a pay cut – and he is allergic to less money – it certainly hurt the team worse than it hurt the player. No, Revis isn't a perfect fit for what Lovie Smith's defense does, but he's skilled enough to play.

But Bennett is the guy that Michael Johnson was supposed to be. If the Bucs realized what they had, if they had budged just a little, they could have held onto him. And that would be one less squeaky wheel.

He would start today for this team. While he hasn't been starting for all the days since he left is anybody's guess. What were the Bucs thinking?

Oh, you can ask some similar questions about Blount, a big, athletic running back who can make defensive backs look silly when he breaks into the secondary. Of course, that assumes that he would have broken into the secondary when he was here. Listen, no one anywhere has ever accused Blount of being a complete back. But Bill Belichick is smart enough to use Blount properly. That didn't seem to happen around here.

Ah, but in the case of Bennett, there is a relentless, driven pass rusher, the type the Bucs haven't had since...Bennett. He had nine sacks his last year with the Bucs, but that wasn't good enough. The team was looking for a home run. It still hasn't found one.

Part of the problem here, it should be noted, is the Bucs' constant change of head coaches. Raheem Morris loved Blount, but Greg Schiano did not. He preferred Doug Martin, so Blount was shipped out. And Schiano thought Revis was worth a fortune, but Lovie Smith did not. And so Revis was shipped out.

But if you're fair, you will note that the Bucs have cornerbacks. Not Revis, but not bad. And they have running backs.

What they do not have is a pass-rusher. Not anymore.

Not since they let Bennett walk.

On the ice....

We have reached the part of the program where it's fun to start looking at playoff pairing. Although, to be fair, they seem to change daily.

Still, are you ready for opening round between Steven Stamkos...and Marty St Louis?

Yes, get ready to open up a jar of venom all over again over St. Louis, the finest player in the history of the franchise, the guy who pouted his way out of town in the stretch run of last year's playoffs. It's still too early to embrace St. Louis as a former legend around here. Right now, his departure still stings.

Today, that would be the matchup because the Lightning would be the top-seeded team going into the playoffs, and the Rangers would barely squeak in with their 58 points.

It is important to not buy your tickets yet. The Lightning has 66 points, and Detroit, Montreal and the Islanders all have 65. Pittsburg has 64. So any first-round matchup is still possible.

But Marty?

Even for the ice, that's cool.

In St. Petersburg...

Now that they are running different races, who ends up in the best position?

Andrew Friedman?

Joe Maddon?

Matt Silverman?

Of course, it is much more important how the Rays fare against Baltimore and Boston and New York and Toronto. But when you remember how a successful Rays' front office splintered in the off-season, it's going to be interesting to see how Silverman fares against old friend Friedman and former manager Joe Maddon.

Granted, both the Dodgers and Cubs have the financial advantage on the Rays. Then again, don't most teams? But if you're making a bar bet, I'd say the Dodgers win the most, and the Cubs win four less than that, and the Rays win five less than that. Say 90, 86 and 81 wins.

But I could be wrong.

In Gainesville...

As the Gators try desperatly to salvage their recruiting season, it's a good time to look back on the biggest Florida recruit of them all.

Tim Tebow.

I know, I know. It's close. There are fellow statues Steve Spurrier and Danny Wuerffel. There was Emmitt Smith and Wilber Marshall and Percy Harvin and Wes Chandler.

But the biggest prize of all was Tebow, the last boy scout. Florida recruited Tebow despite an all-out press from Alabama and Mike Shula – yeah, in hindsight, it seems silly – coming down the stretch. It worked out well; Florida won two national titles and Tebow won a Heisman. Alabama fell to 6-6 the next year, and Shula was fired.

Which would have put Tebow and Nick Saban together. One can only imagine.

In Tallahassee...

As long as we're strolling down memory lane, who would you say is the top FSU recruit of all time?

Derrick Brooks? Deion Sanders? Jamies Winston?

Maybe it's just me, but I'd say Charlie Ward, the former Heisman Trophy winner.

I know, I know. Ward never played in the NFL, which sets him apart from a great many FSU athletes. But snatching Ward out of nearby Georgia meant a national title and a Heisman Trophy for the Seminoles.

By comparison, Winston wasn't the same off-the-field ambassador that Ward was. Sanders was a quick convert to Tallahassee, and Brooks was a logical recruit.

The pick...

Seattle 27, New England 16: The thinking is that Seattle got its bad game out of the way last week against New England. Maybe, but it's hard to count on bouncing back against a team as well coached as the Patriots. Still, there aren't a lot of weak areas on the Seahawks. If they avoid turnovers, they'll leave New England talking about losing another close Super Bowl.

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