Bucs make yet another dumb move
Hold the presses! Let's hold off printing Hugh Culverhouse's autobiography, How Not to Run a Pro Football Franchise. Just when we thought the Tampa Bay Buccaneers had done it all, Les NFL Miserables come up with a new chapter. Chris Chandler was expensive, costing the Bucs their 1992 first-round draft choice, but in November 1991 the quarterback is suddenly gone, and Tampa Bay gets nothing in return.

Ten months ago, cornerback Wayne Haddix was the franchise's first Pro Bowl defensive player since Lee Roy Selmon in 1984. In September, Haddix received the St. Petersburg Times award as the Bucs' 1990 most valuable player. On Tuesday, he also was fired.

Does this make a 1-8 team better? I think not. Does it make long-range sense? Culverhouse and his minions obviously think so. Will Bucs followers agree with the Chandler-Haddix moves? Probably not, but does Hugh really care what you and I think? I'm feeling nauseous.

Will the Chandler-Haddix ejections lessen Tampa Bay's payroll? Certainly. That can be important when you're Culverhouse, a man worth $300-million-plus who a couple of years ago decided to cut expenses by halting health-care payments for his non-playing employees at One Buccaneer Place. But, instead of cheapness, let's talk incompetence.

Frankly, the Haddix deal is less bothersome than the Chandler screw-up. Haddix was never a Pro Bowl-caliber defensive back. He simply had a blessed 1990. Errant enemy passes kept flying Wayne's way, and he intercepted seven. But Haddix was never a threat to become the next Darrell Green or Ronnie Lott.

Haddix then overplayed his hand, becoming a summer holdout. Once signed, he was injured and wound up making zilch 1991 impact. Against Minnesota, on the Bucs' latest Sunday of disaster, Haddix made an amateurish faux pas as a special teamer, illegally bumping Leo Lewis of the Vikings as he attempted to fair catch a punt.

But let's dwell on Chandler. Either he was not worth the No. 1 draft pick the Bucs paid the Indianapolis Colts in August 1990, or it's dumb getting rid of him in November 1991. Choose your poison, Bucs. Either way, it's another tarnished plaque to hang in the Tampa Bay NFL Hall of Shame.

I don't pretend to know more than Bucs general manager Phil Krueger about judging football personnel. But, with many NFL teams desperate for quarterbacking, couldn't Tampa Bay eventually have scraped up a fifth-round draft choice in exchange for Chandler, or a 10th, or at least a color photograph of Joe Montana?

Wouldn't it be funny if Indianapolis now re-signed free agent Chandler? That'd mean the Bucs had been finessed by the only NFL team with a worse record, the 0-9 Colts. Indianapolis would have not only the quarterback's services but also Tampa Bay's first-round drafting rights next spring.

Why do the names "Steve DeBerg" and "Steve Young" and "Doug Williams" keep flashing to mind? Tuesday's pink slip could be the making of Chris Chandler. Being canned by the Bucs is known to be the kiss of life for a quarterback.

Chandler, of course, was a well-defined failure with the Bucs. Didn't pitch them to a single victory as a starter. So Tampa Bay has now reaffirmed Vinny Testaverde as its QB man. That's fine, if Vinny begins playing with a little more courage, and a lot more consistency, and a lot more intelligence, and No. 14 wins on more Sundays than he loses. What are the odds?

For the sake of Tampa Bay's 3-million inhabitants, I want the Bucs to succeed. I've wanted it since 1976. But you know their history. America knows their history. Around the NFL, people tell Tampa Bay jokes. When was the last time a player departed the Bucs, then hooked on with another NFL franchise and wound up saying his most rewarding seasons were at Tampa Stadium? They are, however, the NFL's most renowned for giving away No. 1 picks.

I hope, in 1992 or 1993 or some time before The Second Coming, I'll have to sit down and write, "I was wrong. The Bucs turned out okay after all. They've become a good team that entertains its Tampa Stadium patrons and makes the entire mid-Florida megalopolis darned proud." What are the odds?

I'd like to ask one thing of owner Culverhouse. If, by the end of the 1992 season, an absolute and fast-paced upswing isn't apparent with the franchise, will you sell the Bucs to competent, local interests? Give Tampa Bay a break, Hugh.

Hubert Mizell, The St.Petersburg Times 6 November 1991