What do Buc fans look forward to now?
With the Bucs having been mathematically elminated from the post-season two weeks ago and realistically about July, it is left to start the process of looking ahead to 2010 already.
So no matter what you hear from coaches and players alike about trying to win every game and playing hard for 60 minutes, this becomes evaluation and playing time experience for those who will be Buccaneers in 2010 and beyond.
There is no substitute for playing time and snaps and drives taken by the likes of Josh Freeman, even those that result in endzone interceptions, will be more valuable down the road than any number of plays charted on clipboards.
Troy Aikman started 1989 for the Dallas Cowboys and went 1-15 (and I think even missed the win if memory serves me right). Peyton Manning started every game of a 3-13 rookie campaign with the Colts and NFL history is littered with future All-Pros struggling from the outset.
Away from the quarterback position, you can go down the starting line-up in the way Roy Cummings did a few weeks back and project who will be back in 2010 and who will not. But these decisions will be based as much on whether a new Collective Bargaining Agreement can be reached between the NFL and the NFLPA, as whether a defender can play the run or pass better.
And when you have a 1-11 record like the 2009 Buccaneers do right now, you actually start paying attention (takes a deep breath before continuing) to what draft pundits like Mel Kiper have to say. All you are looking for now are the top prospects at various positions of need (DE, DT, LB, CB, S, T, G, C, RB, WR, TE, K and P).
But whilst the common hot selection is Nebraska DT Ndamukong Suh, you have to look further than that into a potential draft pick's character, suitability to a system and projection down the road. When you are drafting in the first few picks, you cannot afford to miss (Gaines Adams, Keith McCants or Charles McRae all spring to mind).
And one final point - do you want your team to lose at this point in the season? No coach would ever admit to it or perhaps allow it to happen but think back to the final game of the 1988 season when the Bucs beat the Lions 21-10. Detroit therefore picked ahead of Tampa Bay the following April and took Barry Sanders over Broderick Thomas. Who won that final game therefore?
Paul Stewart, TBO.com, December 2009