The “Wisdom” of ESPN
By Patrik Nohe
If you are a discerning Bucs fan and actually read the news-sources who cover them daily and know the team, then you understand that the Bucs are operating as well as any team in football. Over at JoeBucsFan that point was made just earlier today. Think about what Tampa has done so far, they learned the in’s and out’s of the new CBA so thoroughly that they were the first team in the whole league to sign their first round pick.
In a way, that’s actually a small NFL-Milestone, the Bucs signed the first deal with a first round pick under the new rookie cap. There’s a ton of math involved there, the Bucs learned it first, made a good deal and then systematically locked down rookie after rookie, until at the point of this writing, Allen Bradford is the lone player to finish a deal and he’s expected to be in camp tomorrow. The Bucs have also managed to nail down their own free agents and are one of the only teams in football that, due to the expanded 90-man rosters and their cap position, don’t have to cut players to get into camp. Hell, just today on ESPN.com one of the features was about how the Bucs, by-and-far, have the best core of under-25 talent in the NFL.
It seems like just about anyone could look at that and have to say, “fair play to Mark Dominik and the Bucs.” Not so fast. If you turned on ESPN today you heard the brilliant pundits on NFL Live and Sportscenter saying the Bucs are a team in trouble. ‘The Bucs have 50 million dollars to spend and they’re not doing anything’. It’s an example of the broad national brush-strokes of an outfit like ESPN completely missing the nuances of a story.
First of all, unlike ESPN is alleging, the Bucs secondary really isn’t in shambles. Aqib Talib is going to be a Buc in 2011, Trey Wingo seemed unaware, and actually, despite ending the season with one player suspended and several more on IR, the Bucs finished ranked 7th in the whole NFL against opponents’ passing attacks.
They also mentioned Tampa’s linebackers, and yes an upgrade could be had there, but the team is high on Mason Foster and there’s not a whole lot of top-tier linebackers available right now. What does ESPN want Mark Dominik to do? Just pay out the rear for the sake of saying you spent the money?
This is why Bucs fans are asking why the Bucs aren’t spending, because they tune into ESPN and hear them talking about how Tampa is having one of the worst off-seasons, simply because ESPN can’t cover the Bucs (and the Bears who also get lumped in) going on major spending sprees.
And that’s really what it is, ESPN (and pretty much all media) wants a story. And if you can’t provide them with a story then forget you. You either don’t get covered or in some cases they actually vindictively bash a team.
Anybody that knows the philosophy and moves being made in Tampa is aware that the Buccaneers are playing this game the smart way. Mark Dominik is going to focus on his own guys right now. Tomorrow, at 4 PM when teams must cut players or pay them roster bonuses, I’m sure Dominik will look at the newly cut free agents and contact a few. Today the Bucs sent out a feeler on Jonathan Joseph (who later signed with the Texans). They’re active, but they’re not going to just go crazy and start making bad deals either. Not going to reach on players or overpay for marginal talent.
The other, less sexy item that ESPN won’t mention because it makes this all seem much less urgent, is that Mark Dominik has all season to spend the money and get to the salary threshold. He can make the moves mid-season in the event a player goes down with an injury. He can extend players at the end of the year and get up to the threshold that way.
Mark Dominik said it all when he told reporters at his press conference yesterday that it’s ‘not about what we can do now, it’s about who we can keep later’. ESPN said themselves today that Tampa has the best young core in football. Why then, would they begrudge a team for not betting the farm on this year, rather than building something from the ground up?
Because that’s not a sexy story.
The Bucs are doing well this offseason by avoiding the temptation to jump the shark and make some crazy splash. Stick to the blueprint, that’s what has the Buccaneers where they are. That’s what will help them succeed moving forward.