The protégé Greg Schiano welcomed in his mentor of sorts Bill Belichick for two joint practices before Friday nights pre-season game at Ray Jay. One Buccaneer player told me this is a terrific learning experience for a Bucs team that is diligently installing two new systems and working under a completely different culture then years past. It’s extremely evident… when you watch these 2 teams side by side…that one team has been in the same system with the same quarterback and coach for 12 years and the other is a very young NFL team in the infant stage of it’s development. It’s like the raw baller right out of high school basketball trying to play against seasoned NBA pros. The Bucs are not overmatched talent wise…they just have to learn how to play at an elite NFL level where details, synchronicity and mental toughness are the differences between winning and losing. If given some time I have no doubt Schiano can get this team there but to expect the Bucs to play on the Patriots level this season is simply not dealing in reality. That’s not a knock on the Bucs…it’s the way the NFL rolls these days.
I spent a lot of time today asking players about where the Bucs are developmentally compared to the Patriots. You could hear Belichick screaming “it’s the little things…the little things” and Schiano counters with “details, details” but of course the fundamental foundation has to be learned first. Offensively the Bucs are installing a completely new offensive system under former Giants Quarterbacks coach Mike Sullivan. It’s a system where the receivers have options on most every route and the quarterback has to be on the same page. In 2 preseason games we have seen mixed reviews and to watch Brady in practice is to watch a sharpshooter with deadly accuracy and a 98 MPH fastball. He and the Patriots are what the Bucs and all teams aspire to be. Freeman was asked today if he plans on spending any time with Brady or watching him at practice and he basically said his plate is too full. They have a schedule to stick to. Brady was asked about Freeman and said “He’s in the NFC…I don’t see him much” and was very reluctant to comment on Freeman. So be it. New Bucs receiver Tiquan Underwood played with Brady and the Patriots last year. I asked him how the 2 teams offenses compare at this point after spending the day sharing the same practice field.
“Its gonna take time here, especially learning a new system with a new offensive coordinator. We need a lot of reps especially to get at the level they are at. They’ve been doing the same thing for a long time now”
I asked Underwood if the teaching level, complexity and attention to detail is the same in Tampa Bay as Belichick and Brady demand in New England.
“Absolutely, absolutely you have to be on point to play in New England and that’s the way it is here. You have to be on the same page as the Quarterback, I like that. A smarter player is a better player. Everybody knows that’s what New England is all about and we are trying to do that here.”
The Bucs will go back and watch the practice film in the afternoon and the players said it will be tremendously beneficial to learn from. So who won on the field today? Well the media was not allowed to observe practice but based on multiple interviews of players and observers, Josh Freeman had multiple TD throws in the red zone period to Tiquan Underwood, Preston Parker and Dallas Clark. There was one throw where Vincent Jackson and Freeman were not on the same page, Jackson didn’t look for the ball and it was intercepted according to one observer. That’s exactly what we can expect during the regular season….some good stuff and some bad stuff. How quickly they get on the same page is the biggest variable to determine the Bucs success. During Dungy’s first season it took about half the season…so strap in Bucs fans….it may be a rough early ride (Panthers, @Giants,@Dallas)…but in the end it could be well worth the early struggles.
Sports Radio Personality, Emmy winner, founder of Tampa Bay Sports Central.