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Tanks take week of 11/30/03


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It Starts at the Top

The key to success for a team, as well as a league starts at the top. Without good ownership or front office personal success on the field is nearly impossible in this day of free agency.

For proof of how important good ownership is one must only look at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. A team that with the exception of a trip to the NFC Championship game in 1979 where the ultimate laughing stock in the NFL starting with them losing their first 26 games from 1976 through the last two games in 1977.

That team was an expansion team, so they had an excuse, but by 1983 they should have been a solvent franchise. Instead they were worse as from 1983-1996 the Bucs posted a losing record every season, which included at least 10 losses in every year except 1995.

Things would begin to change for the Bucs in 1995 when the team was purchased by resterauntier Malcolm Glazer. Within a few year the Bucs who seemed rudderless their first 20 years of existence had a new identity, a new stadium, and a new purpose as they began to become a regular playoff contender.

By 2001 making the playoffs, was not even good enough as Coach Tony Dungy was fired and replaced by Jon Gruden who in his first season guided the Tampa Buccaneers to a Super Bowl Championship. Aggressive and not satisfied with merely contending the Bucs proved how important an owner who wants to win is too claiming a Championship.

 If the old Bucs have a modern day incarnation it has to be the Los Angeles Clippers of the NBA, who have been awful almost from day one after moving from Buffalo to San Diego in 1978.

That first year in San Diego the Clippers posted a 43-39 record and missed the playoffs. With the hopes of becoming a contender they made a blockbuster deal to acquire Bill Walton from the Portland Trailblazers. However Walton would hardly see the floor as injuries limited him to just 169 games over the next 6 seasons as the Clippers began a string of losing seasons, posting losing records in each of their next 5 seasons before sailing north to Los Angeles, when they were purchased by Donald Sterling in 1984.

Things would only get worse after Sterling purchased the team as they went from being a bad NBA team to perhaps the worst franchise in all of professional sports. In 20 years in Los Angeles the Clippers have made the playoff just 3 times never making it out of the opening round, while posting a winning record just 1 time.

In that same time frame the Clippers have finished in last place 12 times, while losing 50 or more games 14 times, which dose not include a 9-41 record which they posted during a 1999 season sliced in half by a 4-month lockout. Among those 14 season of 50 or more losses included are 6 seasons of 60 or more losses, including a humiliating 12-70 record in 1986/87.

Despite all the losing Elgin Baylor has remained head of basketball operations since 1986. Had Owner Donald Sterling cared about winning Baylor would have lost his job a decade ago. Things are now even worse then ever for the Clippers as they are share their arena with the Lakers, in fact their logo kind of looks like the Lakers, if it was a super market the Clippers would be the generic soda nobody likes, but are forced to buy because they are broke, as players like Lamar Odom openly beg to be allowed to leave the team.

It is not good for any league to have any team this bad year after year. However, it is not hopeless for the franchise. If the Clippers ever got new ownership and perhaps their own arena and now fan base, they could quickly catapult themselves into contention. However, as long as the remain second fiddle to the Lakers with a an owner who just cares about profit margins then the Clippers will rest at the bottom of the Pacific.

Some bad owners are a family tradition as the Bidwell family has proven with the NFL Cardinals franchise, which has been a dreadful in three different cities for 70 years. In that period the Cards did win 1 NFL Championship in 1947, but even a blind squirrel finds an acorn every now and then. However, the rest of the numbers do not lie, as over the last 70 years the Cardinals have won a total 2 playoff games, while making the playoffs just 6 times.  

From Chicago to St. Louis to Arizona the Cardinals have posted a winning record just 19 times, including just 1 winning season since moving to the desert in 1988. The only common factor in that time period is the Bidwell family who started with Charles who owned the team from 1933 until his death in 1947. After Charles widow Violent ran the team from 1947 until 1962 the team was taken over by son Bill Bidwell who has been running the club since.

The Cardinals will be getting a new stadium in 2006, it would be for the best of everyone if the Bidwell family did the right thing and sell the franchise so by the time their new stadium opens the Cardinals could have a fresh start with new ownership, and perhaps a new logo and new look so they too can start fresh like the Buccaneers did in 1995, as this formula has already proven to have been successful already.

A commitment to winning is clearly being shown by the Boston Red Sox who stunned all of baseball especially the rival New York Yankees by landing Curt Schilling from the Arizona Diamondbacks. Such aggressive moves can be the difference between ending 85 years of frustration and lamenting over another winter of what could have been.

Weather or not this move works out in a Championship remains to be seen, but one thing for sure the Red Sox front office is showing a determination for winning, that has not been their in the past, and weather it be in 2004, or maybe a few years down the line this attitude will eventually pay off in a World Championship.

It is also setting the stage to take the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry to another level. For years these two teams have been among the most heated rivalries in all of sports. Now its only going to be hotter, as even the cool winter months have not chilled down the intensity that saw these two teams battle tooth and nail all season and in the ALCS.

Make no mistake the Yankees will respond with a big deal or two themselves as the Yanks and Red Sox have clearly separated themselves from the rest of the pack in the American League, the only question will be can they actually win a World Series after such a war, as the Yankees clearly looked to be out of gas playing the Florida Marlins in the World Series after their 7-game classic against the Red Sox this year.

Bravo to the recent trend of coaches in the NFL laying down the law to their teams. The deactivation of Keyshawn Johnson by the Super Bowl Tampa Bay Buccaneers is more then just a wake up call by a struggling team in the midst of a disappointing season. It sends a message that nobody is bigger then team.

For too long Keyshawn Johnson had been a distraction, whining about not getting the football, and when he was a no show at a mandatory practice Coach Jon Gruden had no other choice but to force the star WR to walk the plank. Had Gruden just let that incident slide he would have lost creditability with the team, as none of Keyshawn's teammates rushed to his defense. In fact several Bucs including Rhonde Barber quietly applauded the move.

Truth be told Keyshawn Johnson is not as good as he think he is. He is a good possession receiver but he has never been a big playmaker. Keyshawn was never the difference between winning or losing for the Buccaneers as last year's Super Bowl proved with him not getting a TD, while teammate Keenan McCardell had 2 TD receptions in the Bucs 48-20 win over the Oakland Raiders.

At 5-6 the Buccaneers still have an outside chance at the playoffs especially after beating the New York Giants Monday Night without their self-centered ex-teammate. If some how the Bucs were to run the table and slide into the playoffs Keyshawn Johnson will end up being a bigger loser then he already is. Weather or not the Bucs are able to trade him or have to just release him Keyshawn is going to be shocked when teams are unwilling to offer him a big contract, maybe then he will realize his role and will learn to shut up and let the coach call the plays.

Hero of the Week: Jay Fiedler Miami Dolphins, since taking over as Dolphins starting QB in 2000, no player has been as under appreciated as Fiedler as he has posted a 33-15 record. However, since he was taking over a legend in Dan Marino it seemed as if nothing he did was good enough to satisfy Dolphins fans, who actually were happy to see Brian Griese take over as the starter when Fiedler was injured on October 20th. However after the Dolphins were on their way to their 3rd loss in 5 games with Griese trailing the Washington Redskins at home 23-10 in the 4th Quarter. However amidst a loud roar Fiedler came on in the 4th to rally the Dolphins to a 24-23 win. Fielder and the Dolphins would carry that momentum into Thanksgiving as he carved the number 1 defense in the NFL for 3 TD passes in an impressive 40-21 win over the Dallas Cowboys. If Fielder continues to play like this the Dolphins could be a legitimate threat to win the Super Bowl, and perhaps then people would stop nagging Jay Fiedler for not being Dan Marino and appreciate how efficiently successful he is.

Geek of the Week: Marc Savard of the Atlanta Thrashers who apparently thought Darcy Tucker of the Toronto Maple Leafs was Thanksgiving diner, when he chomped down on Tuckers glove during a fight Thursday Night in Atlanta. True if you rearrange Tucker,s name you get Turkey C Card, which may be a delicacy at the Savard families house, but it still no excuse. I guess Savard who will be serving a 1 game suspension will be calling up Mike Tyson, and Hannibal Lector for meal advice on his night off.

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The Buccs turnaround in  fortunes is truly an example of the difference between good and bad ownership. Turning the leagues standing joke to superbowl champs is a heck of an acievement and whatever direction the current team takes deserves big praise. Even the courage to make a coaching change that wasn't universally popular on any level, from Dungy(a high achieving, minority coach who couldn't quite take his team over the top) to Gruden (an expensive, albeit local native coach, who hadn't taken his team over the top yet either) shows the direction that the 'new' ownership has given the franchise.
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