The late Tom McEwen, sports editor of The Tampa Times from 1958-62 before being named sports editor of The Tampa Tribune in 1962, graced the Tribune sports section with his award-winning column, The Morning After, and his Breakfast Bonus notes columns were a signature offering from the 19-time Florida Sports Writer of the Year. McEwen died in June, 2011 at the age of 88. His wife, Linda, occasionally contributes past columns and exerpts to this blog.
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A lousy day at Raymond James
Posted Dec 14, 2009 by Tom McEwen
Updated Dec 14, 2009 at 01:55 AM
The New York Jets beat the Tampa Bay Bucs 26-3 Sunday before a fine, expectant crowd at Raymond James Stadium, the masses nearly filling the place. And with young Josh Freeman starting at quarterback for the Bucs and the Jets, untouted and limping with injuries, were figured to be underdogs in the heat and sunshine and temperature in the 80s.
That may have been true had the Bucs played as expected. They did not. They were lousy from start to end, surely not a way to get those in the crowd to renew season tickets for next year. They really never competed. They never led. They never made a first down on a third-down opportunity. They simply wasted most of the afternoon trying to run against a New York defense that was unyielding.
When they went to the passing game, Freeman repeatedly threw interceptions or passes too long or too short or misdirected. He really did not have a good day for such a young man with such an opportunity. His first pass was intercepted, the continuation of this terrible habit that we saw begin when he threw a crucial interception to end the last game in a loss.
Freeman is a fine prospect and as big as they come at 6-foot-6 and 240, but he needs a lot of work which I am sure Coach Raheem Morris has in mind, more than ever after Sunday’s performance against a not very good New York team. The Jets seemed bent on losing the game and gave up repeated opportunities, but the Bucs generally wasted those shots, horribly disappointing at this late time in the season.
I am sure a victory would have been of much more comfort to the Malcolm Glazer family, who will soon be offering season tickets for next year. The Bucs have three more games, none of them easy. They go to Seattle, then New Orleans, one of the best teams in the league, then return home for the season ender versus Atlanta Falcons, right now very much in the playoff race. The Bucs are not in the playoff race, a terrible disappointment to Buc fans, who have supported them so well.
It now appears Coach Morris has made young Freeman his chosen quarterback. Fine. The young man seems to have all it takes except experience and whatever it takes to make him understand which is the right receiver to receive his pass. I suppose that must be the crucial ingredient of a fine quarterback after abilities to spin the ball the right distance and right direction and to the right receiver.
Coach Morris picked young Freeman from Kansas State last year to start this season and make him the quarterback of the future. Josh Freeman ended his game a week ago with an interception and started this one with an interception. Interceptions are the bane of quarterbacks.
When the Bucs were about to lose Sunday, generally because of those interceptions, more than one fan said this game reminded them of the very first Buc game ever played with Steve Spurrier at quarterback, and interceptions were the difference in that game as well. I reminded Spurrier, now coach of South Carolina, of that game recently, and he said he hated it then and he hates it now in his memory of that game.
But the interceptions were not the only problem with the Bucs in their loss to New York Sunday. I don’t believe they could have won if they had played a month. The Jets appeared absolutely bent on winning.
The Bucs on this day appeared to be bent on losing. I really think in this game, the players let their coaches down, and each other, and the fans who continue to buy tickets to see them play and cheer for their good deeds. For Tampa it was not a good day for all who belong to the Buccaneer family.