You know, I really shouldn’t be surprised. It happens every single year in the NFL. Some veteran player, some face of the team, gets whacked going into free agency. Fans are left wringing their hands and wondering why and teams are stonefaced and “it’s business” about it. They don’t call it the Not For Long League for nothing. Jerry Rice went to the Raiders. Joe Montana was a Chief. Legends go on, usually don’t live up to our memories, and fade into the sunset. I’ve seen it happen. I really didn’t think I’d see it happen with Derrick Brooks.
It’s not like the Bucs haven’t done this before. They let Sapp & Lynch go with nary a qualm. And at the time I wasn’t that bothered. I understood the business of it, the money being a big part of it, their ages being another. Lynch got the last word by having a few more productive years in Denver. Sapp didn’t really kill in Oakland, but now he’s on TV where he’s always belonged, so all is well there. They were part of the Big Three in Tampa; Sapp was mouth, Lynch was the brain and Brooks was the heart. I could live without the mouth. The brain was good but could be replaced. The heart though? I just can’t imagine this team without him.
In their press conference today, new coach Raheem Morris and GM Dominik emphasized over and over that this move was not about age or money. Um. Okay. Well it damn well better not be about money, since we were already $55 million under the cap. Now we’re $65 million under it, and that money damn well better get spent and spent wisely. I’m not going to support a team that’s just about cutting cost. I’d root for the Marlins if I were about that. I want a team that goes that extra mile and tries to win. I don’t know if releasing these players is about winning. It doesn’t much feel like it now.
Derrick Brooks played for the Bucs for 14 years. He went to the Pro Bowl 11 times. He was defensive player of the year in 2002. His skills may have diminished in recent years, I can’t deny that. But his smarts didn’t. His heart didn’t. A big part of Derrick’s excellence wasn’t his speed, it was his intelligence. He could read plays with the best of them. He anticipated where that ball was going to go and he got there. I watched him chase down players like Michael Vick, who should have blown by him. That intelligence is still there, he still reads that field as well as anybody.
The way they spoke, it sounds as if the Bucs are changing their style of defense. Maybe Derrick wouldn’t fit in anymore. Maybe it’s better for him that he’s on the way out and can find somewhere else where he’ll fit in. In a day or two I may feel that way. Today I don’t though. Today I feel like my team let my favorite player down. He’s given them everything, he stood by them through several shitty moves and this time he’s on the other end of it. It’s hard to digest that.
I was not overly thrilled with the regime change last month. It wasn’t that I disagreed that maybe a change was needed, but I had a bad feeling about the veteran players on the team. Sure enough, that feeling was dead on. I wish I had been wrong. I don’t usually like to be wrong but this time out I would have taken it gladly.
Regardless of how I feel, there’s nothing I can do about it. The Bucs have made their choice and we all have to stand back and see what comes next. They avoided using the “rebuilding” word but that’s what they’re doing. Maybe in a couple of years that’ll pay off. Right now it sucks. I don’t see why Derrick couldn’t have finished his career with the Bucs. He could have been more coach than player at this point. Maybe that wouldn’t have made him happy. Wherever he ends up, I will continue to support him. He was the player that brought me to the Bucs (along with Dunn, another casualty of today’s blood letting) and I will follow him wherever he goes.
According to the Bucs, today wasn’t about money. It wasn’t about age. It would have been nice if it could have been about heart. But it’s business. It’s always business. Sometimes it just shouldn’t be.