The Tampa Bay Buccaneers won the Super Bowl just four seasons ago.
Seems longer than that doesn't it?
In the four years since that Super Bowl victory the Bucs have gone 27-37 and are coming off an especially dismal 4-12 campaign. So what has gone wrong? There are a number of possible answers to that question, but one answer has come to the forefront in the past day after the Bucs cut Simeon Rice. Rice was one of the five defensive stars on Tampa's Super Bowl winning team, along with Derrick Brooks, Ronde Barber, John Lynch, and Warren Sapp. Rice is also the third casualty of that group, along with Lynch and Sapp. Both of those players have gone on to make Tampa look foolish by continuing to perform at a high level for their new teams. Will Rice continue that trend?
Consider this; Rice had a shoulder injury that should have sidelined him the entire season. Instead of sitting out though, he played eight mostly ineffective games and only amassed two sacks. So after one injury shortened season the Bucs demanded that Rice take a pay cut, or they would release him. He said no, and they cut him. Never mind the fact that Rice 1.) has the second most sacks of any active player and 2.) had turned in five consecutive seasons with 11 sacks or more for the Bucs prior to last year. Have the Bucs learned nothing from how the Lynch and Sapp situations turned out?
Even worse that the prospect of Rice continuing to perform well for another team though, is the damage that the move has done to the team's morale. Just take a look at this qoute;
"[Derrick] Brooks was almost in tears," said Rice, who ran into the Bucs long-standing weakside linebacker in the hotel parking lot just minutes after being told of his fate.
The Bucs players are scared now. Don't believe me? Just ask their punter;
"Shocker, eh?" punter Josh Bidwell said. "I'd better play well because nobody is safe. I'm as shocked as you are."
The obvious question now is whether or not the Bucs made the right move. My gut feeling is that the answer is a resounding "No". An elite pass rusher like Rice doesn't just lose it after one injury. I'd be willing to wager that Rice will get snatched up by another team quickly (Washington...please?), and will make the Bucs rue the day they decided to cut an aging defensive star for money concerns.
It didn't really change their thinking the first two times it happened, did it?