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Buc’Em Interview With St. Petersburg Times Sports Columnist Gary Shelton

Assuming that you’re a Tampa Bay Buccaneers fan and live within the Tampa, FL metro area, then certainly you’re familiar with Gary Shelton. In case you’re not, a little primer here for you. Shelton is the lead sports columnist and NFL writer for the St. Petersburg Times; he has been in that capacity for around 20 years. He has been in the journalism biz for around 26 years, so he obviously knows his stuff.

In any event, he sat down for an interview with Niko Houllis of Buc’ and as the following excerpts will indicate, he obviously has lots to say:

Q: You worked the football scene in Miami. What was it like covering the Dolphins at a time when Dan Marino was in his prime?

Marino was a gas. He was one of those rare edge-of-the-seat players who made every play worth watching. No one had a quicker release, or a bigger streak of competitiveness, that Dan had. He had the arrogance that a lot of great players have, but I’ve always said this: Dan was the same guy he would have been if he was playing third base in a beer softball league. I liked him, even if he did work to make sure he gave the dullest quotes in America. When you saw a competitor talking to Dan, you never had to worry about what was being said.

Q: Did Don Shula change his game to a pass heavy attack because of Dan? 

Yes, he did. We used to ask why he wouldn’t get a running game going — this was the guy who coached Csonka and Kiick, remember — and he would say “why would you ever take it out of Dan Marino’s hands?
But the tragedy about Marino is that his career was in reverse. He was drafted by a team that was in the Super Bowl the year before, so when he came in he had a good — but aging — defense and a good — but aging — offensive line. And so in Marino’s best years, the team was never good enough to make a run.

Q: Reading old Times articles, you can see the Gators under Coach Charlie Pell start to become the basis of a dominant College football program, and a dynasty that Spurrier would begin. Do you see any similarities with the USF Bulls?

I think the Bulls can be successful, but no, I don’t see a lot of similarities with Florida. The Gators are always going to be the mansion on the hill in this state. They have more alums, more money, more tradition. They’re the kid with all the advantages?

USF, on the other hand, is Rocky. It’s the tough, audacious kid coming up the hard way. They can be successful, but no one is ever going to hand them anything. They’ll never win because they’re richer, or because the deck is stacked in their favor. There is something admirable about that.

Q: I love telling people about sam wyche’s 5 dash 2, where he throws his teams 5-2 record in the media’s face, then of course it turns into 5-5 and 7-9! Why do you think Sam Wyche had such a problem with Tampa Bay media? Can you recall a favorite Sam Wyche story?

Sam had problems, mainly, because he didn’t win enough. With every coach, it comes down to that. Frankly, I like Sam. To this day, I like him. He’s funny and bright. But as a coach, he had no consistency. He was going to change everything, every week, from what day the players had off to who was the tailback to why the team was losing. He was going to practice halftime, or pull Dilfer in the middle of a rare good game by Dilfer, or storm off the field in the middle of practice.

I used to joke that I loved one of Sam’s 17 personalities, but you couldn’t count on getting it.

My favorite Sam story? It’s probably the one where he kept the media in his press conference – the locker room is supposed to be open at that point by league rules — so he could rail about man’s inhumanity to man “during this season of lights.” It was real Captain Queeg stuff. It ought to be on one of those Coors commercicals where they use press conference playoffs.

The other one was this. The Times ran a story once saying Sam was losing his team. Sam jumped the writer the next week in the middle of a press conference, suggesting the story had harmed his mother, who had cancer. The writer (no, it wasn’t me) foolishly approached Sam after the press conference to say that wasn’t fair. So Sam starts telling the writer what a s— he is, saying it over and over. The writer holds up his tape recorder, and Sam starts to whisper, as if he can say it too quietly for the recorder. And the p.r. director jumps in and starts to wrestle the writer for the tape recorder like Rosey Grier taking the gun away from Sirhan Sirhan.

Again, I like Sam. I see him, and he throws his arms around me, and I probably criticized him harder than I have any coach here. He’s had throat surgery, as you probably know, and his vocal chords were damaged. That cost him a great career in broadcasting.

Q: Speaking of the Bucs, What do you see as wrong with the Bucs?

How much space do you have? A lot is wrong, right up to everything. They haven’t drafted well over the years, and it’s been a long time since an impact player arrived. At some point, they were going to have to reboot and start over.

Most fans I know are fine with that, IF the plan works. But so far, there is no real indication it is. The botched hire of Jeff Jagodzinski is an indication. Signing a free agent quarterback who doesn’t make it to week four is an indication. Changing a defense and not changing more personnel is an indication. What? DId the Bucs really think they had that many answers on their bench?

This is going to take some work, Nick. It’s going to have to start with the owners spending more money. There has to be more nurturing and progress of young players.

I know Rich McKay is a controversial figure on the blogs, but he said something wise when he was here. “You don’t need the best plan in the world, but you need a plan, and you need to stick to it.”

Right about now, that needs to be hung over the Glazers’ doorway.

To view of the rest of the interview, please click here.

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