COMMENTARY | It's that glorious time of year once again. The air is crisp and arguably the most exciting few weeks in sports have arrived, the NFL playoffs. Even if your team hasn't made the postseason, as a football fan, you can still sit back and enjoy the competition, the battle, the greatness that is the NFL playoffs. This is all true, unless of course you live in Tampa Bay. In Tampa the air is not crisp, it's actually in the low 80s and Bucs fans can't help but sit miserably as three former Tampa Bay Buccaneers players have a huge impact in the playoffs: LeGarrette Blount, Aqib Talib, and Michael Bennett.
In 2013, the Bucs traded running back LeGarrette Blount to the New England Patriots for Jeff Demps and a seventh round draft pick in the 2013 draft. Fast forward to January 11, 2014, Blount rushes for 166 yards and a franchise record four touchdowns leading the Patriots to a 43-22 win over the Indianapolis Colts and a trip to the AFC Championship game. Yes, there were some past character issues, and Doug Martin had taken full control of the starting job, but did the Bucs really need to trade Blount? A running back like Blount might have helped lessen the workload for Martin throughout the season, and could have filled in quite nicely in the wake of Martin's season ending injury. Now, the guy we pretty much gave away to the Patriots just scored four touchdowns in a divisional playoff game.
Also helping the Pats was former Buccaneers cornerback Aqib Talib. In 2012, the Bucs traded Talib and a seventh round draft pick for a 2013 fourth round draft selection from the Patriots. Immediately, there was talk amongst Bucs fans that this was a bad move and many NFL analysts immediately marked it as a steal for Patriots head coach Bill Belichick. Critics of Talib argued that with his long history of arrests, fines, and suspensions, he was a liability for the Bucs. But even if you didn't like him, or even if you thought he really was only worth a fourth round pick, you just had to feel nauseous watching him shut down T.Y. Hilton, the Colts' main weapon, with ease. And if you've been keeping up with the Patriots at all this season, you already know that this isn't the first time that Talib has had big games against top receivers. He has completely shut down stars like Jimmy Graham, Roddy White, and Vincent Jackson. On top of that, he's totaled 41 tackles and four interceptions for the season. Not too shabby for a guy who's only worth a fourth round pick. As a note, he was a first round pick for the Buccaneers in 2008. Smash your head on a table yet? Don't worry, it gets worse.
If watching Talib continue to have big games for the Pats this postseason doesn't make you as a Bucs fans cry little bit, then seeing Michael Bennett wreak havoc on the field for the Seattle Seahawks still must make you weep like a baby. In 2013, the Buccaneers chose not to resign Bennett and instead he signed a $4 million, one year deal with the Seahawks as an unrestricted free agent. Late in the season, Bennett has become a force to be reckoned with and this Sunday he had a monster game against the New Orleans Saints. Bennett finished the game with six tackles, two forced fumbles, a fumble recovery, and a shared sack. When watching him play this weekend, you couldn't help but think, "How did we let this guy go?" And every time his name got called for another big play, it was like a dagger to the heart of Bucs fans. By the end of the Seahawks 23-15 victory over the Saints, Bucs fans were all but bleeding to death.
It's okay though, because Da'Quan Bowers has become the second round, every-down defensive end that Bucs fans expected him to be, so getting rid of Bennett was completely worth it. Oh yeah, that's not true at all. You can make arguments for trading Blount and Talib, but letting Bennett walk just seems like an inexcusable blunder.
As they say, hindsight is 20/20, but isn't that the thing that the Glazers paid Mark Dominik good money to ensure didn't happen? That probably factors into why he was recently fired. Whether or not the Bucs should have parted ways with Blount, Talib, and Bennett, you can't help but deny the feelings of frustration, sadness, and queasiness that came with watching those three former Buccaneers play star roles in this weekend's NFL Divisional Playoffs. If any of these three players have repeat performances in the upcoming Championship games, don't be surprised to see increased numbers of Tampa citizens rushed to Tampa General Hospital for extreme nausea, vomiting, chest pain, and possible suicide attempts.
Michelle Sassouni lives in Tampa, FL and graduated from the University of South Florida with a B.A. in Communications. She has been involved in the Tampa Bay sports community for 18 years. Follow Michelle on Twitter @msassouni
- Sports & Recreation
- American Football
- Aqib Talib
- NFL playoffs
- LeGarrette Blount
- Doug Martin