So did the Buccaneers ruin your Christmas Eve festivities? If you had to gut through the shibacle in Carolina you probably came up with a few conspiracy theories. Some of them are well known, others you may not know. Here's 10 conspiracy theories we think we learned over the weekend.
Now, the obligatory disclaimer: we do not claim any of these conspiracy theories are actually going on - however in every theory there could be just the slightest shred of truth. Just like the moon landing, Area 51 and JFK - we have our own magic bullet in regards to current calamity of the Bucs situation.
How did we get here?
What will happen in the near future?
It's all here, folks. We think. Maybe not...but it should be fun anyway.
1. Joel and Bryan Glazer were woken in Manchester, England by cries of Bucs fans, to which they replied, "Why is our savings and loan making such a ruckus, don't they know we have to get our thirty winks so we can make a play for that striker?"
We don't think this one's true but it's still very disturbing that since 2003, when the Glazers purchased United, they've spent the least money on talent of any team in the NFL. After 2008, they fired their high priced coach Jon Gruden and hired defensive backs coach Raheem Morris for an amount that was less than some offensive coordinators in the league make.
The fact that the Bucs shed most of their pro scouting personnel while they saddled Mark Dominik and Raheem Morris with the mantra of "build through the draft" doesn't bode well, either.
Of course, the first season the Glazers let Dominik pursue some high profile free agents who um, didn't quite work out.
2. The Glazers want to spend millions on free agents but are afraid to pull the trigger because of the team's recent record with veteran free agents.
In a sense, can you blame the Glazers for not wanting to spend money on free agents? Look at the all-pro roster of rejects their "braintrust" has brought them over the past four years.
In Bruce Allen and Jon Gruden's last couple seasons they signed:
2007: Jeff Garcia, Jeramy Stevens, Luke Petitgout, Matt Lehr, Cato June, Patrick Chukwurah and Jeremiah Trotter.
2008: Brian Griese, Warrick Dunn (after his stint with the Falcons), Antonio Bryant, Jeff Faine, Matt McCoy and Kevin Carter.
After their dismissal, Mark Dominik and Raheem Morris were given an opportunity to prove themselves and produced:
2009: Traded for Kellen Winslow, Jr., Byron Leftwich, Derrick Ward, Mark Bradley, re-signed Michael Clayton to a huge contract, Mike Nugent, Tim Carter, Angelo Crowell, Niko Koutouvedes, and Bo Ruud. The Bucs also put out the best contract offer for top free agent Albert Haynesworth (who turned them down because "the area is too pretty").
2010: Sean Jones, E.J. Wilson and Alex Magee.
Would you trust these guys with your millions?
3. The Glazers made a secret pact with Jon Gruden - show the fanbase how bad it can get, then have Gruden come back on his white horse to save the franchise.
The Bucs' fanbase, frustrated with no progress in the post-season, lack of youth to build for the future and the rumors that the coach was being two-face to his players developing a level of mistrust that caused him to "lose the team", demanded Gruden's head on a platter.
They got it - but it turned into a "be careful what you wish for" scenario. Fans now have gotten to see what really happens when a coach loses a team. It's not pretty.
We don't think Gruden's coming back but you have to wonder if some opinions around town have changed on his coaching ability and leadership.
One thing is certain - the defense was never this bad under his watch and the offense while plodding and frustrating didn't give it up like an Amsterdam escort.
There's reports surfacing that Gruden might return next season. Hmmmm.
4. Bill Cowher refused to come to the "oldest roster in the NFL" and demanded the Bucs inject youth before taking over.
We doubt the Glazers ever made the phone call to Bill Cowher when the job came open. If they did, they promptly hung up the phone when they found out his price tag.
With that said, you have to wonder how attractive the Bucs looked to Cowher at the time. No quarterback, an old team that needed a complete overhaul. It was something that would take a little time and that's not what a coach like Cowher, who has his choice of locations, would want to involve himself in.
Are they attractive now? Maybe. They have a quarterback (yes, we think Freeman can be salvaged and has shown enough to believe he can be the guy). There's under utilized or under performing talent at the offensive skill positions and talent on both lines of scrimmage.
That's a nice base to build with.
5. The Glazers wanted the wow factor with Cowher but because of his contract demands and the fact they were still paying Gruden not to coach, they just couldn't pull it off.
There's probably truth to this. Let's face it, Jon Gruden was compensated pretty well. The fact that he decided that he would work in television until the checks stopped coming from One Buc Palace certainly didn't help. Once Bruce Allen got a gig with the Redskins, the Glazers were off the hook for him.
With Gruden off the books after this season, the door is open for the Glazers to bring back the wow factor.
6. The Glazers will keep Raheem because they are just siphoning money.
It's certainly been quietly floated to see the reaction of the community that Raheem could be back with new coordinators. The response? Negative to say the least. While the fanbase was up in arms over Jon Gruden, we haven't seen this type of vitriol for a head coach since Richard Williamson, another assistant who was a nice guy but a terrible head coach.
At this point, we would be absolutely shocked if the Glazers brought back Morris. There's just no way you can sell that to your fanbase. Its one thing to struggle through some growing pains - its another to have your team quit on you half way through the season, losing 10 straight games and suffering double digit losses in 7 of the last 9 (assuming the trend continues in Atlanta).
Even if the Bucs defeat the Falcons (or more accurately, Atlanta's backups), it shouldn't be enough to save Morris.
Morris himself admits the 2010 10-6 season was done with "smoke and mirrors". When the coach says they lucked their way to a winning season that was sandwiched around two of the worst Bucs seasons in a decade, it's time to send him packing.
7. The Glazers are purposely sandbagging the Bucs to kill attendance and move the franchise to London.
I don't buy this one. First off, the NFL knows the Tampa market will support the team if the product is on the field. There was once a 100,000 person waiting list for season tickets (if you believe the hype) for this team during the Super Bowl contending years. Spend some money, pull in a profile coach and a few big name free agents - show the fans you still care and they'll return.
Second, we all know TV money drives the NFL. The networks do not benefit from a franchise in Europe. It doesn't help with ratings or advertisers and losing a top 15 U.S. television market for London certainly wouldn't make the TV folks happy.
Third, the Glazers have one of the most ludicrously beneficial leases in the NFL. They're making money hand over fist whether the stadium has 65,000 or 40,000 butts in seats.
8. Raheem Morris is to close to the players, he's been out partying with the guys and wants to be "one of the guys", losing the head coach-player dichotomy.
We don't know if it's true or not that Morris has been out partying with his players. We've heard whispers to that effect but the problem with these types of things is if you don't see it yourself, it's hard to take it at face value.
The truth is, though, he has been to close to the players. When he was a position coach, it might have been fine for him to allow the players to call him "Rah". As soon as he became head coach - he needed to separate himself from that.
Yes, we understand you don't want guys to think you've "changed" because you have new responsibilities - but the truth is - he had to change. There's a level of respect that is commanded by the head coach. If the players don't respect the man in charge - they won't listen or buy into what he's selling when things go swirly.
Morris should have laid down the law that things have changed. Instead, the inmates have been running the asylum for some time now. While they were winning, you could turn a blind eye to it. With the team losing and having quit on their coach, it's reared it's ugly head.
9. The Glazers didn't want to fire Morris but know they have to make a move - they'll look for the cheapest option available.
Obviously, the Glazers don't want to fire Morris but the uproar of what's left of the fanbase dictates his dismissal. It's quite possible they'll look at the price tag of the Cowher, Billick and Fisher's of the world and decide to go for a young coordinator or college coach.
At the same time, the Bucs are at a critical juncture with their fanbase. It's one thing for them to be upset with the direction of the team. It's entirely another for them to stop caring. Calls to sports radio have decreased along with the attendance. There's more discussion on the Rays (who have their own attendance problems) and the Lightning rather than the Bucs.
The Glazers need to show their fans that they care or the fans themselves won't have a reason to.
10. The Bucs are an unattractive job to any prospective coach.
I don't believe the Bucs are as unattractive a job as some have perpetuated. Sure, there's a lot of work to be done before this team can contend for a Super Bowl - but it's not as dire as some would make you believe.
They'll have a high draft pick this season. Plus, in 2013 - the Glazers must reach the salary floor. There's no weaseling their way out of it. It's dictated by the CBA that each team will be at the floor by 2013. While they've talked about rewarding players, it's difficult to see any current Bucs players that will deserve a huge pay raise that season.
So money will be made available for free agency to make up for the draft blunders.
Further, you have Freeman. While he's regressed badly this season, he has already shown the ability to play at a Pro Bowl level in this league, he's also shown the meddle to win games in the fourth quarter and has the big arm, size and mobility all coaches drool over. Moreover, he's got two and half years of playing experience and he's just 23 years old.
There are some options at the offensive skill positions with Mike Williams and LeGarrette Blount. The Bucs have a veteran offensive line and a young, talented defensive line.
A few well placed free agents at critical positions and this team could really begin to make a rapid turn around. With the windows for both New Orleans and Atlanta coming to a close, it could set up the Bucs and Panthers are the kings of the NFC South for quite some time.