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November 14, 2010

Bucs give Panthers reason to hope

TAMPA, Fla. – As he has after so many of the Panthers’ losses this season, left tackle Jordan Gross found the right words to put another disappointing Sunday in perspective.

As he sat pulling on his socks and leather shoes, Gross shared with the media something he said he’s thought about privately several times as the losses have mounted.

“I hope I’m still here when this season pays off because it will at some point,” Gross said.

Gross is signed through the 2014 season. In the NFL, especially the NFC South, turnarounds can happen overnight.

It’s not the rally cry any Panther fan wants to hear: “Wait ‘til next year. Or the year after that. Or sometime before 2014.”

But as Gross said, later there’s not a whole lot else to hang your hat on.

There will be no miraculous turnaround this year. John Fox’s streak of no-worse-than 7-9 finishes will end. Badly.

Look at the schedule and there are, at most, one or two more wins out there. Home against Arizona. At Cleveland? At Seattle?

Maybe the Panthers will catch a break and Atlanta will be resting its starters Jan. 2 while preparing for the playoffs.

The short term looks a little bleak – much like it did last year at this time for the team on the other sideline at Raymond James Stadium.

Tampa Bay was 1-7 at midseason when it threw its rookie quarterback to the wolves for the second half. The Bucs won a couple of games, finished 3-13 and didn’t look like much of a threat to anyone this year.

But the Bucs – who have reclaimed the title of the NFL’s youngest team from the Panthers – are 6-3 and in the playoff hunt because of QB Josh Freeman’s improved play, an opportunistic defense and the contributions of RB LeGarrette Blount and WR Mike Williams, both rookies.

“Until this year I don’t think Josh Freeman was on anybody’s fantasy team. Now he’s out there making some big plays,” Gross said. “Blount is running well and Williams is making some big plays. They’re a young team, as well.”

In six of the seven years since the NFL realigned its divisions, the NFC South champ has gone from worst to first, beginning with the 2003 Panthers.

The Bucs don’t look to have the firepower to overtake Atlanta. But they should at least stay in the playoff picture while giving Carolina fans reason to believe.

Of course, it will help if Jerry Richardson spends more money next year when Fox is gone.

In the meantime, there will be more games like Sunday’s – a few encouraging signs but not enough talent to bring home the W.

“In the long run, we’re going to have some young guys with a lot of experience. That’s what I’m hanging my hat on right now. We’re building a team,” Gross said. “It’s been a rebuilding year. That’s what everybody’s saying, and we’re seeing a little bit of it now. But I think it’s going to pay off.”

--Joseph Person

Posted by Observer Sports on November 14, 2010 at 09:16 PM | Permalink



Posted by: Jerry Richardson | Nov 14, 2010 9:46:10 PM

@Jerry Richardson

Lol the Bucs have the lowest payroll in the league, then the Panthers.

But I agree with Gross all the way. Hopefully with a year of experience, the young players can mature.

Can't wait who Hurney and JR hire as the next head coach.

Hopefully it's a offensive minded coach, who can develp Clausen, Pike, along the receivers.

Whoever hires Fox, you will see the same boring philosophy each and every week with no adjustments at all.

Posted by: adam carter | Nov 14, 2010 10:06:51 PM

“I hope I’m still here when this season pays off because it will at some point,” Gross said.

Amen to that!---you, Beason, and Smith and a few others! That light will shine again and incredibly bright. GO PANTHERS!!!

Posted by: Panther Fan D | Nov 15, 2010 5:55:21 AM

Smokin Joe, if at all possible, try to hold back on the 3 and 13 talk. As a fan, our thought have changed. We don't want to win ANYMORE. If we even look like we're getting close to a win, we need to put jordan gross in at quarter back. If the panthers make any sudden moves at all, it needs to be throwing the ball to smitty on every play to try to get his numbers up so he doesn't leave this team. Personally, if I were in his position of a march toward the hall of fame, a taxi couldn't get me to the bus station quick enough. haha

Posted by: stork302 | Nov 15, 2010 9:51:02 AM

speaking of tampa bay, i see no reason why we shouldn't give a look at josh johnson since he's NEVER going to get a chance to start in tampa. he's got a little more seasoning and a little more physical ability than the other options out there. atleast give him a look.

is there any truth to the toe injury clausen has being as serious as some people have made it out to be? i've seen where he himself has been quoted saying that THAT has a lot to do with his lack of ability to make throws because it's his plant foot but i don't buy it so much. it's kinda like how brett favre is always injured after the team struggles and never before. either way.....this game yesterday was more on davidson and defense than on clausen and the offense. they played reasonably.

Posted by: charlottean | Nov 15, 2010 10:25:50 AM

The Bucs were 0-7 when they threw Freeman "to the wolves." Not 1-7...

Posted by: Phil | Nov 15, 2010 2:06:14 PM


Posted by: dar456 | Nov 15, 2010 3:47:05 PM

Yea this game gave me hope. I hope that the Panthers don't sell out their last home games so I have a legit excuse not to watch the worst team in football. I have Sunday Ticket though, but hopefully it still gets blacked out too. It might be best if there is no football in 2011 for Panthers fans. I don't know if I can take two seasons of this back to back. People stop writing about this team like anyone is even paying attention anymore. I'm out!

Posted by: john | Nov 15, 2010 4:39:11 PM

That future hope is based on a much more progressive coaching strategy and intelligent use of the players along with a very good young NFL QB (not a mediocre college QB no one else wanted) at Tampa Bay.

Youth is not the real problem here. It's just a BS excuse that Fox is using along with the injury report when the season goes sideways again for the 6th time in his 9 seasons.

Without Vanilla Fox Sunday and his No Idea Huddle Offense and a top pick QB next season there is hope for 2011.

Posted by: Sportsdon | Nov 16, 2010 9:56:44 AM

Aqib Talib is now a hero of mine! After that cheap shot on Clifton Smith last year, which ended his career, you should look forward to more hits like that every time we play you. You guys barely qualify as an NFL team. Your coach stinks, as do your players. We will dominate you for years to come. Sorry if the truth hurts.

Posted by: Buccos | Nov 16, 2010 3:07:18 PM

Yeah, you guys are just like the Bucs. Well, without the young franchise QB and the upstart coach and the young power back. Oh, and the 2 future Pro Bowl rookie receivers. No All Pro TE, either. Oh yeah, you don't have any elite corners. Other than that it's eerie how similar these young teams are...

Posted by: Buccos | Nov 16, 2010 6:36:02 PM

Yeah bucco u forgot to mention the black outs to every home game and the not even bucs fans believe in their team

Posted by: panther4life | Nov 16, 2010 8:48:16 PM

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