The Critical 'I'

Read. React. Repeat.

Wednesday, November 19, 2003

THROWING AWAY THE KEY
all played out suckaneers
When you're 4-6, a drastic move is expected. The Super Bowl champion Bucs did just that yesterday by deactivating receiver Keyshawn Johnson for the rest of the season and telling him to stay home.

The only reaction I have is, where are Keyshawn's catches going to go now? For all the news he'd make over complaining about getting only one catch in a game, there are plenty of other games where he'd get the ball a lot. So far this season, he's led the team in receptions in three out of ten games, including 10 grabs for 123 yard against the Saints on Nov. 2 (a 17-14 loss). Call him a cancer all you want, but it's going to be hard to replace him in the middle, even with Joe Jurivicius back now from injury (and tabbed as Keyshawn's replacement in the slot).

It's hard not to see this as making Keyshawn the scapegoat for what's turning into a dismal season. He's the vocal one, he's the one who's always complaining, and he likely was going to be gone after this season regardless. However, if the Bucs don't make any other moves, in areas that are looking like much bigger problems--the defense's inability to protect a lead, the special teams' ineptness--then it looks pretty bad from their side.

While this move is making the national rounds, and will continue to do so through this weekend and beyond, the coverage from the St. Petersburg Times offers some very good inside perspective. Most of the stories are on the Bucs coverage page; however, since I can't find an archive-ready version of today's edition, I'll list out the stories below:

- Q&A on what exactly the Bucs did and why, including why they didn't just release Keyshawn outright (the NFL trade deadline passed in October, by the way);

- Columnist Gary Shelton on who's side of the story you believe--Coach Jon Gruden's or Keyshawn's;

- Reaction from the Buccaneer players, who mostly weren't tremendously surprised (note the reference to how similar this is to former Cleveland Browns receiver Kevin Johnson getting released last week; he's since been picked up by the Jacksonville Jaguars);

- Various statements from both Gruden and Keyshawn from the preseason (July 2003) to earlier this month, referring to their working relationship, including Keyshawn's feather-ruffling statement about how Bill Parcells was the best coach he ever played for;

- Reaction roundup from the Bucs and other sources, including ESPN, NFL Network, and Keyshawn's agent;

- What the Bucs' receiving corps now looks like, barring any further moves;

- The official statement from One Buc Place;

- Finally, the online consequence of this news bombshell, as Buccaneers.com got swamped with more hits than ever before, including during the Super Bowl run.