The Critical 'I'

Read. React. Repeat.

Sunday, March 21, 2004

GOODBYE, WARREN
qb killa-less
Well, it's happened. A little over a week after turning up the heat in his search for a contract, Warren Sapp leaves the Bucs for Oakland's $36.6-million, 7-year deal. Thus does Tampa Bay lose one of the most entertaining and impactful athletes to ever come through town.

The move to the Raiders was a surprise, with most observers as late as yesterday morning figuring Sapp would go to Cincinnati. Despite the two clubs' histories, I think the Bengals would have been a better team to join, as they appear to be in more of an upward trend than the discombobulated Raiders. But you never can tell with NFL teams these days; Oakland might end up being the better club next year, or the year after.

John Romano's column pretty well matches my feelings about Sapp's departure. I think it was a good move for the Bucs in the longer term, but for the immediate future, going with Ellis Wyms as a replacement doesn't exactly instill me with confidence.

In looking back over Sapp's career (check out the photo of Sapp in a Devil Rays uniform!), I'm surprised it hasn't been pointed out how improbable the circumstances were that allowed Tampa Bay to draft him in the first place. When he skipped his senior year at Miami to enter the 1995 Draft, he was projected as one of the top five picks that year, even a possible No. 1 overall to the first-year Carolina Panthers. Then a few days before Draft Day, his positive test for marijuana came out, and speculation went wild: Was he a junkie? Did he demonstrate poor judgement in getting caught, which would reflect on his ability to play in the NFL? The upshot is that Carolina traded the No. 1 pick to Cincinnati, who took Ki-Jana Carter there. Expansion Jacksonville took Tony Boselli at No. 2, and the next nine teams in order also passed on Sapp, scared off solely by the positive pot results. When Tampa Bay got on the clock with the twelfth pick, they snapped him up, incredulous that he was still available. The rest, of course, is history. Sapp is rightly credited with being a major component of the Bucs' rise to respectability, yet his arrival was largely the result of dumb luck.