TAMPA — It was the face of a losing season.
Gerald McCoy's tearful, contorted face.
Up there on the video boards at Raymond James Stadium. On your TV screen. Everywhere.
"I'm not a quitter," McCoy said. "I don't play to lose."
The Bucs lost their ninth game of this disastrous season Sunday, a game, but hapless 24-21 loss to the Detroit Lions....
TAMPA — It was football weather, cool, crisp, a day for the Bucs and their fans. That explains the crowd. Stow the zinc oxide. Where's my muff?
Oh, and break out the record book.
For the 28th time in their 42-year history, the Bucs are losers. They secured their ninth loss of 2017 by dropping one to the Lions, 24-21. Hard Knocks was long ago replaced by harder reality, and the ninth loss clinched it, despite a roaring comeback, despite Leonard Wester, touchdown machine, plus five turnovers and rumors of a troubled relationship between quarterback Jameis Winston and head coach Dirk Koetter....
TAMPA — His team was in Ann Arbor, practicing. He was signing footballs in Tampa.
Yet another Jim Harbaugh fun fact.
"I can't be in two places at once," Harbaugh said.
Not that Harbaugh wouldn't try it if he could. College football's firestarter, its biggest scene stealer and most polarizing figure, has been everywhere with his team, including a visit to Italy last offseason, where Harbaugh presented Pope Francis with a Michigan football helmet. Has any man ever put his school's brand in more places across the globe? Coming soon: The Mars shot....
TAMPA — Are you going? What time? We're going. Don't we have to go? Who else is going?
The talk ran through the town like a main circuit.
There has never been a win like it in sports history, certainly not Bucs history, including the night the 2002 Bucs won the Super Bowl.
The 2017 Bucs are curling into their now annual fetal ball. No one knows what the end of this tunnel will look like. No one knows if the quarterback will keep his job or if the head coach will keep his....
Start the bus.
When embracing Willie Taggart, Florida State head football coach, we'd do well to consider Willie Taggart, USF head football coach.
It's easy to do. I think it was like 20 minutes ago.
Never count this guy out.
I've seen Willie Taggart with one foot in the grave. I've seen him with two feet in the grave, a dead-end coach in a dead-end job.
Now he's out to save Florida State....
Jameis Winston didn't offer a pep talk for his teammates before Sunday's game at Green Bay. That or TV didn't show it.
A good call either way.
Winston is back at work.
But can he save Dirk Koetter's job?
It is a perfectly reasonable question at this losing season lurches to its conclusion. Koetter's future rests in Jameis Winston's hands — yes, the same hands that turned that fumble Sunday it into a Lambeau Leap....
TALLAHASSEE — On the 12th game of Jimbo …
The tree. We'll always have the Christmas tree. Jimbo Fisher left it to us, or at least for the sanitation men Friday morning in Tallahassee, in front of his soon-to-be former home. He should have put his 5-6 record out for the trash, too.
The tree was scooped up by an FSU fan who later spoke with the Tallahassee Democrat, identifying himself as Matt S....
TAMPA — Of course you play him.
There are people who think the Bucs should sit Jameis Winston, healthy or no, beginning Sunday at Green Bay, and shut him down for the rest of this lost season.
Do they have cheese for brains?
Ryan Fitzpatrick did a fine job.
Winston is the starting quarterback.
He needs the work. Oh, does he need the work. He needs to get better. He needs wins. The only way those things happen is for him to play games, see more defenses, make more decisions, good or bad....
Just go already.
Fill your saddlebags with money and ride off to Texas A&M.
That's what I'd tell Jimbo Fisher if I was a Florida State fan.
I'd get my butt down there, too, and say it to his face.
Thanks for the national title. Thanks for Jameis. You have given FSU a lot of history in eight seasons. But Jimbo is worn out in Tallahassee, and FSU is worn out, too, and not just because of Fisher's past flirtations with LSU....
GAINESVILLE — Dan Mullen is just 45 years old, but he has already spent nine years as a head coach in the Southeastern Conference. Think about that.
And this: The guy stayed in Starkville for nine years.
He dug in. There was stability.
Monday, when Mullen was introduced as the 27th head football coach in Florida history, he talked about the excitement he felt that first day as Mississippi State head coach. Then he sat in his new office. One thing hit him....
Danny, if you think of it, bring a quarterback.
Dan Mullen might not create a buzz like Chip Kelly. He's not the hottest new name in college football coaching like Scott Frost.
But Florida has made a solid choice to again lay a foundation, especially on offense, exactly what's needed in Gainesville after the unwatchable McElwain saga.
Who needs buzz? Find a quarterback. Coach a quarterback....
ORLANDO — Now it's a rivalry.
We had talked all week about what it would take to turn USF-UCF into a real rivalry, because it's too young to be one. Not enough history. What would it take?
It took Friday.
It took UCF 49, USF 42.
It took nonstop drama, up and down, back and forth, two teams refusing to give in. It took a packed stadium that shook from the fans. It took unending emotion....
TAMPA — They're perfect. They're supposed to win. They have everything to lose. We can take everything they have.
That's the speech I'm giving my Bulls if I'm USF coach Charlie Strong.
Today is the biggest game in USF football history. It's 9-1 USF at 10-0 UCF. I never thought I'd say UCF is the biggest game in USF history. I never thought UCF would be king of the hill.
But that's exactly who the 13th-ranked Knights are today. They're the ones that are sizzling. They're the ones who are perfect. UCF coach Scott Frost is the hottest name in coach-hiring not named Kelly....
TAMPA — It's the biggest football game in USF history.
It's two days and 90 miles away. USF at UCF. The 9-1 Bulls against the 10-0 Knights. It's USF coach Charlie Strong against UCF/Florida/Nebraska coach Scott Frost. It's the best these two programs have ever been at the same time.
Forget that unsightly disturbance in Gainesville on Saturday.
USF-UCF is the game.
If this is ever going to be a true rivalry, it starts Friday....
ST. PETERSBURG — It isn't easy avoiding The Jameis Winston mess.
But it's worth a try. If only to see some thin shafts of light.
It's worth considering that the 2017 Bucs, their death certificate already signed, have shown signs of life. Okay, near life. They've won two in a row, including their first road win. They're 4-6, not 2-8.
It's a long way from Hard Knocks and preseason glory. But there are shafts of light....