In a fortuitous twist of fate, The Morning Show with Tiki Barber and Dana Jacobson – Brandon Tierney was off today – was somehow able to book Ronde Barber for an interview.
“My PR person is really good and promised me innumerable favors to talk with this crazy crew,” Ronde joked.
Ronde, of course, is Tiki’s twin brother.
Tiki opened by asking Ronde, who recently retired from the NFL, if he’s mentally prepared to not play football for the first time in more than a quarter of a century and if he’s excited about his new challenge as a FOX NFL analyst.
“I love how Tiki asks me questions like he doesn’t know me,” Ronde said, laughing.
“No, I am excited. It’s kind of what I’ve been gearing to do for the last couple of years for whatever reason. For many reasons, football was going to end – whether I got old, or they didn’t want me anymore, or I didn’t want it anymore. So I kind of had this in mind and ended up at the place I wanted to be. I can’t tell you how anxious I am at times and how excited I am at other times. But I’m looking forward to it.”
Ronde spent his entire 16-year career with Tampa Bay, and the conversation shifted to his expectations for the Buccaneers this season.
“I liked the team last year,” Ronde said. “I thought we had a chance at one point last year to make a run, and Josh Freeman looked like the best quarterback in the league. And then we followed that up with a pretty miserable losing streak – I think six games before we beat Atlanta.”
Actually, it was five games. The Bucs started the season 2-4, won four straight to climb to 6-4 and then lost five straight before beating Atlanta in the season finale. They finished 7-9 and in a three-way tie for second with Carolina and New Orleans in the NFC South.
Ronde offered a simple prediction for the Bucs in 2013: They’ll go as far as Josh Freeman takes them.
The 25-year-old has shown flashes of excellence in his brief career, but he’s also shown flashes of Mark Sanchez. Tampa Bay was 6-7 last year before Freeman threw four interceptions in back-to-back games; the Bucs lost those games to New Orleans and St. Louis by a combined 56 points.
“Josh has his moments where he looks unbelievable, but he has his moments – for instance, when he threw four picks in back-to-back weeks – and you’re saying, ‘This team (can’t go anywhere) with that,’” Ronde said. “So that’s how you judge the Bucs. If the quarterback plays well, they’re probably going to win because they have enough talent around them.”
Indeed, Tampa Bay finished with the best run defense in football last year; of course, it also finished with the worst pass defense, allowing more than 297 passing yards per game. So what did the Bucs do? They brought in Darrelle Revis and Dashon Goldson who are 28 and 29, respectively, and have six pro-Bowl appearances between them.
Aside from Revis and Goldson, the secondary is young, but the pass defense should be much-improved.
“They have the pieces,” Ronde said.
Tampa Bay’s biggest question mark may be at tight end. The top returner is Luke Stocker, who has 28 catches in 30 career games.
Still, Ronde believes the Bucs have the potential to take a step forward, especially with Greg Schiano entering his second year.
“Greg really is a good guy,” Ronde said. “He has this persona now as the guy who’s going to rush the victory formation, but I really enjoyed being around him. Being a vet on a young team, you end up spending more time with the older guys in the organization and that was, frankly, all the coaches last year, So I got more of an insight and could glean more about what he was trying to do with the team and how he was trying to transform the franchise. Sometimes the only way to do that is to shock the system, and that’s what he did. I’m excited for them because I think he’ll make them a better team.”