While we gear up for the draft which is sure to cause 19587 to the 3rd power more interest than Free Agency, I thought a little diversion is in order. Your thoughts in the comments are welcomed if you can correct me and replace someone I have nominated as a better candidate in his position.
I take into effect not only stats, but how they played the game. Size, speed is of no concern, because players from 2009 would obliterate those from 1979 in sheer size. The Bucs offensive line in 1979 was considered one of the better ones, yet its the size of the average NCAA O-line today.
No Bucs fans, this list is made up of the best of the best in each position. At time when there is simply a need, a reserve is allowed because two players from different eras simply cannot be left off the list.
And so I bring you, the ALL TIME, Tampa Bay Buccaneers Team:
QB- Doug Williams- Forget being a trend setter by being the first full time African-American starter at the position, Williams had a canon arm, and a physique that wouldnt go down. He was sacked less than ten times in 1979 for example. The knock on Doug was his low completion percentage, but you have to remember, he played in a day that predawned the West Coast Offense. Doug would heave the ball rather than take a sack, and take the hit on the stat sheet. He threw a TD by the seat of his pants, and a flick of his wrist would shoot the ball downfield over 50 yards. No Bucs QB has been to as many Playoff games, and when he left in 1983 after 3 of 4 playoff years, the Bucs didnt go back to the dance until 1997.
FB- Mike Alstott- What can you say about the A train, he bulled you over, and when you thought he was going to do it again, he side-stepped you! Mike was an instant success in the NFL and in Tampa, when the Bucs were a laughing stock for being soft, he was the tough guy you couldn't make fun of. He could catch the ball out of the backfield, or get you that first down on 3rd and 2. Alstott played the FB position, but really didnt learn to block as well as the best until the later days of his career. He was pretty much a hybrid at the position, but it earned him multiple trips to the pro-bowl, and even more highlight reel clips on ESPN, as Chris Berman would say, "your in good hands with Alstott".
TB-James Wilder- "Born to Run" would blast over the Tampa Stadium loudspeaker when he would get the ball, and get the ball he did. In 1984 Wilder was a handful of yards shy of the NFL single season all purpose yardage record. He currently holds the Bucs record for most yards in a season with 1,544, and followed that up with 1,300 in 1985. He did that last year with a 2-14 Bucs team that was out of most games by halftime, when defenses knew he was going to get the ball.
Tight End- Jimmy Giles- Number 88 had it all as a Tight End, Size, Strength, Speed, and a pair of hands that would catch even Doug Williams bullets. The big man has 34 TDs and averaged 15.4 yards per catch; as a Tight End. On his watch, Ricky Bell and James Wilder both rushed for over 1,000 yards too. Since 1976, only two other players have more receiving yards than Jimmy Giles, the Bucs best TE ever.
Wide Receiver-(Opps, thanks for pointing out the oversight!)- Mark Carrier- Was the only receiver to ever have more than 200 yards in a game until Antonio Bryant did it in 2008; however Carrier's 215 is still the record. Only Wilder has more receptions, and while his lead is oh so slight over Kevin House in yardage, he did that with one less season, He played his entire career with Vinny Testeverde too.
Kevin House- Averaging a full 2 yards per catch more than Carrier, the Bucs had average receivers until House came to the team in 1980. The blazing speed was a perfect match for Doug Williams' canon arm. In 1981 House scored 3 TDs of 70 yards or more. Honorable Mention: Joey Galloway- The only WR ever in Bucs history to have 3 back to back to back 1,000 yard Seasons (2005-07) and was the primary deep threat during this time. Keyshawn Johnson was the first Bucs WR in a long time that gave the offense an identity of which the defense had for many years with their stars.
Left Tackle- Paul Gruber- Drafted during the low days of Buccaneers history, he suffered on many poor Bucs teams, and never received the adulation he would have had he been on a better team or bigger market. But Gruber stood up tall against some of the best Defensive Ends in the business, and time and time again performed at an exceptional level. Gruber started 183 Bucs games in a row, surpassed only by this list's outside linebacker, one No. 55. Gruber got to taste a bit of winning, being on the 1997 and 99 playoff squads, but broke his leg in the season finale in '99, he appeared as Captain in crutches on the floor of the NFC Championship game, his farewell appearance in either Orange or Pewter.
Left Guard- George Yarno- 1979-83/85-87- Yarno has one unique place in Bucs history: in the 1983 season finale, HC John McKay was so fed up with his placekicker, that he send Yarno out to kick the Extra Point of the final TD scored in the game. He straight kicked it through, and then was mugged by his OL team-mates. Honorable Mention: Frank Middleton.
Center- Tony Mayberry- In 1999, the Bucs had only seen 3 centers in the past 22 years. Mayberry held the position throughout the 90s starting 145 games in a row, having only been passed by Ronde Barber in recent history. Honorable Mention: Randy Grimes and Steve Wilson.
Right Guard- Ian Beckles- A stalwart on the right side of the line next to Mayberry, A very good pulling guard, Beckles helped solidify the middle of the Bucs line during the 90s. Honorable Mention: Sean Farrell: 1982-1986
Right Tackle- Charlie Hannah- Brother to famous O-lineman John Hannah, HC John McKay used to love to take guys and move them to the other side of the ball. Hannah was a defensive end. He started most of 1978 as RE opposite LeeRoy Selmon. Then in 1979 he started as the Left Tackle, and never looked back. He dominated from the get-go, and teamed with rookie Greg Roberts, Hannah helped pave the way for Ricky Bell and the 1979 NFC Championship team.
Place Kicker- Matt Bryant- if his 83% successful career FGs made doesnt impress you, his perfection (100%) of FGs in the 30-39 range should. The only knock on Bryant was his deep kicks, going only 2 of 10 in 50+ kicks, but he makes up for that with the second longest kick for a game winner in NFL history in 2006 with his 62 yard kick. Honorable Mention: Steve Christie: who was able to go 9/11 from 40+, was a plan B free agent casualty that Sam Wyche left unprotected because he gave his word he would not leave.
Punt Returner- Karl The Truth Williams
Kick Returner- TIE- Michael Spurlock, Clifton Smith
Left Defensive End- Greg Spires-
The Crane has he was known by his teammates, Spires was the lone defensive addition to the SuperBowl team of 2002, and he stayed until 2007 getting 26 sacks along the way, with a high of 8 in 2004. Honorable Mention: Chidi Ahanotu who started from 1993 to 2000.
Nose Tackle(4-3) Brad Culpepper(1994-1999)
Pep as Sapp would call him was notorious for getting the double team that freed up Sapp for his sacks. But not only did he do that unselfishly, he didn't have a problem getting to the QB himself, cleaning a thrower off the ground 33 times in his day. or Nose Guard (3-4) David Logan (1979-1986)
Before the modern draft of 7 rounds, drafts would last much longer. Logan was a 12th round draft pick that became a starter in his second season when Randy Crowder went down with an injury. Logan disrupted offenses, often teaming with someone else like Selmon for a TD scoop n score. Logan is 4th all time in sacks behind LeeRoy Selmon, Warren Sapp
and Simeon Rice. Honorable Mention- Dave Pear-
First Buccaneer ever to go to a pro bowl. Pear was a ferocious Nose Guard who made a mess of many offensive lines during an era when the Bucs were not competitive. He was traded to the Raiders before the 1979 season, which led the Bucs to draft Greg Roberts, a guard that was supposed to go early in the first round but lasted until early in the second.
Defensive Tackle- Warren Sapp-What can you say about #99 that hasnt been said already. He is 3rd alltime in sacks from the defensive Tackle position, a place where sacks are not supposed to come from. He would have been a very high draft pick but rumors of Marijuana use caused the Hurricane Defensive star to fall to the Bucs. Sapp was familiar with his new team as an Orlando resident growing up, but hated the Orange uniforms. He would not have to wear them long, and by the time the team went to Pewter, signs on the stadium scoreboard would start to read "You've been SAPPED" each time he took a QB to the ground, which happened frequently.
Sapp made the 3 technique famous in the Tampa Two, lining up on the Gaurds shoulder and shooting the 3 gap causeing all sorts of havoc. Bouts with Packer QB Brett Favre starting with the Bucs playoff birth in 1997 became legendary, as was his late hit on Chad Clifton in 2003 which resulted in a confrontation with Packer Head coach Mike Sherman. Those who spoke to Sapp say you never knew which type of person you were going to get, but for Quarterbacks, they always knew.
Right Defensive End- LeeRoy Selmon- The end all be all of defensive players for the Bucs, Mr. Selmon, who is in the Pro Football Hall Of Fame, was the very first Buccaneer ever. The No.1 pick in the 1976 draft, he is the all time sack leader with 78.5. You would never guess from talking to him that he is a ferocious QB sacker, he has a very calm demeanor. But get him on the field and you have a man who beats double, even triple teams to get to the QB, and when he does destruction ensues. Selmon was inducted into the HOF in 1995, and so far is the only Buccaneer representing in Canton.
Left Outside Linebacker- Shelton Quarles- Hard to believe that during the heyday of the Tampa Two defense, no player other than Quarles started more than 2 consecutive seasons at the same left outside or Strong Side LB spot. One of the few moves HC Jon Gruden did on the defense was recommend Quarles to move from outsidie to Inside, a move that was very successful for the Superbowl 2002 season. Starting out as a special teamer, he quickly rose to the top and became a starter on the 1999 team that was destined for NFC Championship fame. Honorable Mention: David Lewis- Drafted out of USC by his old coach John McKay, Lewis started on the Bucs from '77 until he would up in the coaches doghouse in 1981.
Inside Linebacker/Middle - Hardy Nickerson- He was the Bucs first major Free Agent pick up, in 1993 Tampa Bay got him from the Pittsburgh Steelers where he was already a budding star. Nickerson brought a toughness to Tampa Bay that had not been seen in over a decade! He instantly clashed with Kieth McCants loafing on the field in between plays, resulting in McCants removal from the team. Finishing with over 200 tackles in the season didn't hurt much either. He instantly became the team leader, and a player the young guys could look up to. Nickerson's signature muscle flex move became a constant celebration on the field, as he finished with over 1,000 tackles in the 7 years he started here.
Right Outside Linebacker
- Derrick Brooks
- Hardy Nickerson was looking for a student. Someone who had the smarts to learn his position, and the heart to play up to Hardware standards. The Bucs obliged with the rookie from Florida State who everyone watched take over the outside LB positionf rom Day one. Brooks was an instant starter on the team, finishing second on the team in tackles behind his mentor. Brooks would become the second Buccaneer to be named the NFC Defensive Player of the Year along with Sapp, and had a streak of 4 straight games where he scored a defensive touchdown, and put the icing on the cake in the Super Bowl with the game clincher. He is almost a lock to join Selmon in Canton in 2014. Honorable Mention
: Hugh Green was a defensive lineman for the Pittsburgh Panthers, but became a ball hawking Linebacker in Tampa Bay. To be honest, he was every bit the linebacker Lawrence Taylor was, but not working in New York City for everyone to see. He was the kind of player that could, and did, single handedly take over a game.
Left Corner- Ronde Barber- The only one of the last wave of Bucs heroes never to wear Orange as his normal uniform, Barber was taken in the 1997 draft and can be seen in most of the 97 games as the guy in his civies on the sideline. Barber was made for the Tampa Two, and in his career which is still far from over, he has taken over the teams all time interception lead from fellow CB Donnie Abraham. Barber is most famous for his twin brother Tiki who was drafted out of Virginia the same year. In a bit of irony, Barbers elementary football team was named the Eagles, and later in life he became most famous for his interception return of a Donovan McNabb pass and subsequent return for a TD that sent the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to their first Super Bowl in 2002. Ronde has 11 defensive TDs to his credit, and is part of the 20/20 club, defensive players with at least 20 sacks AND 20 interceptions. Barber is 7 sacks away from 30/30. Honorable Mention: Mike Washington- The original No.40 came to the Bucs in 1976 and grew along with most of the first Buccaneer defense to rank No.1 in the league. Washington is 4th leading interceptor in Bucs history! Only a handful of TDs were scored because of Washington.
- Brian Kelly
- Unfortunatly, the misconception surrounding #25 is the memory of his outstretched arms just missing a ball that goes over his hand and into the waiting arms of Rams receiver Ricky Proehl. Truth is Kelly had fantastic coverage, and Lynch was a step late with safety help. Kelly was in some ways a better tactical corner than Barber, as he was the guy used to shut down big name receivers. He became a starter early in 2001 when he replaced Donnie Abraham who was himself a great corner. Brian was injured regularly later on in his career with the Bucs, but led the team in interceptions 2 of 3 season, and ended up finishing with 20 interceptions before moving on in Free Agency to Detroit. Honorable Mention
: Ricky Reynolds-
a second round pick with the Bucs in 1987, he played 7 seasons in Tampa Bay and scored every way imaginable: Int return, Fumble return, and blocked FG return too! Left via Free Agency for the Patriots in 1994.
Free Safety- Cedrick Brown- Brown was part of the first pair of great safeties in Bucs history. #34 was a ball hog, he is still 3rd on the all time interception list, and was responsible for many wins in the early days of Bucs history. . Honorable Mention:Tony Covington- part of the all rookie safety combination in 1991 with Marty Carter, another great safety in a line of them.
Strong Safety- John Lynch- Perhaps the biggest fan favorite the Bucs have every seen along with Mike Alstott. Lynch came to the Bucs in the 3rd round of the 1993 draft, the same year Nickerson joined. Lynch played special teams and was a ferocious tackler from the get-go. By 1995 it became obvious to the team they had a good tackling safety on their hands. John became a full time starter in 1996 under DB coach Herman Edwards. A Stanford product, Lynch was a pitcher in baseball too, and threw out the very first pitch in Florida Marlins history. Coach Bill Walsh is credited with saving Johns career, as he showed him what a good safety he could be. Walsh called his former QB Sam Wyche who was HC of the Bucs at the time, and #47 became a household name in no time. Lynch was released in an unpopular move by the Bruce Allen/Jon Gruden regime after 2003 in which it was unsure if his shoulder would let him play football again. Edwards, Tony Dungy, and Lovie Smith all had chances to pick up Lynch but declined due to his injury. The Broncos took a chance and it paid off for both . Honorable Mention: Mark Cotney- Cotney was the 70s version of Lynch. A virtual clone if you will, he was a hard hitting safety that no receiver felt comfortable crossing into his territory. Mark was one of the original Bucs and played until 1984 when John McKay retired.
- Tom Tupa
- He actually performed better in 2003 than the Super Bowl season, but that is only because of his high standards to begin with. Originally a 3rd round pick of the Cardinals, he made the probowl three times.Honorable Mention
: Josh Bidwell- The heir to Tupa, Bidwell is a cancer survivor and left Green Bay to come to the Bucs where he has excelled till injury ended his 2009 season.
Special Teams Ace (gunner)- Kenny Gant- One of the better reasons to go to the stadium was to watch Gant do his "shark dance", where he would garner up support from the 5 yard line behind the kickoff team, then run up to the line at the last possible second. Usually, he was in on the tackle. Honorable Mention-Curtis Buckley- Just a wild man on the coverage units. Half of his energy could light the stadium for weeks!
Hope you enjoyed this BEST OF THE BUCS, ALL TIME....Thank You for your pointing out things I forgot, and would love to hear MORE of YOUR thoughts on the list!