Tony Dungy was fired. It took months for the Bucs to get a new coach. Parcells refused. Norv Turner and Mike Mularkey were in the running but not hired. The Glazers didn't want Marvin Lewis because he was a defensive coach. Talks were ongoing with Steve Mariucci, still under contract with the 49ers. But the Glazers went all-in and decided to trade for their ideal coach: Jon Gruden, the young, brilliant head coach of the Oakland Raiders. The Bucs gave up two first-round draft picks, two second-rounders and $8 Million for Jon Gruden. The strategy worked, and Malcolm Glazer lifted the Lombardi Trophy within a year of the hiring of Jon Gruden.
But the move also starved the team of draft picks, and while its aging defense was the best defense in the NFL, the offense was poor and needed an infusion of talent. Two first rounders and two second rounders is a lot of draft picks for any franchise to give up. It's not quite at Herschel Walker level, but it comes close. Of course, the Raiders never capitalized on those picks and haven't had a winning season since losing to Jon Gruden and the Buccaneers in the Super Bowl, so the 1990 Cowboys they are not. And while the Buccaneers gave up future talent, they gained a Super Bowl.
Brad Johnson was the quarterback for now, but he was a journeyman who could win in the short term. A franchise quarterback was needed, and the rest of Gruden's years would be marred by the constant search for a better quarterback. Kenyatta Walker would soon move to right tackle, opening up a hole at left tackle that wouldn't really be filled until Donald Penn stepped in. Keyshawn Johnson was the star receiver but clashed with star defensive player Warren Sapp, and ultimately Jon Gruden too. Holes to fill, but a lack of draft picks to do so. And the salary cap issues the Bucs were to endure for years on end meant that free agency spending was unlikely to happen, and trading players away for draft picks was problematic too. So with all that in mind, we can look at what the Bucs actually did in the 2002 draft to improve their team.
Third Round: Jon Gruden got the chance to start his tenure with the Bucs with a solid third-round pick, and there were several good players to select. Brian Westbrook has been a star. Chris Hope has been a solid safety throughout his career. Akin Ayodele is still a starting linebacker in the NFL. David Garrard turned out to be a decent but unspectacular quarterback. Rich McKay and Jon Gruden instead selected Marquise Walker, wide receiver out of Michigan. Marquise Walker never started a game for anyone in the NFL. In fact, he never even made an active roster. Marquise Walker was an utter bust, even for a third-rounder. His only redeeming quality: he was to trade for Thomas Jones, who spent 2003 with the Bucs and gained 627 yards on just 137 carries. Of course, the Bucs never re-signed him and he moved on to a pretty good career with the Bears, Jets and now the Chiefs.
Fourth Round: The Bucs got a second chance to get a quality player in the fourth round. Larry Foote, Scott Fujita and Jarvis Green were some of the available players who went on to have productive careers. Adrian Peterson (the old version), Chester Taylor and Najeh Davenport are others who have gone on to decent careers as running backs. But the Bucs selected Travis Stephens, a running back who actually did better than Marquise Walker: he appeared in one game and caught a ball for 6 yards. Sadly, that's all he ever did in the NFL. Another bust.
Fifth Round: Alright then, the third pick of Gruden's tenure. Twice they went offense and twice they failed. They can't keep selecting busts, can they? Indeed they can't. Jermaine Phillips was the pick. While hardly a star, Phillips appeared in 96 games and started 74 for the Bucs. Somehwat injury-prone especially late in his career, the safety was an important player for the Bucs for 8 years. That's a very good return for a fifth rounder.
Sixth Round: After success, we go back to failure. John Stamper, defensive end, was the 193rd overall pick and didn't even make the regular season roster. He appeared in 4 games for the Bears in 2002, but racked up no stats. A waste of a pick, although that's hardly uncommon in the sixth round. Interestingly current Buccaneer John Gilmore was selected just 3 picks later. There also were a couple of other defensive ends that had some success in the NFL selected later in the draft. Raheem Brock is with the Eagles now and has 37.5 career sacks, and 104 career starts. Brett Keisel, the man with the beard, is another very productive defensive end from the seventh round, although he's been a DE in Pittsburgh's 3-4 and would perhaps not have been a good fit for the Bucs.
Seventh Round: And thus we come to the throwaway round. The Bucs actually had four picks in this round, 3 of them compensatory selections. The selections were CB Tim Wansley, TE Tracey Wistrom, WR Aaron Lockett and C Zack Quaccia. The last three never made it to any NFL roster, but Tim Wansley actually started 6 games at cornerback for the Bucs in 2003, which is pretty good for a seventh-rounder. To some extent, any return is good return for a seventh rounder. But to only have one contributing player out of four picks is disappointing.
Jermaine Phillips really is the only good player the Bucs got from this draft. And while he represents good return for a fifth-rounder, the rest of this draft just makes me vomit in disgust. This really was a terrible draft. Of course, that means I'm discounting Jon Gruden's arrival here, which brought the Lombardi Trophy to Tampa. Giving up two first rounders and two second rounders for the Super Bowl is a deal I'd make any day.