Football Outsiders has been going over the top 5 running backs for every franchise, and they got to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers a couple of days ago. The list itself isn't terribly interesting, but it's still worth taking a quick look:
1. James Wilder
2. Warrick Dunn
3. Mike Alstott
4. Michael Pittman
5. Cadillac Williams
There's not much to disagree with here. You could maybe add Errict Rhett or Ricky Bell instead of Cadillac Williams or Michael Pittman, but that's about it. James Wilder is clearly number one, and Warrick Dunn is pretty clearly number two. Mike Alstott is number three mostly by virtue of his longevity, and after that there's a whole list of 'meh' running backs.
What's interesting about the list is that the Bucs have only had a true 'franchise back' once in their history: James Wilder. And while James Wilder was a terrific player, he was run into the ground for some absolutely terrible teams and very few wins in the mid-'80s. But Warrick Dunn, Mike Alstott, Michael Pittman, Cadillac Williams? They were useful cogs in various different offenses, but was any of them ever the real foundation of an offense for years on end?
But that franchise back is exactly what the Tampa Bay Buccaneers need right now, given the way they want to play football. They want to be a throwback team that uses the running game as the basis of their offense. They hope they have a good combination in Legarrette Blount and Douglas Martin, but the history of Buccaneers running backs hasn't been great. Can that change this time?