clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Gerald McCoy is the true successor to Derrick Brooks

New, comments

Gerald McCoy is the face of the franchise and the leader of the team, both on and off the field. In that sense, he's the true successor to Derrick Brooks.

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Gerald McCoy often gets compared to Warren Sapp. He plays the same position as the legendary defensive lineman, of course, and he's well on his way to having a very impressive career as well. The two are both perfect fits as undertackles, though they're slightly different in build and style. But there's one way in which Gerald McCoy is more like Derrick Brooks than he is like Warren Sapp: leadership.

Sapp was a leader for the Buccaneers, but he wasn't a kind leader. He was the guy who'd yell at everyone, who would set the tempo at practice and who would be a vocal and demonstrative leader on the playing field. What he wasn't, was a leader off the field: he was notoriously gruff toward media and fans. He was a leader in the clubhouse, but not outside it. And that always limited his impact and popularity, despite his stellar.

Not so Derrick Brooks, who was the epitome of gracious on and off the field. He set the tone at practice, too, but he was the good cop to Sapp's bad cop. He helped his teammates away from the game. He was kind and generous to fans and media, although he did always stick to the company line. He was the public face of the franchise, and was and remains beloved by everyone. And Gerald McCoy is more like Brooks than Sapp in that regard.

For the first time since Brooks' retirement, the Bucs have one of those face-of-the-franchise leaders like the Hall of Fame linebacker.

"I think about this sometimes in my quiet hours," Derrick Brooks told the Tampa Bay Times. "I never was granted that opportunity to really pass the leadership torch. [..] I would have had time to show Ronde (Barber) how his role would change, from being a guy who was going to stay to himself to coming out of his shell until these guys get it.I just never felt I had that time to do it. It's not ironic that's one of the areas they struggled with for years. [..] There was more value to what I was willing to sacrifice and do. But we never had any dialogue."

That release was not very well-handled. From a football perspective, saying goodbye to Brooks made perfect sense at the time -- validated the fact that he never played football for another team. But keeping him on may have prevented some of the issues the Bucs experienced under Greg Schiano and especially under Raheem Morris, when a lack of leadership was obvious.

It took the Bucs five years to find their new leader, but they have one now: Gerald McCoy. It isn't just that he's the best player on the team. Not even that he's one of the hardest-working, on the field before everyone else, leading his group through drills and all those things. It's that he's truly the face of the franchise. The most well-known player on the team, the one who drives everyone else and who sets the tone on defense.

"As we started our practice, right after stretch I let someone break down the team and normally to start the season," Lovie Smith said yesterday. "I let our franchise player, the leader of our football team do that: that’s Gerald McCoy. He has taken ownership, he knows that he’s the face of the franchise and with that goes a lot of responsibility. Being the first in the front of the line, which he is, standing out front, representing the team. Gerald is already in that position."

I remember McCoy trying to be that vocal leader early on in his career, but it never quite came off. He was talented, but constantly injured and still had many things to learn. He tried to be a leader, but it takes time for anyone to take on that role. It took Hardy Nickerson leaving for Derrick Brooks and Warren Sapp to become franchise leaders.

Now, though, the Bucs have the face of their franchise. Their leader on and off the field. And once again, as has been the case throughout their history, it's a defensive player.