Who is the best player in Tampa Bay Buccaneers history? Ask some, and they’ll say Warren Sapp. Other might point to Ronde Barber, though most will agree with NFL.com’s Elliot Harrison and name Derrick Brooks.
The cool thing about Tampa Bay is that it is one of the few franchises where a quarterback -- or some other chichi offensive player -- doesn't spring to mind when thinking about the team's legendary performers. In fact, when I did the top five players in Bucs history, all five were defenders. Brooks deserves to be considered the best of the bunch, over Warren Sapp, John Lynch, Ronde Barber and Lee Roy Selmon. Brooks was a standout weak-side linebacker who possessed the rare talent sandwich as a guy who could play the run and drop into coverage equally well. Brooks mastered reading angles, be it corralling Adrian Peterson or disrupting passing lanes. He picked off 25 passes and forced 24 fumbles en route to 11 Pro Bowls, a Super Bowl win and gold jacket.
Everyone loves Derrick Brooks, and so do I, but I will always argue that Lee Roy Selmon was the best player in franchise history. Brooks has the longevity and the volume of accolades, plus that Super Bowl win. But Lee Roy Selmon had the sheer dominance on the field. Legendary general manager Ron Wolf told NFL Films that Selmon was better than Howie Long, better than Ted Hendricks, and better than even Reggie White. All of those players are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and White is widely considered to be one of the ten best players to suit up in the NFL.
A lot of Bucs fans weren’t around to see the late, great Selmon play, and those who were may not remember just how good he was. The defensive end routinely took on two linemen, and made both of them look silly. He ran over tackles, he jumped gaps and sprinted to the quarterback, he killed the running game before it got started — and he was really, really nice about it all.
It used to be hard to describe just how good Selmon was, but it’s gotten a little easier in recent years: I can just compare him to J.J. Watt, generational defensive lineman who dominates everyone he lines up against, game after game. Watt’s dominance has become a little routine, but he’s won three Defensive Player of the Year awards in five seasons in the NFL. That’s the level of player we’re talking about — Selmon just didn’t have as large a profile as Watt does now.
Of course, Derrick Brooks isn’t a bad choice as the best player in Bucs history. He’s certainly number two or three if he’s not number one and he was a massive part of the team’s best period. But Selmon...well, he was in a league of his own.