While the Buccaneers have largely been a losing franchise since their inaugural season in 1976, they at least have some winning history to look back on.
CBSSports.com gave everyone a reminder of that on Thursday, taking a look at five of Tampa Bay’s all-time greats as part of the site’s “Franchise Five” series. Here’s an explanation of the series from Jeff Kerr, who wrote up the Bucs edition:
CBSSports.com’s Franchise Five dives into five most impactful people in each NFL’s team history. Our rules here bind us to pick just one quarterback, three non-quarterback players and one head coach.
So, there’s a caveat here, as it’s not strictly the franchise’s five most impactful people. Nonetheless, Kerr gave us all a nice trip down memory lane with his list. So, let’s break it down.
Quarterback, Brad Johnson
It’s hard to argue against picking Johnson, who played in Tampa from 2001-2004. Sure, Jameis Winston owns all of the franchise’s major quarterback records and Doug Williams is included in the team’s Ring of Honor at Raymond James Stadium, but Johnson was under center for the Bucs’ lone Super Bowl season. Without significant team success or insane records, you can’t beat that.
In that 2002 championship season, Johnson threw for 3,049 yards and 22 touchdowns tosix interceptions while completing 62.3% of his passes. In the playoffs, he totaled 670 yards and five touchdowns to three interceptions. And for his Bucs career, he put up 10,940 yards and 64 touchdowns to 41 interceptions. Those numbers aren’t all that impressive, really, but that doesn’t matter in this case. It’s his Super Bowl ring that makes him the most impactful quarterback in team history. No arguments from me.
Head Coach, Jon Gruden
Things are a little more controversial here, with Kerr choosing Gruden over Tony Dungy. It’s worse when you consider the fact that Kerr didn’t even list Dungy among his “honorable mentions” (which we’ll get to). But it’s not too hard to see why the team’s head coach from 2002-2008 was the pick here. He inherited a legendary defense, to be clear, but he did take the Bucs’ offense to the next level in his very first year, getting them up to the standard needed to win the Lombardi Trophy. He also went on to win two more NFC South titles (2005 and 2007) and has the most wins for a head coach in franchise history.
But it was frustrating to see Dungy’s accomplishments in Tampa downplayed in the way that they were:
Sure, Dungy built the defense of that Super Bowl championship team, but Dungy lost in the wild-card round in the two seasons before the Super Bowl run (going just 2-4 in the playoffs and scoring less than 10 points in each of the four playoff losses).
Maybe it’s because it’s more of an outsider’s perspective, but to discount the fact that Dungy essentially built the Bucs from nothing and took them to the playoffs in 1997, 1999, 2000 and 2001 after they hadn’t made an appearance since 1982? That seems irresponsible. Dungy paved the way for what happened in 2002 and even if I’m not one to constantly argue “Gruden won with Dungy’s team,” this pick by Kerr is at least up for more of a debate. It’s difficult to ignore Gruden’s Super Bowl ring, but let’s also recognize the impact Dungy had on the organization from 1996-2001.
Linebacker, Derrick Brooks
Absolutely no arguments allowed here. Brooks, the No. 28 pick in the 1995 NFL Draft out of Florida State, is synonymous with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He was with the team from 1995-2008 and was at the center of the best era of the franchise’s history. Over the years, Brooks made 11 Pro Bowls, was a five-time First-Team All-Pro, a four-time Second-Team All-Pro and the 2002 NFL Defensive Player of the Year. This past year, he was named to the NFL 100 All-Time Team. His No. 55 is retired inside of Raymond James Stadium and I’m willing to bet if you polled a group of longtime Bucs fans on who their favorite player is, a large majority of them would answer with “Mr. Derrick Brooks!”
Tampa Bay’s 2002 championship season is remembered largely for the dominance of the defense. Without Brooks, the level of dominance that unit reached wouldn’t have been possible. He was the league’s defensive player of the year for a reason, as he totaled 118 tackles (88 solo), one sack, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery, five interceptions and three defensive touchdowns. As the team’s all-time leader in tackles—and for the absolute legend that he is—the Pro Football Hall of Famer was an easy pick for this list.
Defensive End, Lee Roy Selmon
As the Bucs’ first-ever draft pick and first-ever Pro Football Hall of Famer, Selmon was a lock for this list. He was the franchise’s pioneer. The former Oklahoma Sooner played in Tampa from 1976-1984, making six Pro Bowls and the 1979, 1980 and 1982 All-Pro teams. He was the 1979 AP Defensive Player of the Year, helping the Bucs to the playoffs for the first time in team history. And despite sacks not becoming an official stat since 1982, the NFL credits Selmon with 78.5 career sacks, which is the most in franchise history, 1.5 more than the next guy on this list, who ranks second.
For the Bucs fans that have been around since day one, Selmon is likely the player who made them fans of the organization. The golden years—the late 1990s through the early 2000s—may be talked about the most, but Selmon was the foundation. He truly was Tampa Bay’s first legend, which is why it’s no surprise that he was the first inductee when the Bucs started up their Ring of Honor in 2009. His No. 63 is retired by the team and, like Brooks, he was named to the NFL 100 Team this past year. Selmon was an easy pick here.
Defensive Tackle, Warren Sapp
One of the loudest players in Bucs history was also one of the best. A lot of the time, people seem to remember Sapp for his personality, but of course, he’s also a Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee and an all-time great. He, like Brooks and Selmon, had to be a lock in this “Franchise Five.” He was in Tampa from 1995-2003, playing a significant role in the defensive dominance that the Bucs became known for during those years. He racked up 77 sacks with the team and made seven Pro Bowls, earned four First-Team All-Pro and two Second-Team All-Pro nods and took home NFL Defensive Player of the Year honors in 1999. He’s certainly one of the most-decorated players in Bucs history.
Like Gruden, Brooks and Selmon, Sapp is in the Ring of Honor at Raymond James Stadium. His No. 99 is one of the team’s three retired numbers, joining Selmon and Brooks. He also made the NFL 100 Team, cementing his spot as one of the league’s legends. It’s impossible to think about the Bucs’ glory years without thinking of Sapp, which is why it’s no surprise that he is on the list here. He may have hated the fact that he fell down the draft boards to No. 12 in 1995, but it’s safe to say things turned out pretty well.
The honorable mentions in Kerr’s “Franchise Five” piece were Ronde Barber, Mike Alstott and John Lynch. I don’t think you can argue with any of those, but again, Dungy being left off is tough. The omission of Simeon Rice is also glaring. Honestly, if not for the “one quarterback and one coach” rule, Barber and Lynch likely make the five and open up honorable mention spots for greats like Rice.
But I suppose no matter how you do it, someone’s going to get left out. It’s pretty hard to narrow the Buccaneers’ most impactful figures down to a select group, to be fair. But just imagine the process it would be to pick five guys for franchises with richer histories. I don’t envy the folks with those assignments.
Thoughts, Bucs Nation? Who would make your “Franchise Five” list?