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Answer Man, Series 6, Volume 10

Posted Jul 16, 2010

You answered the call to fill up the Answer Man's mailbag, and now he's back with another round of your questions


There's a picture in the lobby of One Buccaneer Place that blows the Answer Man's mind.

In case you didn't know, the One Buc lobby doubles as a team museum, with displays packed with items from the franchise's 35-year history. You can see the first Bucs jersey ever made, tons of Super Bowl memorabilia and a whole case full of rejected attempts at the team's new uniforms in the mid-90s, among many other things.

The picture I'm talking about, though, comes from the early days, the inaugural 1976 season, in fact. It's a shot from that first training camp at old One Buc, and even then camp was the best opportunity for fans to see their team's preparations for the season. There was a lot of curiosity about the fledgling team back then, of course, so fans showed up in the hundreds.

And just stood there.

Seriously, the picture is almost creepy. The Bucs are on the field closest to the building practicing and the fans are just standing there on the other sideline, rows deep. No grandstands. No bleachers. Nowhere to sit at all. And lots of really short shorts. On the men.

Anyway, times have sure changed, and for the better in the Answer Man's opinion (not just because of the shorts). You can still see the Bucs practice in person every summer. It's a tradition around the NFL that helps let every long-suffering fan (yes, seven months without football is true suffering) that the games are just around the corner. It's hot and sweaty, the players are just a few feet away, you can hear the coaches yelling, wild cheers arise for every long completion, whether or not there was even defense involved. It's fun.

But now we have covered bleachers, refreshments, cheerleaders, Captain Fear, nearby parking, popsicles, entertainment, autographs and more. After decades of holding camp offsite at first the University of Tampa and then Disney, the Bucs are back at home for the second straight year, and it's a much nicer home these days. Back then, the players practiced behind tiny original One Buc and were housed next door in a tragic little hotel called the Hall of Fame. Now they enjoy all the amenities of the most technologically advanced headquarters in the NFL, and the fans have gotten a similar upgrade.

I bring all of this up because training camp 2010 is now just two weeks away, and thus my mailbag is filling up with questions about it. I thought I'd just address them right here in the intro before getting on to the scattered mix of topics that make up the rest of this column. Here's a little sample of what people were asking me about camp the last few weeks:

Robert Alton of Hudson, Florida starts off with: I am looking forward to attending some training camp sessions. I have not yet seen a schedule. I would appreciate any info you could get in regard to dates and/or times.

Pat Turner of Lake Wales follows up with: How can I find the training camp schedule, maps, etc.?

And Wontywn Montgomery of Pensacola boils it down to: How do you visit the Bucs' training camp?

There were many others, but it was all pretty much the same question. And folks, I've got three little words for you that are the key to the whole thing: One Buc Club. Click on that link now and sign up. It's free and there are no obligations. You just need an e-mail address, and I know you people sending me questions have one of those. You get stuff. Stuff like exclusive articles and breaking news e-mailed right to you. Chances to get valuable Buc items at deep discounts. There are contests. Sometimes you'll be in a drawing just because you're in the club. You don't have to do a thing and - boom! - you're suddenly the proud owner of a luxury suite for one game or some other cool prize.

Anyway, the best reason to join the One Buc Club right now is that you can use it to reserve tickets to the six open training camp practices that will be held at team headquarters (the seventh will be at Raymond James Stadium and doesn't require tickets). For each camp practice, tickets become available 15 days before the date; One Buc Club members started signing up for tickets to the morning practice on Saturday, July 31 at 10:00 a.m. ET this morning (Friday, July 16). Click here and go to the bottom of the page to see an exact schedule of ticket availability.

You can get a ticket to a camp practice on site at One Buccaneer Place on the day of the practice, but only if some still remain after the One Buc Club members have reserved theirs.

For all other camp info, use that second link just above. You'll find parking information, directions, dates and times and pretty much everything you need.

Okay, on to your non-camp questions!

**

1. Brian Sanchez of Austin, Texas asks:

With [Micheal] Spurlock being a subject on today's Buccaneers Insider, I have a question for you. How many kickoffs did the Bucs attempt before Spurlock broke the streak and scored a kickoff return for a touchdown against the Falcons?

Answer Man: It sure seems like we get a lot of questions from Texas, which I like. Is there an especially big contingent of Bucs fans in that state? (Yeah, yeah, everything's big in Texas.) I like the plug for Insider, too, so I'm going to answer your question, Brian, even though it's not one I can elaborate on all that much.

Before Spurlock made team history with his 90-yard return for a touchdown against the Falcons at Raymond James Stadium on Dec. 16, 2007, various Tampa Bay players had returned a total of 1,864 kickoffs without striking pay dirt. (That's in the regular season only; the Bucs have had a handful of preseason KOR TDs.) Spurlock's was number 1,865.

Now, there were more than 1,864 kickoffs against the Bucs before that, of course. As you know, some kickoffs go into the end zone for touchbacks, some go out of bounds for penalties and a handful of short ones are fair caught. But at the time 139 other Bucs players had tried to take a kickoff to the house without success.

Since then, kickoff return touchdowns have practically become ho-hum for the Buccaneers. Okay, not really, but considering the team went almost 32 seasons and a total of 496 games without one, the fact that Clifton Smith added another one in 2008 and Sammie Stroughter yet another in 2009 is pretty remarkable. If you're keeping score, that's one kickoff return for a touchdown in the first 497 games and 1,865 returns, followed by two in the next 34 games and 129 returns. That's a touchdown in 0.2% of the games and 0.05% of the returns up through Spurlock's breakthrough, and one in 5.9% of the games and 1.6% of the returns since.

**

2. Shedric of Fort Lewis, Washington via St. Petersburg, Florida asks:

I was thinking about the old saying about the guys that went on to prominence after leaving the Bucs (Doug Williams, Vinny Testaverde, etc.). Can you think of at least ten players in Buc history that saw obvious success on another team 1-3 years after leaving Tampa Bay?

Answer Man: Only if you allow me to reverse the question and also list 10 players who saw obvious success with the Buccaneers 1-3 years after leaving another team. See, the Answer Man has long felt that the "saying" you mention (I'd call it a generalization) is a matter of something I've mentioned before: Confirmation Bias. I won't drone on about that again because I've harped on it before and I don't want it to seem as if that's my go-to Psych 101 term every time there's a generalization with which I don't agree. Simply put, confirmation bias is the tendency to notice and remember the evidence that supports the belief you already hold and miss or dismiss the evidence that does not support it.

To put it in players-leaving-the-Bucs terms, for every Doug Williams (who later won a Super Bowl with the Washington Redskins) there is a Craig Erickson (who netted the Bucs a first-round pick in a trade with the Colts but thereafter posted just six more starts and seven more TD passes in his NFL career.

But, again, I won't harp on it. I think you could do a similar list with every team in the league, and every team that has ever been in the league (the Kenosha Maroons were legendary for letting talent slip away). So many players struggle in one venue and find success in another (or vice versa), whether it be from maturation, luck, circumstance, coaching, injuries, opportunity or any number of other factors. That's why I insist on mirroring the list you requested with one of my own. You could call any player on that list "one that got away" from his former team.

So let's get to it. The lists below are in no particular order and are simply the first 10 in each category that came to mind. There are others that could be included on both lists, of course, and these are not meant to be inclusive. I didn't use Williams or Testaverde since you've already named them. I also won't use kickers or punters, even though there are some relevant examples on both sides, because so many of them kick around with a variety of teams before finally nailing down a long-term spot.

10 original Buccaneers who found greater success elsewhere:

1. Al Harris...The Bucs drafted Harris out of Texas A&M-Kingsville in the sixth round in 1997 but didn't find a spot for him on the 53-man roster that year. Harris used that perceived slight for motivation and has since crafted an excellent 12-year career in Philly and Green Bay, making two Pro Bowls and picking off 21 passes.

2. Steve Young...The Bucs plucked Young from the dying USFL and tried for two years to make him their starter. Truth be told, the experiment had little chance of working because the overall lack of talent on the team in 1985 and 1986. The Bucs traded Young to the 49ers and, after several years as a backup to Joe Montana, he launched his own Pro Bowl career.

3. Rhett Hall...The Bucs drafted Hall in the sixth round in 1991 and found him to be a serviceable reserve and special teams player for three years. There probably weren't many who could have predicted that Hall would go on to play five more seasons in San Francisco and Philly and even started 34 games, including 31 with the Eagles in 1996-97, during which he posted 12.5 of his 18.0 career sacks.

4. Trent Dilfer...Truth is, if you break down Dilfer's career passing stats (20,518 yards, 113 TDs, to name a few), the bulk of them came during his six years as a Buccaneer. So too did his one Pro Bowl appearance. Of his 55 starts, 38 came in a Bucs uniform. Still, some would consider his post-Tampa career to be better because he was the starting quarterback for the Super Bowl-winning Baltimore Ravens in 2000. That's an acceptable argument, though it can be used both ways, as we'll mention in the list below.

5. Russ Hochstein...Okay, this might be a slightly obscure pick, but hear me out. The Bucs drafted Hochstein, a Nebraska guard, in the fifth round in 2001 but he mostly failed to stick on the roster in two years in Tampa, appearing in just one game with no starts. The Patriots picked him up and found him to be a valuable reserve, and over the next six seasons he frequently filled in when New England starters were injured. Even last year, Hochstein started 10 games for the Denver Broncos.

6. Santana Dotson...Dotson went from fifth-round pick to instant impact player with the Bucs in 1992, starting all 16 games and setting a franchise rookie record with 10 sacks. Dotson never quite matched those levels over the next three seasons and bolted as soon as free agency would allow him to in 1996. In Green Bay, he started for six years, averaged about five sacks per season and won a Super Bowl his first year there.

7. Kelly Holcomb...Like Rhett Hall above, Holcomb become something of a surprise success story after leaving the Bucs. Tampa Bay brought Holcomb in as an undrafted free agent in 1995 and kept him on the practice squad that year, but not much was thought of it when he was released the next year in favor of Scott Milanovich. Next thing you know, Holcomb is getting a spot start in Indy, then several more in Cleveland, Buffalo and Minnesota from 2001-07. he ended up with 24 starts and a much longer NFL career than many would have guessed he would have.

8. Winston Moss...Fellow LB Hugh Green might have been a pick for this list, too, but Green made both of his Pro Bowls in Tampa. Moss had four good years with the Bucs but was traded to Oakland before the 1991 campaign. He would go on to play seven more seasons in Oakland and Seattle, starting almost every game in the process.

9. Elijah Alexander...Alexander was a 10th-round pick in 1992, so it probably wasn't too much of a surprise when he played just one season in Tampa as a reserve. However, Alexander landed in Denver after being cut by the Bucs, and just one year later was a a16-game starter for the Broncos. Alexander, who died earlier this year at the age of 39 due to multiple myeloma, played eight seasons in the NFL with the Broncos, Raiders and Colts, appearing in 123 games with 76 starts.

10. Chris Chandler...The Buccaneers traded a first-round pick to the Colts to get Chandler in 1990, then watched the imported QB wage an up-and-down and ill-fated battle with Vinny Testaverde for the starting job. After less than two divisive seasons with the Bucs, Richard Williamson cut him in 1991 and he landed in Phoenix. From there, Chandler went on to play for the Cardinals, Rams, Oilers, Falcons, Bears and Rams again, frequently starting. In fact, he ended up with a 17-year career in which he started 152 games and threw for almost 30,000 yards.

10 players originally with another team who found greater success in Tampa:

1. Hardy Nickerson...Nickerson was no slouch during his six seasons in Pittsburgh, but he was only a part-time starter for three of those years and he was never the focal point in the Steelers' 3-4 front. Tampa management saw a potential star as a 4-3 middle linebacker, and they were right. Even with a franchise that has historically been strong at the LB position, Nickerson stands out as one of the best ever after seven outstanding seasons as a Buccaneer.

2. Brad Culpepper...The Vikings cut Culpepper (with Tony Dungy as the defensive coordinator, amazingly) after two very forgettable seasons. The Bucs signed him in 1994 and he immediately took over a starting job inside. The arrival of Warren Sapp the next season essentially made Culpepper's career; the two complemented each other well and Culpepper had 23.5 sacks over a three-year span (1997-99), representing the bulk of his career total of 34.0.

3. Michael Pittman...The versatile running back started just 27 games over four seasons in Arizona and had a total of 1,945 yards. He was definitely productive in the desert, but as the primary tailback in Jon Gruden's offense, he became a much bigger threat. Pittman finished his six years in Tampa as the fourth-leading rusher and seventh-leading receiver in Buccaneers history.

4. Greg Spires...Spires had started a total of eight games in four seasons in New England and Cleveland before he signed with the Bucs in 2002, and his arrival wasn't greeted with a ton of fanfare. The Bucs had Simeon Rice and Marcus Jones returning as the ostensible starters. However, Spires outplayed Jones, won the starting job and became a key figure in the Bucs' insanely-good defense that year. Spires would start for six season in Tampa (has last six in the NFL) and rack up 26.0 of his 39.5 career sacks.

5. Brad Johnson...Now, Johnson already had a strong resume with several notable peaks before he arrived in Tampa in 2001, including a 3,000-yard season with the Vikings in 1997 and a 4,000-yard Pro Bowl campaign with Washington in 1999. But if Dilfer is on the list above, then Johnson has to be on this one because nothing that came before equaled his Super Bowl season with the Bucs in 2002. Johnson's totals in four years in Tampa almost exactly match those from his seven years in Minnesota, and the ring is the tiebreaker.

6. Richard "Batman" Wood...The Jets drafted Wood in the third round in 1975, had him start five games and then one year later traded him to the Buccaneers for a seventh-round pick in the 1977 draft. Wood would go on to play the first nine seasons in franchise history, appear in 132 games with 89 starts and rack up 855 tackles, still sixth most in the team record books.

7. Cedric Brown...Really, you could probably make a whole list just from discarded veterans (many of them only a few years into their careers) who the Bucs picked up in their first few years when they were desperate to find talent. The Raiders let Brown get away twice, actually. Oakland drafted him in the 12th round in 1976 but cut him in camp. The Bucs signed him, played him in one game and then traded him back to Oakland in 1977. The Raiders released Brown again and he came back to Tampa and started the next eight seasons at free safety. Before Donnie Abraham and Ronde Barber came along, Brown was the franchise's all-time interceptions leader.

8. Jimmy Wilkerson...Jimmy has moved on to the Saints now, but he might be the very best example of what you're talking about, Shedric, but in reverse. Over five seasons in Kansas City, Wilkerson started just five games and had 1.0 sack. In just two seasons with the Bucs, he started 16 games, racked up 11.0 sacks and was one of the team's most consistent producers.

9. Jimmie Giles...The Houston Oilers almost certainly knew that Giles was a good player, but they gave him up in 1978 in the package they sent the Bucs to trade up from the 17th overall pick to the first to get Earl Campbell. That worked out for both teams, as Giles would go on to play in four Pro Bowls, second only to Mike Alstott among all offensive players in team history. He was only with the Oilers for one year.

10. Simeon Rice...The third overall pick in the 1996 draft, Rice certainly displayed his talents in Arizona, even racking up a career-best 16.5 sacks in 1999. But it was an up-and-down five years with the Cardinals, including two seasons in which he failed to reach double digits in sacks. After joining the Bucs, however, Rice, immediately strung together five straight seasons with at least 11.0 sacks each. He also was instrumental in the Bucs' Super Bowl XXXVII championship.

Honestly, I could go on. I left some players, like Keyshawn Johnson, Joey Galloway and Keenan McCardell, off the list because one would have to argue about which portions of their careers were most impressive. I probably should have had Dave Moore and Morris Owens and Dave Pear and maybe even Martin Mayhew on the list, but like I said these were just the first 10 I thought of or found when flipping through the media guide.

These things are going to happen to every team in the league, over and over again. If scouting players was an exact science, there would be no such thing as a draft bust.

**

3. Sam C. of Newmarket, Ontario, Canada asks:

[Mike] Alstott was (still is) the "A-Train," [Jon] Gruden had "Chucky" and Carnell Williams is better known as Cadillac. What other players/staff had nicknames in Bucs history? Where did they get them from?

Answer Man: That's a neat question, Sam, and I'm betting that after this column goes up my mailbag will get some letters pointing out ones I missed. I hope so. I'll happily post an addendum to this list in a later column.

You've got three good ones there, indeed. I've listed some more below. I'll admit up front that I don't know the origin story on all of them.

* Batman - That's linebacker Richard Wood, who starred for the team from 1976-84. Wood made that nickname happen by drawing Batman logos on his pads for games. There's a cool picture really close to my office here at One Buc in which you can clearly see the black bat mark on the tape Wood has across the back of his hand. Looks pretty cool, actually. Doubt you could get away with that today.

* Pookie - Bet you didn't know that one. That was the nickname with which Vince Workman arrived in Tampa from Green Bay in 1992. I think it was a life-long nickname given to him by his family, but I wouldn't swear to it.

* Thunder and Lightning - Does a two-person nickname count. Alstott (Thunder) and Warrick Dunn (Lightning) weren't the first tandem to get that title, and they go it for the usual reasons (one bashes, one zips). It fit, though.

* Booger - Like Pookie, just something Anthony McFarland grew up with. You'd think a guy with that nickname might try to distance himself from it as he grew up, but McFarland never seemed to mind.

* The Truth - This one was essentially unavoidable for Karl Williams, the wide receiver/kick returner who made a great career out of humble, non-drafted roots. It's lifted directly from the famous boxer, Carl "The Truth" Williams.

* QB Killa - I guess that one was kind of self-appointed for Warren Sapp, but it's pretty darn accurate.

* The Shark - Safety Kenny Gant already had that one when he got to Tampa from the Cowboys in 1995. Gant was an excellent special teams player in both Dallas and Tampa, and he would do a dance before kickoffs where he'd hold his hand above his helmet like a shark's fin.

* Big Meade - That's what teammates in the 1970s called tackle Darryl Carlton, who hailed from Fort Meade, Florida.

* Smilin' George - RB/KR George Ragsdale earned that one while with the Bucs from 1976-79. No, the Answer Man wasn't around that far back, but I would have to guess the reason for that one is obvious, and complimentary.

* Obey - Shorten up tight end Ed Obradovich's last name, and there you go.

* Cecil the Diesel - I believe that one only sort of caught on for LB Cecil Johnson in the '70s after Head Coach John McKay said it in a press conference. He would be far from the first or last Cecil to get that moniker hung on him.

* Peanut - That's how current Bucs and coaches refer to Pro Bowl kick returner Clifton Smith, due to his relatively diminutive size.

* Nook - And that's cornerback Elbert Mack, who has a passing resemblance to Smith. Don't really know the origins of that one.  (Editor's Note: I have since been enlightened by a very well-informed Bucs employee that this nickname is spelled "Nuk" and it's origins date back to Mack's own.  Apparently, Elbert preferred the brand of pacifier by that name, to the point that he would accept no other.)

* The Bull - That was the very complimentary nickname that Gruden gave QB Brad Johnson. It was a reference to how tough and dependable Johnson always was.


There are countless other ones that are basically just initial-name type nicknames, such as "E-Rhett" for Errict Rhett and "LD" for Lawrence Dawsey and "Q" for Shelton Quarles, but I didn't think they were worthy of inclusion on the list. Did I miss anybody, readers? Let me know.

**

4. Mike Daniher of Santa Clara, California asks:

What about the white throwback jerseys answer man? THE AWAY THROWBACK JERSEY? Will we ever see those?

Answer Man: Dude, I don't know, man, but I like your passion. With the all-caps, I picture you pounding the table for emphasis at that part. What about the away throwbacks, man? What...about...them?!!!

Seriously, I don't know, but I would kind of doubt it. My question would be, why? We're talking about one game a year (um, one that is played at home by the way) and the team wants to look its best for that game. Did you see those orange jerseys last year? They were incredible. Personally, I can't wait for this year's Throwback Game (against Atlanta on Dec. 5, if you weren't in the loop) and I would be a bit disappointed if I didn't get to see those orange jerseys again. I'm sure the white ones would look good, but I can't see how they'd be better than the orange.

Generally, teams around the NFL choose to wear their colored jerseys at home, which tells me that they are thought of as the superior choice. When you're on the road, you have no choice, you have to wear the flip of whatever the home team is going to wear. Now, obviously, some teams like the Buccaneers have to make concessions to the weather, which is why you see a lot of white jerseys at home during the first half of the season. The Throwback Games each of the last two seasons have been late enough in the year for that not to be a problem.


I would never say never, Mike, man. You never know. Maybe some season the Bucs will have two Throwback Games and throw a white one in there. But I wouldn't hold my breath.

**

5a. Jake G. of Ishpeming, Michigan asks:

Hey Answer Man, I'm going for the three-peat here. Can you give a rundown for me of our team's defensive statistics (yards allowed, points allowed, turnovers, touchdowns, etc.) during the Monte Kiffin era compared to the other top defenses of that time period. And if your mailbag is light again, can you compare our best statistical seasons to those of the best defenses of all time? Thanks again, A Man.

...and...

5b. Matt Flannery of Streator, Illinois asks:

Hello O' Great Purveyor of Answers, I finally have a statistical question for you. I have long wondered why the 2002 Bucs aren't mentioned with other great defenses. As I remember they were one of the most dominant defenses ever. However, whenever the question comes up the 2000 Ravens are mentioned as the best defense of the modern era. I simply would like you to compare these two teams in every defensive category that you can. If I'm wrong and the Ravens were statistically better then so be it, but I would like to see both the regular season and the post-season. I thank you in advance for all your hard work.

Answer Man: Let's go for the double-dip here since these questions sort of tie in together. Plus, I don't want Jake to get all cocky because he keeps getting questions into the column. See, Jake, you have to share this one with Matt. You're not so special!

Plus, this way I can sort of pick-and-choose what specific questions out of this conglomeration that I want to answer. In some ways, the topic is open-ended, and I could spend days on it. Don't have days to spare right now. I need to finish this today.

The Monte Kiffin era in Buccaneer history is 1996 through 2008. During those 13 years, the Buccaneers finished in the top 10 in the league's defensive rankings 11 times. The only exceptions were 1996 (and in that first year under Kiffin the team improved from 27th the year before to 11th) and 2006 (17th).

During those same 13 seasons, one other NFL team finished in the top 10 in defense 11 times, and you can probably guess which one. Oh, did you say Baltimore? I gave you too much credit. It's Pittsburgh, which is really no surprise. In fact, before counting them up, the Answer Man's main guesses as to which teams would be near the Bucs were Pittsburgh, Miami, Baltimore and Philly.

Baltimore is next on the list, with nine such seasons. Miami and Dallas had eight each. Buffalo, Denver, Philly and Washington all had seven each. The Buffalo and Denver entries kind of surprised me a bit.

Anyway, from that I would suggest we compare the 1996-2008 Bucs to four teams in that same set of years: Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Miami and Dallas.

But wait! We can choose the teams even more objectively than that. The Answer Man has access to a pretty powerful statistical sorting tool for the NFL, and I can actually rank all the teams in a variety of categories, either offensively or defensively. We'll use the ones Jake suggests above: yards allowed/game, points allowed/game and turnovers forced (I left touchdowns scored out because the NFL's stat service groups return and defensive TDs together and that really skews the rankings).

When you go by yards, the top five are exactly the Bucs plus those four teams I just mentioned. When you go by points, New England and Philly replace Dallas and Miami. When you go by turnovers, Carolina and Green Bay replace New England and Philly and Dallas and Miami.

In other words, the three teams that appear in the top five in all three categories are the Bucs, Steelers and Ravens. That is really no surprise. Can we safely say those are the three defenses we should be comparing for the 1996-2008 time span? I think so. But since it's not that hard to expand the table, let's include the other six teams mentioned above.

And by this point I'm practically itching to throw in a chart. To wit:

Team

Yds. Allowed/

Game

Pts. Allowed/

Game

Total

Turnovers

Tampa Bay

286.8

17.4

405

Pittsburgh

283.3

17.5

400

New England

315.6

18.4

398

Baltimore

295.5

18.6

410

Philadelphia

310.6

19.0

380

Miami

304.9

19.4

397

Green Bay

310.7

19.9

404

Dallas

303.1

20.0

346

Carolina

323.1

20.3

412

 

Though the rankings change a bit from category to category, I've sorted the table by points allowed because, really, isn't that what it comes down to. Every defensive coordinator in the world would give up 400 yards in a game if he also got the shutout. Believe me, the choice had nothing to do with the fact that the Bucs happen to rank first in that one. Nothing at all. Seriously.

When it comes down to the numbers across the board, though, supporters for either Tampa Bay or Pittsburgh would have a hard time claiming clear superiority over the other. It's almost incredible how close the numbers are, and those two are clearly ahead of the rest of the pack. It's a 12-yard jump to the third-place team in that category, and almost an entire point jump to the third-place team on that list. Both Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh also rank in the top five in creating turnovers, and there's only a five-TO difference between the two teams.

I'm prepared to call it a Bucs-Steelers tie for first during the Kiffin era.

Now, getting to what Matt wanted, and what Jake kind of touched on at the bottom of his question, let's see who peaked the highest during that time. As both guys mention, the Ravens of 2000 are generally considered one of the best defenses of all time, and the Answer Man wouldn't argue. I would argue that the 2002 Bucs are right there in the same category, and further I would claim that they are often given credit as such. I think that defense gets a lot of respect, especially after it undressed the Raiders in the biggest game of all.

So we'll take the 2002 Bucs, the 2000 Ravens and...hmm, what Steelers team? The 2005 and 2008 teams won Super Bowls, but the Answer Man would argue that the 2001 and 2004 defenses were better than in 2005. However, the 2008 Steelers team did finish first in the league in yards and points allowed and had numbers comparable to or better than the 2001 team, so we'll go with that one so that all three involved are Super Bowl champs. Actually, considering that the Steelers only allowed 237.2 yards per game in 2008, it's an excellent pick. If you sort out the best single-season team defensive performances since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger, ranked by yards, you get a lot of teams from the 1970s. The game was much less offensive back then. Only three teams in the top 15 are not from the '70s: Those 2008 Steelers and the 1991 Eagles.

Just for the heck of it, let's throw in the 1985 Chicago Bears, the 1974 Pittsburgh Steelers and, even though they'll be the only team on the list that didn't win the Super Bowl, the aforementioned 1991 Eagles. I've just listed them chronologically, starting with the most recent.

 

Yds. Allwd/

Gm.

Pts. Allwd/

Gm.

TOs

Forced

1st

Downs

Opp. 3rd-

Down Eff.

Opp. Passer

Rating

2008 Steelers

237.2

13.9

29

240

31.4

63.4

2002 Bucs

252.8

12.3

38

236

33.6

48.4

2000 Ravens

247.9

10.3

49

216

34.1

62.5

1991 Eagles

221.8

15.2

48

206

30.0

52.1

1985 Bears

258.4

12.4

54

236

29.6

51.2

1974 Steelers

219.6

13.5

47

200

32.7

44.1

Conclusion? All those defenses were awesome. Even given the differences in the game between the '70s and '80s and the '00s, the Ravens and Bucs still have the best two points-against numbers. Again, that's what it comes down to. Those '85 Bears forced the most turnovers and also had the best third-down against numbers. The '91 Eagles, which famously finished the year ranked first in overall defense, rushing defense and passing defense, gave up just 221.8 yards per game, almost as good as the '74 Steelers. Too bad they didn't have the offense to take advantage of it. I threw in my pet stat in the final column: opponent passer rating. What the Bucs did that year was unreal. Yes, the 1974 Steelers had a 44.1 opponent passer rating, but Pittsburgh's own rating that year was just 49.0. Again, different eras.

Anyway, by the raw numbers, it looks like the 2000 Ravens hold a very slight edge over the 2002 Bucs. Juggle the numbers another way and you might come up with a different answer. I'm not going to do the postseason portion of your question in part because different teams on the list played different numbers of games in their Super Bowl runs and the comparisons would be difficult to make.

**

6. Logan Pounders of Lakeland, Florida asks:

Okay Answer Man, I know the Bucs have been known as predominately a defensive team but have there been years besides last year that the offense has stood higher than the defense as far as rating wise?

Answer Man: Lots of repeat questioners in this week's column. I recognize that name, too. Anyway, I figured this was a natural follow-up to the two above, and easy to answer, so Logan gets another e-mail in. Congrats.

Actually, it has happened relatively often, though mostly in the 1980s and early 1990s, and mostly in seasons in which neither side ranked all that high.

First, there were two seasons in which the offense and defense finished with identical rankings: 1990 (24th each) and 1995 (27th each). That leaves six seasons in which the Bucs' offense had a higher ranking than the Bucs' defense. By the way, despite the way your question was phrased, that did not happen last year. The Bucs were 28th in offense and 27th in defense in 2009.

* 1980: 15th offense, 20th defense

* 1984: 10th offense, 20th defense

* 1985: 23rd offense, 26th defense

* 1986: 27th offense, 28th defense

* 1992: 16th offense, 25th defense

* 1994: 20th offense, 21st defense

You've got to give the top spot to the 1984 team, I guess. I would say that was the best example of a Buccaneers team that had a strong offense not supported by its usually strong defense.

**

No quickies this time (what, nobody wants to know when the 2011 FanFest is?) but before I go, a note to Chris from Tavernier: I'm not ignoring your question, Chris. I agree it's a good one and I like big projects like that. Unfortunately, naming the best 53-man roster in team history is just a little too fraught with politics for me. Plus, that's an undertaking that really demands an entire article; actually, probably a series of articles.

In fact, Buccaneers.com did something similar a few years back, letting the fans vote on a list at each position, and the editors used the entire offseason to put that one together. Here's a link to the final article in the series, if you'd like to check it out. Of course, it's a little outdated at this point. Well, a lot outdated. And you'll see that the fan vote really skewed to the modern era.

Thanks to everyone who sent in questions over the past few weeks. The mailbag had just about emptied out, but now once again I'm way behind. (So, wait, why am I thanking you again?) Anyway, I only got through about half of the bag this time around, so if you sent in a good one, don't worry just yet. I've got one more of these coming before training camp starts, so you may find it in there. And if you have anything else you want to know, go ahead and send it in.