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The Answer Man, Series 7, Voume 3

Posted Mar 7, 2011

The Buc fans' inside source returns with another round of research, this time touching on such topics as the run-pass balance in the Bucs' play-calling, sophomore quarterbacks and more


One of the things I really enjoy about this series is when it goes beyond the, "you ask, I answer," formula and turns into more of a give-and-take.

 

Not so much the, "you ask, I answer, you rip me for answer," instances, but the times when I think I've provided a pretty good response and then somebody gives me information to make it even better.  In that case, everyone wins.  (Especially me, because it turns into a de facto introduction and I don't have to come up with something else.  This is a good example thereof.)

 

So some of you may recall that in my first column since my return, back in January, I addressed the supposed fifth-down situation that took place in the Buccaneers’ win over the Redskins in December.  To summarize what was a typically long-winded take on the matter, I said that there was no fifth down played; that the players and the officials on the field were never confused as to what was going on; that all the confusion was among the broadcasters and stadium-workers, such as the scoreboard operator; and that the only real mistake was the man on the chain gang who somehow had only extended his marker nine yards instead of 10 on the previous first down.  I also said something along the lines of, "Who cares?  We won anyway!"

 

I stand by everything in the answer, including some details I didn't summarize above.  However, I got an e-mail from a Bucs fan named Michael from Toronto that's worth inserting into the discussion, if for no other reason that it shows how prevalent the confusion was everywhere except for on the field where the action was taking place.  Here's what Mike had to say:

 

I really enjoy the Answer Man articles, keep up the good work! I don't have a question, I just wanted to clarify something about one of your answers from this week. On the infamous "fifth down" play against Washington, you show the "official play-by-play" from that game. The one you showed is not in fact the "original" play by play. The NFL altered the ORIGINAL play-by-play shortly after the game ended. The following link is a picture of the real play by play that was on NFL.com during the game. http://img824.imageshack.us/img824/729/112hh8i.png

 

I'll save you a click and just retype what you would find at that link:

 

  • 1-10-TB 12(:49) (Shotgun) D.McNabb pass short right to A.Armstrong to TB 3 for 9 yards (C.Lynch).

 

  • Timeout #2 by WAS at 00:32
  • 2-1-TB 3(:32) D.McNabb pass incomplete short right to R.Williams
  • 3-1-TB 3(:28) R.Torain right end ran ob at TB 6 for -3 yards (T.Crowder)
  • 4-4-TB 6(:18) D.McNabb pass incomplete short middle to F.Davis.
  • Washington Redskins0:04
  • 4-4-TB 6(:13) D.McNabb pass short middle to S.Moss for 6 yards, TOUCHDOWN.

 

I added the bullets to try to make it easier to read.  And I don't really understand what the second-to-last line ("Washington Redskins0:04") is supposed to mean.

 

Otherwise, what you see here is a pretty good indication of how confusing the scene was in the press box.  I'll tell you this much: I feel sorry for the people on the stats crew.  The system that NFL teams use to import and then eventually distribute stats during a game works well but it's hard to force it to display something that doesn't make sense, such as the apparent extra fourth down above.

 

And I agree with what you said, Mike: I referred to the "official" play-by-play, and you have now supplied the "original" play-by-play.  Once the confusion was cleared up, the only option was to declare that the original nine-yard pass had actually gone 10 yards to the two-yard line, even though you can see on the replay that it only went to the three.  Once the correction was made, that became the official play-by-play, and the one that will be saved in perpetuity for our great-great-grandchildren to one day pore over as they look back nostalgically at the simple days of three-dimensional sports and laughably-small $10 million salaries.

 

As I said before, the confusion was upstairs, and the stat crew just happens to be upstairs with the media and the broadcasters.  I was in that press box that day and, fortunately, the guy next to me noticed right away that the marker on the field said first down while the scoreboard said second down.  Thus, the two of us were lucky to know what was going on the whole time, but virtually everyone around us was confused.  Not far away, I'm sure the same thing was happening to the folks on the stat crew.  If nobody saw the first-down marker on the field, then they would have assumed (and obviously did assume) that it was second down.  Even 10 or 15 minutes after the game was over, there were still radio stringers calling in their reports and making a big deal out of the "Missouri-Colorado-like" fifth-down.  Who knows how long after the final whistle the correction was made in the stats system and subsequently updated on NFL.com and elsewhere.

 

Anyway, that's good stuff, Michael, and I appreciate the added information, as I'm sure your fellow readers do.  I also appreciate the kind words.  Let's see if we can put together another good set of questions and answers this week.

 

Oh, wait – one more thing.  I have to do this sort-of public service announcement a few times every spring, because I hate to disappoint readers who send in questions about the upcoming draft.  Here's the deal: I can't really answer questions about who the Bucs may draft or what positions they will target or which players they really like.  Let me state first that I don't really have the answers to those questions…I know, I know, as the supposed "Answer Man" I like to posture that I either know the answer to any Buc-related question or can find it out.  But nothing is kept closer to the vest inside an NFL office than draft strategy.  I can guarantee you that the team's decision-makers would never tell me what their strategy is or which players they value the most no matter how many ways I tried to ask.  It's only smart.  Furthermore, if I did know the answers to any of those questions, I would not be allowed to share it, for the same reasons.  So I have to plead ignorance and the Fifth on questions such as this from Jo in Tampa:

 

Hey AM. Do you see the Bucs using their 20th and 51st picks on Defensive Ends much like last year when our first two picks went towards DTs? If we did get two Ends to complement the DTs could our line start to dominate like Rice, Sapp and McFarland did back in our Super Bowl run??

 

Who knows?  Everyone agrees it's a deep draft for pass-rushers, so if the Bucs decide to target that position, it could provide value.  As another recent post here on Buccaneers.com indicated, however, General Manager Mark Dominik cautioned against "pigeon-holing" the Bucs' draft intentions.  I will say this about your question, Jo: Don't forget Greg Spires!  Spires was the end opposite Simeon Rice that year, and he had two sacks during the playoffs.  He also tipped the pass that led to Dwight Smith's record-setting second interception-return touchdown at the very end of the game.  And while McFarland did have a good year, he was injured and lost for the season before the playoffs.  Chartric Darby stepped in and did a marvelous job in his place.

 

Okay, now on to your e-mails!

 

**

 

1. Will of Vero Beach, Florida asks:

What was the Bucs' run-to-pass ratio vs. the Detroit Lions? Actually what was the run-to-pass ratio all year?

 

I'm not going to lie – there was an additional thought on the end of this question that I omitted.  It wasn't particularly positive and I didn't want it in my column, but without it you don't really get a feel for the unhappy emotional state this question came from.  Suffice it to say, Will wasn't particularly fond of the play-calling in that game.  And, while he didn't specifically say so, I assume he felt the Bucs didn't run the ball enough.  Whenever somebody complains about run-to-pass ratio in the play-calling, they are invariably of the opinion that the offensive coordinator is foolishly abandoning the run.

 

In one of my recent video segments (you can find them all here in the Buccaneers.com video archive), I briefly addressed a very similar question, but one without the angry tone.  I wasn't afraid of Will's more biting e-mail, I just felt it needed a more detailed response than I have time for in the videos. 

 

The other questioner, a Drew from San Diego, just wanted to know how much more run-oriented the Bucs became with the emergence of LeGarrette Blount and how that compared to the rest of the league.  To summarize the answer I gave him, the Bucs passed (or intended to pass and got sacked) on 54.9% of their plays in 2010, making them the 10th-most run-oriented team in the NFL.  As examples that the game can be one in a variety of ways, I also pointed out that this year's Super Bowl pitted the league's sixth-most run-oriented team (Pittsburgh) against its 19th-most run-oriented team (Green Bay), with the more pass-happy team winning a very entertaining ballgame.

 

Anyway, this is part of the reason why I found Will's e-mail curious.  Perhaps it was composed during or right after the Lions game, which was admittedly pretty dang frustrating.  In retrospect, that 23-20 overtime loss may have kept the Bucs out of the playoffs (see more on that in the following question).

 

But the thing is, the Bucs ran 28 times for 176 yards in that game, averaging 6.3 yards per carry.  That was their seventh-highest total of rushes in any game in 2010, their third-highest rushing-yardage total and their sixth-best yards-per-carry mark.  If I'm wrong and Will actually was complaining that the team didn't pass enough, well, dropped back 36 times in that game and threw for 252 yards (227 net after three sacks for 25 yards).  Overall, Tampa Bay had 403 yards of offense, its third-highest total of the year.  It's hard to see a problem in the run-pass ratio there.  Officially, it was 56.3% passing plays, which is pretty close to the season-long mark of 54.9% I noted above.

 

Returning to Drew's original question, the Buccaneers definitely found a better run-pass balance after Blount became the primary ballcarrier.  The team's three highest marks in terms of percentage of plays that were passes all came in the first six contests.  Blount really emerged in Game Seven.

 

Again, I'm willing to bet Will thought the ball should have been run more, because it is a general belief that commitment to the run – or perhaps, more diplomatically worded, a commitment to balance on offense – is the path to victory.  Take a look at the Buccaneers in 2010: In their 10 wins they ran the ball on 48.8% of the plays; in their six losses, they ran it on only 39.4% of the plays.  Or consider these win-loss records for the Buccaneers over the last 10 years (regular-season only) depending on how many times they run the ball:

 

Rushes

W

L

Pct.

20 or fewer

5

32

.135

21-30

35

45

.438

31-40

29

4

.879

More than 40

10

0

1.000

 

That's pretty stark.  The Bucs have won an incredible 39 of the last 43 games in which they've run it more than 30 times, and you have to go back to 1991 to find a game Tampa Bay lost while running the ball more than 40 times (17-10 loss to Buffalo on Sept. 22, 1991).  The Bucs have 50 games in their history with 41 or more carries, and they are 43-7 in those contests, including a 28-1 mark since 1984.

 

But the Answer Man has said it before and I will say it again: You have to be careful about reading too much into the one-way causality in those numbers.  That is to say, did the Bucs win those games because they ran it so much, or did they run it so much because they were winning?  There are probably examples of both types of games in that set of 50 results, and most likely a majority of instances in which the answer is a little bit of both.  Obviously, you can't just call 41 running plays to start a game and, regardless of the results of each carry, expect to win 86% of the time.

 

As mentioned above, the Packers won this year's Super Bowl with a pass-heavy approach, but they certainly weren't inept running the ball.  The early-season loss of Ryan Grant made it more difficult for Green Bay to field a consistent rushing attack for much of the season, though James Starks did emerge for the team in the playoffs.  Obviously, the winners of the previous Super Bowl, the New Orleans Saints, were also a pretty pass-heavy team.

 

The Answer Man does believe that, in the long run, a balanced attack is the best approach, and I would claim, despite Will's apparent frustration (again, I edited out the more unhappy part of his question above), that the Bucs were pretty dang balanced in 2010.  Let's take a look at Tampa Bay's historic run-pass ratios, from season to season, and see if there is any trend as to what has led to the most success.

 

Here are the five most successful seasons in team history, in terms of win percentage (actually, seven, because there's a five-way tie for fourth):

 

Season

Win Pct.

% of Pass Plays

1. 2002

.750

59.5%

2t. 1999

.688

49.3%

2t. 2005

.688

53.6%

4t. 1979

.625

42.3%

4t. 1997

.625

47.7%

4t. 2000

.625

49.0%

4t. 2010

.625

54.9%

 

That is a pretty interesting list of results.  The 1979 season seems like an outlier, with such a low percentage of pass plays, but obviously the game was more run-oriented in that era.  The Bucs threw on just 42.9% of their plays in 1978, almost an identical number to 1979, but went just 5-11.  The 1980 season was the first time the Bucs ever threw more than they ran.

 

It's much more interesting to see that the Bucs ran more than they threw during the very successful seasons of 1997, 1999 and 2000.  And the 54.9% passing play predominance this past season was the Bucs' third-lowest in the past 10 years.  However, of the seven most successful seasons in team history (by win percentage), the one that was most successful was 2002, the Super Bowl season.  And Tampa Bay's 59.5% rate of passing plays is easily the highest number on that list.  In fact, it is the fourth-highest number in team history, trailing only 2001, 1989 and 1991.

 

Those very good teams in 1997, 1999 and 2000 weren't just good running teams; as any Bucs fan knows, they also featured one of the greatest defenses in the NFL's modern era.  In fact, the team's rushing-yardage rankings in the NFL in those three seasons were 11th, 15th and 9th, respectively.  Good, but certainly not dominating the league.

 

Perhaps we should look at which teams were the best at scoring points rather than win percentage.  That is the job of the offense, after all.  Here are the top 10 point-scoring teams in Buccaneer history, along with their percentage of passing plays:

 

Season

Pts./Game

% of Pass Plays

1. 2000

24.3

49.0%

2. 2008

22.6

56.8%

3. 2002

21.6

59.5%

4. 2010

21.3

54.9%

5t. 1984

20.9

55.7%

5t. 2007

20.9

53.9%

7. 2001

20.3

61.1%

8. 1989

20.0

59.8%

9. 1981

19.7

51.8%

10. 1998

19.6

47.7%

 

When it comes to scoring points, it looks like there are plenty of different ways to get it done.  There seems to be a higher incidence of heavier-passing teams in this grouping, but the list is also skewed to the last 15 years, and games are not only more pass-oriented these days but also generally higher-scoring.

 

Do we have enough in these numbers to suggest that either run-heavy or pass-heavy is a better approach for the Buccaneers, historically?  Probably not.  But I think it is fair to say – returning to the original question – that the Buccaneers did not run the ball too infrequently in 2010, or in that one Detroit game that got Will's hackles up.

 

**

 

2. James Wilson of Crewe, UK asks:

Ah, Answer Man. I thought you had forsaken us. I have waited until now hoping this will find the top of your pile as I have two questions to tempt your chartical (not a word, but hey) senses and delight your graphical taste. After seeing the stellar efforts of our 22-year-old soph QB I was wondering, how does he compare against other sophomore QBs? OK, now how about QBs his own age? (This still counts as one question, right?). Question 2: We all know that Freeman wears number 5 and that QBs can wear a number from 1 to 19; so which number is most popular with the signalman and which number is seldom seen? Has any number never been worn?  Look forward to the reply, lord of answers, and it's good to see you again :)

 

Answer Man: Ah, James, just get used to the fact that I'm not going to be around much during the actual football season. They put me to work in other ways around here (too bad my superpowers don't involve running very fast or breaking tackles).  I try to make my repeated and triumphant returns in January, then work up a column as often as I can into the following summer.   Nice of you to care, though.  Also, "chartical?"  I like it.

 

I see two ways to answer question 1a; that is, how does Freeman compare to other sophomore (second year in the NFL, that is) starting quarterbacks through the years.  One way would be to arbitrarily form a list of some of the more successful quarterbacks of the last 20 or 30 years, and see who had the best second seasons.  Another would be to pick some statistical levels that Freeman reached as a second-year man and see how many of the quarterbacks who had the same achievements were sophomores.

 

Hmmm.  You know, we've kind of done it the second way here on Buccaneers.com already, using Freeman's most impressive stats of 2010.  You may recall that the budding star threw 25 touchdown passes but was picked off just six times this past season.  That was the ninth best TD/INT ratio in a single season for any quarterback who threw at least 20 scoring passes that year.

 

I know my colleagues here have already mentioned on several occasions that Freeman is the greenest quarterback in that top 10 list.  Above him are the likes of Tom Brady, Steve DeBerg, Brett Favre and Peyton Manning, all of whom were in at least their seventh season before they put up a better TD/INT ratio than what Freeman did last year.  Among the top 10 seasons on the list, the only three that were put together by players in their fifth NFL season or earlier were those by Freeman in 2010, Aaron Rodgers in 2009 (his fifth year) and Milt Plum in 1960 (his fourth year).

 

Furthermore, there are no other second-year quarterbacks in the top 20 on that list.  You have to go down to the 24th entry on the list to find another player in his second NFL season or earlier, and that player is none other than Dan Marino.  The Miami Dolphins great had a 20/6 ratio as a rookie in 1983; he also has the 48th entry on the list, with a 48/17 ratio in his second season, 1984.  The only other players in the top 50 on the list who were in their second year or earlier are #27 Kurt Warner (41/13, 2nd season, 1999), #28 Ken O'Brien (25/8, 2nd season, 1985), #31 Jeff Garcia (31/10, 2nd season, 2000) and #45t Tony Eason (23/8, 2nd season, 1984).  You could reasonably remove Warner and Garcia from the list, too.  Warner had first entered the league with the Packers in 1994 but didn't really stick until he joined the Rams in 1998, while Garcia spent five years in the Canadian Football League before joining the 49ers in 1999.

 

Okay, how about one more crack at the same approach with a different set of statistics.  Last year, Freeman threw for 3,451 yards and finished with a passer rating of 95.9, the best ever for a Buccaneer who started all 16 games in a season.  Let's take a look at the top 50 single-season passer rating marks for a player who threw for at least 3,400 yards…

 

Oops, Freeman isn't quite on that list.  His 2010 season ranks 53rd.  Still, we can work with that.  How many of the seasons among the top 53 were turned in by quarterbacks in their second season or sooner?  Exactly six, one of which is Freeman.  And if we once again remove Garcia and Warner from the list, given that it wasn't really close to their second professional seasons, you are left with this group of second-year passers:

 

Player

Year

Pass Yds.

Rating

Carson Palmer

2005

3,836

101.1

Daunte Culpepper

2000

3,937

98.0

Ken O'Brien

1985

3,888

96.2

Josh Freeman

2010

3,451

95.9

 

Okay, how about that other approach, where we arbitrarily take a list of obviously good quarterbacks and compare their second NFL seasons to Freeman's?  The key word here is "arbitrarily," James.  I assume you want to see how Freeman's career start compares with that of some other quarterbacks who went on to long and very good careers in the NFL.  How do we create that list?  How about this: Let's look at all the quarterbacks in league history who played (or are in the process of playing) at least 10 seasons and have a passer rating of 80.0 or better.  It's actually a pretty lengthy list, as I guess I set the passer rating bar in the mid-range, but if you don't go below 85.0 you leave out some pretty big names.  Here is that list, ranked by career passer rating, with the player's name, career rating and what he did in his second NFL season (starts, yards, rating):

 

Player

 

2nd Yr. (Starts, Yds., Rtg.)

Steve Young

97.2

14

2,282

65.5

Tom Brady

95.2

14

2,843

86.5

Peyton Manning

94.9

16

4,135

90.7

Kurt Warner

93.7

16

4,353

109.2

Joe Montana

92.3

7

1,795

87.8

Drew Brees

91.7

16

3,284

76.9

Chad Pennington

90.1

0

92

79.6

Daunte Culpepper

87.8

16

3,937

98.0

Jeff Garcia

87.5

16

4,278

97.6

Dan Marino

86.4

16

5,084

108.9

Trent Green

86.0

14

3,441

81.8

Brett Favre

86.0

13

3,227

85.3

Donovan McNabb

85.7

16

3,365

77.8

Rich Gannon

84.7

0

90

66.0

Jim Kelly

84.4

12

2,798

83.8

Mark Brunell

84.0

10

2,168

82.6

Roger Staubach

83.4

3

542

42.9

Steve McNair

82.8

4

1,197

90.6

Brian Griese

82.7

13

3,032

75.6

Sonny Jurgensen

82.6

0

259

77.7

Len Dawson

82.6

0

11

0.0

Brad Johnson

82.5

0

272

68.3

Matt Hasselbeck

82.2

0

104

86.3

Ken Anderson

81.9

13

1,918

74.0

Bernie Kosar

81.8

16

3,854

83.8

Neil O'Donnell

81.8

12

2,283

83.6

Danny White

81.7

0

35

10.4

Troy Aikman

81.6

15

2,579

66.6

Dave Krieg

81.5

3

843

83.3

Randall Cunningham

81.5

5

1,391

72.9

Jake Delhomme

81.2

0

113

113.7

Boomer Esiason

81.1

14

3,443

93.2

Warren Moon

80.9

14

2,709

68.5

Jeff Hostetler

80.5

0

0

n/a

Bart Starr

80.5

11

1,489

69.3

Ken O'Brien

80.4

16

3,888

96.2

Jeff George

80.4

16

2,910

73.8

Fran Tarkenton

80.4

14

2,595

66.9

Steve Beuerlein

80.3

7

1,677

78.4

Dan Fouts

80.2

11

1,732

61.4

 

That's a lot of names, I know.  But you can remove Montana, Pennington, Gannon, Staubach, McNair, Jurgensen, Dawson, Johnson, Hasselbeck, White, Krieg, Cunningham, Delhomme, Hostetler and Beuerlein because they weren't full-time starters in their second seasons. I would also, once again, lop Garcia and Warner off the list.  How many of the remaining seasons seem to be demonstrably better than Freeman's?  Marino's for sure.  Maybe Manning's because of the much higher yardage total.  Is that it?  You decide.

 

There are three second seasons on here that look very much like what Freeman just did, those belonging to Culpepper, Esiason and O'Brien.  Freeman isn't trying to duplicate specifically what any of those players accomplished, but it's certainly not a discouraging list of comparables.

 

You know what, James?  I'm not going to do part 1b of this question, as to how Freeman compares to QBs of a similar age.  I think the comparable players and the overall analysis would just end up very similar to what we have above for second-year players, particularly when you make the point of removing such players as Garcia and Warner. 

 

As for the quarterback jersey number thing, I'm only going to be able to answer that question fully from a Buccaneers' perspective.  I don't really have a database I can sort that would allow me to see every player, or every quarterback for that matter, who has worn specific jersey numbers.

 

As I said, I can do that for the Bucs, though.  I even touched a little bit on a smaller version of this topic in one of my recent videos.  Did I mention I'm on video now?  Yeah, I'm a star.

 

From 1-19 – which, as you point out, constitutes the range of allowable numbers for an NFL quarterback – the Buccaneers have had a passer play in at least one game with each of those jerseys except 1, 3, 6 and 9.  The Bucs have had a #1 (Joe Hamilton) and a #9 (Mike Pawlawski) at quarterback on the roster during the regular season, but neither one actually got into a game wearing that number.  Hamilton got into one game as a rookie in 2000, but he was wearing #14 at the time.  Here's the most prominent quarterback the Bucs have had at each of the other available numbers (as measured by number of games and starts, with starts taking precedence):

 

2: Chris Simms (19/15)

4: Steve Walsh (17/0)

5: Josh Freeman (26/25)

7: Craig Erickson (37/30)

8: Brian Griese (22/21)

10: Shaun King (31/22)

11: Steve Spurrier (14/12)

12: Trent Dilfer (79/76)

13: Tim Rattay (4/2)

14: Vinny Testaverde (76/72)

15: Mike Rae (11/5)

16: Blair Kiel (10/0)

17: Steve DeBerg (64/37)

18: Parnell Dickinson (8/1)

19: Gary Huff (14/6)

 

I made a point of saying starts was considered first over games played, because at a few of the numbers you had to choose one or the other.  For instance, Casey Weldon has the most games played in #11, at 24, but Spurrier had by far the most starts, at 12, despite appearing in only 14 games.  We all believe that we're locked in at #5 for quite a few years to come, but somewhere down the road some quarterback has to pick up #18 or #19.  Nobody has worn either of those numbers as a quarterback for the Buccaneers since 1978.

 

Overall, #12 barely edges out #14 as the most prominent quarterback number in franchise history.  Thanks mostly to Dilfer and Doug Williams, #12 has played in 160 games and made 149 starts at quarterback for Tampa Bay.  With Testaverde and Brad Johnson leading the way, #14 comes in at 157 games played and 141 starts.

 

Jersey #7 has been worn by the most quarterbacks in team history, with eight different players adopting that number at some point during the regular season.  One of those eight was Rick Neuheisel, who never got into a game, but each of the other seven – Erickson, Jeff Garcia, Byron Leftwich, Jeff Carlson, Alan Risher and Bruce Gradkowski – made it onto the field.

 

If you want to read a discussion of the top quarterbacks in NFL history at each number, check out this link I found on ESPN.com.  It seems like the numbers that are still screaming for somebody to come and claim them are #2 (their pick is Doug Flutie), #3 (Daryle Lamonica) and #6 (Bubby Brister).  Man, don't even bother at #12…you know it's a crowded field when Jim Kelly is fifth and Kenny Stabler is an honorable mention.

 

**

 

3. Mike Williams of Fort Worth, Texas asks:

Okay, I'm not really a Buccaneers fan.  Sorry.  For obvious reasons though I've enjoyed the work of your young receiver, Mike Williams.  I've been on your web site a little bit just to check if there is any news about him.  I hope you'll still take my question – I mean, I don't have anything against the Bucs, they just weren't my team growing up.  I promise to root for you guys the next time you're playing the Eagles or Redskins.  So if you're going to take my question, here it is – I read that Mike Williams' 11 touchdown catches last year was a record for the Buccaneers.  I looked it up and saw that he had 65 catches overall.  Did the guy whose record he broke have more or less catches than that overall?  How does 11 TDs in 65 catches rank in your team's history – that seems like getting to the end zone an awful lot.  Like, for instance, Greg Jennings had one more TD catch but he also had 76 catches overall.  It's nice to have a Mike Williams finally make our name proud in the NFL!

 

Answer Man: Actually, it was a nice little year for you Mike Williamses of the world, with the former USC receiver of the same name having an impressive bounceback-from-the-dead season in Seattle.  We'd like to think our Mike Williams had the bigger year, though, and we appreciate any reason you want to come and check out our team.

 

Anyway, your question is very easy for the Answer Man to handle, and that will get you into the column any day.  Did you see how long that last answer was?  That thing too me all day!

 

Mike Williams' 11 touchdown catches last year broke the Buccaneer record of 10 set by Joey Galloway in 2005.  Galloway became the first Buc to hit double-digits in that category, doing so among 83 catches. In other words, one of every 8.3 grabs Galloway made finished in the end zone; Williams found paydirt once out of every 5.9 times he caught the ball.

 

Three former Buc receivers had shared the record at nine touchdowns before Galloway's big season: Kevin House in 1981, Bruce Hill in 1988 and Mark Carrier in 1989.  House did it in 56 catches, scoring once for every 6.2 catches.  Hill had 58 receptions, and thus a similar mark of a TD for every 6.4 catches.  Carrier had 86 receptions, a team single-season record at the time, and a score once every 9.6 times he hauled one in.

 

So, among the highest-scoring receivers in team history, Williams did have the highest ratio of touchdowns to overall catches.  Hopefully, that becomes a career-long trend.

 

However, the single best single-season mark in franchise history, in terms of touchdowns per reception, belongs to one of Williams' teammates in 2010.  No, not Arrelious Benn or Kellen Winslow or Cadillac Williams.

 

Nope, it's Donald Penn.

 

You may recall the Bucs' big left tackle lining up as an eligible player at the end of the line on a goal-line play at San Francisco this past fall.  Penn flared out to his left and made a nice catch of a low pass for the first reception, and touchdown, of his career.  That was his only catch of the season, so his ratio is a neat one touchdown for every one catch made.  Can't beat that.

 

Actually, Penn just grabbed a share of the record, because Hall of Fame guard Randall McDaniel did the same thing in 2000, scoring on a two-yard catch that was his only reception of the season.  Oh, and tackle Ron Heller did it, too, in 1986.  I guess this little gambit works about once a decade.  A more unusual case is Scott Dierking, a running back in 1984, his only season as a Buc, who caught exactly one pass for five yards and a touchdown.

 

If you set the minimum at a five-TD season, to eliminate those trick-play entries, then the winner far and away is Larry Mucker.  In 1979, Mucker caught just 14 passes overall, but five of them went for touchdowns, or one of every 2.8 catches.

 

Among Buccaneers who have notched at least 10 touchdowns in their careers, Williams already has the best scoring rate at, again, one every 5.9 catches.  If you move the minimum to at least 20 career touchdowns, than the best Buc at finding the end zone becomes former tight end Dave Moore.  Moore scored 24 touchdowns among his 184 career grabs, or one every 7.7 catches.

 

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Okay, I know I usually do a few more main questions in each column, but to be honest my mailbag is getting a little thin (surprisingly).  I've got a couple other nice ones, but they would take a lot of work and I think I'll save them for the next column, just in case I don't get an influx of new questions over the next week or so.

 

Therefore, we'll take it out with a relatively long round of Quickies.  As always, these are questions that don't require much elaboration, or that I have answered satisfactorily in the past.

 

4. Michael of Indianapolis, Indiana asks:

How is A. Benn doing with his recovery from his knee injury? Any chance he will be ready for next season?

 

Answer Man: Arrelious is doing great in his rehab, Michael, but don't take my word for it.  Our guys here at Buccaneers.com interviewed him about that a few weeks ago.  You can watch the video here.  The timing of Benn's injury, so late in the season, means his recovery is a priority for much of the upcoming offseason, but he says he is right on target and expect to be just fine for 2011.

 

**

 

5. Mike Aviles of Tampa, Florida asks:

What is the Bucs' all-time W/L record in weather below 40 degrees?

 

Answer Man: I don't know, what's the Royals' record in the last 10 years?

 

I kid, I kid.  Plus, this probably is not the same Mike Aviles who plays infield for the Royals, so that was probably a confusing reply.  Anyway, this little note used to get tossed around a lot as "proof" that the Bucs couldn't win in cold weather.  Really, it had more to do with the team's overall futility from 1983 through the mid-90s.

 

The Bucs are 2-23 all-time in games in which the temperature at kickoff is 39 degrees or less, including playoffs.  The two wins were at Chicago on Dec. 29, 2002, in 38-degree weather (and dropping fast, that was an evening game).  The Bucs' 15-0 victory that night clinched a first-round playoff bye and helped the Bucs get to the NFC Championship Game in Philly about a month later.  There, the Bucs beat the Eagles, 27-10, on a very cold night in which the kickoff temperature was 26 degrees.  If you expand it just a few degrees higher, to 43 or below, the Bucs have five more cold-weather wins.

 

**

 

6. Jay Polk of Lynchburg, State Unspecified (Virginia?) asks:

Who has the most tackles in team history?

 

Answer Man: Derrick Brooks is the leader by far, with 2,196 over 14 seasons.  Ronde Barber is second at 1,260, a remarkable total for a cornerback that is a reflection of both his longevity and his toughness.  Hardy Nickerson (1,028), Shelton Quarles (985) and John Lynch (973) round out the top five.

 

**

 

7. Ralph of Purcell, Oklahoma asks:

Who took over at quarterback for the Bucs in the 2005 season when Brad Johnson was hurt?

 

Answer Man: I think you may have your years mixed up a little bit, Ralph.  After leading the Buccaneers to a Super Bowl win in 2002, Johnson started all 16 games in 2003, as well.  He was the opening-day starter in 2004 but after the team started 0-4 the decision was made to go to Chris Simms to start Game Five.  Simms was hurt in that contest, at New Orleans, but the Bucs then turned to Brian Griese, who performed well as Tampa Bay won five times over an eight-game span.  Johnson was let go after the 2004 campaign and Griese was the opening day starter in 2005.  When he was injured in the fifth game, at the end of a 5-1 start for the team, the Bucs went back to Simms, who started the remainder of the '05 season and helped Tampa Bay win the NFC South for a second time.

 

**

 

8. Austin Wiles of Goshen, State or Province Unspecified (again) asks:

Where can I find your 2011-2012 season schedule?

 

Answer Man: Actually, nowhere, just yet.  The 2011 NFL schedule will be released some time in early April, the exact date not known yet.  However, I can tell you who all 16 opponents will be for the Buccaneers next fall – just click here to see the list.  The NFL doesn't really refer to its seasons in that manner – 2011-12 or 2012-13 – but in case you wanted to know who the Bucs are playing in 2012 (or any year up through 2017 for that matter), you'll find it on that linked page.

 

**

 

Alrighty, that will do it for the Answer Man today.  If you were reading above, you'll know that there's plenty of room these days in the ol' e-mailbag.  This might be your best chance to get a question into the column!  Just go here to submit your query.

 

Until next time…Go Bucs!

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