As I noted in setting up Carmen's Give Me Five topic on Wednesday, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers had exactly one Pro Bowl selection in 2020. In retrospect, that seems laughable. I'm actually not laughing, but I am willing to bet that won't happen again in 2021. Whether or not the Buccaneers are successful in their quest to repeat as league champs, last year's run has certainly shined a light on a number of star-caliber players in Tampa.
If I'm right about that, and if some of those stars put up big seasons again this fall there could be a number of accolades coming the Bucs' way this time around. And that's the topic for which I am asking Carmen Vitali to share her wisdom as we bring "Give Me Five" week to a close. If you've been following a long, you know the gimmick: I give Carmen a topic and she has to come up with a Top Five list for it, then we reverse roles the next day. I previously tasked Carmen with coming up with lists of her favorite plays from last season and the five Bucs she expects to produce more in 2021. Now this:
Today's Topic: Name five awards or honors Buccaneer figures could win in 2021.
You'll notice that I said "figures" and not "players." That was in order to leave the topic broad enough to potentially include a non-player, such as a coach or an executive. It may be asking a lot for Tampa Bay figures to win all of the awards Carmen lists below, but each one should have its own valid argument. Take it away, Carmen!
Carmen: Like Scott said, it's LAUGHABLE that the Bucs had just one Pro Bowler in a Super Bowl-winning season. Except, I'm not laughing. The constant snubbing and overlooking has to end and I'm hoping 2021 is a makeup year in that regard.
Because Jason Pierre-Paul was that lone soldier that garnered a Pro Bowl selection, I'm leaving him off the below list. I don't see a downturn in his production any time soon so I foresee him making the game again but let's shine the light on some other guys.
5. Tristan Wirfs – Pro Bowl/All-Pro
I know it's hard for linemen to get noticed but for crying out loud Wirfs allowed just one sack in 851 pass blocking snaps, according to PFF as a rookie. Yeah. That's as insane as it sounds. He did make the All-Rookie team, which was great but he deserved more honors on the league stage, especially after going against some of the NFL's top pass rushing talent very early in the season.
All he has to do is keep up his incredible play and he should be recognized for it this year. I hope.
Also, because I don't feel good about making an entirely separate bullet for another lineman, throw Ali Marpet in there for Pro Bowl and All-Pro honors too, please.
4. Joe Tryon – Defensive Rookie of the Year
Go big or go home right? There are a few reasons for this. Firstly, I just think Tryon is going to end up being an incredible player. I do wonder if him having to split time with Pierre-Paul and Shaq Barrett in some form or fashion will limit his work enough that he may not end up being considered for this award but I can pretty much promise you it won't be for lack of talent.
The other reason I think Tryon has an excellent shot at the award is just how offensively heavy the first round of the 2021 draft, especially, was. Theoretically, Tryon won't have a ton of competition on the defensive side of the ball for Rookie of the Year honors. There are guys like cornerbacks Jaycee Horn, who went to the Panthers or Patrick Surtain II that went to the Broncos. There's defensive end Jaelen Phillips, who stayed home and went to the Miami Dolphins. But here's the thing, those teams aren't going to get near the exposure as the Bucs likely will with their defending Super Bowl Champions title and stacked roster returning to go for two in 2021. That should also work in Tryon's favor – so I'm sticking with it.
3. Jason Licht – Executive of the Year
Licht should already win this before the season is even played given the incredible feat the Bucs were able to accomplish in bringing back all of their Super Bowl starters. That's something that has never been done in the salary cap era of the NFL. The last time it happened at all was in the late 70s with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Now Vice President of Football Administration, Mike Greenberg, and his salary cap wizardry undoubtedly had a huge hand in that, too. Licht would share, I'm sure. But especially if the Bucs do well and actually indeed get two, I don't know how you'd have an argument against Licht as the best general manager in the league.
2. Devin White – Pro Bowl/All Pro
I'm honestly shocked with White's 9.0 SACKS that he wasn't even named a first-team All-Pro guy. But what was even funnier (if that's what you call it) was that White didn't even make the Pro Bowl. The 2020 rosters were revealed on December 17. The Bucs played Atlanta on December 20. White responded to his snub by getting 3.0 sacks in that game alone.
Yeah, that's funny.
Especially with his play in the postseason following his absence due to COVID-19 for the first game (and the final game of the regular season), White got himself noticed. Hopefully that carries over into 2021 and people start the year off paying attention.
1. Lavonte David – EVERY AWARD HE'S ELIGIBLE FOR
I mean, you knew this was coming. When does the overlooking of Lavonte David stop? Is it too early to start the 2021 Pro Bowl campaign?
Scott's Thoughts: It is insanely hard for young offensive linemen to get Pro Bowl or All-Pro recognition, with Quenton Nelson being the exception that proves the rule. That said, I don't think Carmen is being too adventurous with that prediction of Pro Bowl recognition for Tristan Wirfs. See, Wirfs already has a pretty good league-wide buzz about him. ESPN's Bill Barnwell named him one of the two best offensive tackles in the entire league last year, not just among rookies. Just a few days ago, Tyler Sullivan of CBS Sports judged Wirfs to be the seventh-best tackle in the league for 2021. The groundwork has already been laid for awards voters to not only think of the young Buccaneer blocker but to assume he is already a star heading into the season.
Carmen only has five spots here and she had to use one on David, that's clear. So for her one non-player choice she went with Jason Licht, which is a great pick. If we could add one more though, how about a Coach of the Year nod for Bruce Arians? If the Buccaneers are as good in 2021 as they were in 2020 – after a long run of futility that involved a lot of different head coaches – shouldn't he be in strong consideration for the award? And how amazing would it be for him to win that award for a third different team? If that happens, you might have to start seriously thinking about the Hall of Fame.