Beginning last week, Buccaneers.com is running a series of articles identifying the top player in franchise history who has worn each jersey number. We began with numbers 1-10 on Tuesday and followed with numbers 11-20 on Thursday. We'll move on to the 21-30 and 31-40 ranges this week.
Some of the choices were easy. We don't have to tell you who got the nod at number 20 or number 13. Some were quite difficult, either due to more than one strong candidate wearing the same number or a lack of any strong candidates at a certain spot.
You may notice the word "we" in the paragraph above, and it's also used throughout those linked articles. To be clear, that's the so-called "royal we," or since none of us are actual monarchs here at Buccaneers.com, the "editorial we." It's usage is meant to indicate that the author is a spokesperson for a shared opinion.
But I will be honest: The usage of the editorial we was just a choice that I made without much thought given to it. To be clear, all of the selections in this series of articles were made by me.
And so it is me who stands before you know, figuratively speaking, to take the well-deserved heat for a bad pick. Which one do I now understand I got wrong? Here, allow me to let some of your fellow fans make that clear, as they did on Facebook:
View photos of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 53-man roster.
Robert Dennis: Other than missing the mark by a mile with Garcia over Gramatica this list...so far..is pretty solid. 9/10. That's good.
Chuck Glass: I love Garcia, but better than Automatica Gramatica? Nah bro.
Ian Cohen: Gramatica over Garcia every day of the week and twice on Sunday!! actually make it three times on Sunday because his 3 was automatic-a!!!
Greg Spivey: This list is an absolute waste of time and holds no validity. To put Jeff Garcia over Martin Gramatica is a travesty. The person who wrote this should not only be fired but should not even be allowed to watch football and judging by that pick they don't
Mike Ohman: Happy feet garcia. He was fun to watch. Gramatica was definitely my pick for 7 though.
Jessie Gutierrez: How do they give Garcia the #7 spot and not Gramatica?
Fred Jackson: Gramatica is hands down the best #7. His celebrations alone are classic memories.
Gil Gulick: I am baffled by Garcia over Gramatica! It is no contest!
Brady McDonald: Gramatica just out here gettin' robbed outta that #7 spot!
Anyway, my thinking when making the choice at number seven was that two very good seasons by a quarterback, one of which resulted in the team's most recent playoff berth, was inherently more valuable than a kicker's contributions, no matter how good that kicker was. I stand by the assertion that Garcia was a very good quarterback for the Buccaneers, but those who protested the choice have convinced me that the rest of my logic was wrong. Here's how I justified it at the time:
"Martin Gramatica, the team's all-time leading scorer, switched to 10 late in his Buccaneer tenure but he did most of his damage as number 7. This was a much more difficult choice than our other kicker-QB showdowns, but it comes down to this: Garcia was quite good as a Buccaneer. He started 24 games over his two seasons with the team and went 14-10, giving him the second-best winning percentage as a quarterback in team history. His 92.2 passer rating as a Buccaneer is the best for any QB in team annals with at least 500 attempts; no one else even cracked 90. Oh, and Garcia is the last Buccaneer quarterback to start a playoff game."
Now, if I wanted to give myself a little partial credit, I did rate this choice as the most difficult one I've made so far (83, I'm afraid to say, is going to be even harder). Here's the rest of that entry:
Level of Difficulty: 8.
There are some more difficult choices coming down the road in this series, including a couple we frankly don't want to make. Garcia's value as a quarterback swung this, but it was really close because he only played two seasons in Tampa and Gramatica had some big moments during his tenure."
Frankly, the swift reaction made me start re-thinking my logic pretty quickly on Tuesday. The final tipping point for me, however, was when one of the best possible Buccaneer authorities began singing the praises of his former teammate. Later in the week, I had the privilege of joining Ring of Honor member Rondé Barber as the two of us re-watched the 2002 NFC Championship Game and provided running commentary. Barber, of course, made that wildly entertaining for me and hopefully you'll enjoy it, too, when it is posted in June.
Anyway, after Gramatica kicked the second of his two field goals in that game, a 27-yarder that followed his booming 48-yard shot in the first quarter, he took a late hit from a Philadelphia defender that could have drawn a flag. As we discussed that, Barber said this of Gramatica, unbidden:
"He was the best. He's still the best. I tell you what – he was so good. If he hadn't hurt [himself] later in his career – he had a couple of groin injuries and hamstrings – he was unbelievable."
Indeed, Gramatica is the Buccaneers' all-time leader in points scored (592), field goals (137), field goal attempts (179), extra points (181), extra point attempts (183) and enthusiastic post-kick celebrations. He was also a beloved teammate (obviously) who remains very popular among Buccaneer fans (OBVIOUSLY).
Gramatica was special during the 2002 Super Bowl season and he deserves the same notoriety bump that that championship brings to some of the other stars on that team. He blasted a league-high 32 field goals in 39 attempts that year including five out of six from 50 yards or farther. In his career, he was 17 of 27 from 50 and beyond.
In two of the 12 games the Buccaneers won during the '02 regular season, Gramatica provided all of the Buccaneers points. In a Week Eight contest at Carolina, he made sure the Bucs wouldn't lose two games in a row at any point that season by drilling field goals of 32, 52, 53 and 47 yards, the last two coming within the last two minutes of a 12-9 decision. In the season finale against the Bears on a very windy Sunday night in Champaign, Illinois, Gramatica hit all five of his field goal tries in a 15-0 victory and the Bucs clinched a first-round bye.
After making his last 11 tries in the 2002 regular season, Gramatica then hit on five of his six postseason field goal tries as well as all 13 extra point attempts.
A third-round pick out of Kansas State in 1999, Gramatica easily handled the pressure of the NFL as a rookie, making 84.4% of his field goals (27 of 32) and all of his extra point tries. That was one of three seasons in which he was good on more than 80% of his kicks. As Barber noted, injuries significantly hindered his efforts in 2003 and 2004; prior to those two seasons he had made 82.1% of his field goal tries across his first four seasons. And, as for the purposes of this jersey number discussion, Gramatica played his last year in the number 10, so we can remove those from this analysis.
All of which is to say: I was wrong. Forget relative positional value – Martin Gramatica's body of work is the best any Buccaneer has ever put together wearing the jersey number 7.
Please forgive me. And remember this mea culpa in a few weeks when I have to pick between Dave Moore and Vincent Jackson (not to mention Joe Jurevicius) at number 83.