RB Michael Pittman was the Buccaneers' leading rusher during the decade of the 2000s
The National Football League announced its All-Decade Team for the 2000s on Sunday before the Pro Bowl, and in less than a week will play the last game of the last season of that decade.
While the Indianapolis Colts and the New Orleans Saints gear up for the final Game of the Aughts, 30 other teams are in the early stages of their preparations for the 2010 season and the beginning of a new decade.
That is certainly true of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who are trying to assemble a talented team around 21-year-old quarterback Josh Freeman, whom they hope will be a dominant force over the next 10 years. Other young players who inspire Buccaneer hope for the decade ahead include cornerback Aqib Talib, wide receiver Sammie Stroughter, defensive tackle Roy Miller, kick returner Clifton Smith, linebacker Geno Hayes and others. More new blood will be added in a much-anticipated draft this April.
Perhaps Freeman and his young teammates will define the 2010s for the Buccaneers. But before we completely flip the calendar into the new decade, let's take a last look at who defined the 2000s for Tampa Bay and how the numbers added up in the end.
- The Buccaneers played 160 regular-season games over the decade of the 2000s and broke almost completely even, winning 79 and losing 81. Tampa Bay also played seven postseason games during that time and went 3-4, for a full-decade record of 82-85, not including the preseason games.
- Despite a 1-7 season at Raymond James Stadium (and London's Wembley Stadium) in 2009, the Buccaneers had a strong home record during the decade, posting a 46-34 record. Their high-water mark during that stretch was 6-2 in home games, which they managed in five different season (2000, 2002, 2005, 2007 and 2008).
- On the road, the Buccaneers were 33-47 in the 2000s, concluding in a 2-6 mark in 2009. The Bucs' best mark in a single-season away from home during the decade was also 6-2, set in 2002.
- Tampa Bay won three division championships as well as its first Super Bowl title during the 2000s. The Bucs' trio of division titles matched the number they had won during the first 24 seasons in team history. The NFC South was formed during the 2002 NFL realignment, and the Buccaneers were the only team in the division to win it three times.
- During the decade of the 2000s, the Buccaneers posted four of their five highest-scoring seasons ever, topped by their team-record 388 points in 2000. The 2008 team (361 points) was second, the 2002 team (346) was third and the 2007 squad (334) was fifth. The Bucs also had their two best total yardage seasons during the decade, topped by the 5,456 yards in 2008 and the 5,453 in 2003.
- The 1979 team still holds the record for the fewest yards allowed in a season, but the 2002 Super Bowl Championship team was the hardest Buccaneer crew to score against ever. Excluding the strike-shortened 1982 season, in which only nine games were played, the Bucs' 196 points allowed in '02 were its lowest in any season, including the 14-game campaigns in 1976 and 1977.
- Brad Johnson was the Buccaneers' most prolific passer of the decade, throwing for 10,940 yards from 2001-04. Johnson also led all Buccaneer quarterbacks with 64 touchdown passes and 41 interceptions. The highest-rated passer for the Buccaneers during the 2000s was Jeff Garcia (minimum 100 passes), who finished with a combined mark of 92.2 over his two seasons with the team.
- Tampa Bay's leading receiver during the 2000s was Keyshawn Johnson, at least in terms of receptions. Johnson's four years in Tampa all came during the decade (2000-03) and he caught 298 passes in that span to edge both Joey Galloway (248) and Michael Clayton (221) among wideouts. Second on the list of receptions, actually, was a running back, as Michael Pittman had 284 grabs during his six seasons with the team. Galloway had the most receiving yards of any Buccaneer player during the decade, with 3,912. His 28 touchdown receptions were also at the top of the list for the 2000s.
- Pittman was also the Buccaneers' top rusher of the decade, gaining 3,362 yards on 798 carries during his tenure with the team. He edged out Cadillac Williams and the 3,240 yards the injury-bitten back was able to produce, and the 2,366 yards put up by Warrick Dunn in 2000, 2001 and 2008. Mike Alstott, who had 2,251 of his 5,088 career rushing yards during the decade, was fourth, but he was far and away the team's leading producer of rushing touchdowns in the 2000s with a total of 33.
- Kicker Martin Gramatica was the Bucs' top score of the decade, with 486 of his team-record 592 points coming during the 2000s. Matt Bryant threatened that mark with 416 points.
- Simeon Rice was easily the team's sack leader during the 2000s, with a total of 69.5 over six seasons. Rice trails Warren Sapp (and they both trail Lee Roy Selmon) on the Bucs' all-time sacks list, but only 35.0 of Sapp's 77.0 sacks as a Buccaneer fell in the 2000s. Sapp is still second on the list, with Greg Spires third at 25.0 and Ronde Barber coming in a surprising fourth with 21.0.
- Barber trails no one, however, when it comes to interceptions during the decade. Of Barber's 37 career picks, 33 came during the Aughts; even without the four he carried over from the 1990s, Barber would be the team's all-time leader in that category. Not surprisingly, he joined Sapp and linebacker Derrick Brooks on the aforementioned NFL All-Decade Team.
- Brooks had a team-leading and rather incredible total of 1,434 tackles during the decade, though Barber closed some ground on his former teammate in 2009 by getting to 1,013 stops. Those were the only two players to top 1,000 tackles as Buccaneers during the 2000s. Brooks also edged Barber in Pro Bowl appearances during the 2000s, eight to five.
- Some of the notable single-season records that were broken by Buccaneer players during the 2000s included: Most points (Bryant, 131 in 2008); most 100-yard rushing games (Williams, 6 in 2005); most passing yards (B. Johnson, 3811 in 2003); most passing touchdowns (B. Johnson, 26 in 2003); best passer rating (Brian Griese, 97.5 in 2004); most receptions (Keyshawn Johnson, 106 in 2001); most touchdown receptions (Galloway, 10 in 2005); most sacks (Sapp, 16.5 in 2000); most defensive touchdowns (Brooks, 4 in 2002); most interceptions (Barber, 10 in 2001); best gross punting average (Josh Bidwell, 45.6 in 2005); and best kickoff return average (Sammie Stroughter, 29.5 in 2009).
The greatest moment for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers franchise during a very successful decade was, of course, the 48-21 victory over Oakland in Super Bowl XXXVII at the end of the 2002 campaign. However, even the seasons that didn't end with a Lombardi Trophy, or even a playoff berth, contained some of the most noteworthy achievements in franchise history. The 2000s were a thrilling ride for the Buccaneers; they hope to make the next decade even better.