As the quarterback on the fan-chosen All-Time Team, Brad Johnson would have such hypothetical targets as Mark Carrier, Jimmie Giles and Mike Alstott
Imagine Brad Johnson throwing a perfect end zone spiral to Mark Carrier, with Paul Gruber protecting Johnson's back.
Imagine Warren Sapp occupying blockers while the unstoppable duo of Lee Roy Selmon and Simeon Rice pinches the quarterback from the outer edges.
Imagine choosing which power back to hand the ball, James Wilder or Mike Alstott, or faking the handoff and looking for Jimmie Giles exploiting the middle seam.
This, in fact, is what has sprung from the imagination – and participation – of Buccaneer fans. It's the Greatest Bucs, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers All-Time Team as it was chosen completely by fan voting on Buccaneers.com.
On March 26, Buccaneers.com announced the beginning of the Greatest Bucs project, then turned the work over to the fans. After that, on a weekly basis, visitors to the site submitted their votes for the best players in franchise history, in their collective opinion, at each position. The final result was a franchise all-star team as decided by fan voting.
For instance, voting for the cornerbacks was conducted for a week, from March 31 through April 6, after which fans began considering the center position. Each week, Buccaneers.com nominated up to 10 players at the position in question, and fans used an on-line poll to decide who was the best of the best.
The results of each poll were never published, however. Each of the position winners was recorded, but the whole team was to be announced all at once.
And that time has come. We present to you the All-Time Tampa Bay Buccaneers Team, as selected completely by fan voting on Buccaneers.com.
The All-Time Tampa Bay Buccaneers Team (as chosen by fan voting on Buccaneers.com)
|QB||Brad Johnson||DE||Simeon Rice|
|RB||Mike Alstott||DE||Lee Roy Selmon|
|RB||James Wilder||DT||Warren Sapp|
|WR||Mark Carrier||DT||Anthony McFarland|
|WR||Keenan McCardell||OLB||Derrick Brooks|
|TE||Jimmie Giles||OLB||Hugh Green|
|T||Paul Gruber||ILB||Hardy Nickerson|
|T||Charley Hannah||ILB||Shelton Quarles|
|G||Ian Beckles||CB||Ronde Barber|
|G||Randall McDaniel||CB||Donnie Abraham|
|C||Tony Mayberry||S||John Lynch|
|K||Martin Gramatica||P||Mark Royals|
|KR||Karl Williams||ST||Shelton Quarles|
Several notes about the team:
- Only starters were selected; no backups. You voted for however many players are in the starting lineup at a given position, picking, for instance, two safeties but only one quarterback. * At positions with two players, the one listed first was the leading vote-getter. * Rather than choosing a fullback and a running back, you voted for two running backs of any variety. As it turned out, you selected one fullback anyway in Mike Alstott, and even James Wilder played that position during his first few seasons. * We made one exception in the starting lineup to accommodate different defensive schemes. Tampa Bay's history is split almost evenly between a period when the team used a 3-4 defensive alignment (1976-90) and a period when the team used a 4-3 (1991-present). Thus, you picked two inside linebackers and two defensive tackles, leading to 12 defensive starters. * Some notable players in team history have played more than one position. For example, Chidi Ahanotu and Marcus Jones both had extensive stints at both defensive end and defensive tackle. In such cases, we chose the position in which the player made the most prominent contributions and included them in the voting at that position only. * You voted for one return man to handle both jobs, rather than separate punt and kickoff returners. * You also voted a single non-kicker, non-return man to represent the special teams, as noted above by 'ST.'
So now you can have Johnson throwing to Carrier or Giles, if only in cyberspace. And you can field a monster defensive line of Selmon, Rice, Sapp and Anthony McFarland. And you can see just how much ground two sideline-to-sideline linebackers like Derrick Brooks and Hugh Green can cover together.
These are, by fan voting on Buccaneers.com, the best players at every position in the 28 seasons so far of Buccaneer football, 1976-2003.
Some of the positions were more hotly contested in the balloting than others. The voting for kick returner, for instance, was pretty much a landslide, with Karl Williams – he of the five career punt return TDs – gaining 68.3% of all of the votes cast. Williams had a total of 2,956 votes; the next closest player was Aaron Stecker, at 596.
Other positions that were blowouts in the voting included cornerback, kicker and, at least for the first spot, outside linebacker and safety.
Barber, with 7,767 votes, had more than twice as many votes as the second-place man, Abraham (3,852). Beyond Abraham, only Brian Kelly (1,718) got more than 1,000 votes.
Gramatica was the clear choice among six nominated kickers. He commanded 3,991 votes, or 83.6% of all those cast. In second place was Donald Igwebuike, far behind with 336 votes.
And Brooks was dominant in the outside linebacker voting. His 7,195 votes received were almost exactly four times as many as his partner on the team, Green, who attracted 1,809 voters. Broderick Thomas gave Green a run for his money, with 1,206 votes. There was a similar result at safety, where Lynch was the strong front-runner with 6,360 votes but Jackson (1,642), Cedric Brown (1,558) and Mark Cotney (909) put on a spirited battle for the second spot.
The tightest voting occurred at guard, punter and the special teams representative.
Ian Beckles, who played more games at the guard position than any other man in team history, was the leading vote-getter with 1,705 ballots, but that represented only 22.5% of the votes cast. McDaniel was not far behind at 1,446, and he got strong competition from Frank Middleton (1,059), Jim Pyne (1,008) and Cosey Coleman (809). In fact, guard was the only position in the voting at which five players were within 1,000 votes of the lead.
The voting at punter was the closest race between two men. Royals was the fans' choice in the end, but the balloting stayed tight until the last day, with Tom Tupa of the Super Bowl team finishing at 1,407 votes to Royals's 1,532.
The special teams representative voting turned into a three-way race. Quarles, the only player to appear at two different spots on the team, won in the end with 1,196 votes but he was closely pursued by Jeff Gooch (933) and Corey Ivy (849). This position, which featured somewhat less recognizable names like Sam Anno, Andy Hawkins, Dana Nafziger and Mark Witte, showed the current-era bias more than most.
And a few positions combined both blowouts and close votes, such as the safety and linebacker second spots noted above. For instance, fans were asked to pick two defensive ends from of a list of 10. Of the 10,317 votes cast overall, 94.1% of them went to either Rice or Selmon. Between the two, however, it was nearly a dead heat; Rice got 4,910 votes to Selmon's 4,802. The next closest player was Ahanotu, with 216.
This also happened at tackle, where Gruber ran away with 3,498 of the 6,133 votes to take one of the two spots (we'll leave him on the left side, thank you), but the other spot was a close race between Hannah (721), Jason Odom (560), Dave Reavis (464) and Rob Taylor (411). Obviously, some respondents refused to even vote for another tackle after Gruber; since the poll asked for two selections, Gruber should have had no more than 50% of the votes even if he was chosen by every voter. Somehow, Gruber tallied 57.0% of the votes.
But the closest voting of all may have been for the second receiver spot. Carrier, the franchise's all-time leader in receiving yards (he's second in catches to RB Wilder), took the first slot with 3,596 votes, but it was a remarkably close race between three players for the second slot. In the end, McCardell (2,155) barely edged out Kevin House (2,078) and Keyshawn Johnson (2,017).
So what do we make of this team?
Well, for one, there is obviously a bit of a current-era bias involved. Of the 26 players filling the 27 spots (Shelton Quarles made the team both as an inside linebacker and as the special teams representative), 19 played in at least one season from 1997-2003, what could be called the Buccaneers' revival. Of those 19, 13 were on Tampa Bay's Super Bowl team in 2002: Johnson, Alstott, McCardell, Rice, Sapp, McFarland, Brooks, Quarles, Barber, Lynch, Jackson, Gramatica and Williams.
Of course, it's also fair to say that all of those players are deserving of their spots. The Buccaneers were good enough to win the franchise's only Super Bowl in 2002 because they had the best collection of talent the team has ever seen.
The defense, in particular, is mostly current-era. It's also fair to say that this All-Time Team will be strongest on defense, a fact that mirrors team history. The Bucs have finished in the top 10 of the NFL's defensive rankings 10 times in 28 seasons, including first in both 1979 and 2002; they have finished in the top 10 in the offensive rankings only twice, and both times it was 10th.
The All-Time Team defense, it would appear, will be particularly strong up front. That unit boasts the only Hall-of-Famer in franchise history, Selmon, and it's reasonable to think that Sapp and Rice have already established career paths that could lead them to the Hall, as well.
Behind that front four on the fan-selected team will be one of the speediest linebacking corps one could wish to field. Brooks is one of the fastest 'backers in today's game, and Green was also the type to cover a lot of ground. As middle linebackers, both Nickerson and Quarles were more of the smaller, faster variety.
Three-fourths of the secondary is from the Super Bowl, with only Abraham edging out Kelly for the second corner spot. It is a play-making bunch: Abraham is the team's all-time leader in interceptions; Barber has six defensive touchdowns, including the biggest one in team history, perhaps, in the 2002 NFC Championship Game; Lynch was known as 'The Closer' for his big plays at the ends of games; and Jackson won Super Bowl MVP honors for his two-pick performance.
On offense, the Bucs' running game will clearly be a power attack. Fans voted for the top two rushers in team history – Wilder and Alstott, in that order – and both were big, bruising types who could handle a heavy workload. Had this team chosen subs, perhaps Warrick Dunn (fourth in the voting behind another big back, Ricky Bell) could have provided a little flash.
Johnson's choice as the quarterback was fitting, as he owns most of the team's single-season records. His completion percentage, touchdowns per attempt and touchdowns/interceptions ratio are all the best in team history, and he was, of course, the starter in the Super Bowl. He'll have a trio of playmakers to throw to – Carrier, McCardell and Giles were all smart, productive types. And if he wants to dump it off to a back, he could hardly find a better pair of pass-catching runners in team history than Wilder and Alstott.
The offensive line is anchored by Paul Gruber, the man who has played the most games as a Buccaneer. In the middle, the only two offensive linemen ever to make the Pro Bowl as Buccaneers, Tony Mayberry and Randall McDaniel, will open up holes for the power backs. McDaniel had the shortest Buccaneer stint of any of the players named to the team, but that Pro Bowl season must have weighed heavily in voter's minds. This was also, perhaps, the weakest of the 17 positions for which voting was conducted.
And the special teams should be in good hands (or feet), with the fans going pretty much by the book. The franchise's all-time leaders in punting, scoring and punt returning were chosen as the punter, kicker and return man – Royals, Gramatica and Williams, respectively. All-time special teams stats are not kept by the time, but Quarles owns the single-season record with 32 kick-coverage tackles.
The vagaries of time prohibit us from actually putting this team on the field, however. Rice is still in his playing prime, but Selmon has already retired, been voted into the Hall and become a revered community leader in Tampa. What we have, then, is symbolic, the product of the fondest memories of thousands and thousands of Buccaneer fans.
Wonderful memories. Jimmie Giles stunning the Dolphins with four touchdown catches. Hardy Nickerson racking up 214 tackles in his first season as a Buccaneer. Paul Gruber taking his spot, virtually every down of every year for a decade, at his quarterbacks' backs. Derrick Brooks making one enormous play after another. Mike Alstott bouncing off of half of a Vikings team before finally slamming his way into the end zone backwards.
It's the Greatest Bucs, the fans' choice for the All-Time Tampa Bay Buccaneers Team.