As you may have heard, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' offense produced a franchise single-season record 5,820 yards this past fall, blowing past the old mark of 5,456 set in 2008. There is another reason, however, that this yardage total was significant.
Thanks to the likes of such astute acquisitions as Vincent Jackson and Doug Martin (both of whom are in Hawaii getting ready for the Pro Bowl this week), the Buccaneers got an astounding amount of production from players who were not with the team in 2011.
Overall, Buccaneer offensive players produced 5,981 scrimmage yards in 2012 (that's rushing plus receiving yards, without the sack yards subtracted to produce that total of 5,820 above). Of that total, 4,382 yards came from newcomers in pewter and red, or a whopping 73.3% of the team's offensive production.
Nearly three-quarters of a team's scrimmage yards coming from players who were in their first season with the team; is that an unusual number? Oh, yes, very much so.
In fact, that mark of 73.3% is not only the highest such percentage for any season in team history, it beats the old mark by a gigantic amount. The next highest percentage was produced by the newcomers on the 1990 team, who accounted for 57.5% of the team's offensive production. The third team on the list won't surprise long-time Buccaneer fans – it's the 2002 squad, onto which new Head Coach Jon Gruden imported Keenan McCardell, Michael Pittman, Joe Jurevicius, Ken Dilger and several others.
Here are the top six Buccaneer teams in terms of how much of their offensive production came from newcomers, listed with the most significant additions that year:
Year Yards/Total Pct. Key Newcomers
- 2012 4,382/5,981 73.3% Vincent Jackson, Doug Martin, Dallas Clark, Tiquan Underwood
- 1990 2,357/4,908 57.5% Gary Anderson, Reggie Cobb
- 2002 2,905/5,222 55.6% Michael Pittman, Keenan McCardell, Joe Jurevicius
- 2010 2,617/5,565 47.0% LeGarrette Blount, Mike Williams, Arrelious Benn
- 2008 2,620/5,625 46.6% Antonio Bryant, Warrick Dunn*
- 1996 2,100/4,533 46.3% Mike Alstott, Reggie Brooks, Karl Williams
- Dunn previously played with the team from 1997-01 but was with the Atlanta Falcons in 2007.
(Note: Not included on these lists are 1987 and 1976. The '87 season was interrupted by a strike and then replacement players were used for three games, which seriously affects the percentages. The '76 season was, of course, the Bucs' first, so 100% of the team's production necessarily came from newcomers.)
One thing jumps out right away on that list: Three of the six seasons (1996, 2002 and 2012) featured head coaches in their first year with the team. It makes sense that such teams would feature higher-than-average turnover all over the roster. Those three seasons were the debuts of Tony Dungy, Jon Gruden and Greg Schiano, respectively. The 2009 season, Raheem Morris' first at the helm, also featured higher than average turnover at 41.0%. Also, all of the seasons at the top of the list fall after 1993, when free agency came to the NFL and player movement became much more common.
Still, the vast difference between 2012 and the next team on the list speaks of an offensive overhaul that was more immediately successful than any other in team history, not solely because so many newcomers provided the yards but because they did so for the franchise's most productive attack ever. Clearly, the team's offseason decisions – most notably signing Vincent Jackson and drafting Doug Martin – were outrageously successful.
Now the Buccaneers can continue to tinker with that rebuilt attack and potentially produce even better results with Jackson and Martin leading the way. Next year, one can be sure, that percentage of yards from newcomers is going to be drastically lower.