Tampa Bay Buccaneers

One Buc Mailbag: Record Time

This week's mailbag is all about franchise records – some that might fall this very season and some that might never be topped.

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The best photos from the Buccaneers' 2016 rookie mini-camp.

Each week during the remainder of the offseason, Senior Writer/Editor Scott Smith will dip into the inbox to answer questions from  Buccaneer fans. This week, we take a look at some team records that could fall this year, and some that might never be broken.

Fans can submit questions for upcoming mailbags via Twitter to @ScottSBucs (#BucsMailbag), through a message on the Buccaneers Official Facebook Page or via email at tbbsocial@buccaneers.nfl.com.  The One Buc Mailbag runs every Thursday and is not necessarily meant to reflect the opinions of the team's management or coaching staff.

*1. Records in Danger?

Hi, Missy!

Well, the truth is, new Bucs kicker Jameis Winston could be downright perfect and still not break the record if Jameis Winston and company don't put him in position to do so. And, frankly, Jameis could make it harder on his former Seminole teammate in two different ways, though one of them would be preferable for us Buccaneers fans.

Okay, I'll stop being cryptic. Obviously, a kicker's scoring potential is tied to how good his team's offense is. Last year, the Cowboys' Dan Bailey and the Giants' Josh Brown tied for the league's best field goal percentage (93.8%) but ranked 12th and fifth in the league in scoring, respectively. Poor Bailey was killed by Tony Romo's injury – along with the Cowboys' season – but he's fared better over the last five years. He's the most accurate kicker in the league in that span and the second-highest scorer. However, he's not even close to the top scorer on that chart, New England's Stephen Gostkowski, who is an outstanding kicker who happens to play for a team that always fares well on offense.

The Buccaneers' offense was fifth in the league in yards gained last year but just 20th in points scored. That discrepancy – plus, to be honest, the simple eyeball test – suggests the potential for more points in 2016, and part of the problem last year was kicking woes. That's where we get to the other way Winston and his fellow offensive players can actually bring Aguayo's scoring down while making Buc fans happy anyway. The Buccaneers ranked 22nd in the league in red zone scoring last year, with a touchdown on 52.9% of their trips inside the 20. Getting that number up is an important goal for the Bucs this year, but obviously every time they score a touchdown instead of opting for a field goal, the kicker's scoring potential on that drive is cut by two-thirds.

In 2000, Martin Gramatica set a new Buccaneer single-season record with 126 points scored. He was 28 of 34 on field goals while making all 42 of his extra point attempts. Tampa Bay set a team record with 43 touchdowns that year (they went for two after one of them). Two years later, Gramatica broke his own record with 128 points, in part because the offense scored eight fewer touchdowns and he got to try five more field goals, making 32 of 39. Matt Bryant would top both marks in 2008 when he scored 131 points, which included 32 field goals on 38 attempts.  Those are the two highest single-season totals for field goals attempted in team history.

Consider Connor Barth, who was the kicker for the 2012 offense that set franchise records for points scored (389) and touchdowns (44). From a percentage standpoint, Barth had a better year than any of the three listed above for Gramatica or Bryant (if just barely over the latter), but he comes in fourth on the list at 123 points because he had more extra point attempts and fewer field goal tries. Believe me, nobody was complaining.

Take a peek at photos of the newest Buccaneer.

So what's the sweet spot for Aguayo in order to top Bryant's record of 131? Well, let's suppose that the Buccaneers can better convert yards into points this year, and that the offense improves as a whole, which is not really a stretch given how much of the team's core on that side of the ball is young and improving. Let's say the Bucs can become a top-10 scoring team. Last year, the 10th-highest scoring team in the NFL (Washington) generated 388 points, which you may notice is almost exactly the Buccaneers' team record in that category.

Washington did that on 44 touchdowns and 30 field goal attempts. We'll give Aguayo 42 PATs, presuming that the Bucs might go for two once or twice during the season; that's 42 points. If he gets 30 field goal attempts and hits 90% of them – remembering that the premise is Aguayo being a very high-percentage kicker – that would be 27 field goals and another 71 points. Add them together and you have a total of 115 points, which wouldn't break the record. In other words, if the Bucs are about the 10th-best scoring team in the league next year, they'll have to do it with a higher number of field goals and fewer touchdowns for Aguayo to get the record, and I don't think any of us will be rooting for that.

So, overall, I'd say it's unlikely that Aguayo breaks the Bucs' scoring record this year unless the offense's improvement is even better than expected.

Other records that might fall? Well, that feels like a whole complete story of its own…maybe I'll write that one soon on a slow day. Just off the top of my head, I could see:

  • Passing yards: Winston only missed it by 23 yards last year as a rookie. It's probably more likely than not that he surpasses Josh Freeman's total of 4,065 in 2012.
  • Rushing yards: I wouldn't necessarily call this likely to happen, but Jameis Winston has already gotten within about 150 yards of James Wilder's record twice, and he's definitely motivated and in a great spot in 2016. Wilder's 32-year-old record of 1,544 seems vulnerable, at least.
  • Receiving yards: There's a theme here, huh? Mike Evans went from 1,051 yards as a rookie to 1,206 last year (in what some considered a "disappointing" season). It's not a big leap from there to Mark Carrier's 1,422 in 1989.
  • 300-yard passing games: The record is four and it's been done five times by three different quarterbacks. Frankly, Winston just about broke this last year. He only had two 300-yard games but he also had 297, 295 and 287-yard outings. Those could have very easily been 300. I think this one falls.

Yes, I know those are all offensive records. The thing is, that half of the record book is much riper for the plucking than the defensive side. Do you REMEMBER how good the Bucs' defense has been for big parts of team history. There's three Tampa Bay defenders in the Hall of Fame now, for goodness sake, and probably a few more headed to Canton as well. They put up some big numbers. You would need 215 tackles, 17 sacks or 11 interceptions to break any of those Buc records. As a matter of fact, while we're on the subject…

2. A Wall Too High?

Mr. Smith.

I saw this article about the NFL records that will probably never be broken. It was pretty entertaining, although I didn't really like the bit about the Buccaneers' 26 straight losses. I remember Jerry Rice was on there, his career numbers I guess, and Don Shula and his wins. Pretty good choices. It got me to thinking what might be the hardest records to break in Buc history, and I figured you were the right person to ask. I guess those 26 losses would be one of them, but I was hoping you'd have some more positive records to talk about. Thanks! Paul in Palm Harbor (via email to tbbsocial@buccaneers.nfl.com)When you called me Mr. Smith I was really hoping your name would be Mr. Anderson. I was already reading your whole question in Keanu Reeves's voice.*Anyway, I've been sitting on this question for a rainy day when the inbox was light, because it really could be answered any time. It might have been best to do right before the season, actually, since we'll be talking about records we'd like to see fall. But then I got Missy's question above and I couldn't resist putting the two of them together. Records that might fall this year followed by record that might never fall. Both ends of the spectrum. Was this the list you found, Paul? Probably not because it's a couple years old and there were plenty of other such articles when I Googled it, but this one did have the Bucs' streak on it. It also had Brett Favre's 297 consecutive starts at quarterback, which I think should be number one on the unbreakable list. That still amazes me. *

The best photos of cornerback Ronde Barber.

As for the Bucs, yes, let's hope those 26 losses are never beaten. Of course, they won' t be. Those occurred at the very beginning of the franchise in 1976 and 1977, when the rules governing expansion were not particularly favorable for the new teams. Even if the Bucs were starting again from scratch in 2016, I know they wouldn't lose 26 straight. The last four expansion teams – Carolina, Jacksonville, Cleveland (technically) and Houston – won within their first eight tries. Houston won its very first game in 2002!*Every sport has some records that are virtually unbreakable because the game has fundamentally changed over time. In baseball, Cy Young won 511 games, but he also played in an era in which he might get close to 50 starts in a season and win 35 of them. A modern-era pitcher could win 25 games for 20 straight years (never going to happen, but theoretically possible) and still come up 11 short. Can anybody really hope to beat Wilt Chamberlain's 4,029 points in 1961-62? The great Michael Jordan never got any closer than 3,041 in a season. The 7-1 Chamberlain was ahead of his time, a man playing among boys. I'm more interested in records that seem nearly insurmountable even though the conditions of the game haven't changed that much in the intervening years. If anything, the NFL is way more pass-happy now than in the '80s and '90s, and yet nobody has gotten within 6,000 yards of Jerry Rice's record of 22,895 receiving yards. That's why they call him the G.O.A.T. Let's apply that to the Buccaneers' record books. Here are my top five picks, in no particular order: 1. Ronde Barber's 10 interceptions in 2001 Ronde Barber himself never had more than five interceptions in any of his other 15 seasons. I don't think the 2001 version of the greatest cornerback in franchise history was any better than the 2000 or 2002 versions, and he had exactly two picks in each of those years. Interceptions are a fickle statistic – Josh Norman, Richard Sherman and Darrelle Revis didn't even have 10 picks *combined last year – and sometimes being too good at your job lowers a cornerback's chances at getting them. Quarterbacks learn to stay away from your part of the field. **

This record isn't light years ahead of the other top marks in franchise history. Cedric Brown held the record of nine for 20 years, and Brian Kelly had eight in 2002. But that's it, that's all the eight-plus interceptions in the entire history of the franchise, and none have come in the last 13 seasons as the rules have been tweaked to favor quarterbacks and receivers. No Buc has had more than six in a season since 2002. Donnie Abraham, probably the most consistent season-to-season interceptor in team annals, topped out at seven.*In fact, in the NFL as a whole there have only been seven 10-interception seasons in the last 20 years (all of them were *exactly 10, by the way, none of them since 2006. Everything is going to have to fall exactly right for a DB to do that again, and I'm betting that's just not going to happen. What's that? Brent Grimes and Vernon Hargreaves would like a word with me? 2. James Wilder's 407 carries in 1984 Doug Martin has twice topped 1,400 rushing yards, once getting within 90 yards of equaling Wilder's franchise record of 1,544 from 1984. If Martin finally gets past Wilder one of these years, he's going to have to do it more efficiently. It's highly unlikely that he or any other running back will get 407 carries in a season again for the Buccaneers. I guess in a way this has to do with the evolution of the game, but there's nothing fundamentally different about how it is played that would stop a team from giving a back 400 carries. Kansas City's Larry Johnson had 416 carries just a decade ago, in 2006. That broke Jamal Anderson's 1998 record of 410, which had itself broken Wilder's record from 14 years earlier. **

Photos of running back Doug Martin from the 2015 season.

But there have been just five 400-carry seasons in NFL history, and none since Johnson in 2006. While there are still some workhorse backs in the league, most teams like to split the carries in order to get the most out of all their backs. Doug Martin, for instance, will definitely be splitting the load with Charles Sims in 2016, just as he did to great effect last year. Martin's career high is 319 carries in a season, and even though that's nearly 100 short of the team record, it's still the fourth-highest mark the Bucs have ever had.3. Hardy Nickerson's 214 tackles in 1993This one has nothing to do with how the game has changed but everything to do with how it is reported.*Up until fairly recently, there wasn't much uniformity in the league as to how tackle statistics were compiled and reported. The official stat crew at each game would track tackles and include them in the box score, but they were never considered official statistics. Honestly, it's difficult to discern solo tackles and assists at times when watching the game live. That's why many teams compiled and reported their own tackle statistics based on information they got from the coaches after they had broken down the game film. On one hand, that had the likelihood of producing more accurate results, since the film could be slowed down and replayed as much as necessary. On the other hand, some coaches around the league tended to be, uh, *generous with their counting. Hardy Nickerson was an absolute tackling machine, and he probably did 200+-plus tackles in 1993. Still, now that most teams simply accept press box totals, which tend to be lower, subsequent Buccaneer linebackers are going to have a hard time getting close to that mark. Lavonte David is considered one of the best tacklers in the NFL, and since entering the league in 2012 he has more stops than any player other than Luke Kuechly. His total in those four years is 576 tackles, which works out to 144 per season. If David can't approach Nickerson's mark, who will? 4. Danny Reece's 70 punt returns in 1979 This also happens to be an NFL record, by the way, and it was only possible because Reece pathologically refused to call fair catches. The next highest mark on the list is 62 by Fulton Walker in 1985; the closest anyone has gotten recently was Kansas City's Dexter McCluster with 58 in 2013. **

McCluster called for 18 fair catches in that 2013 season. Returning 58 of a possible 76 punts is pretty impressive, right? Reece called for one fair catch in his record breaking season. ONE!! He called for seven fair catches in his entire career, while returning 222 punts. In contrast, Karl Williams, who was by no means a coward, returned 213 punts and fair caught 92 of them.*It's safe to say that no special teams coach in the NFL is going to want his punt returner trying to run back every single kick, no matter the situation. Oh, and here's another thing: You need to have a pretty darn good defense, like the Bucs did in 1979, to have a shot at that many returns. Tampa Bay's opponents only punted 62 times last year, 64 times in 2014 and 68 times in 2013. (The all-time great 2002 defense, by the way, forced an amazing 99 punts.) 5. Ronde Barber's 14 career touchdowns by a non-defensive player You know, when you're fourth on a list that also includes the names Devin Hester, Deion Sanders and Rod Woodson, you've done something pretty amazing. Those are the only men in NFL history who have scored more non-defensive touchdowns than Barber. Hester got all but one of his 20 on punt and kickoff returns and was an offensive player for the bulk of his career. Sanders had 19 that were impressively split between defensive returns and kick returns. Woodson's 17 were mostly on defense, though he had four punt and kickoff return scores. Barber did technically cross the goal line once on a punt return, though it was really a scoop-and-score of a partially deflected kick that crossed the line of scrimmage. He was never actually used as a return man. But, boy, did he have a knack for finding the end zone. Keep in mind, we're not even counting his franchise-defining pick-six in the 2002 NFC Championship Game; these are regular-season statistics only. Hall of Fame linebacker is second on the Bucs' list with an also-impressive total of seven defensive touchdowns, a lot of that put up during the '02 season in which he won NFL Defensive Player of the Year honors. As incredibly great as Brooks was, he only got halfway to Barber's mark. Nobody else in team history has more than four. If the Bucs ever do find another player who tops Barber's mark, they'd better start carving his bronze bust right away. * **Oh, by the way, here's the most unbreakable record in the Bucs' entire record book: 100% extra point percentage. Donald Igwebuike set that franchise record in 1988 and then Steve Christie tied it in 1991 and then Ken Willis tied it in 1992 and then…well, you get the idea. It's been done 18 times, and while it might be tied again, it definitely won't be topped.

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