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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

One Buc Mailbag: Timely Topics

In this week's mailbag, Buc fans want to talk about forfeited picks, extra points and, of course, Mike Alstott


Each week during the offseason, Senior Writer/Editor Scott Smith will dip into the inbox to answer questions from Buccaneer fans. This week, we're still talking about new Ring of Honor selection Mike Alstott, but we're also moving on to such timely topics as the New England Patriots' forfeited draft picks and the new PAT rule.


1. Scott,
I have been a Buccaneer fan since I was a kid in 1996 and Leroy selmon was my favorite player. When Mike Alstott began to play I soon had a new favorite player or at least one in a new era in Bucs history.  You said it would probably be a matter of time before Alstott would be inducted in to the Ring of Honor and finally we will be rewarded to see him there.  It's not just his numbers but his charisma, love of the game and his commitment in the community. That is just like my favorite Buc from 20 years earlier. I would love to see him in the Hall of Fame and I know numbers are what usually drive the inductions. My question is  in the past 20 years are there any Fullback that have his type of numbers with catches, touchdowns, yards and so on? - Jay, via email to*

I have mixed feelings about this question because I'm always happy to start a discussion about the great Mike Alstott, but I don't like being forced to be the one to say, no, it's not likely that he will get a call from the Pro Football Hall of Fame.


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We simply have to be realistic about this, even as we acknowledge that Alstott is one of the best and most popular players in franchise history. Every franchise has figures like this, of course. The Denver Broncos, for instance, have running back Terrell Davis in their own Ring of Honor but have not seen him selected for the Hall of Fame. At least not yet. A few years ago, the Dallas Cowboys put Charles Haley, Larry Allen and Drew Pearson in their Ring; Haley and Allen are also now enshrined in Canton but Pearson isn't likely to follow them into the Hall. Broncos and Cowboys fans love Davis and Pearson as much as we love Alstott, but that doesn't hold much sway with Hall of Fame voters.*

Back in July of 2013, around the time that Warren Sapp was becoming Tampa Bay's first Hall inductee since Lee Roy Selmon in 1995, the Tampa Bay Times studied the chances that Derrick Brooks and some other prominent Bucs had of joining Sapp in Canton. Gary Shelton polled 10 Hall of Fame voters, asking them to rate the strength of each player's potential candidacy on a 1-100 scale. Brooks was judged to be a lock – and indeed he was a first-ballot selection a half-year later – with Ronde Barber and Tony Dungy given fairly good odds as well.

Alstott, on the other hand, ranked lower on Shelton's list (and the Hall voters' faux ballots) than Keyshawn Johnson and Warrick Dunn. Johnson and Dunn, of course, had productive stretches of their careers on teams other than the Bucs; Alstott has no production beyond his Buccaneer days to help his cause.


The problem is the numbers, which are quite good, especially the touchdowns, but perhaps not enough to impress Hall voters. One of the reasons we love Alstott as Buccaneer fans was the manner in which he put up those numbers; some of his one and two-yard touchdown runs are the stuff of legend. How about that time Alstott caromed off nine different Cleveland Browns during an 18-yard run in 2002? I'll bet you can see that highlight reel as vividly in your head as I can, Jay, but it's not really something the voters are going to spend much time considering it. In a way, there's a parallel there to John Lynch, who has been close the last two years but hasn't gotten in yet. I think Lynch's style of play – he was one of the most feared hitters in league history – should be part of the argument for him getting into the Hall, but I think the voters look more at the numbers.*

Lynch doesn't have the type of interception numbers that match up to most of the safeties already in the Hall of Fame, and that makes it tough because the safety position is already undervalued in the Hall. Now, there are plenty of running backs in the Hall of Fame, but you're not really going to find any pure fullbacks.

The Hall's list of enshrinees splits running backs into Pre-Modern and Modern eras, and that's good because the game was different in the '20s, '30s and '40s. Considering only the Modern era backs, we have 30 on the list, of which six are listed specifically as fullbacks. Really, though, we're talking about guys who ran the ball as much (or more) than they blocked for others, guys like Jim Brown and Larry Csonka. And even then I'm not sure that helps because there are other players on that Hall list marked as "halfbacks" or "running backs" that would seem to be of a similar mold, like John Riggins.

Really, you're not going to get into the Hall if you're "just" a lead-blocking fullback, or that's the vast majority of your job. Who are some of the best lead-blocking fullbacks of the last 20 or 30 yards? Lorenzo Neal comes to mind. Daryl Johnston. Tony Richardson. Wonderful players all, but I can't see them getting enshrined in Canton. What you need is running back numbers to go along with your rugged blocking (and, yes, Alstott has some compelling numbers) and at that point you're now going to be compared to all the running backs.


Which is why I don't think there's much point in answering your question about comparing Alstott's numbers to those of other recent fullbacks. That's not the comparison that would be made when the voters gathered to discuss his candidacy. You may recall that Alstott got his first Pro Bowl invite in 1997, his second season, and then kept going back for six straight years. Six Pro Bowls! That's awesome, and it should be a good start for his Hall argument, but it also created something of a backlash after a few years. Fans of "pure fullbacks" like Neal felt like Alstott was monopolizing the NFC's fullback position unfairly, since he was "really a running back." I never agreed with that argument, since Alstott's blocking sure seemed to help Warrick Dunn from time to time. Just like I think Lynch's 26 career interceptions should be seen as a positive part of the whole package he provided, so should Alstott's blocking be viewed as another way he helped his team, along with the rushing yards and the touchdowns and the receptions. That would be my argument to Hall voters; I wouldn't expect it to change their minds, though.*

*Mike Alstott's impressive career numbers include 5,088 rushing yards, 305 receptions and 71 total touchdowns. Of the 30 modern-era backs in the Hall of Fame, only five had fewer than 5,000 yards, and all five started their careers between 1946 and 1965. One of those is Bears great Gale Sayers, whose career was cut short by injuries but who was considered so brilliant when he did play that he got into the Hall anyway. As Terrell Davis can attest, that's not something Hall voters do often. Another of the five is Paul Hornung, who won two league MVP awards and also played kicker and quarterback on occasion. Another is Frank Gifford, who won an MVP award, too, and made the Pro Bowl as a defensive back, a wide receiver and a running back. Yet another is Charley Trippi, who also played quarterback and is the only player in the Hall of Fame with at least 1,000 yards rushing, receiving and passing.

My point is, the game was different when those with 5,000 or less rushing yards were getting into the Hall. These days, it takes Jerome Bettis seemingly forever to get his call from Canton despite 13,662 rushing yards.

As for the touchdowns, 20 of the 30 backs on the list have more than Alstott's 71. Alstott's 305 catches are better than 19 of the players on the list. Together, that's a decent argument in his favor, but probably not enough. Perhaps the best comparison for Alstott is Marion Motley, who went into the Hall in 1968. Motley rushed for 4,720 yards in his career, scored 38 touchdowns and was also known as a "deadly pass blocker" according to his Hall of Fame bio page. Alstott's numbers look good in comparison, but Motley was also the league's leading rusher in 1950 and he's the all-time leading rushers in the AAFC. His career mark of 5.7 yards per carry is by far the best among those 30 HOF backs.

Alstott was an anachronism, and we loved him for it. He was known as a fullback in an era when that position was slowly being marginalized. He was much more than just a fullback, as Buccaneer fans like Jay and I know, but in a way that's his Hall of Fame Catch-22. If he's judged as a blocking back then…well, there's not exactly a wing in Canton for those guys. If he's judged as a tailback in the modern era, he probably doesn't have the yards to get in. As a voter, you've got to believe that the whole package for Alstott was greater than the sum of its parts. I do, Jay, but the fact that he has been eligible for the Hall for three years but has not yet been listed among the preliminary nominees tell me that Hall voters don't feel the same way.

It's okay, we've got the memories and the highlight reels in our head and our convictions about how great Mike Alstott was. And we've also got an October 4 date to tell him that. That's the day he'll be inducted into the Buccaneers' Ring of Honor.

2. A Free Pick?

Alex is referring to one of the two picks the New England Patriots have been docked as a punishment for the football-deflation controversy surrounding the 2014 AFC Championship Game. The Patriots will give up their first-round pick in 2016 and a fourth-round selection in 2017, along with $1 million. Quarterback Tom Brady has been suspended for the first four games of the upcoming season.

Good thing I explained all that, as if there was possibly somebody in the world who didn't already know all of that. I'm sure word has reached the Australian outback by this point. I tried to avoid typing "Deflategate" (and now, obviously, failed) because the "-gate" suffix is just about insufferable at this point, as is this whole issue. But it's not going away, so I might as well get an easy mailbag question out of it.

Most people, probably including Alex here, know that when teams or players are fined by the NFL the money goes to charity. That's good. But where do the draft picks go when a team has to cough one or more of them up?

Well, the answer is nowhere. A forfeited pick isn't transferred to somebody or somewhere else, it just ceases to be. All it means is that next year the first round of the draft will be 31 picks long, not 32. (Baring another "-gate" between now and then. Please, no more "-gates.") The idea of docking a team one of its draft picks, especially a first-rounder, is to punish that team, not to redirect its resources to a competitor. In a way, the punishment does help the other teams in that it means one more player will fall past where the Pats would have been picking. Hopefully next year the Patriots will be picking 31st and the Bucs will be picking 32nd, and then and only then will I want to hear another word about Deflategate.

3. Hey Scott,
Do you see any chance that the new extra point rule will change the way Lovie puts the roster together? I mean, just a couple spots obviously. Does it make the kicker more valuable? Any strategy to maybe going for two more often?
TJ, via email to

I really don't see how it will affect the makeup of the roster, TJ. I mean, yes, this presumably adds a little value to the placekicker's job, but teams were already trying to get the most accurate kickers they could. Former Bucs kicker Connor Barth suggested on Tuesday that this change could "weed out" kickers with strong legs but suspect accuracy in favor of guys who are automatic in the 30-40 range, but the Bucs' current kicker didn't really struggle from any distance last year. As a rookie, Patrick Murray only missed once from the 30-39 range (and that was a block) but was also five of six from 50 and beyond.

Buffalo's Dan Carpenter suggested this would be harder on kickers who play in cold-weather outdoor stadiums, and he would know that a lot better than I would. But won't this actually be an advantage for those teams? In any given game, both kickers are subject to the same weather conditions, and presumably the home team's kicker is going to be more acclimated to those conditions. If the game is on the line on an extra point try, wouldn't you rather have the home team's kicker out there?

If you're asking me about this, TJ, you've probably already read some of the commentary on the rule change over the last 24 hours. You know that the league basically was trying to change the PAT kick from a play that's successful about 99% of the time to one that's successful about 94-95% of the time. In other words, you're going to miss about once every 20 times, and that adds a (very) little more intrigue to those kicks and also might prompt coaches to go for two more often. Color me skeptical on that last point.

You probably saw the stats on that, too. With a 99% success rate on kicks from the two (that's a 20-yard field goal, essentially), it made as much sense to kick every time instead of going for two, which had about a 48% success rate and thus an expected scoring production over the course of the season of 96 points for every 100 tries. If kicked PATs from the 15 (which is a 33-yard field goal) are successful at a 94-95% rate, then it now makes sense for coaches to go for two all the time.

Except they won't. I mean, they might. Chip Kelly might. It is my guess, however, that most NFL coaches will continue to go for the kick almost every time, because even if going for two makes sense over the course of a season it's still a riskier play at that moment. I think it would take an awful lot of discipline for a coach to commit to going for two all season, knowing that at some point a failed attempt in a particular game is going to look like a strategic misstep in a narrow finish.

Anyway, you weren't really asking me for my opinion of the rule change (you got that for free!). You wanted to know if it would affect roster construction. From a kicking standpoint, I don't think so. One could argue that if two-point attempts do become more prevalent – and you should see a few more just because teams will be trying to make up for the extra handful of missed one-pointers – then some coaches might want to employ a player they see as especially valuable on those short-yardage plays. That was the rumored reason for the Eagles signing Tim Tebow, but I'll believe that when I see it. Look at the Bucs' roster: 6-foot-5 pass-catchers all over the place. Those seem like pretty good weapons from the two-yard line to me already. The Bucs may have to flesh out the two-point-play portion of their playbook a little bit more in anticipation of the change, but I don't think they have to base roster decisions on it.

As long as we're on the subject, I do like the part of the rule that allows blocked extra points to be returned by the defense for two points of their own. That makes sense to me and, to be honest, I often had to make a point of recalling whether that was already the rule in college and not the NFL, or vice versa.


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 ***.  The One Buc Mailbag runs every Thursday and is not necessarily meant to reflect the opinions of the team's management or coaching staff.*

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