New Buccaneer guard Randall McDaniel has started the last 11 Pro Bowls
On Wednesday it became official: the Buccaneers have relocated their own set of twin towers from the Twin Cities. Less than three weeks after center Jeff Christy traded in his Minnesota purple for Tampa Bay pewter, his longtime Viking teammate, perennial Pro Bowl guard Randall McDaniel, did the same by signing a three-year contract with the Buccaneers.
The Bucs, determined to upgrade their offensive line during the 2000 offseason, first signed Christy on February 15, lifting the two-time Pro Bowler from division rival Minnesota. A very durable player, Christy has missed only four games since becoming a starter in 1994, but that's four more than McDaniel missed during the 1990s, including playoffs and his annual Pro Bowl trips. Together, McDaniel and Christy formed one of the most effective interior O-line combinations in the NFL during the 1990s, an invaluable asset for a run-oriented team like the Buccaneers.
"We feel extremely fortunate to sign a player with Randall's talent, experience and leadership qualities," Buccaneers Head Coach Tony Dungy says. "Randall is one the best linemen this league has ever produced and he will have an immediate impact on our offensive line."
McDaniel is considered a near-lock for the Hall of Fame, as evidenced by his league-record 11 straight Pro Bowl starts. With Dungy leading the National Football Conference team in Honolulu this past February, McDaniel started next to Christy for the victorious NFC, breaking a tie with legendary linebackers Mike Singletary and Lawrence Taylor for most consecutive Pro Bowl appearances.
Being back with Dungy on a permanent basis makes McDaniel, 35, feel more like a first-time Pro Bowler. "I am very happy to be here," he said. "I'm looking forward to getting down here and getting it started, learning the system as quickly as a I can so that I can contribute right away. I'm anxious … to start fresh again. I feel like I'm a rookie all over again. That's a good feeling to have. At this age, I didn't know I could feel this good again.
"If Tony wasn't down here, I don't think this ever would have happened. I know what Tony has done. I knew him in Minnesota and when he left to come down here I knew he was going to do a great job here."
The 6-3, 287-pound McDaniel employs an unorthodox pre-snap stance, with his left leg bent at an awkward angle, but the results he generates are straightforward and devastating. For three consecutive years, the Vikings' running game has averaged at least 4.3 yards per carry, significantly better than the league average of approximately 4.0. Meanwhile, the Vikings have allowed a below-league-average 35 sacks per season over the past five years despite being one of the most pass-happy teams in the league.
McDaniel first came to the NFL in 1988 as a first-round draft pick of the Vikings, the 19th player selected overall. After just one game as a substitute, he moved into the starting lineup and has been there ever since. McDaniel started the final 15 contests in his rookie season, earning all-rookie honors before graduating to Pro Bowl honors in just his second campaign. During that 1989 season, McDaniel sat out two games and missed a third start, marking the only games he has missed during his NFL career. Included in that span is 13 playoff games, all starts.
By 1992, McDaniel had begun a string of first-team Associated All-Pro selections that would continue through 1998. That '98 campaign would stand out as one of the most memorable in McDaniel's career and in Vikings history. Helping the Minnesota offense rack up a league-record 556 points by opening wide running lanes and providing stellar protection for quarterbacks Brad Johnson and Randall Cunningham. According to the Vikings' internal statistics, McDaniel was responsible for just 1.5 sacks allowed and was a driving force in the team's 5.4-yard per carry average when running behind the left side of the line.
In February's Pro Bowl, McDaniel sprung the same types of holes for Buccaneer FB Mike Alstott, who ran for a record-tying three touchdowns to lead the NFC to a 51-31 victory. As thrilling as that February performance was for Buccaneers fans, a replay during the regular season would be much more satisfying. With McDaniel donning the Bucs' red and pewter on Wednesday, that may very well become a reality.