The Tampa Bay Buccaneers' offices (actual and virtual) were closed last week in observance of the Fourth of July holiday. When I returned to work, I found a mailbag question waiting for me in the tbbsocial inbox. The question is from a huge Tom Brady fan who calls himself Antman in his email but is revealed by his address to be one Anton Smith.
So of course I'm going to include his question in this week's Q&A session. We Smiths have to stick together.
A few years back, we Smiths nearly took over Bucs headquarters. The roster featured Donovan, Evan and Jacquies, with Lovie at the helm and both Miles and Mikal on his staff. Ryan, Antone and Daryl arrived the next year to replace some departed Smiths. Alas, the coup never quite came together and we are currently limited to Donovan and Ryan on the roster.
This got me thinking about the greatest Smiths in NFL history. Bruce and Emmitt came immediately to mind, and I was surprised to discover that beyond those two the only other Smith in the Hall of Fame is tight end Jackie. Still, there have been plenty of other standout Smiths through the years. I wondered if I could make a really good starting 22 out of just players with the surname of Smith.
I could! And I did! It's below. A couple of things first. I knew I would be biased towards the modern era anyway, so I decided to use only Smiths who played since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger. The only downside to that decision was that I wasn't able to include such wonderfully-named old-time players as Vitamin Smith, Wee Willie Smith, Red Smith and Oak Smith. In all seriousness, I really could have used Pro Bowl guard Jim Ray Smith from the 1960s; that is this roster's weakest position.
I also avoided putting any Buccaneers on the list (sorry Donovan!) to prevent any bias in that direction. And I refused to consider either Shaky Smithson or Fish Smithson. Those were real players (Fish Smithson was on Baltimore's injured reserve list just last year). Finally, I went with three wide receivers for my 11 on offense, mainly because I didn't want to choose between the three listed, and I went with a traditional 4-3 front on defense. You'll see why below.
Here's the team:
QB: Alex Smith
WR: Steve Smith
WR: Jimmy Smith
WR: Rod Smith
RB: Emmitt Smith
TE: Jackie Smith
T: Tyron Smith
T: Marvel Smith
G: Lance Smith
G: Braden Smith
C: Doug Smith
DL: Bruce Smith
DL: Neil Smith
DL: Justin Smith
DL: Aaron Smith
LB: Daryl Smith
LB: Derek Smith
LB: Al Smith
CB: Otis Smith
CB: Jimmy Smith
S: Dennis Smith
S: Harrison Smith
View photos of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers roster as it currently stands.
A couple notes:
· The D-Line, in which I'm also including OLBs or edge rushers, is LOADED. Last year, the Packers' picked up both Preston and Za'Darius Smith in free agency and that duo came up huge. I'm not picking either over Bruce or Neil Smith just yet, but in time they might be able to knock off Justin or Aaron. From a little farther back, we also have Bubba Smith and Paul Smith, and you could pretty interchangeably swap them in for Justin or Aaron.
· At the linebacker spot I quickly found three guys from the last couple decades who were all similarly named with relatively similar career production: Daryl, Derek and Darrin. Daryl and Derek got the call to join Al Smith, a Pro Bowler for the '80s and '90s Houston Oilers. Still, Darrin could have made it, and if you want to go more recent you could probably argue for Telvin and Jaylon Smith, too.
· I know some will be uninspired by this team's quarterback, but unless you have a soft spot for Akili or Geno Smith, Alex was the clear choice. I mean, we are talking about a guy who made three Pro Bowls in a five-year span, has a career 94-66-1 record as a starter and a pretty good career passer rating of 87.9. And with the receiving corps he'll be working with, I think he'll be just fine.
· If you wanted to go with just two receivers and add a second running back, I think my top choice would be former Viking Robert Smith.
This is a lot easier for a Smith to do than most other people writing about the Buccaneers. I'd like to see Greg Auman come up with a full team of Aumans!
Now on to your non-Smith-related questions for this week.
A reminder that you can send questions to me anytime you want on Twitter (@ScottSBucs) and they're easier to find if you include the hashtag #SSMailbagBucs. We are also now soliciting questions each week on our Instagram page; look for that story on Wednesdays. As always, if you want to get a longer question into the mailbag and would prefer to email your question, you can do so to firstname.lastname@example.org.
*Dear Scott; *
I am a TB12 fanatic since his first Bling-Ring, henceforth now a Bucs fan! Week 1 touts Brees as the leading passer and TD passer. With all of TB12s playoffs included, at least an entire extra season's worth of games, he has over 80 000yards and _the only person _to crack the 600 TD mark(614? I think.). Why doesn't the NFL and the pundits include this and Make Tom the undisputed #1? RSVP Antman 🐜
* PS: I know it's a "Covid Winter" right now, but why must 'Joe' and others start looking past TB12s contribution so soon when he hasn't even got started!? That's enough to get _my_ goat! A(eh?)*
- Anton Smith (via email to email@example.com)
Look, Tom Brady is my quarterback now, too, and I want him to get all the accolades and respect that he deserves, but are we really complaining that the media isn't giving him his due? I mean, his nickname is the G.O.A.T.; I'm not sure you can get much more respectful than that.
Antman, you're basically just pointing out the way that statistics are commonly compiled and reported in the NFL and most sports. Generally, regular-season statistics and postseason statistics are kept separate, and that's just the way that it is. I actually think that's fair, particularly in football, which is such a team sport. Dan Marino never won a Super Bowl and only played in one. You can use that as an argument when discussing his place in league history compared to say, John Elway, but it doesn't really mean much to say that Elway threw for 800 more Super Bowl yards than Marino did. Elway had four more opportunities than Marino. The regular season offers the same number of opportunities to every player.
Anyway, it's pretty easy to combine the numbers if you choose to do so, and I think that's all you're asking me to do here. Actually, you kind of already did it in your question, which notes that the Bucs' 2020 opener features a matchup of Brady and the Saints Drew Brees. They happen to be the top two players on the NFL's all-time lists for both passing yards and touchdown passes…which, yes, are based on regular-season totals. Here's where they stand:
1. Drew Brees: 77,416 yards, 547 touchdowns
2. Tom Brady: 74,571 yards, 541 touchdowns
But Brady has played in a remarkable 41 playoff contests and is the only player in league annals with six Super Bowl championships. That's not "an entire season's worth of games," Antman. That's two-and-a-half entire season's worth of games! Obviously, that's a big part of what makes him the G.O.A.T., and if you combined regular and postseason totals, this is where the top two stand:
1. Tom Brady: 85,959 yards, 614 touchdowns
2. Drew Brees: 82,383 yards, 581 touchdowns
By the way, while Brady is obviously the all-time leader in those postseason passing categories, Brees isn't second on the list. The quarterback who comes closest to Brady's incredible 11,388 playoff passing yards is Peyton Manning, with 7,339. Brett Favre, Joe Montana, Ben Roethlisberger and Aaron Rodgers also have more postseason passing yards than Brees, who has 4,967.
As for Brady's 73 touchdown passes in the playoffs, that's far and away the record, too, and Brees isn't second. Montana comes closest at 45, just ahead of Favre's 44. Manning and Rodgers both have 40 and then Brees checks in at 34. (Twelfth on the list? Joe Flacco! Elite!)
Anyway, to get back to my main point, I don't think anyone is slighting Brady when they say that the Brees-Brady matchup pits the top two passers in NFL history against each other, with Brees just ahead in both yards and touchdowns. That's just how statistics are kept in the NFL. Everyone knows that Brady has his six rings, and even if they don't know – or didn't know before we spelled it out here – exactly many yards and TDs Brady has added in playoff contests, they have to know that it is, technically speaking, a whole lot. He's the G.O.A.T. for a reason.
Could we sign Antonio Brown?
- @silly_amp_08, via Instagram
Could the Buccaneers sign Antonio Brown. Presuming he's willing, I'm sure they would be capable of doing so. Will they sign Antonio Brown? Hasn't this question already been answered?
It was all the way back in late March when Bruce Arians said on the CBS Sports Network's "Tiki and Tierney Show" (via ESPN) that, "It's not going to happen," and that Brown was not a "fit" in Tampa. Why would that have changed since. The Bucs' salary cap space has only shrunk since then and the team has added tight end Rob Gronkowski and wide receiver Tyler Johnson. The Buccaneers' are set with their starting receivers in Mike Evans and Chris Godwin and are likely to let Johnson, Scotty Miller and Justin Watson fight it out for the third receiver role. Nothing to see here; let's move along.
View photos of wide receiver Mike Evans in the new Buccaneers uniforms.
What are your thoughts on the new Patrick Mahomes contract?
My thoughts? Um, jealousy?
I know there is a subset of NFL analysts that feel Mahomes signed a team-friendly deal and that he would have been better off with a shorter contract that didn't give the Chiefs most of the control over the last five or six years, when he could be hitting the market again. But even those analysts generally concede that Mahomes is free to make any kind of deal he wants and that he is, in fact, going to be paid very handsomely. Of course, that was never in doubt.
Given that you're asking me this question when the contract has been dissected many times over by better NFL market analysts than me, I assume you want a Buccaneer slant. And one of my first reactions to the deal was that it reminded me of what Brady consistently did in New England. I can't swear to this, but I believe he's never been the highest-paid quarterback in the NFL, even though he's clearly the best quarterback of the last two decades. Obviously, Brady has been very well paid over the bulk of his career and he's got a lot more coming to him from the Bucs over the next two years (at least). He also has plenty of other sources of revenue, and that's going to be true for Mahomes for years to come, as well.
Look at what Mahomes has said about his deal and his future in Kansas City since signing that massive, 12-year pact. He said he personally wanted security, but that it was a good deal for both him and the team. Most importantly, he also noted that it was his goal is to build a dynasty, just like Brady helped the Patriots do for two decades. Even if he did "settle" for a little less than what he could have possibly gotten, if that's his goal than who can blame him for doing what he thought was best to achieve it?
I still have a bit of a soft spot for the Chiefs, who gave me my first opportunity in the league before I came to Tampa. I can't truly claim to be a Chiefs fan anymore, but if I was I would be ecstatic over this Mahomes news. Even though he's only three years into his career, it doesn't seem like a stretch to predict that he'll end up being one of the greatest quarterbacks the game has seen. Like Brady. Chiefs fans know they'll be enjoying that for a long time, perhaps into the 2030s, and that their team really is in a good position to build a dynasty.
My last thought on Patrick Mahomes is that I'm really looking forward to November 29.
Shaq Barrett was really awesome last year, a great signing and I'm really glad he's going to be back this year. Hopefully their working on a longer deal. That said, I don't expect him to have 19.5 sacks again, and I think you said something like that in one of thse mailbags earlier in the year. I'm not ripping on the guy – it's just that 19.5 sacks in a season doesn't happen very often. I think most Buccs fans would be thrilled if he got 10 to 15. My question is along those lines–what's another stat from 2019 that you don't think a Buccaneer is likely to repeat in 2020? Or maybe a couple of them.
Thanks! – Mark Stewart (via email to firstname.lastname@example.org)
Shaq Barrett probably expects to have 19.5 sacks again, and more power to him, but I agree that it's a little much to expect. Barrett produced just the 17th individual season of 19.5 sacks or more in the 38 years since it became an official statistic in 1982. Only DeMarcus Ware and J.J. Watt have reached that mark twice, and nobody has ever done it in consecutive seasons. So Mark is right – we're not criticizing Barrett in any way when we say that another 19.5 sack season in 2020 would be a major surprise.
I don't often field a question in which I have to predict a Buccaneers player who is going to do less or worse than he did the year before, but I get the point here. Just like Shaq won't be any sort of disappointment if he falls short of 19.5 sacks, there are some other individual statistics from 2019 that are not likely to be duplicated, even if the player responsible gets better overall in 2020.
The one that jumps out at me right away is the two fumble-return touchdowns scored by both Ndamukong Suh and Devin White. Before those guys stunningly accomplished that in the same season, the last time even a single Tampa Bay player had scored on two fumble recoveries in one year was in 2004, when Ronde Barber (OF COURSE) pulled it off. The last Buc to score multiple defensive touchdowns of any kind was Danny Lansanah in 2014, but those were both pick-sixes. Fumble return TDs are impressive but I think there's an element of luck involved. You need to be in the right place at the right time, and you need that ball to get to you (or you get to the ball) with a little space around you rather than at the bottom of a dogpile.
That's really the only number I see as being highly unlikely of being reproduced, presuming we're only talking about players who are returning for the Buccaneers in 2020. Peyton Barber, who's now in Washington, is not going to give Tampa Bay six rushing touchdowns again. There are some gimmicky numbers I could throw out there, but they wouldn't mean much. Codey McElroy is not going to average 30 yards a catch again, because presumably he'll have more or less than the one reception he logged in 2019. Jaydon Mickens probably isn't going to have two fair catches without a single actual punt return. Matt Gay might not get another shot at a 58-yard field goal in 2020 after making his one try from that distance in his rookie year.