The 2002 Tampa Bay Buccaneers stand out among the NFL champions of the past decade
With the "Aughts" coming to a close for the National Football League in less than a month, the debate over whom to crown the "Team of the Decade" will soon heat up.
Who has had the most success over the course of this decade? The Patriots and Colts may have the best arguments. The Steelers might stake a claim.
But when it comes to the single greatest team of the Aughts, the franchise that peaked the highest for one memorable season, it may just be your Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
That's what Forbes believes. In a
by Monte Burke and his Forbes.com cohorts, an answer to this question was sought: "Which was the best Super Bowl team of the decade?"
Combining four metrics meant to determine which teams were most dominant throughout the regular-season and playoffs of their championship seasons, Forbes came out with a tie at the top: The 2002 Buccaneers and the 2000 Baltimore Ravens.
The 2004 Patriots ranked third, followed by the 2008 Pittsburgh Steelers. Of the nine teams that made the discussion, the 2007 New York Giants finished last, with the 2001 New England Patriots one spot ahead. Obviously, one more team will force its way into the discussion after Super Bowl XLIV on February 7.
Both of the teams at the top were driven by absolutely dominating defenses. The 2002 Buccaneers rank among the greatest defensive squads in NFL history (as do the 2000 Ravens). Tampa Bay was first in both yards allowed and points allowed, with their opponents managing just 252.8 yards and 12.1 points per game. The '02 Bucs snared 31 interceptions, held seven opponents to a touchdown or less and even scored nine touchdowns on defense (playoffs included). All of the Buccaneers' opposing passers that season combined for a stunningly-low passer rating of 48.4.
But the '02 Bucs excelled on offense as well, especially in the playoffs, and they often won in overwhelming fashion. Tampa Bay lost only one game in each of the four "quarters" of the regular season, and of their franchise-record 12 victories only two were decided by fewer than 12 points.
In the playoffs, the Bucs were even more dominant, downing San Francisco, Philadelphia and Oakland by a combined score of 96-37. None of those three opponents got within 17 points of Tampa Bay on the final scoreboard, and the Bucs' 48-21 Super Bowl win – which was 34-3 early in the second half – might have been even more lopsided than the final score indicates.
The Forbes article used four metrics to rank the nine Super Bowl winners of the decade so far. Burke describes the method thusly:
"The first two [metrics] take into account each team's regular-season record and its net points (points scored minus points scored against). The last two metrics consider the postseason: the team's average margin of victory in its playoff games and the margin of victory in the Super Bowl itself. For each metric we ranked the teams from best to worst, then averaged their totals for a final ranking."
The '02 Buccaneers finished no worse than third in any of the four metrics, which was also true of the '00 Ravens. Tampa Bay was first in average margin of playoff victory (21 points), tied for first in margin of victory in the Super Bowl (27 points). The Bucs' net points during the regular season (150) were good for third on the list, and their 12-4 record tied for third, behind the '03 and '04 New England teams that went 14-2.
Burke calls the analysis an attempt to "humor our inner bar patron," since each team succeeded in capturing the ultimate prize. All of the Super Bowl winners of the decade were, by definition, great teams. By at least one system of measurement, however, the 2002 Buccaneers were the best of the best.