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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Making a Bucs Fan | S.S. Mailbag

This week, Buccaneers fans have questions about Tristan Wirfs, the Bucs-Falcons rivalry, how to turn a neutral person into a Tampa Bay fan, and more

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The Tampa Bay Buccaneers lost to the Detroit Lions in Week Six, but thanks to a strong 3-1 start to the season they remained in sole possession of first place in the NFC South. It didn't hurt that the Atlanta Falcons and New Orleans Saints had also lost earlier in the afternoon.

Thanks to that, the postgame notes from the Buccaneers' communications department still included this fun little nugget: "Tampa Bay has held at least a share of the division lead in 38 of the last 39 weeks, dating back to Week 4 of the 2021 season."

So that's pretty cool, right? I mean, if you're a fan of a team that is consistently in first place over the course of two-plus seasons – two-plus seasons that immediately followed a Super Bowl victory – that means you're enjoying a pretty good run. The Buccaneers will put that run at jeopardy on Sunday when they face the 3-3 Atlanta Falcons in a battle for the top spot in the division.

When I first read that note, my immediate thought was, 'When was the 39th week?' That is, what is the only week since early in the 2021 season that the Buccaneers did not have at least a share of first place in the NFC South. Gotta be honest, I couldn't think of the answer without help. Turns out it was after Week Eight of last year, when the Bucs had fallen to 3-5 and the Falcons had risen to 4-4. Obviously, that time in second place didn't last long.

Is a run of 39 in-season weeks in which the Buccaneers were at least tied for first in 38 of them the best such run in franchise history. Oh ho ho, yes. Very much so. Nothing else even comes close. I know this because I just went through all 48 Tampa Bay seasons to be sure.

At the core of that 38-of-39 is 22 straight weeks from after Week Four in 2021 to after Week Seven in 2022. That's 22 in a row, which is the longest such streak the Bucs have ever had. That's actually just a bit longer than the previous long run in team history: The 1979 team had a share of first in the NFC Central for all 16 weeks (no bye weeks back then to inflate those runs), and then the 1980 team did so for the first two weeks, for a total run of 18 weeks. The Bucs are currently on a 15-week run. The 2002 Super Bowl-winning team was at least tied for first for the last 10 weeks of the regular season, and then the 2003 team tacked on one more to make it 11 before that season came off the rails.

The first time the Buccaneers as a franchise ever had a share of first place in a division was after Week One of the 1979 season. The 1981 team had runs of six, one and four games. There were no more streaks of more than one game until 1992, when the Bucs were at least tied for first after each of the first four weeks. The 1997 team that broke the franchise's playoff drought didn't win the division but did hold a share of first for the first eight weeks and, randomly, after Week 12. The 1999 team held onto first for the final seven weeks.

The 2005 division-winning team is probably the most interesting case on the list. That squad kept falling in an out of first place. It had a share of the lead for the first eight weeks, then lost it, then got it back after Week 11, then lost it again, then got it back in Week 14, then lost it again, then moved back to the top in Week 16 and held on to the end.

Actually, maybe the 2016 team is even stranger. That group had two different runs of first-place occupancy, separated by 11 weeks. It was in first after Weeks One and Two, and then not again until Weeks 13 and 14.

Unlike the Bucs' first Super Bowl-winning team, which had a share of first in 14 of the season's 17 weeks, the most recent Lombardi Trophy-winning crew did not spend a lot of time at the top of the division. The 2020 Tom Brady-led Buccaneers had a share of first place only from Weeks Two through Eight.

So 22 straight weeks of first place-ness is the Bucs' franchise record, but they are currently riding another 15-week streak. Here's hoping we're talking about it being 16 in a row next week.

Now on to your questions.

A reminder that you can send questions to me any time 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

I agree with Greg that this would be a prohibitively time-consuming thing to research completely, but since I was able to just randomly think of a player who fits the bill (and subsequently looked it up to make sure I was right because my memory isn't that good), I think I can answer it. I mean, there's two questions here: Has it ever happened before, and how rare of an occurrence is it. I'll get partial credit on this test because I'm only going to answer the first one.

Orlando Brown Jr. started at right tackle for the Baltimore Ravens in 2019 and made the Pro Bowl. In 2021, he started at left tackle for the Kansas City Chiefs and made the Pro Bowl. In the season in between, 2020, he started seven games at right tackle and then nine at left tackle after Ronnie Stanley got hurt. Either way you slice it, I think that means he made the Pro Bowl in back-to-back seasons playing at one tackle spot and then the other.

I do think it's a pretty rare occurrence. I went through a list of some of the best tackles in the history of the game, both right and left ones, and I didn't find any other examples. That is not even close to an exhaustive study of the question, but it did give me the impression that Wirfs would be accomplishing a rare feat if he were to make the Pro Bowl as a left tackle this year. But he's a pretty rare athlete.

Who has the most wins in the Bucs Falcons rivalry?

- @dan_the_man_loves_sports (via Instagram)

This is one of those questions that falls into the category of "would take about two minutes to look up on Google," but hey, I'm paid to do this so I don't mind being a Google substitute here.

Actually, I don't have to look it up because I just wrote about the all-time Buccaneers-Falcons series in this week's Game Preview yesterday. Did you know that the Bucs have more wins (30) against the Falcons than they have against any other team? They also have 17 home wins against Atlanta, their most against any team. The 1,361 points Tampa Bay has scored at the expense of the Dirty Birds is their most against any opponent. And so on.

More saliently, the Buccaneers series with the Falcons is essentially the most evenly-matched rivalry in franchise history. The ledger currently stands at 30-29 after Atlanta's win in Week 18 last season. Of all the teams the Bucs have played at least 10 times, only the Tampa Bay-Arizona series (11-11) is more even. But that series doesn't include eight different occasions on which the lead changed hands.

Who wins in bucs vs falcons if both teams had their all time great

- @comebckkidd_ (via Instagram)

I assume you meant "greats" and not just a singular "great." The Buccaneers' all-time leader in Approximate Value, a catch-all stat you can find on Pro Football Reference, is Hall of Fame linebacker Derrick Brooks. The Falcons' all-time leader is quarterback Matt Ryan. I don't think we have enough context to say whether a team with Derrick Brooks would beat a team with Matt Ryan (although those two did face each other twice in 2008 and their teams split).

So I guess you mean how would a team of the best players in each franchise's history, magically all in their prime at the same time, fare against each other. I feel only half-qualified to answer this question. I could probably put together a pretty credible all-time starting 22 for the Buccaneers in a couple minutes but I would probably not be as good at the same task for the Falcons.

Another important distinction: Do I get the best player at each position who played for each team, regardless of how much of their careers were with that team? Do the Bucs get Tom Brady at quarterback? Do the Falcons get Tony Gonzalez at tight end? Those are arguably the two best players in NFL history at their respective positions but they are obviously better known as a Patriot and a Chief, respectively.

But I'll try. Let's go position by position under both parameters – whether you get the Buccaneers' all-time great or the most accomplished player overall to play for the franchise at some point. In that latter case, I'm only going to include the player if he was still really good when he came to Tampa. So yes to Tom Brady but no to, say, Tim Brown. In some cases, the selection will be the same and will only be listed once. I'll label those categories as A and B. For the Falcons, I'm just using some lists I found online of who are considered the best players in their history.

This is going to be fast and loose, so don't hold me to any of this.


Buccaneers: A) Doug Williams or B) Tom Brady

Falcons: Matt Ryan

That one goes to the Bucs in the first category and the Falcons in the second one, and I don't think I'd get much argument on that. The Falcons also had Steve Bartkowski and Michael Vick, so they probably win this category unless you go full Tom Brady.

Running Backs

Buccaneers: A and B) James Wilder and Warrick Dunn

Falcons: William Andrews and Jamal Anderson

I lean towards the Bucs on this one, but it's close. Maybe it swings to the Falcons side when you consider that Warrick Dunn played pretty much exactly half his career for Atlanta and produced nearly yardage totals for both teams.


Buccaneers: Mike Alstott

Falcons: I have no idea. Was Craig "Ironhead" Heyward ever considered a fullback?

My lack of Falcons knowledge renders this position moot, though I'm willing to bet Alstott would beat whoever is the best fullback in Falcons history, considering his six Pro Bowl appearances.

Wide Receiver

Buccaneers: A) Mike Evans, Chris Godwin and Mark Carrier or B) Evans, Godwin and Vincent Jackson

Falcons: Julio Jones, Roddy White and Andre Rison

Evans and Jones are probably Hall of Famers. Too soon to tell on Godwin. Because I had a really hard time keeping Joey Galloway and Kevin House off this list, I'm going to swing this one to Tampa Bay's side because I like them more than, say, Terrance Mathis and Alfred Jenkins. I'm almost certainly biased on this, though.

Tight End

Buccaneers: A) Jimmie Giles or B) Rob Gronkowski

Falcons: Tony Gonzalez (or if that doesn't count, Alge Crumpler)

This feels like a wash.

Offensive Line

Buccaneers: A) Paul Gruber, Tristan Wirfs, Tony Mayberry, Davin Joseph, Ali Marpet or B) Some combo of those plus Randall McDaniel, Jeff Christy, Logan Mankins and Carl Nicks

Falcons: Mike Kenn, Bob Whitfield, Bill Fralic, R.C. Thielemann, Jeff Van Note

Honestly, that Falcons group collectively won a lot more honors than did the Bucs' A group. I think Atlanta wins this one.

Defensive End

Buccaneers: Lee Roy Selmon and Simeon Rice

Falcons: Claude Humphrey, John Abraham

Selmon is in the Hall of Fame, but so is Humphrey. Rice has a comfortable lead in career sacks over Abraham, and I think he's considered more of a Buccaneer than a Cardinal so he fits either group.

Defensive Tackle

Buccaneers: Warren Sapp, Gerald McCoy

Falcons: Grady Jarrett, Jonathan Babineaux

Sapp's Hall of Fame credentials give this one to the Buccaneers, though it's possible Jarrett gets there eventually. McCoy also produced more than Babineaux.


Buccaneers: Derrick Brooks, Hardy Nickerson, Lavonte David

Falcons: Jessie Tuggle, Tommy Nobis, Keith Brooking

I chose to name three linebackers because that's how many they picked on the Falcons page I'm using as a resource. Of course, that means I don't even get to Shelton Quarles, Richard Wood, Scot Brantley, Devin White, David Lewis, Hugh Green, Cecil Johnson, Winston Moss, and so on. The Buccaneers have a richer history at linebacker than any other position. Jessie Tuggle was ultra-productive and I've ready that Tommy Nobis was a borderline Hall-of-Famer. The Falcons have a good case but it's hard to beat the Bucs at this position.


Buccaneers: Ronde Barber, Donnie Abraham

Falcons: Deion Sanders, Rolland Lawrence

Hall of Famers Barber and Sanders sort of cancel each other out. I don't know enough about Lawrence to compare him with Abraham. Call this one a wash, too.


Buccaneers: John Lynch, Antoine Winfield Jr.

Falcons: Scott Case, Ray Brown

The very pro-Falcons site I'm using here stats that safety is a thin position for the franchise in terms of all-time greats, so I think John Lynch easily puts the Bucs over the top here. Am I wrong or plagued by recency bias to take Winfield over Cedric Brown. Maybe, but it doesn't really matter to the selection here.

So, overall I think this came out about how I would have expected, with the Bucs having a clear edge on defense but the Falcons probably coming out on top on offense. That's especially true if you think I was too kind to the Buccaneers at running back and wide receiver, and if Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski don't count.

How do I convince a neutral fan to become a Bucc?

- @dallbirs_gill (via Instagram)

I'm going to assume that this neutral fan does, in fact, like the sport of American football. I don't have to convince them to watch the NFL, right? Just to choose the Buccaneers as his favorite team?

If so, I think I start by going to YouTube and firing up some highlight reels of Mike Alstott and Lee Roy Selmon. Buy them a Ronde Barber jersey in the red-and-pewter scheme but then make sure they watch a game in which the Bucs wear their Creamsicle uniforms. That way they know they have two different color schemes to pick from when gearing up, and everyone now loves the Creamsicle gear so it's a good fashion statement around town.

If they like bootstrap success stories, tell them how the Buccaneers came to be. An expansion team in 1976, they came to life in an era that didn't have very favorable rules for stocking a start-up. Other than a brief playoff era in the late '70s/early '80s, things were pretty rough for the Bucs for quite some time and they were usually considered underdogs. Does your friend appreciate underdogs? That could help. Then Malcolm Glazer purchased the team in 1995 and the franchise went under a remarkable makeover in the next few years that eventually culminated in the team's first Super Bowl championship.

Convince them that the old adage, defense wins championships, and then explain the rich history of good defense the franchise has. Selmon, Batman Wood, Hardy Nickerson, Derrick Brooks, John Lynch, Warren Sapp, Ronde Barber, Gerald McCoy, Lavonte David. Show them the incredible numbers from the 2002 team, one of the greatest defenses of all time.

Hey, they've probably heard of Tom Brady, right? Let them know that Brady was actually a Buccaneer for three seasons and led them to another Super Bowl title! We've got a whole "Brady Era." It was a blast!

And then we get to the current team, that this neutral fan obviously has to find appealing to make this work. Show them while this team has some well-established stars like Mike Evans and Lavonte who clearly want to be Buccaneers for their whole careers, there are some exciting young players they whose careers they'll be able to see unfold. Guys like Tristan Wirfs and Calijah Kancey and Winfield and Christian Izien and Yaya Diaby.

And they will have a chance to get on at the ground floor of what will hopefully develop into the Baker Mayfield experience. The former first-overall pick admitted hit a few bumps in the career road over the last couple seasons, which is why he was available for the Buccaneers to sign him. But when things are going well for him, as they did with the playoff-bound Browns in 2020, he's a really fun player to watch, and a fun one to listen to in postgame press conferences. Obviously, if you consult enough NFL fans you'll get some who think Mayfield is going to be great for the Bucs and some who don't. We don't know the answer yet, but he's gotten off to a pretty good start. It could end up being a great ride.

Finally, if you're a neutral fan looking to adopt, you don't to be a front-runner, right? Who are the critical darlings right now? The Chiefs, Bills, 49ers, Eagles? The Patriots won a million Super Bowls in the last couple decades. The Cowboys have too many fans already, as do the Packers and Steelers. What's the point of jumping on those bandwagons right now? You want to pick a team that might be a contender but isn't currently ranking near the top of national power polls. That way when they do defy the naysayers and win, it's a lot more fun.

Does that work? Good luck!

(P.S. Before this person makes up their mind, try not to let them see the Dolphins or Lions, because those are long-time underdogs who are also really fun to watch this season. If I was kicked off the Buccaneers' ship and had to choose a new team right now, I'd probably choose one of those two.)

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