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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Strange But True

A look at a few Buccaneer believe-it-or-nots that may surprise you

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Apparently, Keyshawn Johnson got his class reunion notice a year before Simeon Rice

Class, did you bring your permission slips? It's field trip time.

Our destination today is the Buccaneer Museum of Strange-But-True Facts. There we will move beyond your normal fields of learning – offensive and defensive rankings, player strengths and weaknesses, etc. – and encounter some data you may or may not be willing to believe.

We're not talking about the usual parlor tricks, here. You won't find a display regarding the Bucs' 25-year futility on kickoff returns, nor a picture of offensive lineman George Yarno kicking an extra point, nor a stand devoted to Harold Bishop, the tight end who was drafted in the third round, played in six games and was traded for a second-round pick the next year.

The stuff there is stranger.

But true.

What? You want a preview?

Okay, then. Here are some of the spiffy exhibits you'll find in the Buccaneer Museum of Strange-But-True Facts. For instance, did you know…

Class Reunion

You're probably euphoric over the Buccaneers' run of Pro Bowl signees over the past two years, but did you know that the team is slowly working on a monopoly of the 1996 draft? Strange, but true.

Two of the first three players drafted in 1996, and three of the first 22, will don the Bucs' pewter and red in 2001. All three are bona fide NFL stars.

Simeon Rice, who signed with the Buccaneers this past Friday, was the third player taken overall in '96, the second defensive player selected.

One of the two players drafted in front of Rice was his University of Illinois teammate, Kevin Hardy, who went to the Jaguars. The other was USC WR Keyshawn Johnson, selected first overall by the New York Jets. Johnson, of course, has been a Buccaneer for almost a year now.

A few hours later on that fateful April day in '96, the Bucs drafted North Carolina defensive lineman Marcus Jones, he of the 13 sacks last season. Tampa Bay also took Regan Upshaw that season, but he was traded to Jacksonville early in 1999 and he's now in Oakland.

Having a threesome from the first round of 1996 is a potent honor, as that year surprisingly produced almost no busts, besides the obvious exception of Nebraska RB Lawrence Phillips. Among the stars from that first round now dominating the NFL are Jonathan Ogden, Ray Lewis, Eric Moulds, Eddie George, Marvin Harrison, Kevin Hardy, John Mobley, Jeff Hartings, Terry Glenn, Daryl Gardener and Pete Kendall.

No other team in the league has more than two players from that round, partly because only eight players chosen in that round are currently playing on different teams (five are unrestricted free agents at the time of this writing and four have been out of the league for some time). Moreover, only two of the first 10 players drafted in 1996 are currently rostered on different teams: Johnson and Rice, numbers one and three on the list.

By the way, remember number two, Kevin Hardy? He's a free agent. Do you think… ? No, let's not get started.

But wait, there's more. After the first round, the Bucs went on to draft FB Mike Alstott and CB Donnie Abraham, both future Pro Bowlers. Later, the Eagles drafted Tennessee DE Steve White, but he was out of Philly and into a Buc uniform before the year ended. While not yet a Pro Bowler, White is a valuable member of the Bucs' killer defensive line.

It's a veritable 1996 class reunion around here.

Montana, Marino and … Johnson?

We may also visit the Brad Johnson exhibit. Did you know that he's on a list with some of the greatest quarterbacks in league history? Strange, but true.

Some have marveled that Johnson has had any sort of noticeable NFL career, given that he was mostly a backup on the collegiate level at Florida State. Johnson never got past Casey Weldon with the Seminoles, but he has certainly carved out a much more significant place for himself on the professional level.

But that plot line would simply make Johnson a feel-good story for the underdogs, not a candidate for Strange-But-True inclusion. What puts Johnson in that category is that he actually ranks among the greatest passers in NFL history.

That's not hyperbole, folks, that's supportable fact.

League passers have been rated by a system called passer rating since 1973, and the same formula has been used in retrospect to grade the work of earlier hurlers. The system, a math-hater's nightmare based on completion percentage, touchdown and interception rates and yards per attempt, allows the league to compare quarterbacks from season to season and era to era.

Sammy Baugh's stellar 1945 season (109.9 passer rating) can be placed alongside Joe Montana's 1989 campaign (112.4) for comparison, or the two passers' career marks can be compared.

When all the passers in the history of the league are placed on the chart, many of the names you would suspect are at the top. Steve Young leads the way with a career mark of 96.8, followed by Montana at 92.3.

Dan Marino is third – no surprise – and three-time MVP Brett Favre comes in fourth. Rounding out the top five is Jacksonville QB Mark Brunell.

Then comes Brad Johnson, statistically the sixth greatest passer in NFL history with a career rating of 84.7, just beating out Jim Kelly's mark of 84.4. In Buccaneer terms, how good is that career mark? Only one Tampa Bay quarterback has ever done better than that for a single season (Steve DeBerg, 85.3 in 1987).

It is instructive to note that Johnson built that rating with outstanding seasons for two different teams, the Minnesota Vikings and Washington Redskins. His best single-season rating in Minnesota was 89.4, posted in 1996 before the arrival of Randy Moss. His best season overall came in Washington, where he had a 90.0 ranking in 1999.

Partners in Time

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers as they are currently constructed have been built for the long haul, and that will be demonstrated with our exhibit featuring Rich McKay and Tony Dungy.

McKay became the Buccaneers' General Manager prior to the 1995 season. During the following offseason, under the direction of the new Glazer family ownership, McKay spearheaded the search for a new head coach to replace Sam Wyche. He and team owner Malcolm Glazer decided upon Minnesota Defensive Coordinator Tony Dungy, who began his first head coaching job in 1996.

Since, the Bucs have been transformed from a league punch line (no winning records or postseason appearances from 1983-95) to a league power (playoffs three of the past four years). McKay and Dungy have directed an overhaul that was designed to keep the Bucs competitive for years and are now considered, respectively, to be in the upper echelons of their professions.

But did you know that the McKay-Dungy partnership is now the third longest running General Manager-Head Coach pairing in the NFL. Strange, but true. Only the Jacksonville Jaguars and Tennessee Titans have longer tenured GM-Coach pairs, and the late-'90s records of those three teams is very telling.

The Bucs are 39-25 over the last four seasons, with the aforementioned three playoff appearances. Jacksonville is 43-21 in the same span with three postseason berths of its own, and Tennessee is 42-22 and has two playoff appearances, including a Super Bowl berth.

Jacksonville has paired coach Tom Coughlin with personnel man Michael Huyghue (actual title is senior vice president, football operations) since the franchise began play in 1995. Tennessee brought in both General Manager Floyd Reese and Head Coach Jeff Fisher in 1994.

No other team has had the same duo at the top longer than the Bucs have enjoyed the team-building prowess of McKay and Dungy. Most Buccaneer fans hope they remain together for years to come.

So that's your preview of the museum, class. If you're ready for more bizarre Buccaneer factoids – and if you have your permission slip – then hop on the bus.

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