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The Stretch Run Is Here | S.S. Mailbag

This week, Buccaneers fans have questions about playoff odds, the AdventHealth Training Center, the franchise's top quarterbacks and more

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Earlier this week, I used NFL Next Gen Stats information to take a closer look at the first of Mike Evans' two touchdown catches against the Indianapolis Colts. The interesting nugget provided by NGS is that Evans was separated from the nearest Colts defender by 17.1 yards, which is the most separation ever recorded on a catch made in the end zone since they started tracking this data in 2016.

Officially, though, it was just a simple little one-yard touchdown catch. It was the third time this season that Evans has scored on a play snapped from the one-yard line, and overall seven of the Buccaneers' 22 touchdowns so far have been of that length.

Which got me thinking. I'm certain that one-yard touchdowns are the most frequent type of TDs in Bucs history; that seems obvious. I feel like Mike Alstott alone probably scored from one yard out about 25 times in his career. (Don't worry, I'll look up the exact number in a moment). But what percentage of all the touchdowns in team history have been from that distance? Let's find out.

First off, counting the postseason and included this year's scores, the Bucs have 1,649 touchdowns in their history. Evans, of course, has the most with 91. Alstott is second with 71. The total number of Buccaneers with at least one touchdown is 273.

Of those 1,649 touchdowns, 261 have been of the one-yard variety, including seven this year. That's 16.4% of the total. As expected, Alstott had the most one-yard touchdowns, with 29 (27 rushing, two receiving). The next highest number of touchdown length for the Buccaneers is, of course, two yards, with 107 or 6.5% of the total.

The list progresses downward in a pretty orderly fashion, with just a few hiccups here and there. Sixteen and 17-yard touchdowns have been rarer than the ones around them, randomly, and 32-yard touchdown catch that Evans had against the Bears was just the sixth of that length in team history. I found it kind of surprising that the lowest positive number that has not been the length of a touchdown in Bucs history is 86. As they would say in the restaurant industry, 86-yard touchdowns have been 86-ed.

The two longest touchdowns in team history were a 98-yard interception return by Shelton Quarles against the Packers in 2001 and a 98-yard run by Ronald Jones in 2020. Also, those one-yard touchdowns are not the shortest possible scores, since a player can recover a fumble or blocked punt or intercept a pass in the end zone. Those are the rare zero-yard touchdowns, of which there have been nine in Bucs history, most recently one by…yep, Mike Evans. Against the Giants in 2018, Jameis Winston took off on a scramble but fumbled the ball in the end zone, where Evans was able to fall on it for the touchdown. Because the play did not happen in the last two minutes of either half, it was legal for Evans to advance it and the ball was not brought back to the three, where Winston fumbled.

Since I looked it all up, I went ahead and provided the whole list of touchdown lengths and how many of each kind the Bucs have had so far. It's obvious long, so if you're not interested in every number, feel free to scroll down to the fans' questions.

  • 0: 9
  • 1: 261
  • 2: 107
  • 3: 96
  • 4: 79
  • 5: 80
  • 6: 57
  • 7: 53
  • 8: 51
  • 9: 48
  • 10: 41
  • 11: 39
  • 12: 26
  • 13: 31
  • 14: 29
  • 15: 32
  • 16: 15
  • 17: 25
  • 18: 13
  • 19: 23
  • 20: 29
  • 21: 18
  • 22: 19
  • 23: 19
  • 24: 21
  • 25: 16
  • 26: 17
  • 27: 15
  • 28: 13
  • 29: 15
  • 30: 16
  • 31: 16
  • 32: 6
  • 33: 16
  • 34: 10
  • 35: 12
  • 36: 11
  • 37: 11
  • 38: 6
  • 39: 12
  • 40: 10
  • 41: 11
  • 42: 10
  • 43: 6
  • 44: 15
  • 45: 9
  • 46: 3
  • 47: 9
  • 48: 7
  • 49: 4
  • 50: 9
  • 51: 3
  • 52: 3
  • 53: 1
  • 54: 3
  • 55: 7
  • 56: 5
  • 57: 4
  • 58: 10
  • 59: 6
  • 60: 5
  • 61: 6
  • 62: 8
  • 63: 1
  • 64: 6
  • 65: 5
  • 66: 1
  • 67: 4
  • 68: 6
  • 69: 4
  • 70: 3
  • 71: 5
  • 72: 1
  • 73: 1
  • 74: 3
  • 75: 5
  • 76: 3
  • 77: 2
  • 78: 5
  • 79: 2
  • 80: 4
  • 81: 3
  • 82: 1
  • 83: 1
  • 84: 2
  • 85: 2
  • 87: 1
  • 88: 1
  • 89: 2
  • 90: 1
  • 91: 1
  • 92: 1
  • 95: 1
  • 97: 3
  • 98: 2

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 tbbsocial@buccaneers.nfl.com.

If we went 4-0 in the division for the rest of the year, what % do you give us to make the playoffs?

- @grphix_ (via Instagram)

Off the top of my head, I think it would be a very high probability. The Bucs would be, at worst, 4-2 in that stretch and 8-9 overall and would definitely have the tiebreaker advantage over the Saints due to a 2-0 head-to-head record and a 5-1 overall record in the division. In this scenario, the Falcons could also get to 5-1 in division play and would have a split with the Bucs, so that one's a little trickier. Both the Saints and Falcons could still finish ahead of Tampa Bay in that scenario, but I don't expect either to run the table, and they have to play each other again in Week 18.

But you know what? There are people who calculate these sorts of things for a living. Let's see what they have to say about it. I'll be using the playoff simulator on nytimes.com, which shows current odds for each team to make the playoffs and allows you to input future game results to see how they are affected. At the moment, the simulator gives the Buccaneers a 12% chance to make the playoffs, 8% by winning the division and 4% by getting a wild card spot.

If you add in wins for the Bucs' four remaining in-division games (this Sunday against Carolina, next weekend in Atlanta and Weeks 17 and 18 against the Saints and at Carolina), without adding any of the other results for the Falcons or Saints, the Bucs shoot all the way up to 84%, most of that by way of them winning the division. If they do that and beat the Packers in Week 15, they will have a spot essentially clinched. If they do that, lose to the Packers but beat the Jaguars in Week 16, they'll have a 98% probability of making it.

Now, if the Falcons win their other five games, the Buccaneers would have to beat both the Packers and Jaguars to tie them for the division lead, and then they would win the tiebreaker based on record against common opponents. Let's say the Falcons lose one other time other than the Bucs game in Week 14. I put that into the simulator and then removed the Packers and Jaguars results and it gave the Bucs a 65% chance of making the playoffs.

I'm focused more on the Falcons here because in your scenario the Bucs would have a strong tiebreaker edge on the Saints, so all of the similar scenarios would come out a little better. I think I've seen enough, though, to tell me that the story would remain about the same if we compared the odds of those two teams. And I also think I've seen enough to make me believe that running the table in the next four in-division games would give the Bucs' a very strong shot at making the playoffs.

What are the Bucs playoff chances if we win or lose Sunday?

- @dan_the__freaking_man_ (via Instagram)

As long as I'm messing around with the simulator, I might as well answer this one, too. If the only game we plug in is a win over the Panthers this Sunday, the Bucs' chance rise a bit, from 12%, as noted before, to 19%. If we also put in Week 13 losses for the Falcons (at the Jets) and the Saints (at home against the Lions), it jumps a bit more to 22%. If we plug in a Bucs loss and no other games, the number drops to 7%.

What is the Bucs' best punting performance of all time?

- @jgoodwin22 (via Instagram)

We are in the Golden Age of Buccaneer punting, my friend. I think you probably mean the best performance by a Bucs punter in a single game, and if that's the case, we witnessed it just last year, when Jake Camarda was a rookie.

The Los Angeles Rams visited Raymond James Stadium in Week Nine of the 2022 season, with the Bucs trying to snap a three-game losing streak. They did so with a tight 16-13 win in which field position was at a premium throughout. Camarda helped the Bucs win that battle with the single greatest performance by a punter in franchise history.

Camarda punted six times, including blasts of 74, 68 and 66 yards. The 74-yarder tied for the longest punt in Bucs history, the 68-yarder ranks fifth and the 66th-yarder is tied for the sixth longest. That's right: In one game, Camarda accounted for half of the six longest punts in nearly 50 years of Buccaneers football.

None of those punts were shorter than 48 yards and four of them were downed inside the Rams' 20-yard line. That all added up to a gross punting average of 59.5 and a ridiculous net punting average of 54.2. Both of those marks are all-time single-game records for Tampa Bay, and it's not even close. The previous records were a 52.2-yard gross for Michael Koenen and a 49.8-yard net by Bryan Anger. You will not be surprised to learn that Camarda was named the NFC Special Teams Player of the Week a few days later.

Best thing in the Buccaneers' facility?

- @alex_ballout7 (via Instagram)

There are probably dozens of good answers to this question if you're talking about player comfort and health or performance maximization. For instance, the hydrotherapy room in the training department is pretty cool. It has three pool, one for soaking in cold, one for soaking in hot and one that has a moving bottom so players can rehab leg injuries without putting their full weight on them. You said "in" the facility, but the practice fields out back are immaculately maintained and have a very good drainage system. The Bucs rarely have to stay off those fields because they're too wet, but if they want to get out of a storm or a very hot day, they can go inside the indoor facility, which features a full length field.

But I'm going to answer this from my perspective, since you asked me. One of the things I like best in the AdventHealth Training Center is the huge action shots of Buccaneer greats through the years. They line almost every hallway in the building and it's enjoyable to be reminded on a daily basis of those players and some of the best plays they made.

I like that, but I'll tell you what is really the best thing in the facility: The two Lombardi Trophies on display in the lobby. That's what it's all about.

Do you think kickoffs will be gone in 10 years with how the rules are starting to incentivize less and less returns?

- @jaedon.taylor (via Instagram)

Logically, I would say yes, but my heart tells me no, we'll still be lining up for kickoffs in 2033.

You are absolutely correct that rule changes, all designed to make the play safer based on some very convincing data that it used to be the most dangerous play in the game, have nudged the kickoff towards obsolescence. The Buccaneers as a team have returned 14 kickoffs in 11 games, and none longer than 32 yards. Ten years ago (2013), the Bucs returned 34 kickoffs in 16 games. Ten years before that (2003), they had 55 kickoffs in 16 games.

In last week's mailbag I fielded a question on a related topic that allowed me to go on a rant I had been honing of late. It was about the new rule this year that allows players to call for fair catches on kickoffs inside the 25-yard line, which results in the same thing as a touchback, the ensuing drive starting at the 25-yard line. I agreed with the questioner that players have barely been taking advantage of that rule this year, and that they should be doing so. Here's the key paragraph:

"Are NFL teams really that good at returning kickoffs," you ask. No! Through 11 weeks, all 32 teams have combined to record two kickoff return touchdowns. The average kickoff return across the league gains 22.7 yards and only five teams are even averaging 25 or more yards per return. The NFL average on kickoff returns is 22.7 yards, and the average starting position is at the 25.1 yard line. If return men fair caught every kickoff that didn't go into the end zone, virtually nothing would change!

I had counted exactly one instance of a Bucs return man calling for a fair catch on a kickoff this season, and only one instance when a Bucs opponent did so. Well, lo and behold! Both Deven Thompkins and Colts return man Isaiah McKenzie called for one during last week's game. Maybe somebody's listening to me.

Also, most teams now have a player – whether it be their kicker or punter – who can kick it all the way into the end zone with regularity. Return men rarely take balls out of the end zone anymore, so you get tons of touchbacks. Which is all fine and good from a strategic standpoint by both teams. But it just means fewer and fewer returns. So if returns are way down and not particularly effective, why not do away with them altogether.

Personally, I'd be fine with it, but I don't think the people within the game want to go there. There are still strategical implications: Should you maybe try to kick it high and a little short to entice the return man to come out with it? Should you Should you go for the touchback every time? Could you possibly get a turnover on the play? That happens from time to time and is a big game-changer. Will the return team potentially commit a penalty on the return and have to start back at the 10? I don't think the NFL wants to take a whole portion of the game out and reduce strategic decisions.

Also, if you do away with the kickoff now you have to come up with some alternative to the onside kick. I know some ideas have been kicked around in recent years, and some of them are interesting, such as the "kicking" team having to convert a 4th-and-20 from its own 20. But again, those are drastic changes and the NFL so far has been chipping away at this thing incrementally. I'll just close by saying I wouldn't be completely surprised if the kickoff is no longer in the game in 2033, but my guess is it will still be around.

What would the top 5 QBs in bucs history look like?

- @ydk.ryan (via Instagram)

By passing yards, it's Jameis Winston, Vinny Testaverde, Tom Brady, Josh Freeman and Trent Dilfer.

By touchdown passes, it's Winston, Brady, Freeman, Testaverde and Doug Williams.

By passer rating its Brady, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Jeff Garcia, Luke McCown and Tim Rattay.

By championship rings it's a tie between Brady and Brad Johnson. By number of times he led his team to the playoffs, it's a tie between Williams and Brady.

I don't think any Bucs fans in the know would be satisfied with those first three lists as the top five QBs in franchise history, so we can't do this based on one stat. The playoff notes are a little more satisfying and is probably where we should start.

If the answer to this question is the best quarterbacks to ever play for the Buccaneers, then the list would have to start with Brady, since he's widely considered as the greatest at his position of all time. It's worth noting that Hall of Famer Steve Young also played with the Buccaneers, but his two seasons in Tampa were not pretty (for him or for the whole team), so I don't think we should included him.

I'm fine with Brady being at the top of the list given his statistical accomplishments over three years and his teams making the playoffs every year he was here. Williams is the only quarterback in the team's Ring of Honor at Raymond James Stadium (so far), so it seems right to put him second behind Brady. I'm partial to Johnson next because I think he was quite underrated at the time, and he was very good down the stretch and in the playoffs in the Super Bowl.

After that, it's a little hard to shake out. I know his teams didn't win much when he was at the helm and he had turnover issues (the same is true to some extent for Testaverde), but Winston put up yardage and touchdown numbers so far ahead of the rest of the field of candidates that it doesn't seem fair to ignore him in favor of say, Dilfer or Steve DeBerg or Jeff Garcia or Freeman or Fitzpatrick. I'd put Winston fourth and then I'm going to punt on number five. I don't think there's one candidate who is clearly ahead of the rest.

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