CB Donnie Abraham, whose return of a blocked field goal for a touchdown was one of the Bucs' biggest special teams plays of the year, was named to the All-Madden Team on Sunday
Roughly 10 seconds into the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' 2000 season, special teams disaster struck.
WR Karl Williams, a very dependable return man, uncharacteristically fumbled away the New England Patriots' opening kickoff. Just 21 game minutes later, Tampa Bay allowed WR Troy Brown to streak 66 yards untouched for a punt return touchdown.
It couldn't get much worse.
And it didn't. In fact, it got much, much better.
Once again, the Buccaneers' special teams, directed by coach Joe Marciano, stood out as one of the NFL's best units in 2000. In fact, using a comprehensive grading system that combines performances in 17 special teams categories, we can boldly say that the Buccaneers' special teams tied for the eighth best group in the NFL this season.
On what grounds do we make this claim? As he does every year, Marciano has compiled a list of team rankings for virtually every special teams statistic kept by the NFL, from average kickoff drive start to special teams touchdowns allowed. All of the rankings are then added across the board, leading to one composite ranking, with the lower score the better.
In other words, one team might have the league's best mark in say, gross punting average, as the San Diego Chargers do, but also be ranked next to last in both punt return average and opponent punt return averaged, as the Chargers also do. Overall, San Diego compiled an average category ranking of 17.5, which makes them the 27th-best team on this list.
Topping the list as the best special teams club of the season is Miami, which rode high marks in opponent kickoff drive start, field goal percentage and punt return average, among others, to an average ranking of just under eight. The Dolphins are followed by Baltimore, Seattle, Carolina, Oakland, Dallas and Detroit in the top seven.
Then come the Bucs and Tennessee Titans tied for eighth. The Bucs' three blocked punts tied for first in the league with Oakland and four blocked field goals helped Tampa Bay rank third in opponent field goal percentage. The Bucs also fared well in opponent drive start and special teams touchdowns, but were knocked down slightly by their own average drive start, which ranked 28th, and less than spectacular punt and kickoff return numbers.
Rounding out the bottom five with San Diego were New Orleans, San Francisco, Washington and Buffalo. The Bills, whose special teams woes were well-chronicled throughout the season, finished last in five categories and had an averaged ranking of 23rd.
It was the first Sunday without NFL football since August, but that didn't stop Fox broadcaster John Madden from dominating the airwaves.
As usual, Madden took the off-week Sunday between the conference championship games and the Super Bowl to unveil his annual All-Madden Team. He has been naming his own group of NFL all stars for 17 consecutive years now, but only recently have the Tampa Bay Buccaneers had much of a presence on this squad. That is partially due to the broadcaster's stipulation that he only chooses players that he personally witnesses during the season.
This year, Madden placed five Bucs on his 61-man team: S John Lynch, CB Donnie Abraham, LB Derrick Brooks, DT Warren Sapp and WR Keyshawn Johnson. All but Johnson are also 2001 Pro Bowl picks. Lynch, Brooks and Sapp were all on the All-Madden Team last year, as well.
The All-Madden Team originated in 1984, when the broadcaster named just 28 players to the squad. The only Buccaneer to make that original team was DT David Logan.