Our Tampa Bay Buccaneers will play their 30th season this fall…yes, our little expansion baby is all grown up!
Thanks to the success of the past decade, not to mention new ownership, new uniforms, a new stadium, changes in the fabric of the game and really just the march of time, those expansion years of the mid and late 70s seem like so long ago.
Sure, many of us can still picture Lee Roy Selmon looking so big in his pads and wreaking havoc in opposing backfields. And we remember what an amazing accomplishment it was to reach the NFC Championship Game in just the fourth season of play for the franchise, particularly in an era that made it much harder on expansion teams than the current one does. So many details are hard to recall, however, even for the Answer Man, who has been around for a lot of it.
Well, at least one Buc fan wants to remember some of the little details as we round the corner towards that 30th season. One PJ Shevlin of Cape Coral wants the Answer Man to rewind the clock to the first few games of the first season – 1976 – and remind everyone which Buccaneers were the first to make a dent in the various statistical categories. Here's his question in his words:
Answer Man, answer me this: Who scored the first touchdown in Bucs history? First Tackle? First interception?
Answer Man: Why stop there, PJ? I'll answer your three questions, then give you a lengthier list of Buccaneer firsts. Here goes:
First touchdown: Sadly, this did not come in the Bucs' first game, or even its second or third games. The Bucs were shut out by Houston and San Diego to start the '76 season before Dave Green hit three field goals in a 14-9 loss to Buffalo in Game Three. In Game Four, the Bucs found the end zone…on defense! The first regular-season touchdown in franchise history belongs to defensive back Danny Reece, who returned a Ron Lee fumble 44 yards for a score in the fourth quarter against Baltimore. The first offensive touchdown in Buc history came just 1:17 later, after a successful onside kick. On first down, running back Louis Carter took a handoff and then lateraled to wide receiver Lee McGriff, who threw downfield to wide receiver Barry Smith for a gain of 39 yards. Three plays later, running back Charlie Davis scored on a one-yard run.
First tackle: The first stop in team history is owned by linebacker Calvin Peterson, whose entire Buccaneer resume includes four games. Peterson started at left outside linebacker in that inaugural game at Houston on September 12, 1976, and, on a first down run by Oilers RB Fred Willis, made the stop after a gain of just one.
First interception: The first pick belongs to Ken Stone, who started all 14 games at free safety for the Bucs in 1976 but never played for the team after that. In that same Houston game, Stone picked off Dan Pastorini's first pass of the second half and returned it to the Bucs' 45. Stone also had the first pass defensed in team annals, as he broke up a third-down pass by Pastorini on Houston's first drive of the game. That's right, Tampa Bay's defense forced a three-and-out in its first regular-season action. A sign of things to come.
First kickoff return: Isaac Hagins, to start that Houston game. He took it at the 13 and got 21 yards to the 34.
First offensive yard gained: Running back Jimmy DuBose, on a three-yard carry off right guard on the first Buccaneer play from scrimmage.
First completion: This one took a bit longer. The Bucs ran all three times on their first possession, then ran on first and second down on their second possession. On third-and-seven on that drive, quarterback Steve Spurrier tried to hit Carter, but it was broken up by Houston's Zeke Moore. Spurrier's next pass, to start the team's third possession, was a three-yard strike to DuBose.
First first down: The Bucs' first eight possessions ended in three-and-outs, but once the offense got a taste of first-down success, it got on a roll. The first play of the ninth possession, just before halftime, was a 17-yard Spurrier-to-J.K. McKay hookup. Davis then ran for 10 yards and another first down. The Bucs would record five first downs in rapid succession on that march, but it ended in Mirro Roder's miss on a 39-yard field goal try.
First takeaway: Actually, the Bucs forced four turnovers in that inaugural game, another sign of things to come. The first was a fumble by running back Ronnie Coleman that Peterson forced and linebacker Steve Reese recovered in the first quarter.
First Sack: This one fittingly belongs to Selmon, the Bucs' Hall-of-Famer and first-ever draft pick, at least in part. Selmon combined with Pat Toomay to take Pastorini down for a 14-yard loss on the second play of the second quarter of that Houston game. The game was still scoreless at the time and that play killed a drive that had reached the Bucs' 39. The first solo sack was…Selmon, of course! Just before halftime, Selmon got to Pastorini for a nine-yard loss on third down, killing another drive near midfield.
Okay, I could go on forever with these, but I'll wrap it up by pulling us from those early days back to the present, using a list of milestone touchdowns. As I mentioned above, Danny Reece had the franchise's first touchdown. Here's who found the end zone at other interesting points in Buc history:
100th touchdown: QB Doug Williams (on a run) 200th touchdown: WR Theo Bell 300th touchdown: RB Pat Franklin 400th touchdown: TE Ron Hall 500th touchdown: RB Vince Workman 600th touchdown: WR Reidel Anthony 700th touchdown: TE Dave Moore 800th touchdown: WR Joe Jurevicius
Not necessarily all superstars of Buc lore, but an interesting group of names, no? By the way, the Bucs will almost certainly get their 900th touchdown this season. They're at 872 overall, leaving them 28 away, and they haven't had fewer than 28 touchdowns since 1999, when they had 27.
Who will add his name to the list above? Michael Clayton, Mike Alstott, Cadillac Williams, Joey Galloway and Anthony Becht would all be good guesses. But wouldn't it be cool if a defensive player forced his way onto the list? With Derrick Brooks and Ronde Barber around, that's always a possibility.
Now on to the rest of the questions. I particularly liked your most recent collection of topics, and so I only made it up to about May 7 in the mailbag. If you've sent in a good question since then, bear with me. I'll read through them all soon and you may find your letter in the next column.
- Simon Tomlins of Keele University, United Kingdom asks:
Hi Answer Man, nice column. With the unofficial rookie allocation pools being released recently by ESPN.com, a question formed in my mind that gave my an excuse to see my name in print (well, on a screen but I'll take what I can get). When trades occur during or indeed before a draft, do the rookie pools get adjusted? Also, does this occur when player's rights are traded after being drafted, such as the Manning/Rivers trade last year? Thanks for you time, and giving me an excuse to avoid work for a few minutes, Si.
Answer Man: There you go, Simon, you've been immortalized forever on-screen, or at least as long as my archive is left standing. ("Immortalized forever"...is that redundant?)
It's a good question, too, but we may need to provide some background for the fans who aren't familiar with the rookie pools. Well, you're off at Keele University in Staffordshire (in a rural setting, I am led to understand, but also on the edge of busy city life), so I'll fill them in.
Each NFL team is assigned a certain cap number it must not exceed, collectively, in signing its draft choices. This is not separate from the overall salary cap, as these draftee salaries count towards that spending limit. It is simply a cap on what teams can spend on their draft choices.
It is determined by assigning specific cap numbers to each and every slot in the draft (this year: 1-255). Obviously, those figures decline as you go down the list. To illustrate with completely arbitrarily and unrealistic numbers, the first pick in the draft might be assigned a value of $2 million, while the first pick of the fourth round might have a value of $200,000. Add up the values for each of the slots in which you picked and you have your rookie cap. You don't have to spend $2 million exactly on that first pick and $200,000 exactly on that fourth-round guy, but all of the salaries, when totaled, have to fit under the cap. Thus, it often behooves the lower-round guys to sign quickly.
The basic idea of this system is to avoid paying enormous amounts to unproven players, even if they are considered great prospects. Young players work under good but often not huge salaries early, then get bigger dollars when they have proven themselves. Of course, there are ways to massage the cap, as there are with veterans, and first-round picks are always compensated very nicely.
All that and we haven't gotten to Si's question yet. The answer is, yes, when you trade for a different pick, you get the rookie cap value for that pick. It is calculated after the draft, so whatever picks you ended up with, those are what are used to come up with your cap number.
Your second question is much more intriguing. What happens when players are traded AFTER they are picked, such as the Chargers picking Eli Manning first and then sending him to the Giants for Philip Rivers after New York took Rivers fourth. Since San Diego actually executed the first overall pick, do they get the cap value for the first overall pick, while New York has to make do with the cap value for the fourth overall pick?
The answer is yes. The Giants executed the fourth overall pick, so they got the fourth overall cap number. What the teams do with the players after their selections does not impact on the cap numbers. But don't you worry, Si…the Giants found a way to pay Eli "first-pick money."
- Paul Wilkens of Pirmasens, Germany asks:
**I know I'm not the furthest away, but I'm writing from Germany. I'm originally from St. Petersburg and this site and your column are a little piece of home for me. A big Thank You to you and all the staff of buccaneers.com for all you do from a Tampa Bay area native so far from home.
I do have a question, however, I would like to start this off with an observation first. In Vol. 13 I believe, you responded to a question from Adam Chapple of London, England. His question had to do with players being "sent off" or ejected from a game. While your response was (of course) correct, I just wanted to clarify something. I believe he was asking in reference to how the term applies to Soccer. In which case, a player who has been ejected (red carded), not only cannot return to the game, but his team may also not replace him. That team would then be one player short on the field the rest of the game (like a permanent power play you could say).
My question may also be simple, but, here goes. When a QB takes a knee to run the clock out at the end of a half (or game), how is that play recorded? Is it a run for a loss or a sack or what? And does he have to be touched in order for the play to be over? Or, is this some special rule for QBs? Also, why is spiking the ball not considered intentional grounding?
Thanks Answer Man, I love the column, keep up the great work.**
Answer Man: We've really got a good Transatlantic thing going this week, don't we?
I'll pass your thanks along to the others, Paul. And looking back at my answer to Adam's question, I guess I did give the impression that I didn't know what he meant by "sent off." I did figure it was soccer-related, and I have a passing knowledge of the red and yellow card system. I covered the "ejected-but-can-be-replaced scenario," as in football, and the "penalized-for-a-short-period-of-time-and-cannot-be-replaced" scenario, as in hockey. So to make the answer complete, no, there is nothing in American football that emulates the "ejected-and-cannot-be-replaced" scenario of soccer.
As to your question, Paul, a kneel-down at the end of a half or a game is recorded as a run for the quarterback, resulting in however many yards are lost (usually one, sometimes two, occasionally zero, all depending upon the spot of the ball). It is not a sack because it was not a passing play. Same thing is true if a quarterback tries a designed run and is caught in the backfield. If the stat-keepers believe that there was never a pass intended, that will go as a tackle-for-a-loss rather than a sack.
No, the quarterback does not have to be touched to end the play. It is over as soon as he voluntarily takes a knee. This is addressed in the glorious, illuminating NFL Rulebook (anyone remember my New Year's resolution?) in Rule 7, Section 4, which is entitled "Dead Ball." Article 1(b) says an official shall declare the ball dead:
any time a quarterback immediately drops to his knee (or simulates dropping his knee) to the ground behind the line of scrimmage during the last two minutes of a half. The game clock will not stop during this action.
Sometimes desperate defensive players will try to leap over the line to the ball before the QB can kneel, but it's a dangerous strategy that never works and can lead to an unnecessary roughness penalty.
You've probably also seen quarterbacks slide to the ground at the end of a scramble in order to avoid a hit. That's covered in the very next point in 7-4-1, which says the ball is also dead:
whenever a runner declares himself down by sliding feet first on the ground. The ball is dead at the spot of the ball at the instant the runner so touches the ground.
That rule applies to everyone, not just quarterbacks.
Finally, I'm not going to answer your final question about intentional grounding, because I already did so, way back during the 2004 season, in Volume 11. Check it out for the detailed answer.
Oh, alright, I'll summarize. Spiking the ball by the quarterback to stop the clock is specifically allowed for in the rules, just like the kneel-down, so it is exempt from intentional grounding rules.
- Wayne Huber of Biloxi, Mississippi asks:
Hey Answerman, Can you tell me the reason why the NFL scheduled a few Bucs Home Season Openers for Saturday Night broadcasts during 1970s and early 1980s? These games were usually just televised to the visiting team's local area. It seems that the League as well as whichever TV network had rights to those games would lose money that way. What was the rationale for that back then? Can you shed some light on this?
Answer Man: That was a case of the NFL and its network partners responding to a Buccaneer request, Wayne. Round about 1981, the networks started thinking the way you did, and the Saturday night games became a thing of the past.
See, back then the Bucs' original ownership felt that it was too hot for the fans to play in the afternoon in early September. They successfully petitioned the league for those Saturday night games, and perhaps the league acquiesced because the Bucs weren't a particularly big draw yet. Of course, at some point, the networks understandably decided that every game was valuable and those Saturday-nighters were no more.
That's one of those things that seems hard to imagine now, like bench seating at the stadium, no free agency and teams running the ball on 60% of the plays. It's been an eventful 30 years.
- Tyler Street of Rockledge, Florida asks:
Hello, Answer Man. I've been pondering this for a while. Why is a team allowed to have 53 players on its roster during the regular season, but only have 45 players active during a game? Thanks!
Answer Man: Like Paul's question above, this is a topic we addressed some time ago, early last September, in fact. Check it out in Volume 6 if you'd like. It's the fifth question down.
Oh, forget the link. This is an interesting topic that confuses a lot of people, so let's just reprint that answer. Everybody gets what they want and the Answer Man has time to go get a sandwich. Here it is:
"The game limit is meant to be 45; the answer lies in understanding that 53 is a compromise to those who thought 45 wasn't enough.
Roster sizes have gradually expanded over the eight decades of the NFL, representing more and more specialization and, presumably, more available and interested talent. In 1925, each team was allowed only 16 players, though the league expanded that to 18 from 1926-29 and to 20 from 1930-34. And so on.
By the '50s, the rosters had expanded into the mid-30s, though they strangely went up and down for a few years. In the '60s, the roster limits climbed into the high 30s, then hit 40 for the first time in 1964. The league stuck with that number for a decade, before suddenly jumping to 47 in 1974, then back down to 43 for the next three years. The highest number the league ever got to was 49, from the third game of 1982 through the end of 1984.
The concept of inactive players first came around in 1992, with two players each that year and the familiar eight-player system beginning in 1993. In effect, it was a replacement for the old injured reserve rules. Prior to that, a team could place a player on injured reserve but return him to the active roster during the season. Now, IR puts a player out for the year, but if you think you're injured man is only going to miss three or four weeks, you can just make him one of your eight inactives during that span.
So the eight-man inactive group is basically a roster bonus over the real limit of 45. It gives teams flexibility in dealing with injuries and developing some more young players without exposing them to the waiver wire."
Not much to add to that old response, Tyler. Game architects don't want to expand the roster too far and have specialization get out of hand, but they understand that teams need to be ready for injuries and other player issues, and that sometimes it takes a year or two to develop a good player. In addition, 53 roster spots instead of 45 means 256 more jobs around the NFL, and that's good news for the players.
- Steven Small of Ontario, California asks:
Dear Answer Man, I was watching the NFL Channel last week and they were talking about a 3/4 defense line vs. a 4/3 front line and how, many teams were going to that type of defense. It would not have been interesting except they mentioned how the change from four to three effected Oakland and #99. From that information, I would guess that Tampa uses a 4/3 front. I guess my question is: Why are many teams going to a three man front and is Tampa thinking of going to a three man front. Did Tampa use a three man front to stop Michael Vick? This question is a mess, but I hope you know what I am asking. Thank you so much, Steve Small
Answer Man: Steve, I've used one of your questions before, haven't I? I remember discussing Ontario, California. Or maybe that town is just a seething hotbed of Buc fans.
Yup, there it is. Volume 17. And that time you wanted the definition of the West Coast offense. You really want to understand this game, don't you, Steven? Well, good.
Okay, 4-3 vs. 3-4. The former front, with four down linemen and three linebackers, is still the more widely-used one in the NFL, but the 3-4 has been gaining ground again in recent years. It had faded to only just a few teams by the late '90s, most notably Pittsburgh, which has always run it extremely well. The Steelers seem incredibly adept at finding the right linebackers for their 3-4 system, which uses four of them and three down linemen, as you probably guessed.
Why does a team change from a 4-3 to a 3-4, as, say, the San Diego Chargers did last year? It's usually one of two reasons, or a combination of both. One, they have hired a new defensive coordinator and that's the system this coordinator has always run. Or two, they feel they have better personnel for the 3-4 than the 4-3. Most of the times that means they have one or more big nose tackle types who can take on double teams, like Jamal Williams in San Diego, and a good number of productive linebackers, including several who can rush the passer. Look at who the Chargers took in the first round of this year's draft: Maryland tweener Shawne Merriman, who will they will use as an outside linebacker. And that's despite being loaded with such LBs as Donnie Edwards, Randall Godfrey, Steve Foley and Ben Leber.
The pass rush may be the single most important thing about the 3-4 front. It's much more unpredictable than a 4-3 rush. The beauty of the 3-4 is that any one (or two or more) of the linebackers can be pass-rushers on any play. They don't have to put their hand down like the linemen, they just come up to the end of the line or come on a disguised blitz. Watch the quotes from the coaches on this site whenever the Bucs are preparing to play a 3-4 team; they'll be talking about working extra hard to learn how to handle the pass-rush.
The reason a player like Williams in San Diego or Chris Hoke and Casey Hampton in Pittsburgh are important is that they keep the 3-4 from being extra vulnerable to the inside run. With the outside linebackers pinching the edges, it's often tough to run outside on a 3-4 defense, but the middle can be soft if the tackles can't get off blocks and shut down holes. The "ends" in a 3-4 defense are often more like tackles, since they are usually playing over guards instead of offensive tackles. That's why you saw #99, as you say, playing end in Oakland and, some think, playing in a role that diminished his talents. In Tampa, Warren Sapp was an "under tackle," which more often put him in position to use his quickness one-on-one against a single defender.
The Bucs haven't used a 3-4 to stop Michael Vick, but they have been creative with the personnel under Monte Kiffin and Rod Marinelli. The team has run some snaps with only three linemen against the Falcons, and even used five linemen at once on occasion.
However, Tampa Bay was a 3-4 team for roughly the first half of its existence. The team went to a 3-4 in 1977, its second season, and stayed in that scheme until 1990. That made sense for the early Bucs – they had a big but quick end in Lee Roy Selmon, a good nose tackle in Dave Pear who would make the Pro Bowl and a bunch of outstanding linebackers, such as David Lewis, Dewey Selmon, Richard Wood, Cecil Johnson, Andy Hawkins, Scot Brantley, Jeff Davis and Hugh Green.
Oh, I just reread your e-mail and saw a question I missed. No, the Buccaneers are not going to be switching to a 3-4 defense.
- C. Dobler of Valley Park, Missouri asks:
**Hey Answer Man: A friend of mine here in Valley Park Missouri says that you know too much about football to be just one guy. I think all us loyal Buc fans want to know the real truth. As you can see, the Bucs have a big fan base, even out of Florida. Heck, I bet most of your other readers never even heard of Valley Park. Do you know, without looking it up, where we are in Missouri?
Anyway, what is your honest opinion of where the Bucs finish in the standings this year?
One final question, are you related to the "Shell Answer Man" ????**
Answer Man: C. Dobler from St. Louis? Conrad Dobler? Surely not. I have a hard time believing that the long-time NFL lineman who played his first six season with the (then-St. Louis) Cardinals is reading my column and sending complimentary e-mails about my vast football knowledge. That just doesn't jibe with Dobler's mean-and-nasty on-field reputation.
Of course, if this is the real Conrad Dobler, please disregard that last sentence. Um, you were a very successful NFL player and I loved your book, They Call Me Dirty.
Still, I'm going with not Conrad Dobler. And to be honest, I can't do much with your Buc-related question. If you check out the introduction on my home page, from where you sent this question, you'll see that my job responsibilities specifically exclude sharing my opinions future player and team performance. I may think that Cadillac Williams is going to rack up 1,600 combined rushing and receiving yards this year, but that's not for me to say (oops). Since I printed your question, I guess I have to answer it, though, so put the Answer Man down for a record good enough to get back into the playoffs. Remember, that's not a guarantee or the opinion of a coach or personnel man…it's just the Answer Man spouting off before going back to the shoe-shine room here at One Buc.
So why did I print your question if I was going to namby-pamby around it (first known use of namby-pamby as a verb)? Well, you challenged me!
Yes, I know where Valley Park is. Longtime Answer Man readers (Hi mom!) know that I've already admitted to a working knowledge of the Midwest, particularly Illinois and Missouri. Valley Park is in the West County area of the St. Louis suburbs, a little south of Ballwin and Manchester, lying around the Meramac River.
And yes, the Answer Man works alone. However, that could be misleading. As I have freely admitted in this space before, I know that I have access to invaluable resources in Buccaneer coaches, players and personnel men, and I make the most of those. So if the answer doesn't come immediately to the Answer Man's electrically-conducive head, I know where to get it.
So back off, Conrad! (Unless this really is Conrad. Then, uh, you may stay right where you are.)
(And as for the Shell Answer Man, we're not on speaking terms. Long story. And the Answer Guy in ESPN Magazine won't take my calls. Big-timer.)
- Bob of Miami, Florida asks:
Could you please clear up the issue on what jersey Cadillac Williams is going to wear? A lot of people want to buy jerseys but don't know what number to buy.
Parker of Deltona, Florida asks:
Hey, this shouldn't be to tough. On the website roster it says Cadillac wears number 22, but at the mini camp he wore his old number 24. How can this be? Did he make some sort of deal with Torrie Cox? If so what was it?
Answer Man: Okay, obviously these e-mails were sent a few days ago, so Bob and Parker probably know by now that Cadillac is, indeed, in jersey number 24 now. But the Answer Man will provide a timeline for those who were troubled by the roster shuffling since the draft.
The Bucs drafted Williams, who wore number 24 at Auburn, three weeks ago, on April 24. Not surprisingly, Williams was interested in wearing that same number in the pros, but that path was blocked by cornerback Torrie Cox, who has had that jersey for the past two years (though he spent 2003 on injured reserve).
Now, everyone (correctly) assumed that Williams and Cox would work out a deal, with Cox taking a new number so that the Caddy could be #24. However, the only time that Williams has been in town since being drafted was on Sunday and Monday right after the draft and then the following weekend for the rookie and first-year player mini-camp. Cox and Williams haven't really crossed paths much yet.
The Bucs' equipment staff did what they do with all new players: Put them in available numbers. Williams was assigned #22, even if, as I said, everyone expected him to eventually move to 24. At that first mini-camp, however, only rookies and first-year players were allowed to participate, which means Cox wasn't on hand and there was nobody on the field wearing #24. If you look at the pictures from the three practices during that camp, Williams was allowed to wear #24 for that reason.
A few days after that camp, the switch was made permanently, with Cox going to 27 and Williams going to 24. Parker sent his e-mail before that and is referring to what he used to see on the Buccaneers.com roster. As soon as the number switch was confirmed, Buccaneers.com made the change and all is now right and good in the world.
If you're looking to put Williams on the back of your new Bucs jersey, pair it with a 24. And that's my final answer.
- Brent Hulling of Tampa, Florida asks:
Nice Lightning Bolts Answerman, I bet you were really popular with the ladies. So if a kicker kicks the ball and at that moment, a UFO abducts the kicker...j/k Answerman! I'm about sick of these kicking questions. On to my real question. In your last column, you talked about "All-Pro" players. I know Derrick Brooks won the defensive player of the year in 02, did he receive the "All-Pro" status? Also, are their any other Buccaneers that are "All-Pro?" Thanks Answerman!
Answer Man: "Were" popular? What do you mean?
By the way, I think that UFO scenario would fall under Rule 17, "Emergencies, Unfair Acts." Article 1: If any non-player, including photographers, reporters, employees, police or spectators – or aliens! – enters the field of play or end zones, and in the judgment of the official said party or parties interfere with the play or abduct any of the participants for the purpose of probing, the Referee, after consulting his crew, shall enforce any such penalty or score as the interference warrants.
I may have added a few words, but you get the idea.
On to your real question. Yes, Derrick Brooks was also an All-Pro in 2002. Though it is possible, it's hard to imagine a man being named the best defensive player overall and not being considered one of the best at his position. Brooks has actually been first-team AP All-Pro four times (1999, 2000, 2002 and 2004) and second-team AP All-Pro three times (1998, 2001 and 2003). In other words, he's been first or second-team All-Pro – one of the handful of best linebackers in the entire game – in the league for seven straight years.
There are plenty of other AP All-Pros in team history, many of them in the last decade. Here's the complete list (including Brooks), presented alphabetically by player:
First-Team AP All-Pros… * FB Mike Alstott: 1997, 1998, 1999 * CB Ronde Barber: 2001, 2004 * LB Derrick Brooks: 1999, 2000, 2002, 2004 * S John Lynch: 1999, 2000 * LB Hardy Nickerson: 1993, 1997 * DE Simeon Rice: 2002 * DT Warren Sapp: 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002 * DE Lee Roy Selmon: 1978
Second-Team AP All-Pros… * FB Mike Alstott: 1996 * CB Ronde Barber: 2002 * LB Derrick Brooks: 1998, 2001, 2003 * CB Neal Colzie: 1982 * K Martin Gramatica: 2000 * LB Hugh Green: 1982, 1983 * T Paul Gruber: 1992 * S John Lynch: 2001, 2002 * LB Hardy Nickerson: 1996, 1999 * DE Simeon Rice: 2003 * DT Warren Sapp: 1998 * LB Dewey Selmon: 1979, 1982 * DE Lee Roy Selmon: 1980 * RB James Wilder: 1984
- Rick of Fort Collins, Colorado asks:
I know that the Bucs are in the record books for some not-so-impressive statistics...but I wonder what records does the franchise have that are respectable? I seem to remember that the defense of the team that won the Super Bowl was talked about all season as being one of the best. How high did that defense rank, and what statistics did they post that are worth talking about?**
Rick: Well, a 1-0 record in the Super bowl is pretty dang respectable. Atlanta, Carolina, Philadelphia, San Diego, Tennessee, Cincinnati, Buffalo and Minnesota (a combined 0-15 in Super Bowl appearances) would like to have that one in the win column. And there are quite a few other teams, including the Bucs' expansion twin Seattle, that have never been to the Super Bowl.
But you picked a good place to focus if you want to discuss the best this franchise has had to offer. The amazing Bucs' defense of the last decade, which peaked in the Super Bowl season, was indeed one of the best. Here's a quickie stat that's sure to impress:
That 2002 defense was the first one since the 1985 Chicago Bears – perhaps you've heard of them – to lead the league in total defense, fewest points allowed and interceptions in the same season. Then, in the final big game, the Bucs intercepted NFL MVP Rich Gannon and the league's top-rated offense a Super Bowl-record five times.
Want some more good stuff? Here's a dramatic reading from the 2002 Season In Review guide produced by the Bucs' P.R. department, in which the writer made his case for the Bucs having one of the greatest defenses in league history. Imagine it being read in James Earl Jones' voice for added gravity:
"Numbers will certainly assist in Tampa Bay's case. The Buccaneers' defense surrendered a league-low and club-record 196 points, the fifth-fewest points allowed in league history since the NFL went to a 16-game schedule [Editor's Note: In 1978]. Tampa Bay ranked tied for first in the NFL in turnover margin at plus-17, boasted 38 takeaways and finished first in pass defense (155.6 ypg). Additionally, Tampa Bay also ranked first in the league in fewest points per game (12.3), fewest yards per play (4.2), fewest first downs allowed (236) and lowest opponent passer rating (48.4). Gannon, who finished with a 97.3 passer rating during the regular season, finished with a 48.9 rating against the Buccaneers."
That last bit is my favorite part. An opponent passer rating of 48.4 for an entire season? That's ridiculous. That's like reducing every opposing passer to Ryan Leaf. That year, Buc opponents completed only 50.8% of their passes and had a 10-31 TD-INT ratio.
Is all that respectable enough for ya, Rick?
- Darth Daniel of Hamburg, Germany
Glorious Answer Man, I'm a big Buc fan from Germany and I love reading your series, it's both entertaining and enlightening. In Series 2, Vol. 14 Russell asked about the past and present FSU-Alumni and their impact as Bucs. Though I myself never studied in the US, I went to the University of Florida on several occasions, which made me a Gator by heart. Therefore I'd like to know your opinion about the greatest Gators on the Bucs roster. And a list of all Gators in Bucs uniform would be handy, too. Best regards from Germany and keep up the good work!
Answer Man: Well, if I did the Seminole chart, I guess I'm duty-bound to do one for the Gators. And, yes, I can already hear the Hurricane alums typing away. Sigh.
First the raw numbers. There have been 27 former University of Florida players who appeared on the Bucs' regular-season roster, which is tied with USC for second-most, just one behind Florida State. The most recent addition to the list was running back Earnest Graham. Here's the entire group:
|WR Reidel Anthony||QB Kerwin Bell||LB Scot Brantley|
|T Lomas Brown||K Brian Clark||S Randy Clark|
|P Ray Criswell||DT Brad Culpepper||TE Alvis Darby|
|WR Dwayne Dixon||RB Jimmy DuBose||CB Ricky Easmon|
|RB Earnest Graham||WR Jacquez Green||DT Buck Gurley|
|QB Bob Hewko||C Leon Hires||DE Scott Hutchinson|
|RB Vince Kendrick||WR Lee McGriff||CB Vito McKeever|
|DT Tim Newton||T Jason Odom||RB Errict Rhett|
|QB Steve Spurrier||T Kenyatta Walker||DE Rhondy Weston|
This is not a comment on Gators and Seminoles in the NFL in general, but I'm afraid that Florida group doesn't quite match up to the Florida State crew in Buccaneer history. As we did with the 'Noles, we'll eliminate from serious consideration those players who appeared in less than one season's worth of games as a Buccaneer. That knocks off almost half the list: Bell, Brown, B. Clark, R. Clark, Darby, Dixon, Easmon, Graham, Gurley, Hires, Kendrick, McGriff and Weston. In addition, Hutchinson, McKeever and Spurrier barely exceeded that qualification, playing basically one season each.
(By the way, in both this analysis and the one on the Seminoles, I did not consider those men who only played for the team during those three replacement games in 1987.)
Of those remaining, the most impactful players were surely Brantley, Culpepper, DuBose, Green, Odom, Rhett and Walker. Brantley and Culpepper, in particular, were long-time contributors to the team's success, but that group isn't nearly as top-heavy as the top Seminoles, which includes Derrick Brooks, Lawrence Dawsey, Warrick Dunn, Dexter Jackson, Brad Johnson, Martin Mayhew and Greg Spires.
- David Barton of Omaha, Nebraska asks:
Now Sr. Answer man I believe that I have the question to stump you, even though myself having no clue what the answer is. SO HERE WE GO! Being from Nebraska I was just wondering who and how many Nebraska players have played for the Buccaneers in history. Besides Broderick Thomas who was a first round pick in '89 can you tell me anyone else? (this also excludes barrett)
Answer Man: Okay, this is the last one of these I'm going to do (unless I get a request from Miami), and I'll only do it in honor of the team's second-round pick this year, linebacker Barrett Ruud. You're right to exclude him for now. A player has to be on a regular-season roster for at least one game to qualify for the list.
By the way, why couldn't somebody ask me for the list from, say, Minot State or Southeastern Louisiana instead of these giant programs? Nebraska isn't in the high-20s like UF and FSU, but they have had 14 Buccaneers, making them one of the team's favorite schools. Here's who they are (including Thomas):
|G Tom Alward||RB Rick Berns||CB Joe Blahak|
|LB Rik Bonness||RB Tony Davis||S Scott Frost|
|G Russ Hochstein||CB Tyrone Legette||G Brett Moritz|
|QB Jeff Quinn||DE Jim Skow||RB Jeff Smith|
|LB Broderick Thomas||LB Jimmy Williams|
As usual, we'll identify the short-timers on the list: Blahak, Frost, Hochstein, Moritz, Quinn, Skow. All played less than a season's worth of games as Buccaneers. Alward played one full season, the inaugural one in 1976, and started nine games.
It's not a list that resonates real significantly in Buc history, but there are several strong contributors on the list. The player you pointed out, Thomas, is probably the most well-known of the group. After being taken in the first round in 1989, he had a couple big years in the Bucs' 3-4 defense, most notably an 11-sack campaign in 1991. Still, his stint with Tampa Bay was a bit short for him to be considered one of the team's more successful first-round picks.
Williams is an interesting case in that he cost the Bucs a 10th-round draft pick in 1992. Why is that interesting? Well, the Vikings used that pick to select Florida State quarterback Brad Johnson, who eventually, as you might recall, became the starting quarterback on the Bucs' Super Bowl-winning team. Williams provided the Bucs with pretty good returns for that late-round pick, starting for two seasons and recording 115 tackles in 1992. He was also a positive influence in the Bucs' locker room.
Tony Davis was one of about 4,000 Buc running backs with that surname in the early years, or so it seemed. Seriously, it was weird. Tony played 47 games from 1979-81, but you wouldn't want to confuse him with USC back Anthony Davis, who started six games in 1977; or Colorado's Charlie Davis, who started four games in 1976; or Cal Poly SLO's Gary Davis, who played in 22 games from 1980-81; or Alabama's Johnny Davis, who played in 46 games and started 20 from 1978-80. Maybe the NFL allowed the Bucs to play those Saturday night games back then because none of the announcers wanted to sort through all the Davises.
Hochstein, a fifth-round pick in 2001, was on and off the Bucs' roster for his first two seasons before settling in with the Patriots. Legette came to the Bucs as a free agent in 1996 and played a lot as a nickel back for two years. Moritz, who played in only six games as a Buccaneer, stands as one of the team's least successful second-round picks ever.
- Cameron M. of Powell River, Canada asks:
My aunt recently got some old Bucs trading cards from '78 and I was wondering if you could tell me about some of the players. I know about Lee Roy Selmon, but these other guys I don't think I've ever heard of. Anyways, here they are: Morris Owens, J.K. McKay, Jack Novak, Gary Huff, Dave Green. I'm just wondering what position they played and their popularity/skill. Thanks in advance.
Answer Man: Well, I have no idea about the value of their football cards, but here goes.
Morris Owens was the team's first big-play wide receiver, and a legitimate deep threat. He was originally a fifth-round pick of the Dolphins in 1975, but the Bucs got him off waivers in '76 and he ended up scoring six of the Bucs' nine passing touchdowns that first year. The next year, he had all three of the Bucs' receiving touchdowns...I told you times have changed. Owens averaged 19.3 yards per reception on 34 grabs in 1977 and 20.0 yards per catch on 32 receptions in 1978. By now, he is out of the team's all-time Top 10 in receiving, but he was the best the team had in the early going.
J.K. McKay was, as you may suspect, the son of John McKay, who was the team's head coach from 1976-84. He also played for his father at USC before the elder McKay became the first head coach in Buccaneer history. He started 30 games over the Bucs' first three seasons, catching 41 passes. He did not play in the league again after being released by Tampa Bay in the summer of 1979.
Jack Novak...wow, that's fairly obscure. Novak came to the Bucs on waivers (as many players did) in 1976 after playing one season in Cincinnati. A tight end from Wisconsin, he was more of a blocker than anything else. He played in 20 games with four starts as a Buccaneer and didn't appear in the league again after his two years in Tampa. You may be one of the few people who own a Jack Novak card.
Gary Huff was one of the quarterbacks who got a crack at the job before (and a little bit after) the Bucs drafted Doug Williams. His biggest claim to fame is that he was the quarterback when the team got its first two wins ever in 1977. He also started several games in 1978 when Williams was hurt. He originally came into the league as a third-round pick of the Chicago Bears.
Dave Green actually played two positions for the Buccaneers, punter and kicker. He was probably more natural in the first role, but he handled the placekicking duties in 1976, too, when Mirro Roder fared rather poorly in the Bucs' first two games. He scored the first regular-season points in team history on a trio of field goals against Buffalo in the Bucs' third game of '76. He also split the kicking duties with Allan Leavitt in 1977 before Neil O'Donoghue came along in '78. Green was a very popular Buccaneer, and as a punter he got a lot of work. He punted 190 times in 28 games in 1976-77, then racked up another 100 punts in the league's first 16-game season in 1978.
Okay, a few quickies before I go.
- Steve of Tampa, Florida asks:
How many playoff appearances have the Bucs made in the last decade?
Answer Man: Five. The Bucs made the postseason field in 1997, 1999, 2000, 2001 and 2002, famously going all the way in '02.
- Emily of Tampa, Florida asks:
Was Rhonde Barber at mini-camp this past weekend?
Answer Man: No, but I hope you don't hold that against him. See, he wasn't allowed to be there. Only rookies and first-year players could participate in the mini-camp the Bucs held the weekend after the NFL draft.
By the way, that misspelling of Ronde's first name has strangely been around since he was first drafted in 1997. There is no "H" in his first name. Actually, Ronde is a shortening of his middle name, which is Oronde. Barber's first name is Jamael.
Well, the Answer Man got this far into the column before realizing that he had forgotten to include the two questions he punted from last week, those belonging to Graeme from Scotland and Mike from Philly. I'm truly sorry about that, Graeme and Mike, but I've got to wrap this one up. I absolutely promise I'll get to your questions in the next column, and I'm also going to respond to Logan from Fort Bragg and Dean from New Port Richey.
Keep those questions coming.