LB Derrick Brooks has done this more than 2,000 times, and more than twice as often as any other player in Buc history
Micheal Spurlock has played all of seven games as a Tampa Bay Buccaneer and yet, even if he never suits up again for the team, his name will always be a recognizable part of team history.
The reason for that, obviously, is Spurlock's 90-yard scoring sprint against Atlanta this past December, the first kickoff return for a touchdown in over three decades of Buccaneer football. In a matter of seconds, Spurlock erased a maddening hole in the Bucs' franchise oeuvre, just as Vernon Turner memorably did in 1994 with the team's first punt return for a touchdown.
Spurlock, whose 90-yarder is also the longest kickoff return in team history, is one of a handful of players who appear prominently in the Buccaneers' record book despite not having a long career in Tampa (we should say "yet" in Spurlock's case).
Earlier in the week, we began our countdown of the 10 Most Unbreakable Records in Buccaneer annals, revealing entries six through 10. Among the principles involved in those five records were players who have made huge overall impacts in the team's record book (James Wilder, Vinny Testaverde), a player who had big numbers but a truncated stay in Tampa (Keyshawn Johnson) and players who never really became established stars (Danny Reece, Jacquez Green).
In our list of "honorable mentions," we also noted defensive back Wayne Haddix, who in 1990 turned his seven interceptions into 231 return yards and a trip to the Pro Bowl. Haddix played only 22 games as a Buccaneer and 41 in the NFL overall, and he never had another interception in any other season, but he owns the Bucs' record for most interception return yards in a single season…and perhaps always will.
Others like Haddix and Green pop up in the team's comprehensive list of records. Quarterback Steve Young forged a Hall of Fame career in San Francisco, but first he had a 19-game stint in Tampa, during which he set the still-standing team mark for most rushing yards for a quarterback in a season (425 in 1986). Another passer who passed through, Brian Griese, put up the best single-season passer rating in team history (97.5) in 2004, his first Buc year, but was gone by the end of 2005.
Remember Bobby Joe Edmonds? He played only one season as a Buccaneer (1995) but owns the team's single-season kickoff return standards for most returns (58) and yards (1,147). The longest punt in franchise history belongs to Sean Landeta, who played an amazing 284 NFL games, but only 10 of them for the Bucs. Landeta blasted a 74-yard punt against the New York Jets on December 14, 1997, the longest ever for a Buccaneer by three yards. Willie Drewrey not only owns the longest reception in team history, an 89-yarder against Atlanta in 1990, but also the second-longest, an 87-yarder against Green Bay in 1991. Drewrey played four seasons with the Bucs, making all of three starts.
You get the idea. Team records can belong to any player, even one who otherwise made a small mark on franchise history.
That is most definitely not the case with the top five entries on our "unbreakable" list, however. What you'll find on the list below are some of the most recognizable and impactful men in Buccaneer history. The names on the list won't surprise you; the magnitude of their accomplishments might.
Before we get to that list, let us remind you of the parameters we discussed before the first half of the countdown. To summarize, we are looking at individual records only, not team marks, but we are considering single-game, single-season and career achievements. We are not considering records that truly are unbreakable, such as the 100% single-season extra-point percentage record shared by several players. And, in seeding the final list, we believed that significant career achievements are less likely to be broken than single-event or single-game occurrences.
With that, we present our choices for the top five of the Top 10 Most Unbreakable Records in Tampa Bay Buccaneer History.
5. Mike Alstott's 71 career touchdowns
Alstott's considerable career achievements have been highlighted on this site and elsewhere quite a bit in recent weeks, thanks to his emotional retirement announcement. The numbers are impressive in many ways – he ranks in the top three in team history in rushing, scoring and receiving – but most consider his knack for finding the end zone to be his top trait.
Still, you might skip this one on your first glance through the Bucs' record pages. Alstott's total is significant, but the (well-deserved) attention given to the likes of Jerry Rice and LaDainian Tomlinson make it seem as if a touchdown total isn't noteworthy until it hits triple digits.
And, indeed, some of the NFL's franchises have TD record-holders with much gaudier numbers. However, when compared with the rest of Tampa Bay's club history, it's clear that Alstott is far and away the most productive touchdown scorer the team has ever seen.
Alstott's 71 touchdowns are 25 more than the total for the next man on the list, James Wilder, and it's not as if Wilder had a limited number of opportunities. The former standout back played nine seasons as a Buccaneer and has the most carries (1,575) and the most receptions (430) of any player the team has ever had. Alstott had 216 fewer carries than Wilder but scored 21 more rushing touchdowns (58 to 37). He had 125 fewer catches than Wilder but scored four more receiving TDs (13 to 9).
Of course, Alstott was also specifically the Bucs' goal line threat during many of his seasons – just ask Warrick Dunn. He was given more opportunities to score, even in seasons in which he wasn't the primary rushing threat. In 2005, for instance, Alstott scored six touchdowns on just 34 carries.
That's no slight. Alstott got the ball near the end zone because he was often the team's best option at the goal line, and one of the best in the NFL in that regard. Alstott's franchise touchdown record may one day be broken if the Bucs end up with a do-it-all offensive star like Rice or Tomlinson, and that star remains in a Tampa Bay uniform long enough to pile up the stats. But it's hard to imagine another player duplicating the role Alstott played anytime soon, and thus we believe his record will be safe for some time.
4. Ronde Barber's 10 career defensive touchdowns/Derrick Brooks' four defensive touchdowns in a single season
Okay, yes, we cheated at this spot. We've managed to sneak 11 records into our Top 10 list, but not without some justification. Perhaps the two most notable "big-play" defenders in team history – with apologies to Lee Roy Selmon – Barber and Brooks have made an art form out of providing points from the defensive side of the ball. Which is more impressive, Barber's career-long list of scores, which seems to grow every year, or the historic TD-return campaign Brooks had in 2002? We don't want to make that call, so we're combining these two into one spot on the list.
Barber, who also had a punt return touchdown and another defensive score in the playoffs to his credit, began his scoring barrage in 2000 with a 24-yard fumble return against the Chicago Bears. He scored twice that year, once in 2001, once in 2003, twice in 2004, twice in 2006 and twice in 2007. His scoring return of a deflected punt came in 1998 and his postseason TD was, quite memorably, the interception that clinched the NFC Championship Game in Philadelphia in 2002.
Buccaneer fans who have seen Barber's list expand gradually over the years may not realize how significant it has come. Only two players in the entire history of the NFL have scored more often on regular-season fumble and interception returns – Rod Woodson (13) and Aeneas Williams (12). Barber's 10 scores are tied with those of Darren Sharper for the most among active NFL players, and with two others (Ken Houston and Deion Sanders) for third on the overall list.
Brooks is tied for fourth on that active list with his seven career defensive touchdowns in the regular season. An amazing four of those came in one season, the 2002 campaign that netted Brooks both an NFL Defensive Player of the Year award and a Super Bowl championship ring. That even the end zone-happy Barber has never had more than two such scores in a single season is an indication of how incredible Brooks' 2002 achievement was…and how unlikely it is that his record will be broken.
All but one of Brooks' four touchdowns in 2002 came after interceptions, making him the first linebacker in the history of the NFL to record three INT return TDs in a single season. With a fourth score on a fumble return, Brooks tied for the second-most in one season by any defensive player in league annals, regardless of position. For good measure, though it isn't included in this record, Brooks capped his marvelous 2002 season with a clinching touchdown return in the Bucs' Super Bowl XXXVII win over Oakland.
3. Matt Bryant's 62-yard field goal
Buccaneer fans who witnessed Bryant's history-making blast against Philadelphia on October 22, 2006 may remember that it looked suspiciously good coming off the kicker's foot.
Before Bryant put cleat to pigskin, the final few seconds of what would become a 23-21 victory over the Eagles felt like a "what-the-heck" situation. The Eagles had rallied to take a 21-20 lead in the game's final minute and there were just 27 seconds left on the clock when the Bucs got the ball back at their own 36. A short completion to Michael Clayton and a desperate scramble up the middle of the field by quarterback Bruce Gradkowski had moved the ball to Philly's 44 and Tampa Bay called its last timeout with 10 seconds to play. Gradkowski tried to hit Clayton one more time to set up a long but reasonable field goal try, but the pass was incomplete.
So, what the heck? A "Hail Mary" pass would have offer only the slimmest of hopes, so Head Coach Jon Gruden allowed kicker Matt Bryant to try a 62-yard field goal. Never mind that only two times in league history had a kicker made a field goal of longer than 60 yards.
Then Dave Moore snapped the ball true, Josh Bidwell spun his hold to the perfect spot and Bryant hit it low, hard and deep. It was apparent almost immediately that, despite the seemingly prohibitive distance, this kick had a shot.
Sure enough, it stayed on course down the middle of the uprights and had enough to clear the crossbar by several feet. The Bucs had the win over Philadelphia and Bryant had the third-longest field goal in NFL history, and the second-longest ever to win a game. New Orleans' Tom Dempsey set the NFL record in 1970 with a 63-yarder (to beat Detroit) and Denver's Jason Elam tied that mark with his own 63-yarder against Jacksonville in 1998. Three others had posted 60-yard kicks, but nobody besides Dempsey or Elam had cleared from 62 yards or farther before Bryant's shot.
Considering the rarity of field goals that long, therefore, Bryant's record would seem extremely safe. Another kicker would have to match the longest kick in the history of the game just to move Bryant off the top of the Bucs' record book.
That said, there may be opportunities out there. After all, Bryant's kick set the team record for longest field goal made, but it only tied the mark for longest one attempted. Buccaneer kickers have actually tried four 62-yarders now, with Martin Gramatica missing his chance for history in 2003 and Donald Igwebuike getting a pair of opportunities in back-to-back weeks in 1985.
2. Jimmie Giles' four touchdown receptions in a single game
In the arrangement of the records in the Buccaneers' book, this is the very first single-game mark listed…and it may be the last one ever broken.
On October 20, 1985, three-time Pro Bowl tight end Jimmie Giles had the finest day in what was a truly outstanding career. The Buccaneers visited the Orange Bowl that afternoon to take on Dan Marino and the high-powered Dolphins, and the game turned into an unrelenting shootout. The Dolphins would prevail in the end, 41-38, but it took everything Marino and company had to overcome Giles' output.
Tampa Bay quarterback Steve DeBerg threw four touchdown passes in the game, all of them to Giles, the big but lithe tight end with the sure hands. Giles scored once in the second quarter and once in the third, and then two more times during a frantic fourth-quarter rally that saw the Buccaneers erase a 17-point deficit to forge a 38-38 tie. He scored from long range – 39 yards in the third quarter – and from inside the 10 – seven yards in the fourth. Overall, Giles caught seven passes for 116 yards, occasionally finishing his routes somewhere other than the end zone.
Twenty-two seasons later, those four touchdowns remain a single-game Buccaneer record, one that has never been matched. In fact, in terms of receiving TDs, Giles has never been seriously challenged.
There have been seven three-touchdown games in team history, but six of them were posted by running backs and none were three-receiving-TD outings. The only receiver on the list is Keenan McCardell, who had a three-touchdown day against Indianapolis in 2003; one of his three scores, however, came on a fumble return. Two-touchdown games come along every now and then for Buccaneer receivers – they combined for two of them this past season, one in 2006 and three in 2005, for instance – but three-TD games have been non-existent.
Except for Giles and his four on that one amazing afternoon in Miami. Expect to see Giles' name at the head of the Bucs' record book for many years to come.
1. Derrick Brooks' 2,087 career tackles (and counting!)
Tackles are hardly the most glamorous commodity on this list. In fact, they're not even the most exciting stat for Brooks that made the chart (see #4 above).
But, at the risk of being overly obvious, they are essential to a team's success. One way or another, you're going to need 50-70 tackles a game unless you want your opponent to build up some gaudy records of its own.
Nobody in franchise history has provided that essential commodity, the tackle, as often as indestructible linebacker Derrick Brooks. In fact, no two players in team history can match Brooks' tackle total.
That's right – pick any two Buccaneers you like, other than Brooks, and their career tackle totals would not match the 2,087 stops he has made in his 13 years with the team. The closest pairing would be Hardy Nickerson (1,028 tackles) and Shelton Quarles (985), who could pool their assets for 2,013 tackles.
That Brooks has more than double the total that Nickerson put up in his seven Tampa Bay seasons is particularly telling. Nickerson built a well-deserved reputation as a tackling machine, beginning with his team-record 214 stops in 1993, his first year as a Buccaneer. Brooks joined Nickerson in the Bucs' defense in 1995 and by 1996 he had taken over the season tackle lead from his veteran mentor. Nickerson took it back in 1997 with a 194-stop campaign, but Brooks would then lead the team in that category for the next seven years, and eight of the next nine.
Given his position of middle linebacker, his undeniable toughness and his range, Nickerson was certainly a match for Brooks, season by season, in his prime. But Brooks' far superior career Buccaneer total is a perfect example of what goes into building an unbreakable record. Nickerson didn't join the Bucs defense until he was 28 years old, and he lost portions of the 1994 and 1998 seasons to injury.
Brooks, by contrast, was drafted by the Buccaneers when he was 22, was an instant starter in 1995 and was on hand in 1996 when Monte Kiffin arrived. The Bucs subsequent rise and sustained excellence on defense gave Brooks a framework within to succeed and become invaluable to the team. Moreover, he has been the most durable player in franchise history, as he has yet to miss a single game in 13 seasons.
By staying on the field year after year, Brooks has padded his career totals with 11 straight seasons of 150 or more tackles. And, of course, he's not done yet. He is the NFL's active leader in tackles and he showed no signs of slowing down in 2007, with 162 more. By the time he's done, Brooks may put this record so far out of reach that it truly is "unbreakable."
Worth Another Look
Before our initial countdown of unbreakable records 10-6, we listed five honorable mentions, standards that we considered before eliminating them in favor of the final choices. On further inspection, there are another handful of marks in the Bucs' record book that should prove very difficult to top. Here's a quick run-down of six more:
- Dave Green's 100 punts in 1978. That's more than six per game, which indicates an expansion-era level of offensive futility that will hopefully never strike the team again. Then again, Josh Bidwell did punt 93 times in 2006 and 90 in 2005. * James Wilders' 43 carries in a single game and 407 carries in a single season in 1984. As mentioned in the first half of this countdown, Wilder was the Bucs' offense in '84, setting a then-NFL record for carries and establishing a new Tampa Bay mark with 85 receptions. His busiest day was an overtime win over Green Bay on September 30 in which he carried 43 times. Still, Errict Rhett hit 40 in a win over Washington in 1994, and Gruden, the current head coach, clearly believes in grinding out the game when his team is ahead. * Wilder's 219 rushing yards in a single game. This is one of the more well-known records in the Bucs' book, and it seems beatable. However, there has only been one other 200-yard rushing effort in team history – Warrick Dunn's 210 against Dallas in 2000. * Doug Williams' 486 passing yards in a single game. Posted in a loss to Minnesota in 1980, this one has stood for close to 30 years now. Vinny Testaverde made a run at it in 1988, with a 469-yard outing against Indianapolis, but that is the last 400-yard day posted by an individual Buc passer. * Derrick Brooks' 208 games played and 205 starts…and counting. Again, Brooks' durability is astounding. Currently, the next-highest totals for an active Buccaneer for games played and games started with the team are 161 and 152 by Ronde Barber.