Shelton Quarles, who owns the longest scoring play in franchise history, is the latest in a long line of outstanding Buccaneer inside linebackers
When the Tampa Bay Buccaneers chose middle linebacker Hardy Nickerson as their first big-time foray into the NFL's new free agency system in 1993, it proved to be the perfect choice. Not only did Nickerson go on to play in five Pro Bowls as a Buccaneer, but he instantly shored up what had been a gaping hole on the Bucs' defense. The Bucs had switched from a 3-4 to a 4-3 front just two years prior and had tried unsuccessfully to fill the middle linebacker spot with Jesse Solomon and Darrick Brownlow.
In terms of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers All-Time Team, however, the inside linebacker spot has been well-manned through most of franchise history. Nickerson wasn't the first team MVP to come from that position (Dewey Selmon was the choice in 1978) and he wasn't the last Pro Bowl middle linebacker to represent the Bucs (that honor belongs to Shelton Quarles).
Employing the 3-4 defense from 1977 through 1990 forced the Bucs to emphasize the inside linebacker position, and they generally did a fine job of finding the necessary talent. Selmon and Richard 'Batman' Wood were at the middle of the great Buc defense of 1979, Jeff Davis was a tackling machine through most of the '80s and Scot Brantley, now a Bay area broadcaster, left behind a string of highlight-reel plays. Even after the switch to a 4-3, the Bucs have filled their inside spot quite well, albeit with a smaller, swifter type of player.
In fact, the field of candidates for the two inside linebacker spots on the All-Time Team is impressively deep. That's why we're glad it's your job to choose the top two from that list, and not ours. As we continue our selection of the Greatest Bucs, we're asking you once again to do the heavy lifting. You've recently made tough selections at such deep spots as running back and safety; now it's time to fill out the middle of the defense.
(Note: Cecil Johnson and Winston Moss, two players who started portions of their Buccaneer careers at both inside and outside linebacker, were included in the voting for outside linebacker. Conversely, two other players with similarly versatile careers, Shelton Quarles and Ervin Randle, are among the candidates below for inside linebacker.)
Below you will find brief accounts of nine players whom we have nominated for the two inside linebacker spots on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers All-Time Team. Please review their qualifications and vote for two players in the poll to the right. Your vote will determine who makes the team at the position, although the results will not be announced until the entire team is revealed near the beginning of the 2004 season.
This is 11th installment of our ongoing effort to determine the Greatest Buccaneers at every position. Already you've selected two cornerbacks, two defensive ends, two outside linebackers, two safeties, two offensive tackles, two running backs, one center, one tight end, one punter and one special teams ace. Still to come in June and July: guard, defensive tackle, wide receiver, kicker and quarterback. To review the positions discussed so far, visit the All-Time Tampa Bay Buccaneers Team home page.
All-Time Tampa Bay Buccaneers Team: Nominated Inside Linebackers
The nominations are presented in alphabetical order. Only a player's accomplishments with the Buccaneers are considered.