Among Martin Gramatica's record-setting exploits are 13 successful field goals in 20 tries from 50 yards or further
As we near the end of our position-by-position selections for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers All-Time Team, it's fitting that we bring on the kickers. Whoever wins this week's vote will have experience coming up big in crunch time.
Unlike some of their more sizeable teammates, kickers are easy to track through Buccaneer history. Kick even a single extra points through the uprights, as 19 different Buccaneers have, and you end up on the team's all-time scoring chart. Of course, that method will also round up a pair of punters (Ray Criswell and Chris Mohr) and even a particularly versatile offensive linemen (George Yarno), all of whom pulled kicker cameos, but it does provide us with the roster from which we'll be choosing this week. From Dave Green, who pulled double-duty as a punter-kicker during the Bucs' expansion days, through Martin Gramatica, the placekickers have been some of the most recognizable names in team history.
Green was actually the first Buccaneer to score during the regular season. He made his first field goal attempt, a 39-yarder against Buffalo, nine minutes into Tampa Bay's third game in 1976. Alas, he wasn't the first Buc to try a field goal; that honor went to Mirro Roder, mostly forgotten in Buc annals after missing three times in the first two games. Green took over the kicking job thereafter and made 16 of 21 extra points and 12 of 22 field goals in '76 and '77 (the Bucs also used kicker Allen Leavitt in eight games in 1977).
The most recent man to score for the Buccaneers was Gramatica, who tacked an extra point onto a fourth-quarter touchdown in Tennessee last December. That final point merely added to Gramatica's all-time team scoring record, which he took last year from Michael Husted, who had previously wrested it from Donald Igwebuike.
In between were some franchise-changing kicks. Neil O'Donoghue's 19-yarder in the rain on December 16, 1979 – perhaps still the most significant field goal in team history – pushed the four-year-old Bucs into the playoffs for the first time. On January 2, 1983, Bill Capece became the first Buccaneer to kick four field goals in a game, and Tampa Bay needed every one of them, particularly the 33-yarder in overtime, to defeat Detroit, 26-23, and seal a playoff spot.
Husted tried and made only one field goal on November 2, 1997, but it was a big one. The breakout Bucs of '97 had won their first five games but then lost three in a row before heading to Indianapolis. A fourth loss might have completely derailed the team's momentum, but Husted hit a 36-yarder with eight seconds to go for a 31-28 Buc win, and Tampa Bay would forge another three-game winning streak and break a 15-year playoff drought.
Gramatica, too, has had several game-winners among his team-record 126 field goals. Fresh in the minds of Buc fans are his 52, 53 and 47-yarders in the fourth quarter at Carolina in 2002, nine points that gave the team perhaps its most critical regular-season win en route to the Super Bowl.
But we can get into more of the details below, where you'll find brief descriptions of the Buccaneer careers of six kickers. As with every entry in our All-Time Team series, we're asking you to choose among the nominated players to decide who deserves a spot among The Greatest Bucs.
So, please review the kickers' qualifications below and vote for one of them in the poll to the right. Your votes 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 16th installment of our ongoing effort to determine the Greatest Buccaneers at every position; only one remains. Already you've selected two cornerbacks, two defensive ends, two defensive tackles, two outside linebackers, two inside linebackers, two safeties, two offensive tackles, two guards, two running backs, two receivers, one center, one tight end, one punter, one kick returner and one special teams ace. Next week's final vote: 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 Kickers
The nominations are presented in alphabetical order. Only a player's accomplishments with the Buccaneers are considered. (NOTE: Kickoff statistics, such as touchbacks, were not strictly compiled for much of team history and thus will not be used in these analyses.)