Buccaneers.com's Scott Smith takes a look at the best player in Buccaneers history to wear uniform numbers 91-99.
In terms of picking the top Tampa Bay Buccaneer ever in every jersey number and avoiding tragic hairstyles, the 80s were pretty tough. Personally, I had a lot of trouble with the former and occasional issues with the latter, but I'm happy to say that the 90s are going to be a bit easier in this jersey countdown.
There are a couple built-in advantages here. First, because I started this 10-part series by running through numbers 1-10, that means this last group only involves making nine choices, from 91-99. Second, there are at least three absolute no-brainers, including two of the last three. And there aren't any real Sophie's Choices like I had to deal with at 83 and 88.
So now it's time to wrap this countdown up. Or shut this count-up down. Whichever. One more time for posterity: Some of these choices are inevitably going to be tougher than others, either due to too many good candidates or too few solid choices, so we're also noting the "level of difficulty" of each choice.
91: DE Stylez G. White
This is actually as hard as it's going to get in this set. The rest of the numbers have either one clear winner or a tough choice between some decent candidates. Here, it's hard to find somebody that I feel great about including in this group. One thing to understand about this last group of numbers is that virtually no Buccaneers wore anything in this range until the mid to late-80s. So while the 80s had a bunch of old-school stars in the likes of Kevin House and Jimmie Giles, this one essentially begins with the 1990s. The first name you would recognize on the 91 jersey list is Regan Upshaw, but he wore 73 as a rookie and only lasted two more seasons after that. He was followed by Chuck Darby, who wore the number for four years and started in the Super Bowl XXXVII win. Stylez G. White changed his name from "Greg" during his 2007-10 Bucs tenure but didn't change his number and thus also had 91 for four seasons. His 24.0 sacks are actually just outside the franchise's top 10 list. He and Darby are actually tied on the Bucs' all-time AV list, so that's not much help. Starting in the Super Bowl versus a good sack total? It's close but I'll go with the latter.
Level of Difficulty: 7.
Neither answer is particularly satisfying but I feel like you could go with Darby or White and feel fine about it. Since those two, Da'Quan Bowers, Robert Ayers and Beau Allen have failed to rise to the same levels.
92: DT Anthony McFarland
There are only two possible choices here, and they include the current owner of the 92 shirt, William Gholston. Upon first looking at the list, I thought that Gholston would have a pretty equal claim to the top spot but AV favors McFarland quite a bit. McFarland was a first-round pick who might never have become a fearsome pass-rusher to succeed Warren Sapp, but he did start 84 games in Tampa and had 10 sacks in the 2000-01 campaigns. He finished with 20 sacks as a Buccaneer, while Gholston's total over seven seasons is currently at 12.0. Both were/are good run-stoppers and Gholston has shown the ability to play both inside and outside. McFarland is actually 43rd in team history with 42 AV, well ahead of Gholston's total of 29, though of course the latter can still build on his total in the coming years.
Level of Difficulty: 7.
Both McFarland and Gholston feel like "solid" players in the very best sense of the term. Perhaps Gholston will take this spot over in the long run. Otherwise, there are no other viable choices unless you have a soft spot for Dexter Manley.
93: DT Gerald McCoy
Three very, very good NFL players have worn the 93 jersey for the Buccaneers: McCoy, Kevin Carter and Ndamukong Suh. If you were endeavoring to rank those three as players overall, it would be pretty difficult. But here the choice is easy because McCoy played nine seasons in a Buccaneers uniform and went to the Pro Bowl in six of them, while Carter's run was just two years and Suh is currently heading into his second. That aforementioned AV chart puts McCoy at eighth in team history, right between Paul Gruber and Tony Mayberry. McCoy went to as many Pro Bowls as a Buccaneer as Lee Roy Selmon and Mike Alstott. He will go down as one of the franchise's all-time greats.
Level of Difficulty: 1.
94: DE Greg Spires
Spires is one of the more underrated Buccaneers of the last two decades. And unlike some of the other 90 numbers, there is actually some pretty decent competition here, including Steve White, Adrian Clayborn and Carl Nassib. None of those come close to Spires in AV, thanks in large part to White's 26 sacks over six seasons (2002-07). Almost all of the additions that Jon Gruden made to the roster when he arrived in 2002 were on the offensive side, as the defense was already in fantastic shape, but the signing of Spires was an under-the-radar home run. Spires stepped right into the starting lineup opposite Simeon Rice and solidified the NFL's best defensive front. Spires also had an eight-sack season in 2004 and a five-sack season in 2006. Overall, he started 82 games over those six seasons, including all but one from 2002-06, and that's surely more than was expected from a player who had all of seven starts in his first four NFL campaigns.
Level of Difficulty: 2.
There are some other good players here but Spires takes it pretty easily.
95: DT Chris Hovan
The only number 95 of any note before Hovan was Curt Jarvis from 1987-90, and the only one since has been…Howard Jones? Albert Haynesworth? It's not a tough field for Hovan to beat, but it's worth noting that he does come in at 51 on the Bucs' career AV list, well ahead of any other number 95. Hovan had some louder seasons over five years in Minnesota than he ever did as a Buccaneer, but what he did do after arriving in Tampa was start 79 of a possible 80 games over five campaigns. Jarvis topped out at 36 games started and 8.5 sacks.
Level of Difficulty: 2.
Hovan won't go down as an all-time great Buc but his five solid seasons in the middle of the D-Line make him an easy choice here.
View photos of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers roster as it currently stands.
96: DT Ellis Wyms
The 96 jersey is another one that's underserved in Bucs history. Here are all the players to wear it other than Wyms: Tim Newton, Bernard Wilson, Bryant Mix, Greg Peterson, Maurice Evans, Tim Crowder, Corey Irvin, Steven Means, T.J. Fatinikun, Ryan Russell, Sealver Siliga and Sam Acho. Wyms was never really a starter, but his six years in the jersey is the most for any Buccaneer by a country mile and he was on the Super Bowl team, which adds a little shine. He also had a 5.5-sack season and a 5.0-season during that run, which is pretty good for a rotational player.
Level of Difficulty: 4.
This is just to represent that I would like to have a couple more choices here, perhaps someone who had a decent run as a starter. Absent that, Wyms holds onto this spot easily.
97: DE Simeon Rice
Rice's six years with that Buccaneer jersey were sandwiched by five by Tyoka Jackson and two by Jimmy Wilkerson and both Jackson and Wilkerson were productive Buccaneers. Akeem Spence had some good years in the 97 jersey more recently. But Rice, of course, was transcendent. He was essentially the NFL's best pass-rusher for most of a decade, and his signing in 2001 represented the "final piece of the puzzle" for a legendary Buccaneers defense. Rice's 69.5 sacks as a Buccaneer are third in team history behind only Hall of Famers Lee Roy Selmon and Warren Sapp. Rice himself has achieved semifinal status in Hall of Fame voting several times in recent years. Rice hit double digits in sacks in each of his first five seasons in Tampa, the only Buccaneer ever to record a streak of that length. He was also an absolute terror in the playoffs, with seven sacks in seven postseason outings for Tampa Bay. That include an early sack in Super Bowl XXXVII that helped turn the tide back to the Buccaneers after an early turnover.
Level of Difficulty: 1.
One is as low as we go.
View photos of tight end Rob Gronkowski in the new Buccaneers uniforms.
98: DE Ray Seals
This is another one of those numbers with a couple underwhelming options, as it essentially comes down to Seals versus Clinton McDonald. Those are the only two players with at least 20 starts in the 98 jersey as a Buccaneer. McDonald actually has a one-point edge on the AV chart, but that's close enough and they are low enough on the list for it to be a virtual tie. Seals had a few more sacks; McDonald had a few more starts. McDonald was considered a very good team leader, and that's definitely worth considering here. In the end, I went with Seals because his peak of 13.5 sacks over the 1992-93 season seemed more remarkable than anything on McDonald's Buccaneer resume.
Level of Difficulty: 6.
I could have gone with either Seals or McDonald and felt fine if a little unsatisfied.
99: DT Warren Sapp
The story about Warren Sapp wearing the number 99 jersey goes like this: Sapp wanted to claim number 76, which is what he wore at the University of Miami before the Bucs drafted him in the first round in 1995. At the time, that number belonged to offensive tackle Scott Dill, who was a starter at the time, though not exactly a superstar. Dill had been wearing 76 for the Bucs since 1990. Supposedly, the equipment manager at the time convinced Sapp that the better route would be to take a number with little history and make it his own, which is how they settled on 99. If that anecdote is true, it was a brilliant suggestion, because that's exactly what Sapp did. If you were to determine the best number 99s in all of NFL history, it would be a three-way battle between Sapp, Jason Taylor and J.J. Watt and…well, pick your poison. Prior to Sapp's arrival, the 99 jersey had only been worn by decent linebacker Eugene Marve from 1988-91 and a defensive tackle named David Grant for two games in 1992. Sapp didn't quite take the Bucs' all-time sack record from Lee Roy Selmon, but he did join Selmon in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The choice of Selmon at number 63 on this list was the single easiest selection, given that no other Buccaneer ever wore it, but Sapp at 99 is not far behind.
Level of Difficulty: 1.
Sapp blazed a trail and now the 99 jersey is retired so this pick will never change.