In his first year as a Tampa Bay Buccaneer, Vincent Jackson almost, but not quite, caught Mark Carrier's 1989 team-record total of 1,422 receiving yards. Jackson finished with 1,384 yards, fifth-best in the entire NFL. Jackson was also a very near-miss in the initial NFC Pro Bowl voting, coming in as the first alternate, though he could still end up going to his third all-star game when it's all said and done.
But Jackson didn't miss out on the top spot on one ranking: His 19.2 yards per catch in 2012 lead the entire NFL, and it wasn't even close. The next nearest competitor, Jacksonville's Cecil Shorts, came in at 17.8 yards per catch, and that was on 17 fewer catches (a player needed 32 receptions to qualify).
Taken at its full measure – the yards, the eight touchdowns, the big plays, the key role in the most prolific passing attack in franchise history – Jackson's debut as a Buccaneer was nothing short of fantastic. And his yards-per-catch total does give him a place in franchise history: He's the first Buccaneer ever to lead the NFL in that category.
In fact, league leaders in any statistical category haven't come along that often in team history. There have been roughly two dozen individual seasons by Buccaneer players that topped the NFL on some stat table (conventional counting and percentage categories only), from completion percentage to interception return yards. Most recently, CB Aqib Talib was one of four players to tie for the league lead with two interception return touchdowns last year. On offense, the last Buc to finish at the top of any chart, before Jackson, was QB Brian Griese, who paced all NFL players in 2004 with a 69.3% completion rate.
Interceptions and punting account for a good number of the entries on the list, but there are a few other memorable campaigns mixed in, most notably James Wilder's 1984 season and Derrick Brooks' 2002 award-winning campaign. Here's a comprehensive look at the Buccaneers' single-season NFL statistical leaders through the franchise's first 37 years of action, listed in reverse chronological order:
* Vincent Jackson, 19.2 yards per catch in 2012
Jackson had catches of 95, 65 and 54 yards along the way but also routinely kept his average up in games in which he didn't have one very long play. For instance, during Weeks 12-14 he picked up 20.1 yards per catch on 14 receptions despite having just one play longer than 31 yards, and none longer than 40.
* Aqib Talib, two interception return touchdowns, 2011 (tied with 3 others)
As it turned out, Talib scored on his only two picks of the season.
* Ronde Barber two interception return touchdowns, 2006 (tied with 2 others)
It's strange to think that, with all of Barber's pick-sixes, this is the only regular season in which he had more than one…and he got them both in the same game (vs. Philadelphia).
* Mark Jones, 51 punt returns and 492 punt return yards, 2005
Jones got the former mark by just two over Jacksonville's Alvin Pearman and was 39 better than the New York Giants' Chad Morton in the latter category. Neither of those are single-season records for the Buccaneers, however.
* Brian Griese, 69.3%, 2004
Griese took over one quarter into the fifth game of that '04 campaign, after Brad Johnson was benched and Chris Simms, in his first start, suffered an injury. Though there were a few painful pick-sixes along the way, Griese did set new (and still-standing) team records for completion percentage, yards per attempt and passer rating. Only the first of those three led the NFL.
* Brad Johnson, 570 pass attempts, 2003
This was Tampa Bay's most prolific passing season until this past fall, with team records set for attempts, completions and yards. Johnson threw more passes than anybody else in the NFL that year, the only Buc quarterback ever to do that.
* Brad Johnson, 1.3% interception percentage, 2002
Johnson might have thrown more passes in 2003, but his 2002 campaign was clearly superior, and not just because it ended with the Bucs hoisting the Lombardi Trophy. Johnson was better in almost every rating category in '02, as evidenced by his 92.9 passer rating, as opposed to an 81.5 mark in '03. The biggest part of that was keeping his interceptions down, as he threw just six picks and led the entire NFL in lowest interception percentage.
* Derrick Brooks, four non-offensive touchdowns and three interception-return touchdowns, 2002
Those two league-leading marks were a big part of the reason that Brooks was named the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year in 2000. Brooks capped that remarkable season by returning another interception for a touchdown in Super Bowl XXXVII.
* Martin Gramatica, 32 field goals made, 2002 (tied with Atlanta's Jay Feely)
No Buccaneer has ever led the NFL in scoring in a single season – yet – but Gramatica did kick as many field goals as anyone else in 2002. He tied Feely, but did it in one fewer attempt. Gramatica's 128 points that season were a single-season team record at the time, but that was later broken by Matt Bryant's 131 in 2008.
* Brian Kelly, eight interceptions, 2002 (tied with Oakland's Rod Woodson)
Kelly is the answer to a good trivia question in a room full of Buccaneer fans, because many will assume that either Ronde Barber or Derrick Brooks led that team in interceptions. In fact, it was Kelly going away (Brooks had five and Dwight Smith had four) in the former USC star's best season.
* Ronde Barber, 10 interceptions, 2001 (tied with Cleveland's Anthony Henry)
By far the best single-season total of Barber's likely Hall of Fame career, and also a still-standing team record. The previous mark of nine had stood for two decades, after Cedric Brown set it in 1981. The 2001 season was a big one for interceptions; six different players had at least eight.
* Donnie Abraham, seven interceptions (tied with 4 others) and two interception return touchdowns (tied with 7 others), 1999
From 1996-2001, Abraham was the most consistent INT machine in franchise history. He had just one pick in 1998 but otherwise had at least five in each of his other five seasons as a Buccaneer. Abraham peaked at seven in both 1999 and 2000, but only in the first of those two years was that good enough to tie for the NFL lead.
* Dan Stryzinski, 93 punts, 1993
The most pleasingly symmetrical entry on the list, with Stryzinski's 93 boots in '93. Obviously, that had something to do with the Bucs' 25th-ranked offense, but the Bucs didn't run away from the pack. Four other punters were called on at least 89 times that year.
* Wayne Haddix, 231 interception return yards and three interception return touchdowns, 1990
Those two numbers led to what is probably the most fluky Pro Bowl selection in franchise history. Haddix played only 25 games other than the 16 he appeared in that year, and all seven of his career interceptions came in 1990.
* James Wilder, 407 rushing attempts and 492 offensive touches, 1984
Wilder's breakout 1984 campaign remains one of the best individual seasons in franchise history. His 1,544 rushing yards that season are still the team's single-season record, although Doug Martin's 1,454 debut this past fall certainly would make it seem to be in jeopardy. At the time, Wilder's 407 rushes were a new NFL record, though Atlanta's Jamal Anderson later broke it with 410 in 1998, and then Kansas City's Larry Johnson went to 416 in 2006. Wilder also caught, amazingly, 85 passes that year, which gave him the NFL lead in total touches. This season would also be the closest any Buc has ever gotten to leading the NFL in yards from scrimmage. Wilder finished with 2,229 but the great Eric Dickerson just edged him with 2,244.
* Frank Garcia, 95 punts, 1983
The Bucs ranked last in the NFL in offense in 1983 (they would jump all the way to 10th behind Wilder a year later), and so Garcia got a lot of work. Again, though, he had plenty of company, as four different punters had at least 91 boots that year.
* Danny Reece, 57 punt returns, 1980
See the next entry.
* Danny Reece, 70 punt returns, 1979
Reece was an absolutely fearless punt returner, to the point that his career numbers in terms of returns and fair catches almost look like a misprint. Karl Williams is probably the most accomplished punt returner in Buc annals overall, and he called for 92 fair catches while running the ball back 213 times. Meanwhile, Reece had 222 career returns…and only seven fair catches. That obviously had a lot to do with his two years atop the league in punt returns.
* Doug Williams , 1.73% sack rate, 1979
Buc fans who remember the team's first era of success won't be surprised by this entry. Williams has some surprisingly low completion percentages from those years, but that was due in part to his constant willingness to throw the ball away to avoid a sack. He was dropped just seven times in 404 dropbacks that season. In contrast, backup Mike Rae got enough action to drop back 41 times, and absorbed five sacks in the process.