Recent inductions into the Pro Football Hall of Fame and the Buccaneers Ring of Honor, in addition to the emergence of some star players on Tampa Bay’s current team has prompted PewterReport.com to review the careers and rank the 25 best players in Buccaneers history. In this five-part series, PewterReport.com’s Scott Reynolds and Mark Cook analyze each Buccaneer legend and offer their own commentary on some of the most beloved players in Tampa Bay history.
Some of the rankings – and omissions – are sure to cause some controversy among Bucs fans. PewterReport.com wants to hear from you, and Bucs fans are encouraged to leave their opinions in the article comments section, on the PewterReport.com message boards and on PewterReport.com’s Twitter page.
In Thursday’s installment, PewterReport.com introduces the all-time greatest Buccaneers ranked 6-10. Friday’s installment will feature the Bucs ranked 1-5.
PewterReport.com’s All-Time Greatest Buccaneers: 6-10
10. Buccaneers TE Jimmie Giles – 1978-1986By Mark CookCombining a rare mix of speed and size (6-3, 250) Bucs tight end Jimmie Giles, along with wide receiver Kevin House, were Tampa Bay’s main passing targets during the turnaround from their early days of double-digit losses to their three out of four year (1979, 1981, 1982) playoff run. Giles was obtained in a pre-draft trade with the Houston Oilers in 1978 and became the team’s first Pro Bowl player, eventually being selected four times (1980, 1981, 1982, 1985) to the annual postseason game.
Like House, Giles played in an era – and on a team – where throwing the football tended to be an afterthought at times. Amazingly Giles was able to put up incredible numbers and still ranks high in a number of franchise marks. In 1980 Giles led all NFL tight ends with 602 yards on 33 receptions. Among all players, wide receivers included with at least 25 receptions, Giles led the league with 18.2 yards per grab in 1980.
Giles finished his Buccaneer tenure with 279 catches for 4,300 yards and 34 touchdowns. He ranks seventh all-time in receptions and third in yards in franchise history and was elected to the team’s Ring of Honor in 2011. After his time in Tampa Bay Giles went onto to play five more years in the NFL, two with Detroit and three with Philadelphia.
Cook’s Take: “It was amazing really to see a guy of Giles size get so open at times in the early days. His incredible four score game against the Dolphins in 1985 was one of the greatest single game achievements in franchise history. Giles had maybe the softest hands of any Bucs player – tight end or wide receiver – that ever played for the franchise.”
9. Buccaneers LT Paul Gruber – 1988-1999By Mark CookA quiet cornerstone, Paul Gruber is by far the best offensive lineman the Buccaneers have ever had. A starter from his first day in the NFL after being selected No. 4 overall in the 1988 draft, Gruber took his Midwestern roots to heart, and brought his lunch pail to work through four different coaching staffs, and gave maximum effort on every down.
Ranking third on the all-time starts list, Gruber started in 183 games for the Buccaneers, trailing just Ronde Barber and Derrick Brooks. In fact from his rookie season, it was six seasons before Gruber ever even missed a single snap in the lineup.
A two-time All-Pro, Gruber, like many of the Bucs who played in his era, didn’t receive the accolades he deserved due to the overall poor records the Bucs had. But Gruber was eventually rewarded for his hard work as he saw his team reach the playoffs in 1997 and started at left tackle for Tampa Bay in the last game ever played at Tampa Stadium – a 20-10 win over the Lions – ending a drought that started in 1983. Gruber joined the Bucs Ring of Honor in 2012.
Cook’s Take: “When the Bucs took Gruber in the first round of the 1988 draft, I was like many who thought that was a pretty boring pick. But the one thing you could count on over the next 12 years was stability at the left tackle position. Gruber showed myself and many football fans the importance of having a cornerstone at that position and while he never showed up in the stat sheet, he often kept players like Richard Dent and Reggie White off of the same stat sheet.”
8. Buccaneers DE Simeon Rice – 2001-2006By Scott ReynoldsRice was a high-profile free agent addition in 2001 and has been heralded by Warren Sapp as the missing piece on defense that helped Tampa Bay win Super Bowl XXXVII in 2002. Rice was one of the most fearsome pass rushers in Buccaneers history and he ranks third in team annals with 69.5 sacks, trailing only Hall of Famers Lee Roy Selmon (78.5) and Sapp (77).
No other Buccaneer has ever posted five straight years of double-digit sacks, and that’s what Rice did from 2001-2005 with 11, 15.5, 15, 12 and 14-sack campaigns during that span. His 30.5 sacks in 2002-03 is the most by a Tampa Bay player in a two-year span. Rice, who made the Pro Bowl in 2002 and 2003 and was also named an All Pro in both seasons, logged 19 forced fumbles and four interceptions in Tampa Bay and was one of the most exciting and entertaining Buccaneers in team history and a key component to Tampa Bay’s top-ranked defenses in 2002 and 2005.
Rice, who is one of eight Super Bowl champion Buccaneers to be immortalized with a statue in the front lobby of One Buccaneer Place, was one of the most colorful and individualistic players in Tampa Bay history. Rice’s work ethic and stamina in practice and on game day was legendary, and that, coupled with his statistics, places him in the Top 10 rankings.
SR’s Take: “There was no scarier player for Tampa Bay opponents on third down than Rice, who made Warren Sapp even more effective as an inside rusher. Rice was an absolute athletic freak and is the best athlete I’ve ever seen suit up in red and pewter.”
7. Buccaneers FB Mike Alstott – 1996-2006By Scott ReynoldsSimply put, Alstott is the greatest offensive weapon in Tampa Bay history. Nicknamed “The A-Train,” the massive, 6-foot, 240-pound bruiser finished his illustrious, 11-year career as the franchise’s second-leading rusher with 5,088 yards – despite never having a 1,000-yard season – and its third-leading receiver with 305 receptions for 2,284 yards. James Wilder (9,449 yards) and Warrick Dunn (7,690 yards) were the only other non-quarterbacks in Tampa Bay history that had more combined yardage than Alstott did with his 7,372 total yards.
One of the most beloved players in Bucs history, Alstott was deadly around the end zone, and finished his career atop the Tampa Bay charts for total touchdowns (71) and rushing touchdowns (58), which helped him earn six straight Pro Bowl appearances from 1997-2002. That’s the most ever for an offensive player in Tampa Bay history.
Alstott scored 432 points, which ranks third in team history behind kickers Michael Husted (502) and Martin Gramatica (592), and his three two-point conversions also are the most in team annals. Alstott scored some of the most memorable touchdowns in franchise history with Tampa Bay’s first TD against Philadelphia in the 2002 NFC Championship and the Bucs’ first touchdown in Super Bowl XXXVII.
SR’s Take: “No other offensive player could create momentum like Alstott could with one of his famous, tackle-breaking runs. No one brought the crowd to its feet like Alstott did. And when the game was on the line in the Tony Dungy and Jon Gruden eras, it was usually Alstott who got the ball – and he always delivered.”
6. Buccaneers SS John Lynch – 1993-2003By Mark CookDuring his first three seasons in the NFL, after being selected by the Bucs in the third round of the 1993 draft, many fans and perhaps even Lynch himself wondered if maybe he hadn’t been better off sticking to baseball, something Lynch also excelled at. In those first three seasons, Lynch managed just 64 tackles and three interceptions. But it all changed in 1996 with the arrival of Tony Dungy and the Tampa 2 defense that was installed. In Lynch’s 11 seasons with the Bucs the former Stanford product totaled 973 tackles which ranks fifth all time, and also had 23 interceptions, ranking him sixth in the Bucs record books.
Lynch was known as one of the most aggressive and punishing tacklers in the game and once said when he tackled a player he was aiming at the person behind the player with the ball. His style of play was intimidating and many a receiver who came across the middle when Lynch was defending tended to short arm catches. Lynch was also a key run stuffer, often times moving up in the box and virtually playing as an additional linebacker.
After his release by the Bucs in 2003 Lynch, who many thought was done with football, signed with the Denver Broncos and played another four seasons at a high level, earning four more Pro Bowl berths to go along with his five in Tampa Bay.
Cook’s Take: “Growing up Mark Cotney was one of my favorite players as he was a incredibly physical player, but John Lynch took the position to an even higher level. There is no way that Lynch would survive in today’s almost two-hand touch league that it has become. If you saw Lynch in the locker room after a game, or even walking down the street, there is no way you would have imagined the athlete he was with the pads on. One of the nicest guys off the field, Lynch turned into a receivers worst nightmare on it.”
PewterReport.com’s 25 All-Time Greatest Buccaneers: 21-25PewterReport.com’s 25 All-Time Greatest Buccaneers: 16-20PewterReport.com’s 25 All-Time Greatest Buccaneers: 11-15PewterReport.com’s 25 All-Time Greatest Buccaneers: 6-10PewterReport.com’s 25 All-Time Greatest Buccaneers: 1-5
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