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 Wednesday’s installment, PewterReport.com introduces the all-time greatest Buccaneers ranked 11-15. Thursday’s installment will feature the Bucs ranked 6-10.
PewterReport.com’s All-Time Greatest Buccaneers: 11-15
15. Buccaneers WR Mark Carrier – 1987-1992By Mark Cook The Buccaneers used a third-round draft pick to select the small in size but big in heart Mark Carrier from tiny Nicholls State in the 1987 draft. Carrier showed flashes as a rookie, hauling in 26 passes for 423 yards and three touchdowns, then followed his rookie season with a 970 yard receiving year in 1988, before breaking out with a monster season in 1989. In his third year in the league, Carrier set a franchise record for receiving yards in a season that still stands today with 1,422 yards on 86 receptions and nine scores.
Carrier could go deep, but was one of the better after-the-catch receivers the Buccaneers have ever had. His shiftiness and cutback ability made him a threat to take it to the end zone every time he touched the ball.
Carrier played six seasons in Tampa Bay and holds the top spot for career receiving yards with 5,018 yards and is second all time in receptions with 321 pass catches, just behind James Wilder’s 430. Carrier went onto to play six more seasons in the NFL, three with Cleveland and three more with the Carolina Panthers.
Cook’s Take: “Unfortunately for Carrier he played on some back Buccaneer football teams and didn’t get the national recognition he deserved. Easily one of the most exciting players on offense in Bucs history, anytime he got the ball in his hands it was fun to watch as he would zigzag through opposing defenses, at times making them look silly.”
14. Buccaneers LB Shelton Quarles – 1997-2006 By Scott ReynoldsQuarles has been a member of the Buccaneers organization for the past 17 years with a 10-year playing career and seven years in the front office as a pro scout, the team’s director of pro personnel and the director of football administration, his new position. He came to Tampa Bay from the Canadian Football League and quickly rose to prominence by starring on special teams. After winning the starting strongside linebacker role in 1998, Quarles validated the coaches’ decision with stellar play, illustrated in part by returning an interception of a Brett Favre pass 98 yards for a touchdown in 2001, which is the longest play in Buccaneers history.
Quarles was a member of the famed 1999 Tampa Bay defense as a strongside linebacker and the legendary 2002 Super Bowl team as a Pro Bowl middle linebacker in his first year at his new position. Quarles was so well thought of by the organization that he is one of eight Super Bowl champion Buccaneers to have a statue that bears his likeliness in the front lobby of One Buccaneer Place.
Quarles was the second-leading tackler in Tampa Bay’s 2002 season, and was the leading tackler on the league’s top-ranked defense in 2005 with 196 stops, which ranks third in team history. His 985 career tackles rank fourth in team history, which puts Quarles in some pretty elite company with the likes of Derrick Brooks, Ronde Barber and Hardy Nickerson. He’s also one of only two players in Buccaneers history – Ronde Barber – that has recorded a defensive touchdown and a safety in his Tampa Bay career.
SR’s Take: “One of the quietest Buccaneers, Quarles is also one of the most underrated players in team history. One truly can’t appreciate his accomplishments until closely examining Quarles’ steady production over his decade as a player, and over the past seven years on the personnel side of the organization.”
13. Buccaneers C Tony Mayberry – 1990-1999By Scott ReynoldsMayberry was one of the most venerable players in Tampa Bay and the second-best offensive lineman in Buccaneers history behind left tackle Paul Gruber. The 6-foot-4, 288-pound center was true iron man with 145 starts and 160 games played, which ranks fourth and sixth in franchise history, respectively. The fact that Mayberry emerged as a starter in his second year and didn’t miss a start for the remainder of his tenure in Tampa Bay is quite an accomplishment.
A quiet leader who led by example, Mayberry was a key part of the Buccaneers’ turnaround along with Gruber and middle linebacker Hardy Nickerson. The Wake Forest product played a big role in Tampa Bay’s rise to prominence in 1997 and was awarded with his first Pro Bowl berth after that season, which would be the first such honor for any Buccaneers offensive lineman in franchise history.
Mayberry also made the Pro Bowl in ’98 and ’99, which was his last season in the league, and holds the distinction as the only Bucs offensive lineman to be named to the Pro Bowl three times.
SR’s Take: “Mayberry was one of the most cerebral and technically sound offensive linemen the Buccaneers have ever had, and he was the true anchor of an offensive line that helped Mike Alstott and Warrick Dunn produce an awful lot of touchdowns in the late 1990s.”
12. Buccaneers CB Donnie Abraham – 1996-2001By Scott ReynoldsWhen he left Tampa Bay in 2001, Abraham was regarded as the best cornerback in franchise history. The third-round pick from East Tennessee State in 1996 was a starter during his rookie season and set the Bucs rookie record for interceptions with five – including his first ever pick, which came against Denver legend and Pro Football Hall of Famer John Elway.
In his six years in Tampa Bay, Abraham set the franchise record with 31 interceptions. Ronde Barber, who amassed 47 in his 16-year career as a Buccaneer, would eventually break Abraham’s record and move him into second place. Abraham also scored three defensive touchdowns, which is tied for the fifth-most in team history.
Although the Bucs played a great deal of Tampa 2 zone defense during the late 1990s and early 2000s, Abraham, who had great man coverage skills, was known as the team’s shutdown cornerback during his time in red and pewter. He played a large role in getting the Buccaneers to the playoffs in 1997, 1999, 2000 and 2001, and Abraham helped the Tampa Bay defense prevail against some of the high-powered offenses and potent wide receiver duos in the NFC Central division, such as those found in Green Bay, Minnesota and Detroit.
SR’s Take: “I nicknamed Abraham ‘The Iceman’ because he was always so cool in coverage, even as a rookie, while going up against some of the greatest receivers in the NFL like Herman Moore, Randy Moss, Cris Carter, Donald Driver and Antonio Freeman. Abraham had some of the smoothest hips, quickest feet, greatest anticipation and some of the best hands ever found in a Tampa Bay cornerback.”
11. Buccaneers RB James Wilder – 1981-1989By Mark CookJames Wilder was one of the toughest players to ever wear the orange and white uniform of the Buccaneers. Over 20 years later, Wilder still holds a number of franchise records and remains a fan favorite for those that had the opportunity to watch him play. Wilder had deceptive speed and quickness, but also loved to lower his head and put his helmet in the chest of defenders who were brave enough to try and tackle him.
Wilder still ranks first in Buccaneer history in rushing yards (5,597) and receptions (430). Wilder’s best season came in 1984 where he set NFL records with 43 carries in a single game and NFL records for carries (407) and touches (492) in a single season. In that 1984 season Wilder set the franchise record for yards in a season with 1,544 yards on the ground and in addition also caught 85 passes for 685 yards. Wilder followed up that monster 1984 season with 1,300 yards in 1985 and added another 53 receptions. Wilder still ranks second in franchise history with 46 total touchdowns.
Cook’s Take: “Touching the ball 492 times in a single season is unheard of these days but Wilder played in a different era and with a different mentality. Like Alstott who came along after Wilder, as the game went on, Wilder got stronger. Either that or defenders were just sick and tired of trying to tackle him. If Wilder got past the second level you could almost see the fear in the faces of cornerbacks and safeties who rarely wanted a piece of No. 32 barreling at them full speed.”
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
Mark Cook currently is the director of editorial content and Bucs beat writer and has written for PewterReport.com since 2011. Cook has followed the Buccaneers since 1977 when he first began watching football with his Dad and is fond of the 1979 Bucs team that came within 10 points of going to a Super Bowl. His favorite Bucs game is still the 1979 divisional playoff win 24-17 over the Eagles. In his spare time Cook enjoys playing guitar, fishing, surfing and family time at the beach. In addition, Cook can be found in front of a television or in Doak Campbell any time the FSU Seminoles are playing. Cook is a native of Pinecrest in Eastern Hillsborough County and has written for numerous publications including the Tampa Tribune, In the Field and Ya'll Magazine. Cook can be reached at [email protected]
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