PewterReport.com has periodically published its’ Top 25 All-Time Greatest Bucs list, updating the rankings due to recent inductions into the Pro Football Hall of Fame and the Buccaneers Ring of Honor, in addition to the emergence of star players on Tampa Bay’s current roster. The last time we published this list was the summer of 2014. Now, it’s time the PewterReport.com staff re-examined the careers of the most elite Tampa Bay players once again. We’ve re-ranked the list and expanded it to the Top 30 All-Time Greatest Bucs.
In this 10-part series, PewterReport.com’s Scott Reynolds analyzes each Bucs legend and offers up commentary on some of the best players in Tampa Bay history. Some of the rankings – and omissions – will likely cause some controversy among the Bucs fan base.
It’s here – Pewter Report’s Top 3 All-Time Greatest Bucs. This list has been shuffled around since its last publication in 2017. Read on to see which player is deemed the greatest Buccaneer.
3. Buccaneers DE Lee Roy Selmon – 1976-85 Previous No. 3: DT Warren Sapp
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As time has moved on, we’ve decided to move Selmon down one spot to No. 3. This has less to do with him. It’s just that Warren Sapp (2013) and Derrick Brooks (2014)– the next two Buccaneers inducted into the Hall of Fame after Selmon became the first in 1995 – accomplished more with winning Super Bowl XXXVII in 2002. Selmon still holds the all-time franchise record for career sacks with 78.5. Sapp (77) nearly broke that record, but fell two sacks short.
Selmon was the franchise’s first-ever draft pick as the No. 1 overall selection in 1976, and was an absolute hit. He recorded five sacks as a rookie and then established a single-season record for sacks with 13 in 1977. That record stood for decades until Sapp beat it with 16.5 in 2000. Selmon made his first of six Pro Bowls in 1979 and was also named the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year after recording 11 sacks and 117 tackles. He led the league’s No. 1 defense that got the Bucs to the NFC Championship Game in 1979. Selmon was the first Buccaneer to have his jersey (No. 63) retired.
Bucs legendary DE Lee Roy Selmon – Photo: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The 6-foot-3, 250-pound Oklahoma product saw his career end abruptly after a back injury at the Pro Bowl in 1984. Selmon was a three-time first-team All-Pro, and was also named to the NFL 100th Anniversary All-Time Team and the NFL 1980s All-Decade Team. Selmon was inducted into the Bucs Ring of Honor in 2009. After his pro career was over, Selmon helped bring college football to Tampa as the University of South Florida athletic director before dying from a stroke at the age of 56.
Reynolds’ Take: “Selmon was called the ‘Gentle Giant’ because of his quiet and friendly demeanor off the field and his brutal, violent ways on the field attacking quarterbacks. Selmon was a tremendous athlete with a quick first step, great strength and long arms. He was a tenacious pass rusher and it’s a testament to how great he was that neither Warren Sapp nor Simeon Rice could top his all-time career sack record in Tampa Bay.
Selmon’s career was unexpectedly cut short in 1984, and his life was unexpectedly cut short in 2011 due to a fatal stroke. Selmon would have had more to give the Bucs and the NFL if not for his back injury, and he had more to give USF and the Tampa Bay community if not for his tragic, untimely death.”
2. Buccaneers LB Derrick Brooks – 1995-2008 Previous No. 2: DE Lee Roy Selmon
Brooks has held the top spot in previous rankings because he’s been the most decorated Buccaneer of all-time. Those accolades haven’t changed. Brooks is still atop the awards list with 11 Pro Bowl berths and five first-team All-Pro honors. Brooks was also a member of the NFL’s 100th Anniversary All-Time Team, as well as being named to the NFL’s 2000s All-Decade Team.
The 6-foot-1, 235-pound linebacker was selected in the first round of the 1995 NFL Draft along with Sapp. He wound up playing 14 seasons in Tampa Bay through the 2008 season, setting several records along the way. When he retired, Brooks’ 221 starts were the most in team history. Now Ronde Barber owns the record with 232. Brooks’ 2,198 career tackles are still the most in Bucs history. Brooks’ 25 career interceptions rank as the fifth-most in Tampa Bay history.
Bucs Hall of Famers Derrick Brooks & Lee Roy Selmon – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Brooks turned in a season for the ages in 2002 as he recorded 118 tackles, forced five fumbles, intercepted five passes and returned three of those picks for touchdowns. The former Florida State star also returned a fumble recovery for a touchdown and then added another pick-six in Super Bowl XXXVII to help seal the Bucs’ win over the Raiders. Brooks was named the NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2002.
Reynolds’ Take: “Brooks was nicknamed ‘The Don’ as in ‘The Godfather’ for his leadership role in Tampa Bay. He was a steadying influence in the huddle on game day, in the locker room and on the practice field for over a decade.
Brooks was one of the fastest linebackers in the NFL and could have had monster sack seasons if Monte Kiffin had blitzed him more. Instead he had just 13.5 career sacks because he was too valuable in coverage, usually erasing opponents’ tight ends and running backs, while breaking up 84 passes and picking off 24 others. Brooks was the prototype weakside linebacker in the Tampa 2 scheme and one of the most elite Bucs of all-time.”
Sapp is the greatest Buccaneer of all-time. For years Brooks was the greatest Buccaneer of all-time due to his illustrious 14-year playing career in Tampa Bay. The record-setting Brooks made 11 Pro Bowls and was the 2002 NFL Defensive Player of the Year in the Bucs’ Super Bowl season. So what made Sapp move ahead of Brooks four years later when we re-evaluated the Top 25 Greatest All-Time Bucs and expanded the list 30? Answer this question – if you were to start a franchise with Sapp, Brooks or Selmon – which player would you choose?
The answer is Sapp for many reasons. Great pass-rushing defensive tackles are hard to find – even harder to find than linebackers and defensive ends. Sapp was elite. He was a seven-time Pro Bowler and a four-time first-team All-Pro in his nine years in Tampa Bay. Sapp had three double-digit sack seasons, including a 16.5-sack campaign in 2000, which broke Selmon’s single-season team record. His 77 career sacks in Tampa Bay were two short of breaking Selmon’s career record, but they are the most for any Bucs defensive tackle.
Bucs Hall of Fame DT Warren Sapp – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Sapp was brash, bold and nasty. Opponents feared him and Bucs fans loved him. He couldn’t be intimidated and his fiery leadership style was more akin to Hardy Nickerson’s than Brooks’ or John Lynch’s.
Sapp teamed with Brooks and Simeon Rice to help lead the Bucs to a Super Bowl XXXVII win in 2002, recording a sack in the championship game. He was the NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 1999 when he recorded 12.5 sacks and four forced fumbles. Sapp was named to the NFL 1990s and 2000s All-Decade Team. Sapp’s No. 99 jersey is retired and he was inducted into the Bucs Ring of Honor after making the Hall of Fame.
Reynolds’ Take: “For years Mark Cook and I debated whether Sapp or Brooks was the best Buccaneer in team history. He would always ask me if I were starting a franchise – which player would I want? I knew the answer was always Sapp, and I finally got around to admitting that.
Sapp ruled the Bucs locker room with an iron fist and was the fire-starter and tempo-setter in practice. He willed the Yucs into becoming the Bucs in 1996 with the sheer force of his alpha personality and his ability to get to the quarterback. Sapp was an absolute game-wrecker and one of the best 3-technique defensive tackles to ever play the game. He’s also the best Buccaneer in team history.”
Scott Reynolds is in his 25th year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds spent six years giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: email@example.com
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