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.
In Thursday’s installment, PewterReport.com introduces the All-Time Greatest Bucs ranked 10-12. Friday’s installment will feature the Bucs ranked 7-9. PewterReport.com’s series concludes on Sunday, July, 11 with the Top 3 All-Time Greatest Bucs.
Perhaps the most underrated and under-appreciated Buccaneer in team history, Wilder was one of the first complete running backs in the NFL. Blessed with the ability to run due to his 6-foot-3, 225-pound frame and blazing speed, in addition to great hands in the passing game, Wilder is still the most talented running back in Bucs history.
A second-round pick in 1981, Wilder split carries in Tampa Bay with other Bucs before emerging as John McKay’s feature back in 1984. Wilder set an NFL record at the time with 407 carries, rushing for 1,544 yards and 13 touchdowns. Those single-season stats are still Bucs records nearly 40 years later. He also caught 85 passes for 685 yards that season and earned his lone Pro Bowl berth in 1984. His 2,229 total yards in 1984 is also a single-season franchise record.
Former Bucs RB James Wilder – Photo courtesy of the Buccaneers
Wilder sill holds the record for most rushing yards in Tampa Bay history with 5,957 yards, and the most career 100-yard games with 14. He was also a deadly receiver out of the backfield, catching 430 passes for 3,492 yards (8.1 avg.) and nine touchdowns. Wilder’s 430 career receptions was a Bucs record until Mike Evans broke it in 2019. The fact that Wilder is not in the Bucs Ring of Honor at this point is a crime.
Reynolds’ Take: “McKay, who supposedly knew a lot about the running game after coaching O.J. Simpson and Ricky Bell at USC, finally came to his senses and realized Wilder was miscast as a fullback. After three years as a lead blocker, McKay moved Wilder to halfback. Wilder was more talented that Jerry Eckwood, Mel Carver and James Owens, yet split a fair amount of carries with those backs until finally handling the load in 1984. The Bucs would have won more games in those three previous seasons if Wilder had more carries.”
11. Bucs QB Tom Brady – 2020-current Previous No. 11: TE Jimmie Giles
Is it crazy to put Brady just outside the Top 10 Bucs in team history after just one season in Tampa Bay? After what he accomplished in that one season, the answer is no. Having success is defined by accomplishments – winning and breaking team records along the way – not just how many years of service a player puts in. Brady’s 2020 season in red and pewter was one for the ages.
Not only did Brady become the best free agent acquisition in team history last season, he also helped guide the Bucs to an 11-5 record en route to winning Super Bowl LV. Brady out-dueled Patrick Mahomes at Raymond James Stadium to dethrone the defending Super Bowl champions and become the game’s MVP. Brady won his seventh Super Bowl title and his fifth Super Bowl MVP honors in the process.
Bucs QB Tom Brady – Photo by: USA Today
At age 43, Brady also broke the Bucs’ single-season touchdown record with 40 passing TDs and three rushing scores. And much to the delight of Bucs fans, Brady signed a contract extension through the 2023 season. If Brady has another spectacular season or two, he very well may end up as one of the Top 10 greatest Bucs of all-time – despite playing just three seasons in Tampa Bay.
Reynolds’ Take: “Brady’s play last year was remarkable, especially given the fact that he was learning a new offense for the first time in 20 years and didn’t have the benefit of an offseason or a preseason to really master it. That came during the regular season as Brady helped lead the Bucs back from a pair of 17-point deficits against Los Angeles and Atlanta.
How he was snubbed for the Pro Bowl last year for Arizona’s Kyler Murray is beyond tragic. Brady’s play is one thing, but the confidence he instilled into the Bucs and the heightened level of expectation he brought to Tampa Bay as a six-time Super Bowl champion is another. Brady’s leadership in 2020 was on another level. That leadership, as much as his right arm, is the reason why Tampa Bay won their final eight games, culminating in a Super Bowl LV championship.”
10. Bucs LB Lavonte David – 2012-current Previous No. 10: RB James Wilder
It’s been quite the climb for David over the past four years, moving from No. 23 to No. 10 on the list of the 30 Greatest Bucs Of All-Time. David, who is entering his 10th season in Tampa Bay, has been climbing the Bucs’ record books. Now signed through 2023, the 31-year old David has started 137 games in Tampa Bay and is tied with fullback Mike Alstott for the fifth-most starts in team history. David should pass center Tony Mayberry (145) for fourth place this year. If he starts every game the next three seasons, David will surpass Paul Gruber (183) for third place in Tampa Bay history.
The play-making David, fresh off his first postseason with the Bucs and a Super Bowl LV title, should finish second in tackles behind Derrick Brooks (2,198). David is currently third on the list with 1,125 tackles, moving ahead of Hardy Nickerson (1,028) last year. Next up is surpassing cornerback Ronde Barber (1,428). David should pass Barber by 2023 if he stays healthy.
Bucs ILB Lavonte David – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
David also has 24 career sacks, and needs just two more to move into 10th place ahead of Greg Spires (25). With five more over the next three years, David will move ahead of Barber (28) and into eighth place on Tampa Bay’s all-time sack list. David’s steady play over the last decade should put him in the Hall of Fame, as he’s been one of the best linebackers in the NFL. But he’s at least destined for Tampa Bay’s Ring of Honor.
Reynolds’ Take: “David has been one of my favorite Bucs players to cover. A class act, a dynamic playmaker and a great leader, David is awfully close to the second coming of Derrick Brooks .
It’s a crime that David has only made one Pro Bowl and been voted to the All-Pro team just once. I’m thrilled David not only got to make the playoffs for the first time in 2020 – but also won a Super Bowl. The lack of Pro Bowls may rob him of a Hall of Fame induction, but David is a Hall of Fame-caliber linebacker, and one of the Top 10 Bucs of all-time.”
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: firstname.lastname@example.org
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