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 Tuesday’s installment, PewterReport.com introduces the All-Time Greatest Bucs ranked 16-18. Wednesday’s installment will feature the Bucs ranked 13-15. PewterReport.com’s series concludes on Sunday, July, 11 with the Top 3 All-Time Greatest Bucs.
Quarles is one of the most unheralded and underrated Bucs of all-time. Yet he was one of Tampa Bay’s best linebackers. Quarles was signed out of the Canadian Football League in 1997 and took over as the team’s starting strongside linebacker. In 2001 he returned an interception from Brett Favre 98 yards for a touchdown, which is still a record for the longest defensive play in team history.
During his 10 seasons, Quarles helped lead the Buccaneers to three division titles in 1999, 2002 and 2005, which included the team’s first Super Bowl championship in 2002. He also made his first and only Pro Bowl appearance in 2002 as a member of the top-ranked defense in the NFL. In eight of his 10-year playing career the Bucs had a Top 10 defense and Quarles was one of the big reasons why.
Former Bucs LB Shelton Quarles – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
When he retired in 2006, Quarles was hired in the Bucs scouting department and was named the Director of Pro Scouting before being named the Director of Football Operations. He’s spent 24 years with the Tampa Bay organization and bleeds red and pewter.
Reynolds’ Take: “When Quarles retired he was the franchise’s fourth all-time leading tackler with 985 stops – ahead of Hall of Famers John Lynch (973) and Lee Roy Selmon (742). Quarles has now slid to No. 5 with the rise of Lavonte David, who has 1,125 tackles and moved into third place ahead of Hardy Nickerson (1,028).
If you want to look at how important Quarles is to the Bucs organization, just look in the lobby at One Buc Place. There you will find the 2002 Super Bowl statues featuring Jon Gruden, Warren Sapp, Derrick Brooks, Mike Alstott, Ronde Barber, John Lynch, Simeon Rice, Brad Johnson – and Quarles. That speaks volumes about why he’s on this list.”
17. Bucs C Tony Mayberry – 1990-99 Previous No. 17: LB Shelton Quarles
Mayberry was one of the best and most underrated Buccaneers of all-time. A fourth-round draft pick in 1990, he went on to become a starter early in his career and wound up with 145, which ranks fourth in Tampa Bay history behind Bucs Ring of Honor left tackle Paul Gruber (183).
The 6-foot-4, 288-pound Mayberry was a true intellect with a fantastic football I.Q., great technique and enough brute strength to be a force in the Bucs’ running game. Mayberry helped pave holes for three different 1,000-yard running backs in Tampa Bay – Reggie Cobb, Errict Rhett and Warrick Dunn. When Bucs Radio Network play-by-play announcer Gene Deckerhoff used to yell, “Alstott up the gut!”, that was usually a clear indication that Pro Bowl fullback Mike Alstott was running right up the middle behind Mayberry.
Former Bucs C Tony Mayberry – Photo courtesy of the Buccaneers
Mayberry became the first Bucs offensive lineman in history to make the Pro Bowl. His three Pro Bowl berths (1997-99) are the most by any Tampa Bay offensive lineman in franchise history. He’s typically regarded as the second best lineman in franchise history behind Gruber. That’s quite an accomplishment for Mayberry, who deserves Top 20 status – as well as a Bucs Ring of Honor induction.
Reynolds’ Take: “As long as he stays healthy this year, linebacker Lavonte David (137) will end up surpassing Mayberry in the number of starts and move into fourth place in Bucs history. But it takes legends to replace legends, doesn’t it? The Bucs have a long history of really good play from the center position, and Mayberry is at the top of the list. He was one of my favorite interviews when I started covering the team in the mid-1990s, and Mayberry’s stellar play was a big reason why Alstott and Warrick Dunn had so much success running the ball.”
Abraham is the second-best cornerback in Bucs history behind the legendary Ronde Barber. Drafted a year ahead of Barber in 1996, Abraham started all 16 games as a rookie third-round pick out of East Tennessee State. He shut down veteran Pro Bowl receiver Andre Rison in a joint camp practice with Jacksonville and that led defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin to start him as the team’s nickel cornerback.
Abraham’s first career interception came against future Hall of Famer John Elway and set a Tampa Bay rookie record with five interceptions – a record that still stands today. Abraham had quick hips, quick feet and sticky hands. Combining that with excellent instincts and the ability to effectively read the quarterback’s eyes and jump routes made Abraham the top interceptor in Bucs history.
Former Bucs CB Donnie Abraham – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
The emergence of younger cornerbacks like Barber, Brian Kelly and Dwight Smith allowed the Bucs to move on from Abraham after the 2001 season. After six seasons in Tampa Bay, Abraham led the franchise with 31 interceptions. That record stood until Barber broke it years later, but Abraham is still second on the Bucs’ all-time interceptions list.
Reynolds’ Take: “I gave Abraham the “Iceman” nickname back in 1996 when we had Buccaneer Magazine and put him on the cover. The reason? He had ice in his veins battling against the top receivers in the NFC Central back in the day.
Abraham held his own and then some against the likes of Detroit’s Johnnie Morton and Herman Moore, Green Bay’s Antonio Freeman and Bill Schroeder, and Minnesota’s Cris Carter, Jake Reed and Randy Moss. He’s the only Bucs defensive back to average five interceptions per season in his Tampa Bay career. It’s a shame that Abraham only made one Pro Bowl. He had back-to-back years with seven interceptions from 1999-2000 and had six in his final year with the Bucs. That’s 20 interceptions over three years. Not even Barber did that over a three-year span.”
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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