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 Monday’s installment, PewterReport.com introduces the All-Time Greatest Bucs ranked 19-21. Tuesday’s installment will feature the Bucs ranked 16-18. PewterReport.com’s series concludes on Sunday, July, 11 with the Top 3 All-Time Greatest Bucs.
21. Bucs RB Warrick Dunn – 1997-2001, 2008 Previous No. 21: WR Kevin House
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At 5-foot-9, 180 pounds, Dunn was supposed to be just a third-down back after college. He was supposed to be complementary runner in the NFL. Dunn was “too small” to be an every-down back. Certainly he was not a guy who could run for 1,000 yards in a season or 10,000 in his career.
Yet that wasn’t the case. Dunn was small in stature, but played with a big heart – and big-time ability. He topped the 1,000-yard mark twice in his Tampa Bay career, and three more times as an Atlanta Falcon. And he finished just 33 yards shy of 11,000 rushing yards in his 12-year career. Dunn is the Bucs’ third-leading rusher in team history behind Mike Alstott (5,088) and James Wilder (5,957), amassing 4,986 yards. Dunn scored 19 rushing touchdowns and had 306 receptions for 2,704 yards and nine TDs through the air.
Former Bucs RB Warrick Dunn on the cover of SI
Dunn’s mother was a police officer who was tragically killed while he was a senior in high school. Dunn was forced to grow up quickly, becoming the sole provider for his younger siblings. His tragedy helped him develop into a mature young man at an early age, and in memory of his late mother, began a program where he provided the down payment and furnishings to single mothers for new homes in the Tampa Bay and Atlanta area. That program still continues today.
Reynolds’ Take: “I remember being upset in 1997 when the Bucs drafted Dunn instead of Corey Dillon, who was selected by Cincinnati in the second round. The 6-foot-1, 225-pound Dillon went on to rush for 11,241 yards and score more touchdowns, but Dunn surprised me with his production and longevity in the league.
Even with his small stature, it’s hard to hit what you can’t see. Dunn rarely took a clean shot, as he would hide behind his massive offensive linemen and squirt through holes. He had a unique knack for going down at the perfect time to minimize the damage from defenders. That smart and savvy play lengthened his career. The diminutive Dunn teamed with Alstott to form the WD-40 backfield for the Bucs from 1997-2001. Together, he and The A-Train helped lead Tampa Bay to the playoffs in five years out of six.”
20. Bucs QB Brad Johnson – 2001-04 Previous No. 20: RB Warrick Dunn
Jon Gruden has never worked well with young quarterbacks. But give him a smart, veteran quarterback that can spit out all of his verbiage and Gruden’s offense can come to life. That’s what happened in 2002 when Gruden and Johnson joined forces to make the Bucs offense come alive in the playoffs, scoring 31 points against San Francisco, 20 points at Philadelphia and 27 points in Super Bowl XXXVII against Oakland.
Johnson became just the second Bucs quarterback (Trent Dilfer, 1997) to make the Pro Bowl and the first to win a Super Bowl. He was a surprise free agent signing by Tampa Bay in Tony Dungy’s final season after spending time in Washington and Minnesota. In his first year with the Bucs he broke team records for passing yards with 3,406 and completions with 340 while taking the Bucs to the playoffs.
Former Bucs QB Brad Johnson – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
In 2002, Johnson led the Bucs to their first Super Bowl win, throwing for 3,049 yards with 22 touchdowns and just six interceptions. That was his Pro Bowl season despite missing two games with a broken bone in his back. Johnson played two more seasons for Gruden and the Bucs and set a franchise record for passing yards at the time in 2003 after throwing for 3,811 yards at age 35. His 570 attempts that year were the most in the NFL that year and the most in team history at the time. Nicknamed “The Bull” due to his toughness in the pocket, Johnson ranks sixth on the Bucs’ all-time passing list with 10,940 yards.
Reynolds’ Take: “I’ve said for years that Johnson was the right quarterback at the right time for the Bucs. After rolling through the likes of Trent Dilfer, Casey Weldon, Eric Zeier and Shaun King, Tampa Bay needed a veteran quarterback to run the offense. And one that could keep up with the frenetic pace set by Gruden and understand his lengthy play calls. On a team full of characters with clashing personalities, The Bull was the constant on offense that steered the Bucs’ ship in the right direction. The only thing that prevented Johnson and Gruden combining for more wins in Tampa Bay was his age. Imagine if Johnson joined the Bucs at age 29 or 30 instead of 33. The Bucs’ Super Bowl window might have been open a bit longer.
19. Bucs WR Mark Carrier – 1987-1992 Previous No. 19: QB Brad Johnson
Carrier wasn’t big or fast, but he was one of the quickest and shiftiest to ever put on a Buccaneers uniform. Most Bucs fans had no idea who Carrier was after Tampa Bay drafted him out of Nicholls State in the third round. But his ascension in the NFL was fast, as he became a Pro Bowl receiver in his third season, nabbing 86 passes for 1,422 yards and nine touchdowns.
Carrier finished his Tampa Bay career as the team’s second leading receiver behind James Wilder, notching 321 receptions. He’s now in third place behind Wilder (430) and Mike Evans (532). Carrier was the Bucs leader in career yards with 5,018 until Evans (8,266) surpassed him. After six years in Tampa Bay, Carrier went on to play six more seasons in the NFL with the Browns and the expansion Panthers. He later became Carolina’s Director of Player Development.
Former Bucs WR Mark Carrier – Photo courtesy of the Buccaneers
At 6-foot, 186 pounds, Carrier wasn’t overly special as a wide receiver from a physical standpoint. But his clutch hands and ability to make things happen after the catch allowed him to post a 15.6 avg. during his Bucs career. Carrier sat atop the record books until Evans came along.
Reynolds Take: “Carrier played on some really bad Bucs teams under Ray Perkins and Richard Williamson. He also played with Vinny Testaverde, who was just as good at throwing interceptions as he was touchdowns. Those drive-killing picks not only cost the Bucs games, they limited the number of targets Carrier could have gotten. In time, another Buccaneer will replace Carrier on the Top 25 list – perhaps Chris Godwin. But for now he deserves recognition as one of the more talented offensive weapons and a standout route runner.”
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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