For the latest edition, Conor Philpott looks into the Buccaneers past, and see who could get enshrined in Canton, the home of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Technically, there are 3 Buccaneers in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. Only 1 spent more than two seasons on the team, and only one will be remembered as a Buccaneer. That man is Lee Roy Selmon. The very first Buccaneer, Selmon was picked 1st Overall by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers ,an expansion team at the time. The Buccaneers were a terrible team during Selmon’s early years, they lost their first 26 games as a Franchise. Selmon was recognised by his team mates as their rookie of the year but as the Buccaneers were the laughing stock of the NFL, Selmon would have to wait until 1979 to gain accolades in the NFL on a National level. Selmon was awarded the NFL Defensive Player of the Year, as the Buccaneers reached the NFC Championship game. Selmon wasn’t the only good player on that team, but he was the lynchpin of that defence, that ranked number one overall.
Injuries hurt the team in 1980 but they reached the playoffs again in 1981, but the Dallas Cowboy blew them out 38-0. Selmon was a Pro Bowl selection both years and was First team All-Pro in 1980. (All-Pro Selections are made by the Associated Press, the best players in each position are picked, two are named at running back, defensive end/tackle, wide receiver, offensive tackle/guard, middle/outside linebacker, cornerback and safety. Other media outlets used to do them in the past, but the AP one is the most recognised).
When star Quarterback Doug Williams left the Buccaneers over a contract dispute, in 1983, the Buccaneers began their run of 13 straight losing seasons. Selmon still performed at a consistent high level, gaining two more Pro Bowl Selections and First and Second team All-NFC selections. The Bucs’ futility was blamed largely on owner Hugh Culverhouse, who spent little money on the team and this resulted in the loss of several decent players. Selmon had carved out a decent career for himself in Tampa Bay, he earned a spot on the 1980s All-Decade NFL team. In 1995, 11 years after his retirement, and 6 seasons after he was first eligible. His number was retired by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and after his premature death last year, the Buccaneers had decal on their helmet with “63″ the number Selmon wore during his time in Tampa.
The other two Hall of Famers earned their credentials largely outside of Tampa. Steve Young spent two seasons in the “Creamsicle” uniforms in Tampa. He had a poor enough time in Tampa, although he was surrounded by a pretty weak supporting cast of players. San Francisco 49ers coach Bill Walsh saw enough in Young to trade 2nd and 4th round draft picks for him. After three years as Montana’s backup, Young got the staring role. He went onto win three Super Bowls with the 49ers as well as several MVP awards, for his play in the regular season. He also got numerous Pro Bowl and All-Pro Honours.
Randall McDaniel spent his final two seasons in Tampa, but he was certainly winding down his career during his time there. McDaniel earned 12 consecutive Pro Bowl selections, 1 during his time in Tampa, 11 with the Minnesota Vikings. He had 9 First team All-Pro Selections and one Second team All-Pro. He earned a spot on the 1990 All Decade NFL team and got into Canton in 2009.
So, there has only really been one player in the Hall of Fame who earned their stripes as a footballer in Tampa Bay, but there are several candidates who could follow in Lee Roy Selmon’s famous footsteps. Here they are:
Derrick Brooks: Brooks is probably the only sure fire certainty to get in as soon as he is eligible. He is arguably the greatest Buccaneer ever and is certainly worthy of being discussed in the top 20, maybe even in the top 10 Linebackers of all time. When he was drafted in 1995, he was deemed to be undersized, he was very quick however and he was a perfect man to build the promising young Tampa Bay Buccaneer defence on. It included John Lynch and Warren Sapp, drafted in the same year as Brooks. Defensive co-ordinator Monte Kiffin and head coach Tony Dungy implemented this defence known as the “Tampa 2″. While it had origins going back from the “Steel Curtain” days of the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 1970s, the scheme grew in popularity after it was used by the Buccaneers. The scheme places an emphasis on speed and good tackling. So Brooks was undersized but there was no doubting his tackling ability and his speed. Brooks was the weakside linebacker and the Tampa 2 tends to direct traffic their way in the running game. Brooks always put up decent tackle stats and Lance Briggs of the Chicago Bears, who now implement the scheme also has good numbers. Brooks honours and awards are numerous, here are some:
6x First Team All-Pro
3x Second Team All- Pro
9x First Team All-NFC
11x Pro Bowl
NFL Defensive Player of the Year
Super Bowl Champion
Brooks was also noted for his charity work and his work in the community winning several awards like the Walter Payton Man of the Year, Byron “Whizzer” White Man of the Year and the Bart Starr Man of the Year awards. Brooks is a sure fire candidate to go to Canton and could well do so in his first year of eligibility which I believe is 2015 as Brooks retired in August of 2010.
Warren Sapp: The “QbKilla” as he has been dubbed was drafted in the same class as Derrick Brooks (1995). Sapp wasn’t undersized for his position like Brooks but he too had incredible speed, particularly for his position. The defensive tackle was part of a huge rebirth in Tampa led by Tony Dungy and players like Sapp, Brooks and John Lynch. He was part of the revolutions that, as he put it led “the Yucs to become the Bucs”. In many ways, Sapp was the first “three technique” defensive tackle, he lined up between the offensive guard and tackle. Sapp’s 96.5 sacks are ranked 34th all time. But since Sapp is a defensive tackle and most sacks are made by Defensive ends or outside Linebackers, it makes Sapp’s numbers even more impressive. He didn’t spend all his time in Tampa, he was with the Oakland Raiders for his final 4 years. However his best days were in Tampa and he gained all his Pro Bowl (7), First Team Al-Pro (4) and Second Team All-Pro (3) accolades while there. He was also the NFL Defensive player of the year in 1999, and was on the 1990 and 2000 All Decade NFL teams.
He may not make it in his first year of eligibility which is 2013, Sapp was probably as controversial as he was talented but I think he can expect the call from Canton one day.
John Lynch: Lynch was a talented baseball player, who was drafted by the Florida Marlins (now Miami Marlins), however he opted for a career in football with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Lynch was known for his extreme physicality (which led to him being named the tenth most feared tackler of all time in an NFL Network production). During his ten year stay with the Buccaneers, he garnered 5 Pro Bowl Selections, 4 All Pro Selections and NFL Defensive Back of the Year award in 2000. He also spent time in Denver with the Broncos gaining four more Pro Bowl Berths. He too played a key role in the Tampa 2 defence. In a Tampa 2 the safeties are expected to cover their respective halves of the field from 20 yards out or more. Both safeties have to be decent in pass coverage with the ability to break up passes. The Free Safety and Strong safety both had separate specific skills required too. The strong safety was expected to be a hard hitter, more so than be a solid tackler. The Strong Safety protects the field from being exploited by quick receivers who may be operating in the slot or who could be running a post route, or a running back who runs a wheel route.
Lynch is going to find it very tough to get into the Hall of Fame however. There are only 9 safeties in the Hall of Fame right now. Ronnie Lott and Rod Woodson began their careers as cornerbacks before the change of position, so not every inductee played their full career at safety. That’s why Lynch may struggle to get in. He is also competing with several safeties who retired over the last season or two, like Rod Harrison and Brian Dawkins. While he is certainly a Buccaneers legend, I don’t know if he will make it into Canton.
Ronde Barber is another who might make it one day, but I plan to write about him and his recent position change in the next segment.