My last Franchise 9 post featured the defending Super Bowl and current AFC Champs, the Kansas City Chiefs. Now we are just a couple of days before the 55th Super Bowl, let's take a look at the best players the Chiefs' opponents can provide. Here are the nine best players in the history of reigning NFC Champion, Tampa Bay.
1. James Wilder, RB (1988 Topps)
2. Lee Roy Selmon, DE (1984 Topps)
Lee Roy Selmon was the first pick ever made by the expansion Buccaneers. He made them look good. After just their fourth season in the league, the Baby Bucs made it to the NFC Championship game in 1979 before losing to the Rams. Selmon was a big part of that, starring as the only All-Pro (or even Pro Bowler) on that squad. He made five other Pro Bowls and was named to the NFL's All-Decade Team for the 1980s before being inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1995. He was the first Buccaneer in Canton.
3. Gerald McCoy, DT (2016 Panini Shining Armor)Gerald McCoy spent nine seasons in Tampa Bay. He made the Pro Bowl in six of those seasons, establishing himself as one of the game's top defensive linemen of the past decade. He is currently third on the franchise's all-time sack list with 54.5. He ranks #9 in team history in AV.
4. Simeon Rice, DE (2006 Upper Deck 10-Sack Club)
Simeon Rice is second for the club with 69.5 sacks. While playing for the Buccaneers, he made two Pro Bowls and one 1st-Team All-Pro. He's probably the best edge rusher the team has ever had.
5. Warren Sapp, DT (1997 Collector's Choice Turf Champions)Warren Sapp was a gift for the Buccaneers back in the 1995 NFL Draft. Though he was considered by many to be the most talented player in the draft, character concerns caused a few teams to shy away from drafting him. After he slid to the 12th pick in the first round, Tampa Bay decided he was worth the risk and selected him. Boy, were they right! Sapp rewarded them with seven Pro Bowls and four 1st-Team All-Pro nominations. He recorded more sacks for the team than anyone else in history and earned his way onto two All-Decade teams, despite his career span giving him only five years in each of those two decades. He became the second Buccaneer in the Hall of Fame.
6. Derrick Brooks, LB (2000 Topps)I'm not sure there has ever been as successful a draft as the Bucs had in 1995. After stealing Sapp with the 12th overall pick, they traded back into the first round and chose Derrick Brooks with the 28th pick. All the two of them did was become the two best players in franchise history. Brooks played his entire career with the Buccaneers. He was a 1st-Team All-Pro five times and Pro Bowler 11 times in 14 seasons. He is the Bucs all-time leader in tackles and forced fumbles and is fourth in interceptions with 25 from his linebacker position. He received a bust in Canton in 2014, his first year of eligibility.
7. Hardy Nickerson, LB (1995 Flair)
While Brooks and Sapp were the studs on the Buccaneers' defense from the mid-90s on, Hardy Nickerson already had the defense going in the right direction when those two arrived. Nickerson was just hitting his prime when he left Pittsburgh for sunny Tampa Bay, and he made an immediate impact. In 1993, his first season with the Bucs, Nickerson recorded an eye-popping 214 tackles. He was a tackling machine, becoming the then-team leader (still fourth in history) despite playing only seven seasons with the team. He received a pair of All-Pro nods en route to his spot on the 1990s All-Decade Team.
8. Ronde Barber, CB (2003 Flair)
9. John Lynch, S (1997 Pacific Invincible Smash-Mouth)
John Lynch was a feared hard-hitter in his playing days. During his stint in Tampa Bay, Lynch played 11 years, making five Pro Bowls and four All-Pro teams. Like his former secondary mate, Ronde Barber, Lynch has also been a HOF finalist in recent years. His playing career may have fallen just a little bit short of that accolade, but combined with his success as GM for the 49ers, he may have enough to put him in Canton one day.
It's easy to see which side of the ball the Buccaneers have ridden to success. Eight of the nine players listed here are defenders. Moreover, for a stint from 1997-1999, five of these defenders (Sapp, Brooks, Nickerson, Barber, and Lynch) played together. In short, Tampa Bay had five of the best nine players in team history not only on the roster at once, but on the field at the same time, in one unit. It's not hard to see how the team was able to win a Super Bowl in the early 2000s with nary a memorable offensive player on the team. Now that the team is back in the Super Bowl, but it's the offensive firepower that is the heart of the team. I can already tell you changes that will happen to this list in the next year, barring any unforeseen calamities: Mike Evans and Lavonte David will join, most likely bumping off James Wilder and Gerald McCoy/Simeon Rice. David nearly made the cut already, and one more year should make him too much to ignore anymore. Right now, he and his teammates have bigger concerns. Like trying to take down the Chiefs on Sunday and bring home his first ring.
Some notes on this series:
- This includes Super Bowl Era players only.
- The "nine" in Franchise 9 is to fill a page in a binder. There is no intent to fill a roster or even a starting lineup.
- A player can represent multiple teams.
- I tried to find a balance between steady producers with longevity and explosive players with shorter careers. Time with the team does count for something, as does impact with the team.
- For a link to Franchise 9 lists that I have already posted, click here.
- This is all subjective, so I'd love to hear whom you would choose!