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Gerald McCoy is leaving the Bucs. What’s his legacy in Tampa Bay?

Last summer McCoy said we’d miss him when he’s gone. Now that he is, here’s a look at his legacy.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive tackle Gerald McCoy (93) looks up toward fans after saying a prayer on the field before the final game of the season. (BRONTE WITTPENN | Times)
Published May 20
Updated May 20

The Bucs released Gerald McCoy Monday, ending speculation about the defensive end’s future with the only team he’s ever played for and possibly giving him a chance to star somewhere else. What does McCoy leave in his wake after nine years as Tampa Bay’s best defensive player? We asked members of the Times’ Bucs coverage team..

A legacy of philanthropy

Eduardo A. Encina, Bucs/pro sports enterprise writer, @EddieintheYard: Despite the six Pro Bowls, McCoy will likely never receive the proper kudos simply because he never played for a team in the postseason spotlight. But in Tampa Bay, he should be remembered for all the community work he did off the field. You’d have a hard time finding a local athlete who has done more over the past decade. McCoy would likely want that to be his lasting legacy. And while he might not be the player he was, his philanthropic work was reaching its peak. McCoy told me in December that he’d continue that work in Tampa Bay no matter where he played in 2019, but it’s difficult to be as active when you’re not around throughout the season.

Underappreciated

Thomas Bassinger, sports data reporter, @tometrics: It seems odd to suggest that a football player who has earned more than $100 million in his career has been underappreciated, but in McCoy’s case it’s the first word that comes to mind. One of the 10 best Bucs players ever, he had the misfortune of playing in Tampa Bay during one of the worst stretches in team history (seven last-place finishes in his nine seasons). He held up his end of the bargain, earning All-Pro recognition in 2013 as well as six straight Pro Bowl nods from 2012 to 2017. The organization, however, did not. Five head coaches in a decade — that’s the telltale sign of a team utterly lacking in vision and direction. It’s a shame it never built a playoff-worthy roster while McCoy was here.

It really wasn’t his fault

Martin Fennelly, columnist @mjfennelly: No, he was not Warren Sapp. I’m not even sure he changed games or made everyone around him that much better. So, it was natural that he became a target of cost-cutting and master of disaster Jason Licht’s master plan. But remember McCoy for what he brought to the field as well as what he brought to the community. The latter might be a tougher void. Jameis Winston can’t fill it. I don’t know who can. We’ll see McCoy in the Bucs Ring of Honor one day, and it will be a good day.

If the Bucs had to do it over again ...

John Romano, columnist @romano_tbtimes: Go back to the 2010 draft. The Bucs were clearly in need of an interior defensive lineman and Ndamukong Suh and Gerald McCoy were both considered high-end prospects. As it turns out, the Bucs did not have to choose between the two. Suh was drafted No. 2 overall by the Lions, and McCoy went No.3 to Tampa Bay. Their careers have been fairly similar (56 sacks and five Pro Bowls for Suh, 54.5 sacks and six Pro Bowls for McCoy) although Suh is probably considered the superior player. But if we had a do-over, I’m betting most fans in Tampa Bay would choose McCoy again. His numbers may not have been eye-popping, but his impact in the community made him a far more valuable commodity than Suh. That’s a legacy.

Excellence wrapped in an enigma

Ernest Hooper, columnist/assistant sports editor, @hoop4you: We should be celebrating McCoy’s legacy of selfless service and super effort. Yet, somehow, his years of high performance will be shrouded in criticism. It’s a mystery why his tenure never ended up as a term of true endearment to fans. Despite his noble works on and off the field, he too often got vilified, much like one of comic book heroes, Batman. In the end, I’m not sure the community ever got to see McCoy as the man he was. Gerald, we hardly knew ya. But we should have.

Count him among the Bucs’ all-time greats

Frank Pastor, digital sports editor, @frankpastor66: McCoy is among the most dominant, if underappreciated, interior linemen of his generation, a player opposing teams regularly have to gameplan for. He has been unfairly knocked for not being mean enough. Well, neither was Lee Roy Selmon, and he’s in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The difference, of course, is that Selmon played on a team that came within a win of going to the Super Bowl in 1980, while the Bucs have had just two winning seasons among the nine since they drafted McCoy third overall in 2010. McCoy, too, could be his own worst enemy at times, coming off as oversensitive in tweets or public comments. So, if you want to criticize him for his unnecessarily cryptic posts or question his ability to make those around him better, then have at it. But his play on the field speaks for itself.

Godspeed, Gerald

Mike Sherman, sports editor, @mikesherman: Players as good as Gerald McCoy are hard to find, so good luck, Bucs. Professional athletes who give as much to a community are even more rare. It’s a shame for everyone involved that McCoy never made the playoffs here. The bigger shame for Tampa Bay will be when he signs elsewhere and reaches the postseason.


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