TAMPA — It grows more difficult as you reach for the top.
The final installment of our four-part 100 greatest Bucs players of all time list meant picking among the best of the best. We consulted long-time fans, folks who have covered the team past and present and then factored in career statistics, playoff appearances, Pro Bowl nominations and that unqualified “it factor” that some possess and others don’t.
We’ll stand by these choices, but only a razor’s margin separates most in the Top 10, and especially the top three. Look at the trio: Lee Roy Selmon was a consummate pro and the Bucs’ first true superstar; Derrick Brooks created his own brand of leadership on and off the field; Warren Sapp displayed uncanny athletic ability and ferocious determination.
Take a look on how we settled the list, and tell us who you would have picked.
25. Kevin House (1980-1986)
House averaged more per catch (17.2 yards) than any other Bucs career receiving leader. He also scored 31 touchdowns. House was on the receiving end of four plays that rank among the longest in team history.
24. Richard “Batman” Wood (1976-1984)
The linebacker was an integral part of the 1979 NFC Championship team. Averaged 136 tackles per season as a starter.
23. Vincent Jackson (2012-2016)
He’s the Vincent Jackson that actually agreed to play for the Bucs, and in five seasons he became the team’s fourth all-time leading receiver with 4,326 yards and 20 TDs.
22. Shelton Quarles (1997-2006)
Ranks sixth on the team’s all-time tackles list, and eventually solidified the middle linebacker spot after Nickerson left. Quarles now works for the Bucs as the director of football operations
21. Donnie Abraham (1996-2001)
Ranks second on the Bucs career list for interceptions. Abraham led the league in interceptions with seven and in passes defensed with 25 during the 1999 season. He followed that in 2000 with another seven-interception season and a league-high 23 passes defensed. He finished his Bucs career with 31 interceptions and 64 passes defensed
20. Mark Carrier (1987-1992)
Before Mike Evans, he ranked as the Bucs career leader in receiving yards. Carrier had a Pro Bowl season 1989, hauling in 86 receptions for 1,422 yards and nine touchdowns.
19. Dave Pear (1976-1978)
The first Buc to earn a spot in the Pro Bowl, Pear played three seasons in Tampa Bay before moving on to the Raiders where he won a Super Bowl ring.
18. Warrick Dunn (1997-2001, 2008)
He’s third in rushing, fourth in receptions on Bucs career lists. Dunn was the lightning to Alstott’s thunder. In his career, he ran for 4,986 yards, caught 306 passes for 2,704 yards and was named to two Pro Bowls.
17. Lavonte David (2012-Present)
David ranks first on the team’s all-time tackles for loss list and only three players rank ahead of him and total tackles: Brooks, Barber and Nickerson.
16. Brad Johnson (1999-2007)
The Super Bowl victory validates Johnson’s spot on the list and it’s only heart and soul that gives Doug Williams an edge as the best quarterback in team history. In 2002, Johnson threw for 22 TDs and completed 62 percent of his passes that season. Johnson earned his 2nd Pro Bowl appearance. He was helped in the Super Bowl by a defense that scored 21 of their 48 points. That year Johnson also became the first Bucs QB to lead the NFC in passer rating at 92.9. He also impressed in his first season with the Bucs in 2001, throwing for 3,406 yards, which was then a team record.
15. Paul Gruber (1988-1999)
Over a 12-year career, he started 183 games at left tackle; a bright spot on bad teams. He proved to be an iron man during his era, and one of his biggest contributions may have been his decision to stay with Tampa Bay and an unproven coach named Tony Dungy in 1996 instead of leaving in free agency. A year later, Gruber was protecting the blindside of Trent Dilfer in a 20-10 playoff victory over Detroit in the last game at old Tampa Stadium.
14. Gerald McCoy (2010-2018)
Third on the Bucs’ all-time sack list with 54½. McCoy is one of five Bucs to have made six Pro Bowls or more. He earned All-Pro recognition in 2013, and his effort is reflected in basic numbers and the undervalued analytics such as quarterback pressures. Once the face of the franchise, McCoy signed with Carolina this season after Tampa Bay released him.
13. Mike Alstott (1996-2006)
He’s second on the Bucs’ all-time rushing list, leads the team in rushing TDs (58) and ranks as the top position player in scoring. Alstott set career club records for touchdowns (71) and Pro Bowl appearances by an offensive player with six. In 12 seasons, he rushed for 5,088 yards, plus caught 305 passes for 2,284 yards and 13 TDs.
12. Hugh Green (1981-1985)
Green was Lawrence Taylor before Lawrence Taylor. The league just didn’t notice because he played on bad teams. Drafted in 1981, he earned All-Pro honors in 1982 and 1983. He recorded five career interceptions and in 1983, he returned two for touchdowns.
11. Simeon Rice (2001-2006)
In six seasons with the Bucs, Rice notched 69.5 sacks, second all time. In the Bucs’ Super Bowl year, he earned All-Pro and Pro Bowl honors with 15½ sacks and an interception. He helped the team win a Super Bowl with two sacks and a fumble recovery. With 122 career sacks, Rice may yet make it to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
10. Hardy Nickerson (1993-1999)
The linebacker proved to be a pivotal leader in helping change the franchise’s culture in Tony Dungy’s first few years. A leader, however, can’t change a culture without backing it up on the field. A five-time Pro Bowl player and two-time All-Pro. Nickerson may have had his best season in 1993 with a stunning 214 tackles.
9. Jimmie Giles (1978-1986)
The eight-year Buc ranks fifth on the franchise’s career receiving list with 4,300 yards. Giles caught a team-high 40 passes for 579 yards and seven touchdown receptions to propel the Bucs to the playoffs in 1979. In 1980, he led the NFL with an average of 18.2 yards per catch and in 1981 he would help the Bucs return to the playoffs with career highs in receptions (45) and yards (786).
8. Mike Evans (2014-present)
After only five seasons, Evans is already the franchise’s leading receiver. He’s currently one of the best receivers in the league and constantly draws double team coverage. With one more 1,000-yard receiving season, only Evans and Randy Moss will have eclipsed that mark in each of their first six years in the NFL.
7. James Wilder Sr. (1981-1989)
Wilder defined the term workhorse. He remains the team’s all-time leader in rushing (5,957 yards) and receptions (430), Wilder carried the ball 407 times in 1984 and averaged 30 touches a game that season.
6. Ronde Barber (1997-2012)
Barber rose from a slow start to become the best cornerback in team history. Barber led the league in interceptions with 10 in 2001. He garnered first-team All-Pro and Pro Bowl honors that season. It was the first of five Pro Bowl selections and three All-Pro selections of his career.
5. Doug Williams (1978-1982)
The quarterback represents the offensive heart and soul of the Bucs’ first successful teams. During his five years as a Buc, Williams ranked seventh in the NFL in passing yards (11,369), 10th in touchdown passes (66) and seventh in lowest interception rate (3.8 percent). He also topped all quarterbacks during that period with 856 rushing yards and tied for the most rushing touchdowns with 12. Yet it’s the leadership he provided that stands out. No other player receives more credit for the Bucs’ worst to first rise in 1979 than Williams.
4. John Lynch (1993-2003)
Nine-time Pro Bowl safety anchored the secondary in the team’s best years. Lynch represented the Buccaneers in five Pro Bowls and earned two First-Team All-Pro selections. After 11 seasons with the Bucs, he stood fifth in team history in games played (164), sixth in starts (132), fifth in tackles (973) and sixth in interceptions (23). Lynch also built a reputation as a “closer,” someone who consistently made plays late in a game to ensure victory.
3. Warren Sapp (1995-2003)
The Bucs’ third Pro Football Hall of Famer, Sapp proved to be the league’s dominant defensive tackle. He’s the franchise’s all-time sacks leader (77) and one of the cornerstones of the unit that propelled Tampa Bay to its only Super Bowl victory. In 1999, Sapp was named NFL defensive player of the year after amassing 12.5 sacks and leading the Bucs to the NFC title game. In 2000, Sapp set the Bucs’ single-season record with 16.5 QB takedowns.
2. Lee Roy Selmon (1976-1984)
The consummate everyman, Selmon went from being the Bucs’ first draft pick in 1976 to their first Pro Football Hall of Famer in 1995. In 1977 he burst out with 110 tackles, five forced fumbles and a career-best 13 sacks. He made the first of his six Pro Bowls in 1979 after leading the Bucs to the NFC Championship Game in just the fourth year of the franchise’s existence. Selmon was also named the NFL defensive player of the year in 1979. Selmon holds the career sack mark at 78.5.
1. Derrick Brooks (1995-2008)
The first-ballot Pro Football Hall of Famer edges Selmon with an unparalleled statistical record. He’s the Bucs’ career leader in tackles and forced fumbles, ranks fifth in interceptions (as a linebacker) and second in games played. Brooks also exemplified leadership on and off the field. He started every season with a simple goal: make the team. Seriously. He constantly held himself accountable before calling out teammates, and his community work has rightfully earned him multiple accolades, including the prestigious Tampa Metro Civitan Club’s Citizen of the Year Award.
Sources: buccaneers.com, profootballreference.com. Contact Ernest Hooper at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @NFLStroud.