Tue, 14 Jul 2020

The Top Buccaneer in Every Jersey: 1-10

Buccaneers
27 May 2020, 02:26 GMT+10

You know who the greatest Buc ever to wear number 63 was, but what about 83? Or 92? Or 7? We're going to count it down from 1 to 99, beginning with a lot of kickers and QBs in the 1-10 range

Though they haven't had a chance to put on an official jersey yet, all of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' 2020 draftees do already have their jersey numbers. First-round tackle Tristan Wirfs, for instance, will wear jersey number 78, while second-round safety Antoine Winfield, Jr. chose number 31. As we noted at the time of the assignments, several of this year's newcomers are taking over numbers that don't have much history with the Buccaneers, giving them an opportunity to quickly make a name and a number for themselves.

All of which got us to thinking: Who is the top Buccaneer to wear each jersey number, from 1 to 99, in franchise history? That's what we're here to settle, beginning today with numbers 1-10.

A couple notes: We are only going to consider what a player did as a Buccaneer. Steve Young is undoubtedly the best football player ever to wear number 8 for Tampa Bay, but his two seasons with the Bucs were largely forgettable. Were they enough to give him the top spot at that number? Read on to see.

Also, some players wore more than one number during their Buccaneer tenures. For the purpose of this countdown, we're only going to consider what a player did in a specific number. Mark Carrier wore number 89 for 10 games as a rookie before switching to 88 in '88, and if we gave him credit for his entire Tampa Bay tenure at number 89 he'd have a good shot to best Kevin House at that spot. As it is, Carrier, is a top consideration at 88 but not 89.

Finally, we'll point out that some of these choices were a lot easier than others. You don't really have to wait to the 10th installment to know who's going to own number 99. But as you wait for the 80s, try to decide who we should pick at 83, Dave Moore or Vincent Jackson. Yeah, that wasn't fun. So, to give you an idea of the varying levels of angst this caused, we're also going to follow each choice with a rating from 1-10 in terms of the difficulty of the decision, with 10 being the most difficult.

That's it. We start with the first 10 numbers, so prepare yourself for a lot of punters, kickers and quarterbacks.

1: K Donald Igwebuike

Other than a couple of number-one cameos from the likes of Isaac Hagins and Michael Morton, we essentially only have kickers and punters to choose from here. The only quarterback on the list is Joe Hamilton, but only after he had switched to 14. Igwebuike, who is tied for fifth on the Bucs' all-time scoring list, is by far the most accomplished of the Bucs' specialists to done number 1.

Level of Difficulty: 1.

2: QB Chris Simms

This was essentially a two-man battle between Simms and kicker Steve Christie. The other five players on the list were all very short-term kickers. Christie was a very good kicker but his time in Tampa was pretty brief, too; he took an opportunity to depart for Buffalo in "Plan B" free agency in 1992 after making 38 of 47 field goals over two seasons as a Buccaneer. Simms started 15 games plus a playoff contest in 2005, and in the end five seasons of quarterback play is worth more than two kicker seasons.

Level of Difficulty: 3.

Christie was pretty good. Too bad he got away.

3: QB Jameis Winston

Again, we have a lot of kickers to choose from here, including one of the better ones in team history in Matt Bryant. As good as Bryant was - and he had an iconic moment with his 62-yard game-winner against Philadelphia in 2006 - this was a pretty easy choice. After all, Winston is the Buccaneers' all-time leader in pass attempts, completions, passing yards and touchdown passes, and it's not particularly close.

Level of Difficulty: 2.

It was a 1, really, but Bryant would have had this if Winston had chosen another number, and punter Mark Royals was pretty good, too.

4: P/K Dave Green

There are three quarterbacks on this list (Ryan Griffin, Steve Walsh and Pat O'Hara) but they have a combined zero starts and 40 passes for the Buccaneers. This one comes down to Green versus Dan Stryzinski, the Bucs' punter from 1992-94. The two actually have very similar punting numbers as Buccaneers, but Green wins the tiebreaker because he also served as the team's placekicker for almost all of 1976 and parts of the next two seasons.

Level of Difficulty: 2.

I mean, it was relatively close between Green and Stryzinski but we didn't really agonize over this.

5: QB Josh Freeman

With apologies to Michael Husted, the Buccaneers' second all-time leading scorer and their kicker from 1993-98. Again, this comes down to positional value, and while Freeman's Buccaneer career (and shortly thereafter his NFL career) may have ended rather abruptly he is second in touchdown passes in team annals only to Winston. He's also third in passing yards, and he was the starting quarterback for the last Buccaneers team to win 10 games. He was also the first Buccaneer to have a 4,000-yard passing season and he held the single-season touchdown record, too, before Winston came along.

Level of Difficulty: 5.

It felt a little unfair not to pick the second-leading scorer in team history but - spoiler alert - the man ahead of Husted on that list didn't win his number either.

6: Neil O'Donoghue

Husted doesn't get 5 but a kicker who ranks 25th in scoring in team history gets to claim 6? That's the value in picking a number that's apparently unpopular among quarterbacks. The only Buccaneer passer ever to wear this number was Dan Orlovsky, who got into a whopping three games for the franchise. Other than Jay Taylor's five-game run as the Bucs' kicker in 2004, the only other number 6 for the Bucs is Tommy Barnhardt. Barnhardt had a good run for three years as the team's punter but O'Donoghue wins this based on his game-winner in a torrential downpour to beat Kansas City, 3-0, and clinch the 1979 NFC Central title.

Level of Difficulty: 3.

Again, this wasn't much of a hand-wringer even if O'Donoghue and Barnhardt were pretty equal in their accomplishments as Bucs.

7: QB Jeff Garcia

Martin Gramatica, the team's all-time leading scorer, switched to 10 late in his Buccaneer tenure but he did most of his damage as number 7. This was a much more difficult choice than our other kicker-QB showdowns, but it comes down to this: Garcia was quite good as a Buccaneer. He started 24 games over his two seasons with the team and went 14-10, giving him the second-best winning percentage as a quarterback in team history. His 92.2 passer rating as a Buccaneer is the best for any QB in team annals with at least 500 attempts; no one else even cracked 90. Oh, and Garcia is the last Buccaneer quarterback to start a playoff game.

Level of Difficulty: 8.

There are some more difficult choices coming down the road in this series, including a couple we frankly don't want to make. Garcia's value as a quarterback swung this, but it was really close because he only played two seasons in Tampa and Gramatica had some big moments during his tenure.

8: QB Brian Griese

The quarterbacks outnumber the kickers and punters here, but there are no slam-dunk options in either category. Griese edges out Steve Young and Mike Glennon simply because his numbers are easily the best of the three, particularly in terms of wins and losses. All three started between 18 and 21 games as Buccaneers, but while Griese went 12-9 Glennon had a 5-13 mark and Young was 3-16. Griese's 85.5 passer rating is also the best of the three and his 65.6% completion rate is the best in team history.

Level of Difficulty: 3.

It's hard not to pick Young but remember the rules: We're only considering what they did as Buccaneers.

9: P Josh Bidwell

Bidwell is probably the best punter in franchise history - he's the only one to make a Pro Bowl or earn Associated Press All-Pro honors (second team in 2005) - so it's fortuitous that there are no quarterbacks blocking his way at number 9. Mike Pawlawski had that number in 1992 but never actually got in a game. Tom Tupa was the punter on the Bucs' Super Bowl team and both Michael Koenen and Bryan Anger deserve mention but Bidwell takes this with relative ease.

Level of Difficulty: 2.

10: QB Shaun King

Had Adam Humphries worn 10 during his entire Buccaneers tenure, he might have edged out King here. As it is, it was still very close because Humphries put up about 63% of his four-year Buccaneer production in that jersey after switching to allow DeSean Jackson to wear 11. Still, it's hard not to picture Humphries as 11 still. King is Tampa Bay's all-time leader in winning percentage as a starting quarterback (he won 14 of his 22 starts) and his exciting run at the end of his 1999 rookie season helped the Bucs get to the NFC Championship Game. King only got one more year as a starter but the Bucs made it back to the playoffs and he'll long be remembered for his improvisational big-play in the 2000 shootout win over the Rams.

Level of Difficulty: 8.

Humphries could easily be the pick here, and we haven't even mentioned Connor Barth.

**

And there are the first 10 numbers. Come back Thursday for numbers 11-20. We'll tell you right now that 19 was a lot tougher than 20!

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