Wed, 15 Jul 2020

The Top Buccaneer in Every Jersey: 11-20

Buccaneers
30 May 2020, 19:26 GMT+10

Tampa Bay Buccaneers Our run through every jersey number from 1-99 hits a couple snags in the teens but also includes a couple of very easy choices at, say, 13 and 20

Tom Brady's unparalleled accomplishments over 20 seasons in New England made his name essentially synonymous with his Patriots jersey number, to the point that everyone instantly understands what "TB12" refers to. Brady will wear the same number now that he's a Buccaneer, so he'll soon be the most famous number 12 in that franchise's history, too.

Brady might one day be the most accomplished number 12 in a Buccaneers uniform, too, but until he's had a chance to play that honor still belongs to another man in franchise history. Who? Read on.

Chris Godwin had been one of the more prominent 12s in team history for his accomplishments from 2017-19, but he voluntarily gave up that number to Brady. Now that he's a 14, who will Godwin be chasing for the top spot on that list? Again, read on.

Read part one of The Top Buccaneer in Every Jersey: 1-10.

We're running down the list from 1 to 99 to identify the top player in Buccaneers history in each jersey number, and today we're on our second set, from 11 to 20. To repeat our criteria from the first set of 10, we are only going to consider what a player has done in that number as a Buccaneer. And, if a player wore more than one number during his Tampa Bay tenure his argument for any of those numbers include only what he did while wearing each one.

Some of these choices are inevitably going to be tougher than others, either due to too many good candidates or too few solid choices, so we're also noting the "level of difficulty" of each choice. Now that we're out of the teens we'll finally get to talk about players other than quarterbacks, receivers, punters and kickers.

11: WR Adam Humphries

This is the one and only time we're going to bend our rules a little bit, or at least tie ourselves in a knot making it fit. Humphries wore 11 in 2015-16 before switching to 10 for the next two seasons to accommodate DeSean Jackson. And if you put Humphries' numbers in the 11 jersey up against Jackson's, the latter comes out ahead. Humphries had 82 catches for 882 yards and three touchdowns in 2015-16 while Jackson had 91 for 1,442 and seven the next two years. However, we feel like Humphries should get credit for giving up 11 and know he would be the runaway winner here otherwise. Plus, Humphries added a lot of value as a punt returner during his two years as number 11, so that closes the gap quite a bit. And if it seems like we're working hard to make a righteous choice between these two and just these two, that's because we are. Here is every other number 11 in team history: Steve Spurrier, Jerry Golsteyn, Mike Hold (1987 replacement player), Mike Shula, Kerwin Bell, Casey Weldon, Rob Johnson, Bill Schroeder, Mark Jones, Josh Johnson, Tiquan Underwood, Trindon Holliday, Solomon Patton and Blaine Gabbert.

Level of Difficulty: 7.

All of that explanation means this wasn't easy, and we don't feel good about hedging a bit on our rules.

12: QB Doug Williams

Williams and Trent Dilfer both wore 12 and they actually finished with very similar career numbers as Buccaneers. They also both won exactly one playoff game. They also both had exactly .500 records as starters in the regular season. But Williams is in the Buccaneers' Ring of Honor, which seems like a perfectly appropriate tie-breaker. One more note: Chris Godwin had a non-zero chance of overtaking both of them if he had not switched to 14 earlier this offseason to allow Tom Brady to remain TB12. And, of course, as soon as Brady steps on the field for the Buccaneers he'll be the most accomplished number 12 in team history...but he'd have to then make that number his own with a new franchise.

Level of Difficulty: 2.

Ring of Honor inductions make for pretty easy tie-breakers.

13: WR Mike Evans

This is a blowout of epic proportions. This is Secretariat-level domination. Evans would have been the easy choice after his first season as a Buccaneer. After six years, Evans is easily the top receiver in franchise history in every category, and his only competition in number 13 is a quartet of short-term quarterbacks (Larry Lawrence, Mark Vlasic, Scott Milanovich and Tim Rattay) and a punter (Ray Criswell).

Level of Difficulty: 1.

It doesn't get any easier than this.

14: QB Brad Johnson

This is an extremely quarterback number. When the Buccaneers activated former cornerback John Franklin at the very end of last season and gave him 14 because they were going to put him on offense, he became the first non-QB ever to wear 14 in a game for the Buccaneers. History! Anyway, this one comes down to Johnson vs. Vinny Testaverde, and while Testaverde had more yards and touchdowns (though not by as much as you would think), Johnson has that Super Bowl ring as a very effective counterargument. Johnson also has far superior numbers in all the non-counting statistical categories.

Level of Difficulty: 3.

It really wasn't that hard to choose "The Bull" over Testaverde, but we wanted to give the latter some credit, too. And Ryan Fitzpatrick had a "Fitzmagic" heat check but it's not enough to put him above the only Super Bowl-winning quarterback in team history.

15: QB Mike Rae

Mike Rae started five games for the Buccaneers in 1978, won one of them and had five touchdown passes and nine interceptions over two years in Tampa. And he's really the only choice. Eric Zeier got exactly one start in 1999 and lost it, getting hurt in the process. Otherwise we're talking about a couple quarterbacks who never saw the field and a handful of cup-of-coffee receivers. Mike Rae it is.

Level of Difficulty: 2.

It wasn't a tough decision, but it was an act of will not to say "pass."

16: P Tom Blanchard

If the NFL had allowed receivers to wear numbers in the 10-19 range prior to 2004, this would probably be a more interesting decision. As it is, we're in a bit of a dead zone in our countdown. The history of 16 for the Buccaneers is essentially as empty as 15. Freddie Martino is the most recognizable of three receivers to wear it and quarterback Blair Kiel got into 10 games without throwing a pass in 1984. So it's Blanchard by default, since he was the team's punter for two seasons and part of a third, and the first Buc to punt in a playoff game.

Level of Difficulty: 1.

17: QB Steve DeBerg

DeBerg played six seasons in Tampa over two different stints (1984-87 and 1992-93) and while he didn't get to be on any particularly good Bucs teams he did make 37 starts and he ranks as the seventh-leading passer in team history. That's easily enough to take the number 17 slot over Chris Chandler, Arrelious Been and a couple other short-term receivers. (In Justin Watson's case, that's short term so far.) Micheal Spurlock did have one unforgettable moment in the 17 jersey when he recorded the first kickoff return for a touchdown in franchise history in 2007. Spurlock later had another kickoff return for a score when he returned to the team in 2009, and that might have been enough to win this slot if he hadn't worn 81 during that second stint in Tampa. Anyway, DeBerg can counter that with his performance in the 1987 season opener when he became the first Bucs quarterback to throw five touchdown passes in a game.

Level of Difficulty: 3.

Some still might favor Spurlock because of that image of him streaking down the field in number 17 against Atlanta, breaking a 32-year franchise drought.

18: WR Sammie Stroughter

There really isn't a no-doubt option here. (You hear that Tyler Johnson? That's the sound of opportunity.) Parnell Dickinson is the only quarterback on the list and he made just one start in 1976. The rest are all receivers, and none played more than 33 games as a Buccaneer. That total belongs to Stroughter, who also leads the group with 60 catches for 639 yards, scoring one touchdown. If it was close, Stroughter would get the tiebreaker with his two kickoff return touchdowns.

Level of Difficulty: 2.

It wasn't really close but Louis Murphy deserves a shout-out, at least.

19: WR Keyshawn Johnson

There are three receivers here with good credentials, and the other two - Mike Williams and Ike Hilliard - would have been fine choices if Johnson wasn't on the list. Johnson famously made an effort to get number 19 with the New York Jets at a time when receivers weren't allowed to have jerseys in the teens unless there were no 80 numbers available. His goal was to make a unique mark on the league because he considered himself one-of-a-kind. He was allowed to keep the number after being traded to the Buccaneers, and over the next four years caught 298 passes for 3,828 yards and 17 touchdowns, with 11 100-yard games. That's more in every category except touchdowns than Williams (215-2,947-25-4) and in every category than Hilliard (178-1,767-8-1). He's also the only Buccaneer ever to catch 100 or more passes in a single season. Oh, and Key has a Super Bowl ring.

Level of Difficulty: 4.

It really wasn't that hard to see that Johnson had the best argument here, but Williams and Hilliard were pretty prominent 19s as well.

20: Ronde Barber

We probably don't have to convince anyone on this selection, but for the record: Barber is the franchise's all-time leader in games played (241), games started (232), interceptions (47) and non-offensive touchdowns (14). He's the only player in league history with 40-plus interceptions and 25-plus sacks. He's even second in team history in tackles (1,428) and eighth in sacks (28.0). He helped the team win a championship and field one of the best defenses in NFL history. He's been a Hall of Fame semi-finalist in each of his first two years of eligibility. You might also vaguely remember a certain pick-six that shut down a certain stadium in Philadelphia.

Level of Difficulty: 1.

Only because zero isn't an option. To make it even easier, the only other really prominent number-20 Buccaneer before Barber was Neal Colzie.

**

Well, this group of 10 started out difficult but got a lot easier at the end! Come back next Tuesday for numbers 21-30. The first two sets of 10 have been relatively easy but things get a lot tougher in the middle of the 20s.

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