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The Answer Man, Series 8, Volume 6

Posted Jul 4, 2012

Topics in this edition include early playoff experience for quarterbacks, big receiver seasons, an unusual jersey designation, and much more


First of all, let me say Happy Fourth of July to all my stateside readers on behalf of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.  I hope you find a fun and relaxing way to spend the day.

 

It’s going to be a nice holiday for the Answer Family, because I had a little extra time to prepare for the barbecue this week.  That’s because, as it turns out, this is going to be one of my shortest introductions ever.  No navel-gazing statistical breakdowns or best-of lists.  I'll be getting to your questions quicker than usual thanks to one Scott Johnson of Sarasota.

 

See, thanks to Scott, what we have here is a challenge, not a mere question.  It is in fact, a challenge presented and a challenge already conquered.  By me, of course.

 

Scott's e-mail came mixed in with the rest of those sent in by Buccaneers fans over the last month or so, and on first glance it appears innocent enough.  Just another Buc-related question in a bushel of similar queries, more fodder for my long-winded ramblings on all things Buccaneer.

 

However, I quickly realized that Scott wasn't looking for me to track down an answer for him, but rather to prove myself against a bit of Buccaneer trivia.  The crucial difference is that Scott already knows the answer, and thinks he's clever.  He thinks he might be able to stump the Answer Man.

 

Oh, is he woefully wrong.  No one has been more wrong since the Chicago Tribune put Dewey in the White House.  I swatted this trivia challenge aside like it was an unwelcome mosquito (as opposed to a welcome one?) at my upcoming barbecue, and I did it all while chewing gum and jumping rope at the same time.  Here, check it out:

 

Scott Johnson of Sarasota, Florida asks:

Hey Answer Man - Do you remember which Buccaneer scored his first NFL TD without a helmet on? Here's a hint: the infamous helmet was removed by John Lynch.

 

Now, obviously, you're going to have to take my word for it that I knew the answer off the top of my unhelmeted head.  For all you know, I could have spent days researching it before this column was posted but, believe me, that wasn't necessary.  I know I've flubbed a question, or part of a question, from time to time over the years, but I've never lied to you.

 

So I can tell you without hesitation that the answer is wide receiver Michael Clayton, during his phenomenal 2004 rookie campaign.  The opponent was Denver, and while I don't remember the exact date, I'm pretty sure it was the fifth game of the season [LATER EDIT – darn it, it was the fourth game].  Clayton caught a deep pass, wide open down the right sideline, but he had to leap to do so and ended up on the ground.  Since he was so alone when he made the catch, Clayton just had time to get his knees off the ground before Lynch arrived to try to tag him down.  Somehow, in the process, Lynch knocked off Clayton’s helmet, and that left the receiver to run the last 15 yards or so into the end zone with a bare head.

 

Now, after writing that, I subsequently went to the team’s video department (those guys are the best) and watched the play again.  Turns out it’s actually Lynch’s knee that knocks off Clayton’s helmet.  Lynch thinks he has arrived in time for a tap-down, but Clayton is getting up and as Lynch runs by his right knee inadvertently hits Clayton in the head.  Lynch runs by in the process and that allows Clayton to finish the score.

 

By the way, this reminds me strongly of a trivia question that I like to throw at people: On his only career carry, John Lynch ran for 40 yards.  Who tackled him to prevent a touchdown?

 

The answer is Joey Galloway, who was still a Seahawk at the time but would later become a Buccaneer, after Lynch had become a Bronco.  Galloway was deep to return a Buccaneer  punt but Tampa Bay faked it and John Lynch took a direct snap, ran up the middle and broke out in the open before Galloway finally brought him down.

 

Of course, that's neither here nor there, but it does kind of tie into the point of this introduction.  I didn't mind getting a little puzzler thrown my way by ol' Sarasota Scott there.  In fact, I'd happily welcome more of the same. So if you have a trivia question that you DO know the answer to but want to know if you can stump me, send it my way and I'll put it in the next intro.  Now, one way or another I'm going to give you the answer, but I'll be honest about whether I knew it off the top of my head or had to look it up.

 

Okay, it wasn’t my shortest intro ever, in terms of words, but it probably took the least amount of time, and my family is going to be happy about that later during the cookout.

 

Now, on to your questions!

 

**

 

1. Julian Jordan of Tampa, Florida asks:

Answer Man, I'm a big fan of what you do and how you do it. I've got quite the question/task for you. I was reading a quote from Vincent Jackson where he said he saw something special in Josh Freeman which is why he came here, besides the financial perk obviously. That quote led me to view Josh's highlights and I found something very interesting. He's a student of the game. And the only person I can compare him to doesn't even play football: Kobe Bryant. 3rd year of careers there were lockouts, both came into the league younger than normal, and when both of them play their movements, expressions, and overall play resemble someone of who played before them. Most know who Kobe models his game after but I was wondering is it possible for you to find out who Josh Freeman models his game after? Kobe was able to experience the playoffs young and enjoy the thrill of the chase. What percentage of young quarterbacks who don't reach the playoffs by their 4th season never do and end up a bust (whether they were starting or not doesn't matter). I hope you see the potential to rant in this one like I do.

 

Answer Man: Wow, that is just a big and fascinating landscape of thought there…a "thoughtscape?"  On one hand, it's kind of all over the place, but on the other hand it may have a concept more thoroughly fleshed out than some of my own overwrought answers.  I'm not sure I can work with all of it, but I thought it was worth putting it out there, and I'll definitely take on the question at the end.

 

(By the way, I just wondered if I had invented the word thoughtscape, so I googled it.  Not even close.  I see an album, a group, a web site, a design program, even a Jonny Quest episode.  Oh, well.)

 

I see two different things here:

 

1. Julian compares Josh Freeman to Kobe Bryant and wonders who Freeman's Michael Jordan is.  That is, if Bryant modeled his game after Jordan (not stated here by Julian, but that's presumably who he is referencing), who has Josh modeled his game after.  The thing is, Julian wants me to ask that of Josh, and while I don't mind doing so, all the players are scattered to the wind this month in their last down time before training camp.  I can ask him when he gets back, but I can't really get that answer for you right now, Julian.  I figured you would be alright with that if I at least addressed issue number…

 

2. Kobe got to the playoffs with the Lakers as a rookie (and just about every year of his career since), had a championship by his fourth season and has proved to be one of the greatest players in NBA history.  It would be unfair to put such expectations on any young player in any sport, but Julian wants to know if that Kobe-esque path of experiencing the postseason early in one's career is essential in the long run.  Let's check that out.

 

It doesn't take the lack of early playoffs to make an NFL quarterback a draft bust, of course.  The likes of Akili Smith and Ryan Leaf flamed out early without anybody ever considering their playoff potential.  The question is, are there examples that are less crash-and-burn that might support Julian's hypothesis.  For the record, I highly doubt we're going to find any hard-core evidence of that, but we'll see.

 

The fact that Julian wants to know which of these quarterbacks were "busts" indicates that we're talking about high draft picks.  I doubt anybody would think a seventh-round pick or an undrafted free agent would be a bust if he didn't make it in the NFL, because expectations weren't high.  Kobe was the 13th pick in his draft; Freeman was the 17th pick in his draft.

 

So let's go with first-rounders, shall we.  I'll chart every first-round quarterback of the last 30 years and see: 1) If he made the playoffs within his first four seasons; 2) If he ever subsequently made the playoffs; and 3) If he is considered a bust, or at least somewhat a bust.  And I'm actually going to do the 30-year period from 1979-2008, because the quarterbacks would have had to be drafted by 2008 to have had four years in the league by now.  To save space in the chart, I'm just going to say "Yes," "No" or "Somewhat" in the column regarding whether or not the player was a bust, then elaborate later underneath the chart.  Remember also that Julian stipulates that the quarterback just has to be on the team when it makes the playoffs, not actually be the starter.  Here's the list, which is 64 quarterbacks long:

 

 

 

 

Playoffs

Playoffs

 

Quarterback

Team

Year

First 4?

Ever?

Bust?

Matt Ryan

ATL

2008

Yes

Yes

No

Joe Flacco

BAL

2008

Yes

Yes

No

JaMarcus Russell

OAK

2007

No

No

Yes

Brady Quinn

CLE

2007

No

Yes

Yes

Vince Young

TEN

2006

Yes

Yes

Somewhat

Matt Leinart

AZ

2006

Yes

Yes

Yes

Jay Cutler

DEN

2006

Yes

Yes

No

Alex Smith

SF

2005

No

No

No

Aaron Rodgers

GB

2005

Yes

Yes

No

Jason Campbell

WAS

2005

Yes

Yes

Somewhat

Eli Manning *

NYG

2004

Yes

Yes

No

Philip Rivers *

SD

2004

Yes

Yes

No

Ben Roethlisberger

PIT

2004

Yes

Yes

No

J.P. Losman

BUF

2004

No

No

Yes

Carson Palmer

CIN

2003

Yes

Yes

No

Byron Leftwich

JAX

2003

Yes

Yes

Somewhat

Kyle Boller

BAL

2003

Yes

Yes

Somewhat

Rex Grossman

CHI

2003

Yes

Yes

Somewhat

David Carr

HOU

2002

No

No

Somewhat

Joey Harrington

DET

2002

No

No

Yes

Patrick Ramsey

WAS

2002

Yes

Yes

Yes

Michael Vick

ATL

2001

Yes

Yes

No

Chad Pennington

NYJ

2000

Yes

Yes

No

Tim Couch

CLE

1999

Yes

Yes

Yes

Donovan McNabb

PHI

1999

Yes

Yes

No

Akili Smith

CIN

1999

No

No

Yes

Daunte Culpepper

MIN

1999

Yes

Yes

No

Cade McNown

CHI

1999

Yes

Yes

Yes

Peyton Manning

IND

1998

Yes

Yes

No

Ryan Leaf

SD

1998

No

No

Yes

Jim Druckenmiller

SF

1997

Yes

Yes

Yes

Steve McNair

HOU

1995

No

Yes

No

Kerry Collins

CAR

1995

Yes

Yes

No

Heath Shuler

WAS

1994

No

No

Yes

Trent Dilfer

TB

1994

Yes

Yes

No

Drew Bledsoe

NE

1993

Yes

Yes

No

Rick Mirer

SEA

1993

No

No

Yes

David Klingler

CIN

1992

No

No

Yes

Tommy Maddox

DEN

1992

Yes

Yes

Somewhat

Dan McGwire

SEA

1991

No

No

Yes

Todd Marinovich

OAK*

1991

Yes

Yes

Yes

Jeff George

IND

1990

No

No

No

Andre Ware

DET

1990

Yes

Yes

Yes

Troy Aikman

DAL

1989

Yes

Yes

No

Vinny Testaverde

TB

1987

No

No

No

Kelly Stouffer *

STL

1987

Yes

Yes

Yes

Chris Miller

ATL

1987

No

Yes

No

Jim Harbaugh

CHI

1987

Yes

Yes

No

Jim Everett

LA*

1986

Yes

Yes

No

Chuck Long

DET

1986

No

No

Yes

John Elway *

DEN

1983

Yes

Yes

No

Todd Blackledge

KC

1983

Yes

Yes

Yes

Jim Kelly

BUF

1983

No

Yes

No

Tony Eason

NE

1983

Yes

Yes

No

Ken O'Brien

NYJ

1983

Yes

Yes

No

Dan Marino

MIA

1983

Yes

Yes

No

Art Schlichter

IND

1982

No

No

Yes

Jim McMahon

CHI

1982

Yes

Yes

No

Rich Campbell

GB

1981

Yes

Yes

Yes

Marc Wilson

OAK

1980

Yes

Yes

Somewhat

Mark Malone

PIT

1980

Yes

Yes

Yes

Jack Thompson

CIN

1979

Yes

Yes

Yes

Phil Simms

NYG

1979

Yes

Yes

No

Steve Fuller

KC

1979

No

No

Yes

 

(* Yes, I know that Manning was actually drafted by San Diego and Rivers by the Giants that year before being traded to their current teams, but I thought listing it this way was less confusing.  I made the same decision with Elway and the IND-DEN trade in 1983, and with Everett and the HOU-LA trade in 1986.  I did NOT make that decision with Kelly Stouffer and the St. Louis-Seattle move because Stouffer sat out a whole year in St. Louis before he was traded.  One final note: I know the Raiders were in L.A., not Oakland, when they drafted Marinovich, but I think it was less confusing considering the whole of the chart just to always list the Raiders as OAK.  Don't like that?  Tough.)

 

Alright, before we dive into the analysis of the above data, let me address some of the "Yes," "No" and "Somewhat" designations under the Bust category.  For the most part, I went with what I believe to be the common perception about these players, obviously using the "Somewhat" category to hedge my answers from time to time.  If you don't care and just want to accept all my designations at face value, you can skip the next (rather lengthy) paragraph.

 

A couple notes: It might not be fair yet to call Brady Quinn a bust, as he's still trying to establish himself in the NFL, but judging by what has transpired so far, the label probably sticks.  Alex Smith might have felt like a bust to some people for several years, but he is still the starter in San Francisco and he's coming off a very nice year for both himself and the team.  Gotta go with a "No" there.  The "Somewhat" label might be tiny bit harsh on Jason Campbell, given that he's started 70 NFL games and thrown 74 TDs against 50 INTs, but I don't believe he truly lived up to the Redskins' expectations.  Maybe it's too harsh for Leftwich and Grossman, too.  Leftwich started out pretty strong but lost his grip on the starting job in Jacksonville pretty suddenly and has been a backup since.  Grossman was the starting quarterback in a Super Bowl, but he was plagued by injuries before that and didn't hold onto his job even the next season after the Super Bowl.  David Carr probably started too many games and compiled too many stats to be an out-and-out bust, but the Texans viewed him as the centerpiece around which to build their fledgling franchise, and that never really panned out.  The Answer Man has always had a soft spot for Chad Pennington, so that helps explain the flat-out "No" that he gets despite probably not being a favorite of a lot of Jets fans.  Still, Pennington has a career passer rating of 90.1…did you know that?  Some more controversial ones follow with Jeff George and the Bucs' two entries, Trent Dilfer and Vinny Testaverde.  George is far from a beloved NFL figure, but it just didn't seem right to call a player with 124 starts and more than 27,000 passing yards a bust.  And while neither Testaverde nor Dilfer became that great Buccaneers quarterback Bay area fans have always pined for, Testaverde ranks 7th in NFL history in passing yards while Dilfer started a team-record 70 straight games in Tampa and later won a Super Bowl ring as Baltimore's starter.  Had to go with "Somewhat" on Marc Wilson after reading some opinions of Raider fans online, and Tommy Maddox gets a "Somewhat," too, as he actually earned the NFL's Comeback Player of the Year Award in Pittsburgh.

 

To support Julian's hypothesis, what we should be looking for in this chart of 64 quarterbacks is ones whose last three columns read, "No, No, Yes."  That would mean that the QB did not make the playoffs during his first four years, that he did not subsequently make the playoffs and that he was, in the end, considered a bust.  Out of the 64 players on the list, only 12 of them fall into this category: JaMarcus Russell, J.P. Losman, Joey Harrington, Akili Smith, Ryan Leaf, Heath Shuler, Rick Mirer, Dan McGwire, Chuck Long, Art Schlichter and Steve Fuller.  I think we can also throw David Carr in here as a "No, No, Somewhat (as in somewhat of a bust)."

 

Now, 13 busts out of 64 players isn't a small number.  However, I don't think we're showing any sort of causal link between a postseason-less first four years and going bust.  I say that largely because there are another 13 players on this list who are (arbitrarily) marked as busts that either did make the playoffs in their first four years (example: Tim Couch) or did subsequently make the playoffs (example: Brady Quinn) and are now considered busts anyway.  Remember, Julian, you were the one who said it didn't matter if they were starting or not, just that they had the "playoff-chase" experience, like Kobe did early on.  That's actually the case for a lot of the players in that group of 13, from Matt Leinart to Jim Druckenmiller to, gulp, Todd Marinovich.  There are also five more quarterbacks we can toss into this group that we labeled as "Somewhat" busts, guys like Kyle Boller and Mark Wilson.  Vince Young had great success early but his career has fallen on tough times since.

 

But there is no shortage of examples on the list of quarterbacks who did not make the playoffs in their first four years but went on to good things.  Alex Smith is kind of becoming such an example, though we probably need to see it sustained a while longer.  Steve McNair and Jim Kelly are probably the two best examples on the list if I'm cherry-picking.  You've also got Testaverde, who didn't play in a lot of postseasons or come close to a Super Bowl trophy but did put together a very respectable career.  Chris Miller is a similar example by way of the Falcons and Bears.

 

However, I would agree that the absolute best quarterbacks on this list – Dan Marino, John Elway, Troy Aikman, Peyton Manning and Aaron Rodgers – were all guys who got to experience the playoffs at some point in their first four years.  Rodgers wasn't a starter for that experience, as he backed up Brett Favre for his first three years and didn't make the playoffs as the main man until his fifth season, but the other four players all led their teams to the postseason early.  In addition, there's another large group of players on the list who are/were perhaps not (or not yet) Peyton Manning-level elite but are/were close: Matt Ryan, Eli Manning, Philip Rivers, Ben Roethlisberger, Carson Palmer, Michael Vick, Donovan McNabb, Kerry Collins, Drew Bledsoe, Ken O'Brien and Phil Simms.

 

Your hypothesis might have held up a little stronger, Julian, if you hadn't given me that convenient out about the player not needing to be a starter when his team got into the postseason.  Perhaps you said that because Kobe wasn't really a starter during his first year with the Lakers but he got that postseason experience instead.  But there's a difference between being a non-starter but regular player in basketball and a non-starting quarterback in football.  I'm sure Bryant got a lot more out of taking some very crucial last-second shots in the Lakers' elimination game that year against Utah (and missing them, but still…) than Brady Quinn got out of sitting on the bench during the Broncos' playoff run last year.

 

Look at it this way: There are 42 players on that list who got to experience the postseason with their teams within their first four years in the league.  The subgroup in that 42 that actually were primary starters for playoff teams within their first four years is much more impressive than the subgroup who were on playoff teams but not starting.  The first group includes most of the big names we mentioned above.  The second group consists of Leinart, Rodgers, Patrick Ramsey, Cade McNown, Druckenmiller, Maddox, Marinovich, Andre Ware, Stouffer, Todd Blackledge, Rich Campbell, Wilson, Mark Malone and Jack Thompson.  Rodgers really stands out in that group, doesn't he?

 

Finally, I'm not 100% sure I know the point behind your hypothesis.  Are you saying, Julian, that the experience of fighting for and making it into the postseason (even as a non-starter) in your early years helps make you into a more successful quarterback?  Or are you saying that if a quarterback is really good enough to star in the NFL, he should have led his team to the postseason by at some point in his first four years?

 

Either way, I'd say there's a little bit of evidence to back up your thoughts, but it's not overwhelming.  That's my opinion when looking at the above data.

 

**

 

2. Andrew of Tampa, Florida asks:

Hi Answer Man. This is probably an easy one but has there ever been a Bucs wide receiver to catch at least 100 passes in a season?  And if not, who has the most catches and in what season? Thanks.

 

Answer Man: I think I wrote in a recent column about "mental floss," that being a very easy question to give myself a break and some cleansing moments after finishing a very long and involved answer.  This is one of those.

 

Yes, this is quite easy, Andrew.  I also think it would have been fairly easy to look up, but if everybody started taking that kind of initiative I would be out of a job.  So, here you go: Service with a smile!

 

The only player in team history to record 100 or more catches in a single season is Keyshawn Johnson, who hauled in 106 passes in 2001, his second year with the team after the blockbuster trade that brought him to Tampa during the 2000 offseason.  The Bucs sent two first-round picks to the Jets to get Johnson, who had averaged 76 catches for 1,027 yards and eight touchdowns in four years in New York after being the first overall pick in the 1996 draft.  After a 71-874-8 debut season with the Buccaneers in 2000, with Shaun King as his quarterback, Johnson hooked up with fellow import Brad Johnson on those 106 passes in 2001.

 

That demolished the team's old single-season record of 86, which had stood for a dozen years since Mark Carrier set it in 1989.  Carrier's mark is still the second-best single-season total in Buc annals.  Johnson's yardage total that year did not break the team record; that's still 1,422 in Carrier's big '89 campaign.  Johnson's 1,266 yards in 2001 is third on the list behind Carrier and Joey Galloway's 1,287 yards in 2005.

 

The strange thing about that 106-catch season for Johnson – and it was a major storyline at the time – was that he could catch so many passes yet almost never get in the end zone.  Johnson scored only one touchdown in 2001.  I am in no way saying that makes it a bad season; it was just surprising and probably a little frustrating for him.  After all, he had never caught fewer than five touchdowns in a season before, and he would end his career with an average of 6.5 TDs scored per year.

 

By the way, the most catches ever by a Buccaneer running back in a single season is 85, by James Wilder in his do-everything 1984 campaign; and the most catches by a Buc tight end in a single season is 77 by Kellen Winslow, Jr. in 2009.

 

**

 

3. Connor of Oak Brook, Illinois asks:

Did Derrick Brooks ever wear a jersey that said "D. Brooks" on the back?

 

Answer Man: My gut reaction upon first reading this question was, "Probably."  I thought immediately of running back Reggie Brooks, who was briefly with the team in the 1990s, but I couldn't remember exactly what year, and if it was before or after the arrival of Who's-Your-Favorite-Player-Mr.-Derrick-Brooks in 1995.

 

So I looked it up and found that it was 1996, and my guess was that the team put R. Brooks and D. Brooks on their two jerseys to differentiate between them.  I couldn't dig up any photographic proof of this, however, so I decided to go the direct route and ask Derrick himself.  Fortunately, he was kind enough to reply, telling me that yes, in fact, he did wear D. Brooks on his jersey in 2006 for that very reason.

 

Hopefully this settled a dispute between you and a buddy and you won some money off of it, Connor.

 

**

 

4. Michael Samara of Waldorf, Maryland asks:

Where does the Bucs' defense stand when it comes to how many yards the team gave up in NFL history?

 

Answer Man: Hmm.  I'm trying to figure out what you mean, Michael.  Do you just want to know "where we stand" in terms of what the overall number is?  That's pretty easy, actually: In 36 seasons, the Buccaneers have given up a total of 178,146 yards of offense to the opposition (regular-season games only).  By the way, that is just a little over 101 miles of grass overall, if you wanted to know a meaningless stat!

 

Or are you asking where the Buccaneers stand in comparison to all the other teams in how many overall yards they have allowed through the years.  Including only the 32 current teams, you'll be pleased to hear that Tampa Bay has the fifth-lowest total on the list!  Woo-hoo, we're awesome!

 

Of course, if you look closer at that list you'll see the obvious: Houston is #1, Baltimore is #2, Jacksonville is #3, Carolina is #4, the Bucs are #5 and Seattle is #6 because those are the NFL's six newest teams, in that order, essentially.  It is cool, I guess, that the Bucs are about 13,000 yards better than Seattle on that list, since those two teams came in together and thus the Seahawks are the only true comparable for Tampa Bay.  Dead last on the list is the (now-Arizona) Cardinals, who have been around since 1920 in one incarnation or another, the longest tenure of any team, and have allowed 342,130 total yards.

 

To be (kinda) fair, you could change the list to yards allowed per season, though the problem there is that some seasons had 10 games, some 14, some 16, et cetera.  I guess the fairest way would be to show it as yards per game, so let's do that.

 

On that list, the Buccaneers rank 18th among the current 32 teams, with 315.9 yards allowed per game all-time.  The Chicago Bears lead that ranking, at 251.3 per game, followed by Green Bay (264.0), the Giants (269.0), Arizona (279.5) and Pittsburgh (288.5).  Of course, that list really isn't fair, either, because of the way the game has evolved over the last nine decades.  Obviously, there is a lot more offense in the modern game, and it's only swinging even farther in that direction.  You'll notice that all the teams on the top of the list are the ones that have been around for a long, long time, and had many years in the '30s and '40s to establish a low per-game average that was normal at the time.

 

The fairest way I could think to answer this question and include the Bucs' entire history – which may or may not have been what you were asking for in the first place, Michael – is to restrict it to 1976 and put it on a per-game basis.  With those parameters, the Buccaneers rank eighth.  Here's the top 10:

 

Team

Yds./Game

1. Pittsburgh

292.4

2. Baltimore

296.8

3. Dallas

306.8

4. Philadelphia

308.1

5. Chicago

309.3

6. N.Y. Giants

312.0

7. San Francisco

313.2

8. Tampa Bay

315.9

9. Washington

316.7

10. Buffalo

317.4

 

That’s not bad, huh?  Obviously, the franchise had some down years between 1982 and 1997, and for a good portion of that the defense wasn’t so hot.  Still, the Bucs are known for defense, thanks to the great crew from the early years and the Sapp-Brooks-Lynch-Barber machine that came along in the mid-90s and eventually led to a Super Bowl title.  Really, that’s pretty good company in the top eight, a lot of the teams the Answer Man would naturally think of in terms of long-lasting defensive prowess.

 

I hope somewhere along the way here I’ve hit upon the question (and the answer of course) that you were getting at, Mike.

 

**

 

5. Bryan of Orlando, Florida asks:

When will the Bucs announce their Throwback Game and who will be inducted in the Ring of Honor?

 

Answer Man: This is one of those occasions in which a totally valid questions seems kind of silly, thanks to mailbag timing.  Bryan sent in this question on June 3; on June 6, the Buccaneers announced who would be the next inductee into the Ring of Honor.  At the same time, the team revealed which contest in the fall would be the Throwback Game, although there’s a little bit of a wrinkle this time around in terms of those two events.

 

Each of the past three years, the Bucs inducted a person into the Ring and did it during their Throwback Game, honoring one of the teams of the past in the process.  The players on that team were always teammates of the honoree, which worked out nicely.  All of the previously honored teams were before the switch of uniforms from orange-and-white to red-and-pewter.

 

Here’s the thing: This year the person to be inducted is Paul Gruber, the sublime left tackle who locked down that crucial position for the franchise for 12 years.  It is an excellent choice, in the Answer Man’s opinion, as is the decision to honor the 1997 team during his induction, which will take place on October 14, when the Bucs take on the Kansas City Chiefs at Raymond James Stadium.  Gruber has said that his favorite on-field memory from his career was that 1997 playoff win over Detroit that was the last game played in old Tampa Stadium.  He clearly enjoyed being a key part of that team that began the franchise’s long-awaited turnaround.

 

That team, of course, was the first to wear the new red-and-pewter uniforms.  Therefore, it makes more sense to play the Throwback Game on a different date, and the Bucs will do just that.  The fourth Throwback Game in team history will take place the next weekend, on October 21, when Tampa Bay plays host to division rival New Orleans.

 

**

 

6. Griffin of Orlando, Florida asks:

Hey Answer Man, thanks for answering my last question. This time I want to ask you about the weather. Everyone knows that the Bucs don't do very well when it is below 40 degrees. But how many times have the Bucs actually won in those conditions?

 

Answer Man: You’re welcome, Griffin, but there won’t be many more if you push my buttons with questions like this one.  The Answer Man has never believed in a causal connection between the temperature and Buccaneer success.  “Everyone knows…”  The Answer Man doesn’t know this.

 

Yes, I will admit that you can support your claim with the team’s record in sub-40 temps, which I’ll be revealing shortly.  Coach Dungy never liked these types of claims, either, because he didn’t feel that the team’s history had much to do with what his teams were capable of.  Coach Gruden felt the same way and I have no doubt that Coach Schiano shares that feeling.  Sign us up for a 30-degree game right now – I guarantee the team will show up just as confident as if it was 70.

 

But, the numbers.  In their 36-season history, the Bucs have played 26 games in which the temperature at kickoff was 39 degrees Fahrenheit or lower.  The most recent was this past November, at Green Bay.  Yes, the Bucs lost that one, 35-26, but it was really a rather good game in which a big upset looked possible most of the way.  I think it’s fair to say the Buccaneers played better in that weather, which was 32 degrees at kickoff, than they did in balmy Jacksonville a few weeks later.

 

The Bucs have won two of those 26 under-40 games.  Both were pretty memorable.  One came on December 29, 2002, in Champaign, Illinois.  The Buccaneers beat the somewhat-nomadic Chicago Bears (renovations were taking place at Soldier Field), 15-0 and in the process clinched a first-round bye in the playoffs.  It was 38 degrees at kickoff and crazy windy, and the temperature fell fast.  Four weeks later, the Bucs went to Philadelphia and closed down the vet, winning 27-10 in a game that started at 26 degrees at kickoff.  They won the Super Bowl the next weekend.

 

Here’s more of what I meant at the beginning: The Bucs have played three really, really cold games in team history, ones in which the kickoff temp was below 20 degrees Fahrenheit.  Yes, they lost all three of them, but two of them went to overtime.  The team was clearly not overmatched.  The Answer Man remembers one of them, the 2000 season finale in Green Bay, extremely well.  The Bucs had a chance to win that one in regulation – and win the division and a first-round bye in the process – but a Martin Gramatica field goal attempt just missed and the Packers won in sudden death.

 

By the way, Tampa Bay has won five games in which the kickoff temperature was 40, 41, 42 or 43 degrees Fahrenheit.  Are we saying that 39 degrees is the magical cutoff.  The Answer Man ain’t buying it…but hopefully I gave you the answers you wanted, Griff.

 

**

 

7. Andrew of Kenosha, Wisconsin asks:

How many career sacks did Lee Roy Selmon have?

 

Answer Man: Speaking of the Ring of Honor, the great Lee Roy Selmon finished his career with 78.5 sacks, all for the Buccaneers.  He is still the franchise’s all-time leader in that category, as his total survived close attacks from Warren Sapp (77.0 as a Buccaneer) and Simeon Rice (69.5).

 

Selmon was the first player inducted into the Buccaneers’ Ring of Honor at Raymond James Stadium, in 2009.  He tragically passed away last September but will always be remembered as both one of the greatest pass rushers in NFL history and one of the most respected and beloved figures in Buccaneer franchise annals.

 

8. Isaac Lopez of Tampa, Florida asks:

Do you think Da’Quan Bowers will play in the 2012 season?

 

Answer Man: Gee, I don’t know, Isaac.  The Answer Man is many things, but a medical professional he is not.  However, I can tell you that Da’Quan has told his fans that he absolutely intends to play this year, and the Buccaneers have said they are hopeful he can return during the second half.  I’ll take both of those optimistic opinions into account and say that I think there’s a good chance, stay tuned.

 

For anyone who isn’t aware, Bowers suffered a torn Achilles tendon during a non-contact team workout in May.  That’s a tough setback for a young man who has already overcome quite a few of them, but he has certainly showed his determination and resiliency in the past.

 

**

 

Okay, that’s it for this go-around.  I’ll admit that, in the interest of saving some holiday family time, I’ve left two questions unanswered, but I’ll get to them in the next column, along with (hopefully) a bunch more great submissions from all of you out there.  One is from a previous contributor to the column by the name of Jake from Ishpeming.  He sent in a question regarding quarterback rebounds that I’ll try to throw a bunch of stats at.  The other is about the best comebacks in team history, which is pretty easy for the Answer Man but also a lot of fun.

 

In the meantime, keep the questions coming.  And don’t forget that I’ve thrown down the trivia gauntlet.  This isn’t going to become an out-and-out trivia challenge, but I could see throwing down on two or three of them in each column.  We’ll see what you come up with.

 

And, once again, Happy Fourth of July!  Hope yours is as much fun as mine.

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