We continue our quest to find who Buccaneers fans love the most with the second match-up of our opening round.
We now move on to our next match-up…
(4) Tony Dungy vs. (5) Warren Sapp
Head Coach Tony Dungy, who will be enshrined in Canton later this year, is synonymous with the Buccaneers’ rise to glory. Hired as the head coach in 1996, Dungy’s first season was somewhat trying. He finished 6-10, but that season contained what became the catalyst of the turnaround. We all know the story by now; Warren Sapp heard Chris Berman call Tampa “the Yucs” and he riled up Derrick Brooks. Together they said “no more” and they would go on to defeat the Chargers in San Diego that day.
After a 5-0 start in 1997, the new look Buccaneers started to come into their own under Dungy and his Tampa-2 defense. The ’97 season would be the Bucs’ first winning season in 15 years and lead to a division championship. They were ousted from the postseason by eventual champions, the Green Bay Packers.
Under Dungy, the Bucs would make the playoffs three out of the next four years, coming up a blown call shy of reaching the Super Bowl in 1999. Unfortunately, the Glazers were tired of the “close, but no cigar” seasons and fired Dungy following a blow-out loss to the Eagles in the 2001 wild card round.
Dungy would of course move on to Indianapolis where he would eventually hoist the Lombardi Trophy with Peyton Manning and Co. Some Buccaneers fans are still upset to this day over Dungy’s dismissal. Others understand it was a necessary evil, but hold no ill-will towards Dungy. I mean, without him, the Buccaneers would likely never have turned things around and not won Super Bowl XXXVII.
Ah, yes. The boisterous, loud-mouthed bully. Despite the truth in that statement, he was our boisterous, loud-mouthed bully. And for that, we loved him. We loved his arrogance, his “swagger”, his mentality of wanting to destroy any and every quarterback he lined up across from. Most of all, we loved the leadership. The refusal to accept the culture of losing in Tampa Bay. He was disappointed to be drafted here, but that changed real quick once he got to work with Brooks and safety John Lynch.
Sapp’s numbers and accolades speak for themselves. 96.5 sacks, 19 forced fumbles, four interceptions, three touchdowns, seven-time Pro Bowler, four-time First Team All-Pro, two-time Second Team All-Pro, AP Defensive Player of the Year, NFL All-Decades Team both 1990’s and 2000’s, Buccaneers’ Ring of Honor Inductee, number 99 retired, and, most importantly, first ballot Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee.
Doesn’t get much better than that.
Yes, Sapp has had his off-field issues, but there was a time that 99 was the most popular jersey in the stands. Buccaneers fans loved and embraced this man because of the attitude he had on the field. He had the city of Tampa’s back and they had his. That’s just how it was.
So, what say you, Bucs fans? Is it the captain that righted the ship? Or the loose cannon that dominated the line of scrimmage for a decade? Vote now!