Pro Bowlers: Derrick Brooks, Ronde Barber, Josh Bidwell
Coming in at number two on the list are the 2005 Bucs, who finished the season with an 11-5 record, an NFC south title, and a home playoff game in Raymond James. This season would become the last hurrah for the remaining defensive core that won a Super Bowl in ’02. Gone were John Lynch and Warren Sapp, but Ronde Barber, Derrick Brooks, Simeon Rice and Anthony McFarland all remained, and all played at the hall of fame level we’d grown accustomed to watching.
The Bucs defense in the 05′ season gave up the eighth fewest total points, the fewest total yards per game, and the sixth fewest rushing yards per game. Simeon Rice tallied 14 sacks (the last Buccaneer player to record more than 10 sacks in a season), while Derrick Brooks and Ronde Barber remained their usual, play-making selves. Both earned Pro Bowl nods at the end of the season.
The real fun this season came on offense, however, where the typical Jon Gruden quarterback carousel played out. Brian Griese began the season as the starter, but an injury forced second-year quarterback Chris Simms into the lineup, who would remain the starter into the playoffs. Simms wasn’t spectacular, but did just enough to get the ball to his play-makers, like Joey Galloway. The veteran Galloway had joined the Bucs a season earlier but didn’t make much of an immediate impact. That changed in ’05, as the 34-year-old racked up 83 catches, 1,200 yards, and 10 touchdowns.
As we all know, this fun season ended in bitter, heart-breaking disappointment. After their 11-5 regular season the Bucs were rewarded with a home playoff game against the Washington Redskins. Tampa trailed 17-10 late in the fourth quarter and appeared to tie the game on a pass to Edell Shepherd, but the referees ruled that he did not complete the process of the catch going to the ground. The Bucs would get one more shot, but a Chris Simms interception finally ended the Bucs impressive season.