Who was the best player in Buccaneers franchise history to wear number 74?
The Buccaneers have had a history of talent throughout their roster. Yes, even when they were winning exactly zero games, there were talented players. It started back in 1976 with players like Lee Roy Selmon, and continues through today with the likes of Jameis Winston and Mike Evans. Predominantly on defense, but also a fair share on offense as well, talent has been there.
The wins haven’t always been there, but the talent has been. But, who has been the best?
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Today, we are going to continue our countdown of the best players to ever put on a Bucs jersey. To bring everyone up to speed, we started with number 99, and the most recent was number 75. Some have been obvious, some not so much.
In looking at number 74, it becomes a bit muddled, as we are choosing between linemen. There aren’t a lot of measurables so it becomes a tough choice. However, we have one. His name is Paul Gruber.
Gruber was drafted fourth overall in the 1988 draft out of the University of Wisconsin. He came in to resurrect an offensive line that was 26th in the league in rushing in 1987. The Bucs also allowed 43 sacks that year, 12th most.
Gruber came in to play that all important position, left tackle. Left tackle, we all know, is the “blind side”. Anyone who reads me enough knows the importance I put in the offensive line. You cannot have an offense without a solid offensive line. Gruber was brought in to be the anchor of that line.
And anchor it Gruber did. He was an immediate starter at left tackle and never relinquished the role until his retirement following the 1999 season. That’s twelve seasons of keeping the quarterback safe from his left. The team wasn’t very good for the bulk of his career, as they didn’t even post a winning season until 1997. For his career, the Bucs finished over .500 twice. But, Gruber was a mainstay over all of those years. That is saying something.
Not only was he there, he played well. Gruber was named All-Pro twice (1991, 1992) and is a member of the Ring of Honor. He was also durable. He started 183 games, a one-time Bucs record. Gruber didn’t even miss a snap until 1993. Gruber hung around for the resurrection of the team, starting at left tackle for the 1999 squad that went to the conference title game. Unfortunately, an injury robbed him of playing in those playoffs and ended up prompting his retirement prior to the 2000 season.
He was a great player on some not so great teams. Number 74, Paul Gruber!