Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 30 greatest players in franchise history

(Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)
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James Wilder, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
24 Dec 1989: Running back James Wilder of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers runs with the ball during a game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Steelers won the game, 31-22. /

player. 48. . Running Back. (1981-89). James WIlder. 10

Like Jimmie Giles was the franchise’s best tight end, James Wilder is the team’s best ever running back by a wide margin. From 1981 to 1989, Wilder held down the Buccaneers running game, carrying essentially the entire load by himself. Need some proof? Wilder led the team in rushing in six consecutive seasons, SIX! Wilder could do it all, rush, catch and help out in pass protection.

Running through the stats, several key figures stand out to me. First off, Wilder tops the franchise’s list of rushing leaders by nearly 900 yards. Wilder’s total as a Buccaneer rounded out at 5,957, adding 51 more yards in Detroit to bring his career total to 6,008.

The next closest in franchise history? Fullback Mike Alstott with 5,088 yards. That difference is quite significant, and should be enough proof to label Wilder as the best running back in team history, and rank him 10th overall on this all-time list.

But for those who still doubt it, here’s some more. Wilder holds two of the top four single-season rushing marks in franchise history, one of which being the highest total. In 1984, which somehow was his only Pro-Bowl season, Wilder set the single-season record with 1,544 yards. He also tossed in 13 touchdowns for good measure.

That kind of production is hard to find, and even harder to sustain over the course of multiple seasons. Although Wilder only had two seasons with 1,000 plus rushing yards, he also never really had a true ‘bust’ season. The best running back in team history sneaks in to the top-10, but he sets the bar really high for those who finish ahead of him.