The only offensive linemen in the top-10 is none other than stalwart Paul Gruber, who held down the Buccaneers left side for over a decade. As previously mentioned, the left tackle is the most important position on the offensive line, as he protect the quarterback’s blind side. Donald Penn was great for the team, but no offensive linemen matched what Gruber did for 12 seasons in Tampa Bay.
In 12 seasons, Gruber played in 183 games. That is a mark of 183 out of a total 192 total games, meaning Gruber only missed nine games. Actually, Gruber only missed time in two seasons, one six-game skid in 1993 and a three-game absence in 1996.
Not quite the level of consistency that we saw from longtime center Tony Mayberry, but playing in 95 percent of all possible games is a quite impressive feat. Also, before I forget, all 183 of Gruber’s appearances were starts. Talk about being irreplaceable.
There aren’t too many stats to quantify the play of a non-skill position like a left tackle, which makes it difficult to explain to someone who didn’t get to see Gruber play. However, there are still some details that defend Gruber’s ninth place ranking. Drafted fourth overall in the 1988 NFL Draft, Gruber more than paid off the team’s investment.
In addition, Gruber holds the record for the second most starts in franchise history, only surpassed by the legendary Derrick Brooks. Gruber is also one of only 12 members in the team’s ‘Ring of Honor’ alongside guys like Derrick Brooks and Lee Roy Selmon, who will be mentioned soon.
Although hard to see on paper, Gruber’s 12-year tenure with the Buccaneers was truly incredible, and it is surprising that he was never elected to the Pro Bowl.