Several members of the current Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense expressed the unit’s desire to live up to the standard that the legendary 2002 Buccaneers’ defense set during the franchise’s first-ever Super Bowl championship run. The question is can this batch of Bucs do it?
The Buccaneers are at their best when they have a dominant defense. That isn’t exactly news since the age-old adage is that offense sells tickets and defense wins championships. It’s especially true with the Buccaneers. The Bucs don’t have the greatest history, but when they had good teams they had great defenses.
It was the case in the late 1970s-early 1980s with Lee Roy Selmon and the crew, and it was especially true when Tony Dungy came to town with the team eventually featuring a legendary defense that lead them to multiple playoff trips, and the NFC Championship Game in 1999. The 2002 defense coached by Jon Gruden and defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin is the best defense in the history of the Bucs, and one of the greatest in the history of football.
Three key members of the defense spoke about this, with nose-tackle extraordinaire Vita Vea talking about how the team, and the world, got a glimpse of how good their defense can be, and should be getting noticed more. He’s right too. The only member of the defense, and team as a whole last year to make the Pro Bowl was Jason Pierre-Paul, which is surprising to say the least.
Bowles agrees, as cornerback Sean Murphy-Bunting mentioned how the defensive coordinator holds them to as high a standard that the 2002 defense set. Linebacker Devin White added how he pointed out every player on the defense’s weakness to improve on in 2021.
It certainly is a high standard to live up to. The 2002 Buccaneers had a defense that featured three Hall of Famers, defensive tackle Warren Sapp, Derrick Brooks at linebacker, and safety John Lynch, who got the call right before Super Bowl LV. Cornerback Ronde Barber and defensive end Simeon Rice are two names that are always up for enshrinement when the time rolls around.
When all is said and done, this defense could end up with five members enshrined in Canton. This unit also featured five Pro Bowlers, with the three Hall of Famers getting voted to Hawaii, along with Rice and linebacker Shelton Quarles. Cornerback Brian Kelly was tied with Rod Woodson with eight interceptions to lead the NFL as well. The 2002 Buccaneers defense also scored nine touchdowns that year, which further puts them in an elite class.
The 2021 Buccaneers have a defense that can certainly join them. They are already legendary, especially in Tampa, but now they’ll have a full offseason to actually work together and gel more as a unit. They had a dominant 2020, as evident by the numbers, and a demolition job of a playoff run and Super Bowl, as evident by everything from the numbers to the eye test. The sky is the limit and this group is already airborne.
The Buccaneers are at their best when the defense is at theirs. 2021 will be no different and should be even better than 2020, or possibly any year before it.