10 best quarterbacks in the history of Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Who is the bes quarterback in Tampa Bay Buccaneers franchise history?
Tom Brady is among the greatest quarterbacks in Tampa Bay Buccaneers franchise history.
Tom Brady is among the greatest quarterbacks in Tampa Bay Buccaneers franchise history. / Mike Ehrmann/GettyImages

Since joining the NFL in 1976, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have had a long and often tumultuous history of starting quarterbacks.

It's not quite as bad as the Cleveland Browns infamous quarterback jersey, rather it might be worse. While most teams are laughed at for short stints of bad quarterback luck, the Buccaneers sustained suffering under center is something that should be taught in history books as an avoidable tragedy.

Tampa Bay's history with quarterbacks is largely bleak, but that just makes the high points feel even better given how earned the success was when it happened.

Top 10 quarterbacks in Tampa Bay Buccaneers history

10. Ryan Fitzpatrick

  • 2017-2018
  • 3,469 yards
  • 24 TDs
  • 15 INTs
  • 4-6 record

This is going to be a dark list. No disrespect to Ryan Fitzpatrick, but when he’s making the Top 10 after having spent just a pair of seasons with your team — mostly as a backup — you begin to realize just how hard it’s been for Buccaneers fans over the years.

Fitzpatrick very much earned his place on this list, though. His “FitzMagic” run at the start of the 2018 season is legendary stuff, and was a much-needed shot of happiness and joy that Bucs fans desperately needed at the time.

9. Jeff Garcia

  • 2007-2008
  • 5,152 yards
  • 25 TDs
  • 11 INTs
  • 14-10 record
  • 0-1 in Playoffs
  • Pro Bowler (2007)

The last hurrah of the Jon Gruden era featured one of his boldest Hail Mary quarterback solutions. Jeff Garcia had mande a name for himself with the San Francisco 49ers earlier in the 2000s, and came to Tampa Bay as what turned out to be the last in a long line of veteran band-aid options Gruden thought he could use to get back to the Super Bowl.

That plan didn't work, as Garcia played in -- and lost -- his only playoff appearance with the Bucs, but he helped make the team as competitive as it would be for the next ten years. Garcia

In his first year with Tampa Bay, Garcia led the team to the playoffs and earned a spot in the Pro Bowl. Both things would turn out to be swan songs of sorts, as Garcia would only spend two more fractured seasons in the NFL, and the Bucs wouldn't have another Pro Bowl quarterback until Jameis Winston in 2015.

8. Steve DeBerg

  • 1984-1987; 1992-1993
  • 9,439 yards
  • 61 TDs | 62 INTs
  • 8-29 record

His second stint with the Bucs was forgettable, but it's Steve DeBerg first tour in Tampa Bay which is why he's well remembered. He gave fans some bright moments in an otherwise pitch black period of darkness for the franchise.

Between 1983 and 1996 the Bucs never finished higher than third place in the NFC Central and won more than five games just four times. It was bleak, but DeBerg still managed to lead a Top 10 offense in 1984 and ranked near the top of the NFL in a handful of passing categories during his four seasons with Tampa Bay.

He's not going into the Ring of Honor or getting a statue, but DeBerg helped make the team at least a little respectable at a time when they deserved to be a total afterthought.

7. Vinny Testaverde

  • 1987-1992
  • 14,820 yards
  • 77 TDs
  • 112 INTs
  • 24-48 record

Had Vinny Testaverde's career timeline been moved up just a few years, he might be remembered very differently in Tampa Bay. Not quite to the degree of Steve Young, Testaverde was a much better quarterback than the environment the Bucs created allowed him to be, yet he still found a way to break through.

Testaverde improved in each of his seasons with the Bucs, culminating in a 1992 season where he had a completion percentage of nearly 60 percent. Along the way he had a season in 1989 where he threw for over 3,000 yards and 20 touchdowns, and still owns the second-most passing yards in Buccaneers franchise history.

6. Trent Dilfer

  • 1994-1999
  • 12,969 yards
  • 70 TDs | 80 INTs
  • 38-38 record
  • 1-1 in Playoffs
  • Pro Bowler (1997)

There might not be a more quintessential Buccaneers quarterback than Trent Dilfer. He was good enough to help the team turn into a contender but not great enough to help a historic defense win a championship.

His inability to help the team get over the hump in the late 90s should be outshined by what Dilfer did to help get the Bucs in that position to begin with. When Dilfer arrived in 1994, Tampa Bay was barely a football team, but the bones of the franchise's greatest era were being set in place.

Dilfer is a big part of that. The Bucs brooding defense is the battering ram that helped forge a new path, and it was the game management expertise of Dilfer that kept the train on its track. There's a reason he won a Super Bowl with the Baltimore Ravens in 2000, and it's something he might have been able to do in Tampa Bay had a shoulder injury not ended his 1999 season early.

It's a widely held belief that if Dilfer had been the quarterback in the NFC Championship Game that season, the Bucs might have three Super Bowl rings right now. Nothing about his stats will stand above others who came through Tampa Bay, but it's impossible to ignore his part in helping usher in a new era for the Bucs.

5. Jameis Winston

  • 2015-2019
  • 19,737 yards
  • 121 TDs | 88 INTs
  • 28-42 record
  • Pro Bowler (2015)
  • 2nd in AP Rookie of the Year (2015)

It's easy to troll the Jameis Winston years -- and Winston himself -- but time will likely be kinder to his era than we all were at the time. Don't get it twisted, there was plenty of things to criticize about Winston while he was the Bucs starting quarterback, but it will be impossible to talk about the franchise's history without giving him a ton of mention.

Those mentions might be an even balance of positive and negitive, which feels fitting for his time with the team.

Winston wasn't a bad quarterback but he wasn't a good one either. Capable of throwing the most mind boggling interceptions, he was also able gunsling his way into shootout wins the way fans hadn't seen a Buccaneers quarterback do before. Even after all the Tom Brady did in Tampa Bay, Winston is still the franchise's leader in touchdowns (121) and yards (19,737), and orchestrated the fourth-most game-winning drives in team history.

The Bucs didn't win with Winston, which is a part of his legacy in Tampa Bay that he deserves a bulk of the blame for. He does deserve credit for helping crack the door that Brady would eventually knock down in making the Bucs a respectable and relevant franchise after having toiled away in obscurity for so long.

4. Baker Mayfield

  • 2023-present
  • 4,044 yards
  • 28 TDs
  • 10 INTs
  • 9-8 record
  • 1 playoff appearance

It says a lot about the Buccaneers cursed past and Baker Mayfield's performance that he's already a Top 5 quarterback in franchise history.

Baker doesn't have stats to match the guys who came before him but he also hasn't been in Tampa Bay that long. Despite this, he's already had a massively positive impact on the franchise and could end up ranking even higher if he keeps it up.

In his first season with the Bucs, Mayfield led the team to the NFC Divisional Round, a third-straight division title, and, more importantly, he led them out of the Tom Brady era with poise. Tampa Bay was predicted to fall off a cliff after Brady retired, but Baker revived his career by salvaging the Buccaneers' reputation.

He has a lot of distance left to run, but everything he's already done has been among the greatest things we've seen a Bucs quarterback accomplish. Do with that what you will.

3. Brad Johnson

  • 2001-2004
  • 10,940 yards
  • 64 TDs | 41 INTs
  • 26-23 record
  • Super Bowl XXXVII Champion

Trent Dilfer walked so that Brad Johnson could run all the way to a Super Bowl title.

What Dilfer started in the mid-to-late 90s, Johnson was brought in to finish in 2001. He wouldn't actually get the job done until a year later when Jon Gruden arrived, but Johnson was exactly the quarterback the Bucs needed to help an iconic defense fulfill the prophecy.

He was more than a game manager, too. In his first season with the Bucs, Johnson set new team records for passing yards, completions, and attempts, while going to the Pro Bowl a season later.

Johnson didn't put up video game numbers in Gruden's offense, but he was lethally efficient. He limited mistakes, offered adequate run support, and, most importantly, stayed out of the way of the defense long enough to bring a Super Bowl home to Tampa Bay.

2. Doug Williams

  • 1978-1982
  • 12,648 yards
  • 73 TDs
  • 73 INTs
  • 33-33-1 record

Doug Williams never won a Super Bowl with the Buccaneers, but it wasn't for a lack of trying -- or a lack of distance from a championship.

After the infamous 0-26 stretch, Williams helped redefine the franchise's identity and gave Tampa Bay its first taste of success. He helped lead the Bucs to a first-place finish in 1979, doubling the team's win total in just his second season and clinch the franchise's first-ever playoff berth.

Tampa Bay went to the NFC Championship Game that year -- a place they wouldn't return to until 1999 -- and brought the Bucs back to the postseason in 1981. He feuded with owner Hugh Culverhouse over being underpaid (which Williams most certainly was) and protested by sitting out the 1983 season despite pleas from John McKay for the team to pay up.

Williams eventually left for the USFL and signed with Washington in 1986, going on to finally win a Super Bowl a few years later.

1. Tom Brady

  • 2020-2022
  • 14,643 yards
  • 108 TDs
  • 33 INTs
  • 32-18 record
  • Super Bowl LV Champion

The hipster take is to try and argue that Tom Brady isn't the best quarterback in Buccaneers history; that take would be wrong.

Brady's impact on the Buccaneers is still being felt, as he helped reset the brain chemistry for a franchise that has identified with losing more than it has anything else. After the 2002 Super Bowl win, the Bucs faded back into obscurity and wouldn't begin to crawl out until the late 2010s.

It was Brady who helped expedite the process and brought back the glory days of the late 90s and early 2000s when the national spotlight proudly shone on Tampa Bay. The team wasn't being talked about as the butt of jokes; rather, there was a level of respect being put on the franchise in ways we hadn't seen in almost twenty years.

The Super Bowl he helped win was the cherry on top, but the way Brady helped install a winning culture, and help the team believe in itself like a corny Hallmark movie plotline, is the thing he'll be remembered for. He brought more than just his Hall of Fame resume with him when he signed in 2020; Tom Brady made watching Buccaneers football fun again and fans will forever be indebted to him for that.

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