Throwing Rocks At The Throne

February 24th, 2018


Brentson Buckner and I have a little history together.

The new defensive line coach of the Buccaneers was a proud member of Carolina’s formidable front four in the summer of 2003, when Tampa Bay was preparing to defend its Super Bowl title.

The late, great Tampa Tribune spent money in those days, so the sports department sent me up to Spartanburg (Panthers) and Flowery Branch (Falcons) during training camp to check on a pair of division rivals.

During a conversation with Buckner, he declared that fellow defensive tackle Kris Jenkins was better than Warren Sapp.

“Jenks is a pass-rusher, he’s a run-stopper, you’re getting the whole package with him,” Buckner said. “He could be special. He could revolutionize the position.”

I thought Buckner was nuts, but he was serious. Sapp had already been to six Pro Bowls while Jenkins was entering his third NFL season.

Because Sapp and Jenkins were first-team All-Pro selections, Buckner thought he was on safe ground. He didn’t understand that with Sapp, there is no safe ground.

When I finished my interview with Buckner, I immediately called my Trib colleague Katherine Smith, who was tight with Sapp. I relayed Buckner’s comments and she reached out to No. 99, who promptly sacked Buckner.

“I don’t think Brentson Buckner has any pineapple in his diet,” Sapp said, referring to the Pro Bowl in Honolulu. The finest pineapple in the world comes from Hawaii, doesn’t it? That’s what I mean by pineapple in your diet.”

Suddenly, it was on.

No Backing Down

You had to respect Jenkins, who was coming off a seven-sack season, but Sapp was on his way to Canton as a two-time all-decade player.

“The kid can’t be on my level yet, that’s just silly,” Sapp said. “He’s still a young guy. I know what that’s like, trying to fight and take down the big dog. But don’t throw rocks at the throne.”

That was the start of a serious rivalry between the Bucs and Panthers.

Powered by a defensive front that included Jenkins, Buckner, Mike Rucker and future Hall of Famer Julius Peppers, Carolina succeeded Tampa Bay as NFC champions, losing a shootout to New England in the Super Bowl.

When Sapp’s quip got back to him, Buckner didn’t back down.

“I don’t care what another man says,” he replied. “I’m not into liking dudes.”


If you’ve seen Buckner’s introductory news conference in Tampa, you know the man’s a live wire. He did a good job as an assistant coach in Arizona and the Bucs are hoping his passion rubs off on a pass rush that could have been sued for non-support in 2017.

Buckner’s new focus is helping Tampa Bay’s defensive front return to the glory days, when the Bucs hunted in a snarling four-man pack.

“I admired Sapp because he would do those little jabs — knowing that the other team would come back and then his guys would step up to the occasion,” Buckner said. “So I said, ‘Alright, let’s poke the line a little bit.’ I have this big 320-pound, 6-foot-4 young buck and he’s the best defensive tackle and I knew Sapp would come out.

“That would drive Kris because he was a quiet guy and that would drive him because he would get mad if Sapp said something about me. Like I said, I looked at that whole formula. I looked at the way Sapp carried himself and the way that Simeon Rice was cooler than the other side of the pillow. Everyone had their own distinct role and we would try to mimic ourselves after them.”

Three stud quarterbacks in the NFC South have been far too comfortable for far too long against the Bucs. In Buckner’s perfect world, Drew Brees, Cam Newton and Matt Ryan find themselves on the run this fall.

Forget the pineapple. Just bring the juice.

Ira Kaufman is the most revered sports personality and writer in town. He has hung his hat at world headquarters since July 2016. Tampa Bay’s only Pro Football Hall of Fame voter, Ira busts out columns here every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and his award winning podcasts fire Tuesdays and Thursdays. You can also hear Ira on SiriusXM Mad Dog Radio Wednesdays during football season, and see him now on Mondays and Fridays at 10:30 p.m. on Spectrum Sports 360. Ira also is part of the FOX-13 Tailgate Sunday and enjoys beet salads, Riesling, Chiefs victories and needling Joe.

16 Responses to “Throwing Rocks At The Throne”

  1. Fanalyzer34 Says:

    say what you want to about #99 – his one liners were as deadly as his hits on QBs….lol

  2. darin Says:

    That’s a great story Ira. Love it. If Buck did take all that into consideration before his comments then thats a smart guy who sees the big picture. Need more coaches like that around. I’m curious to see who Licht gets in here so Buck can get to work on them. I love the hire. Go Buck. Also I miss the Trib. Big time.

  3. Mr Ed Says:

    Awesome write up Ira!

  4. Garv Says:

    Good read! Buckner sounds like the right hire for sure. As for Sapp, his reactions are legendary! LOL

  5. BucEmUp Says:

    Buckner will fall victim to Smith’s ridiculous soft cover 2. I see this guys enthusiasm and energy fading out by week 8 when he realizes that nobody can get to the qb when everyone is open at the ball snap. I feel sorry for this guy already. Jay Hayes 2018 and so will Buckner after everyone is fired at the end of this season

  6. Tony from Los Angeles Says:

    Hiring Buck was a huge step in what should be the Bucs’ ultimate goal this offseason…


  7. Guzziep Says:

    Tough playing defense when it’s 7 on 7

  8. tmaxcon Says:

    Buckner better becareful his bravado does not offend the soft one or he might not make opening day

  9. Dooshlarue Says:

    Good story Ira.

    I think if Man Boob Mike Smith’s defense sucks this year, sans the DL, then Smith is a goner and maybe Buckner gets his shot at DC.

    I like Buckner so far.

  10. StPeteBucsFan Says:

    All parties have plenty of carrot and stick. We know that Koetter’s and Smitty’s and probably Licht’s jobs are all on the line this year. That’s the stick.

    But what about carrots. Well if though some good luck this defense turned it around like N.O.’s did last year…Smitty finally has his shot at HC again and Buckner get’s his shot at DC.

  11. Pickgrin Says:

    St Pete – More likely Duffner would inherit the DC position if they were hiring from within in that happy scenario.

  12. Defense Rules Says:

    Love this article Ira. Sapp’s line is great … “I don’t think Brentson Buckner has any pineapple in his diet” … but Buckner’s comeback is classic too … “I don’t care what another man says, I’m not into liking dudes.”

    Danged I miss the good old days. Too much PC bullsh*t today. those guys were great at pushing each other’s buttons. And it showed up on the field.

  13. Mike Johnson Says:

    I simply cannot wait. No faking. No talk. Koetter and his sidekick Smitty must win this upcoming season or that swingin door gonna catch’em on the reverse side.Personally if Koetter were Smart..he probably should have hired Buckner as his new DC. But we all know the deal. Its crap or get off the pot for this Bucs coaching staff. And I’m happy to see what they give us. Good luck to them. Do..or Die baby!!

  14. donuts Says:

    Great read….Buck knows what “it” looks like.

  15. Pete Mitchell Says:

    Part of me likes the hire of Buckner. But most of me has been a bucs fan for as long as I can remember and I kind of hate the fact that we are coached up by a washed pair of old Falcons coaches and a guy who used to run his mouth off at the greatest defense in history.

    What’s next , are we looking to bring Mickey Loonis in to call the shots?

  16. Rod Munch Says:

    I like what Buckner is saying, but I just don’t know what a position coach can actually do to change the course of a defense. It’s Mike Smith’s show, and I’m assuming he’s the one that is still going to be calling the plays. If Buckner can light a fire then great, but if they’re still having the corners playing 15 yards off the LOS then QBs are just going to do what they did last year, step back and throw to the guy who is wide open. Even if you get pressure in that situation it doesn’t matter since you make the read before the snap.

    With that said the defensive line play can’t get worse, it literally can’t get worse. McCoy did his job but as teams said he can be game planned for and taken out, there wasn’t anyone else on the line doing anything. So Buckner will get better results simply because it’s impossible not to, but if he’s just there to yell at the guys in practice, that’s not a game changer, they have to get some guys.