Best Of The Bucs

January 7th, 2021

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When I called Tony Dungy to inform him that Rondé Barber made the list of Hall of Fame finalists, we started chatting about our All-Pro ballots.

A few hours earlier, I had submitted my choices to the Associated Press. I told Dungy that I checked off one Buccaneer for my All-Pro team, but it would probably be a surprise to him.

It wasn’t Lavonte David, Devin White, Jason Pierre-Paul or Tom Brady, I said.

My vote for the best right tackle in the league went to rookie Tristan Wirfs, I told him, quickly adding that I would probably be the only one of the 50 voters to cast a ballot for Wirfs.

“Wrong,” Dungy said.

“How do you know?” I asked him.

“I voted for Wirfs, too,” was Dungy’s reply.

Tristan Wirfs

So I’m not alone, and that makes me feel better. If a Hall of Fame coach agrees with my assessment of Wirfs, that means I’m not way off the mark.

Congratulations, Tristan. You received at least two votes for All-Pro in your first NFL season.

And the best is yet to come.

Knowing my ballot would be due in a few days, I paid particular attention to Wirfs during Sunday’s matchup against Atlanta. The guy is a wall. The guy is a rock.

The last of the big four offensive tackles off the board in the 2020 draft, it’s safe to say Wirfs stands head and shoulder pads above his rookie peers at the moment.

This athletic slab played every offensive snap for Tampa Bay during the regular season — all 1,073 of ’em. He allowed only one sack, beaten by Khalil Mack at Soldier Field in prime time, and was flagged just three times, once for holding and twice for false starts.

Not even Jason Licht could have expected a rookie year so dreamy when Tampa Bay moved up one spot to draft Wirfs at No. 13. Andrew Thomas, Jedrick Wills and Mekhi Becton were already gone and Licht wasn’t going to be denied.

The Bucs needed a replacement for Demar Dotson. What they got was a 10-year cornerstone up front.

As a top prospect out of Iowa, Wirfs was considered a punishing road grader who might struggle early in his career against savvy pass rushers.

The scouts were half-right.

While Wirfs has proven to be a physical run blocker, his pass protection skills are a revelation. It’s exceedingly difficult to get around this guy on the edge — as Montez Sweat and Chase Young are about to discover.

So why did the Giants, Browns and Jets pass on Wirfs? Because those teams were focused solely on the left tackle position. Thomas, Wills and Becton manned the left side as rookies, with mixed results.

Thomas allowed 10 sacks and was almost run out of the Meadowlands after a string of early struggles. Wills was flagged 11 times, dealt with COVID issues and generated his biggest headline when he was recently cited for drag racing. Becton’s play with the Jets was erratic. He needs to lose some weight and lose the seven penalties that came his way.

Wirfs just capped off one of the best rookie seasons in Buc history.

And he did it without OTA sessions and a single preseason game. What’s next for this remarkable young man?

It could be a change of position.

New Territory

As well as Wirfs played on the right side, he might be moved to left tackle next season. If Tampa Bay decides to move on from Donovan Smith, Wirfs is the logical replacement. The Bucs aren’t afraid of shifting guys around up front … just ask Ali Marpet.

The Bucs head into the nation’s capital brimming with confidence.

They’ve got momentum, they’ve got Brady and they have the superior roster.

Chase Young says he wants Brady. That’s just a brash, talented player sounding off a bit. You don’t hear Tristan Wirfs crowing that he wants a piece of Young. That’s just a mature, talented player showing his class.

Wirfs does all of his talking in the trenches. My guess is he’s about to teach Mr. Young and his cohorts about the sweet sounds of silence.


It’s Ira with his cherry red, 2020 Ford Escape.

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10 Responses to “Best Of The Bucs”

  1. Gbobucsfan Says:

    I honestly think D Smith is gonna play really well in the playoffs.

  2. '79 Defense Says:

    Nice one, Ira!

  3. SteveK Says:

    Love the Wirfs pick.

    This franchise has come a long way since the days of Mark Dominik “I don’t believe in drafting offensive linemen”.

    Wirfs is a stud. I really wanted him on the Bucs last draft season. His athleticism, and wrestling background, combined with his Iowa Football pedigree makes him a handful.

    Glad to hear the Sage and Father Dungy both voted for Wirfs.

    I wanted Wirfs, like I wanted us to draft Jack Conklin years ago, only to have TN trade up and steal our guy. This time, props to Licht, he traded up one a lot to ensure we got our guy.

    Draft another lineman on each side of the ball woth your first two picks. Build the trenches.

  4. Big_Buc$ Says:

    I can’t believe that I’m saying this but I think 76 will have his team option picked up in the offseason. He has been solid the past few weeks. Now I have to say it has been against teams below 500. Now I do expect the Bucs to win on Saturday by at least by 2 possessions. Washington Football Team is still a team a below 500 and I fully expect the Bucs to look like they have the past 3 weeks dominate. As for Wirfs he has been playing very well and I don’t disagree with him being vote to the All Pro team as a rookie.

  5. Señor Harry in Costa Rica Says:

    @Big, I somewhat agree that Smith may be kept around. Smith’s play is more than good enough to replace him with valuable draft capital. We have some serious needs we can use that 1st or 2nd round pick on. But, its not his play that will get him cut. Its his huge contribution to the Bucs salary cap issues. The Bucs have a LOT of big money players to re-sign and/or give new contracts to.

    Just to name to that must be re-signed: Godwin and Shaq.

    Then, Licht has to decide if he keeps Smith or replaces him with a rookie salary over: Suh ($8MM), David $10MM), Gronk ($10+MM?), AB (?), etc.

    I am not advocating Smith to be gone, but you have to make some cuts somewhere

  6. Señor Harry in Costa Rica Says:

    opps, to = two

  7. 813bucboi Says:

    keep wirfs at RT….

    lets see what d.smith does in the playoffs…

    GO BUCS!!!!

  8. The Red Mirage Says:

    Great article Sage.
    If it ain’t broke…..Leave Wirfs where he is.

  9. DavidBigBucFan99 Says:

    At the beginning of the game Young will be running off at his mouth but by the end pig the game he’ll be munching his lip like a little boy scolded and told to stand in the corner. Then Wirfs will put his hand to his ear and ask Young “What was that little boy I didn’t hear you! Shhhh now run along and to your locker and find some ointment for that diaper rash you guys got from this butt whoopin!!!

  10. bojim Says:

    Keep him on the right side. Thanks Ira!