Ultimate Bucs Fantasy Football

May 15th, 2021

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It’s a Buccaneer battle royale that Tampa Bay fans can’t lose either way.

In our weekly Tampa Two segment on “The Identity Tampa Bay,” Derrick Brooks and I debated the potential outcome of an epic matchup between the 2002 Bucs and the defending NFL champions.

Predictably, Brooks sided with the team from 2002, when No. 55 just happened to be the NFL Defensive Player of the Year. As we broke down the offenses, defenses and special teams of the two clubs, Brooks began to methodically win me over.

Any impartial observer would have to give the offensive edge to the 2020 Bucs. Brad Johnson was very efficient in 2002, but he will never be confused with Tom Brady. And let’s be honest, Keyshawn Johnson, Keenan McCardell, Joe Jurevicius and Ken Dilger don’t stack up as targets compared to Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Antonio Brown and Rob Gronkowski.

Let’s call the offensive lines even — although Tristan Wirfs owns a huge advantage over Kenyatta Walker at right tackle. Both ground games were solid, with perhaps a slight edge to the tandem of Mike Alstott and Michael Pittman.

The booming right leg of Martin Gramatica, coupled with a better return game, gives the 2002 club an advantage in special teams. Ryan Succop is reliable, but Gramatica kicked five field goals of 50 yards or longer and converted all 32 of his extra-point tries. (Yes, they were chip shots back then.)

Here’s where it gets dicey for the defending champs:

The 2020 defense had its ups and downs during the regular season but stiffened in the playoffs, capped by a majestic performance against the Chiefs in the Super Bowl.

Still, these guys gave up 29 TD passes in 16 games and looked shaky in the opening postseason test in Washington.

History For The Win

The 2002 defense was really good. How good? Historically good.

It’s not a stretch to suggest that unit, led by three confirmed Hall of Famers and perhaps one or two more on their way to Canton, boasts the stingiest pass defense the NFL has witnessed in the past 30 years.

Who has the edge?

Opposing quarterbacks compiled a 48.4 passer rating against the Bucs in 2002, when the league average was 78.6. With Rondé Barber and John Lynch roaming the back end, Tampa Bay posted 31 interceptions while allowing only 10 TD passes.

Pressure by Simeon Rice and Warren Sapp helped the ’02 Bucs register 38 takeaways in the regular season and nine more in stifling the 49ers, Eagles and Raiders. Challenged by first-year coach Jon Gruden, Brooks was everywhere. scoring three times before providing the Super Bowl dagger with a pick against league MVP Rich Gannon.

“They would have had a hard time against us,” Brooks said, “just from our ability to adapt and play any style of offense.”

Now or then?

Sounds right.

Even though Brady and Gronkowski are first-ballot Hall of Famers and Mike Evans may be on his way to Canton, the 2020 Bucs would have struggled to sustain drives and avoid giveaways against their 2002 counterparts. Monte Kiffin, Rod Marinelli and Mike Tomlin were masters of in-game adjustments, although you can never count a Brady team out.

That 2002 secondary dared you to throw. As one of the great defenses of the modern era, Brooks and his rowdy friends would have been the deciding factor in this clash of the Tampa Bay titans.

Shaq Barrett and Jason Pierre-Paul would have had their way a few times with the 2002 offensive line, but Johnson was blessed with smarts and a quick release. McCardell was a particularly crafty route runner, adept at finding cracks between defenders.

Once Johnson returned from a back injury in January, the NFC’s top-rated passer had the Buc offense rolling. While the 2020 Bucs closed with a rush, the 2002 club was more consistent. Powered by an overwhelming defense, the Brooks Bunch gets the nod in this ultimate fantasy football matchup.

Call it 20-16, with Rice sealing the deal with a late blind-side sack and strip.

Close game … let’s play two.

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20 Responses to “Ultimate Bucs Fantasy Football”

  1. August 1976 Buc Says:

    2020 CHAMPS ALL DAY, Love the 2002 Champs, but I will with the current World Champions. That 2003 version also does not compare to the 2021 version we are about to see unleashed on the NFL. This version is just getting started, meanwhile 2002 was at the end of a vwinning cycle. Both great teams, but for me, 2020 rules the day, and BTW this version may be hoisting Lombardi again in 2022. GO BUCS!!!!

  2. Swampbuc Says:

    It’s an apples to oranges comparison.

    If we take the 2002 rules with 2002 officiating, the 2002 Bucs win.

    If we take the 2020 rules with 2020 officiating, the 2020 Bucs win.

    And the Bucs 2020 OL is waaaayyyy better than Pinyatta Walker’s bunch. Waaaayyyy better. And the Tampa Two, weak on the deep sideline and vulnerable down the deep middle, would have eventually been exposed by the 2020 Bucs weaponry.

    It’s a fun debaye and of course no one will ever be able to prove anything either way. Maybe in a Madden fantasy league simulation.

  3. Alanbucsfan Says:

    The 2002 Bucs’ D will always be among the best in NFL history- but there is no way that team beats the 2020 Bucs.
    The DLine , LB’s and Secondary for 2020 Bucs will also produce their share of HOF’s and on Offense there’s no comparison…
    You always remember your 1st love, but the 2020 Bucs are an upgrade and 2021 promises to be even better.

  4. Darin Says:

    Just make sure one team is wearing orange with white trim and the other vice versa. And play ball. I don’t care who wins

  5. Señor Harry in Costa Rica Says:

    What an amazing game that would be to see.

    The ’02 Defense was historically GREAT. That is pure FACT. Any team would, and did, struggle against Brooks, Sapp and Company. And, as you pointed out, the entire ’20 team (offense and defense) was up and down due to getting used to each other.

    So Ira, the real argument is after this year. Which team is (going to be) better, the ’02 Bucs, or the 20-0 Bucs of ’21?!

  6. Netwalker Says:

    Love both teams. Note: the Bucs are undefeated in Super Bowls. Not many teams with two or more trips to the big game can say that. That is also an interesting stat for a team with the worst pro sports franchise win/loss record in all of sports. Maybe that ugly little stat gets put to bed this season.

  7. Mike C Says:

    No longer true Netwalker, Minnesota Timber wolves are now your new #1 losing franchise.

  8. August 1976 Buc Says:

    Senor Harry… You have brought up “The Elephant in the room”.

    “So Ira, the real argument is after this year. Which team is (going to be) better, the ’02 Bucs, or the 20-0 Bucs of ’21?!”


  9. SB Says:

    Netwalker Says:
    May 15th, 2021 at 9:47 am
    Love both teams. Note: the Bucs are undefeated in Super Bowls. Not many teams with two or more trips to the big game can say that. That is also an interesting stat for a team with the worst pro sports franchise win/loss record in all of sports. Maybe that ugly little stat gets put to bed this season.

    That ugly little stat was put to bed in February where the Minnesota Timberwolves became the losingest team in sports history.

  10. Fred Orlando Says:

    I’ll always be partial to suffocating defence.2002 bucs, 2000 ravens, 1984 bears (who I hated)…. those were the best I’ve ever seen.

  11. TampaTown Says:

    Omg that would be a Field of Dreams game. We’re about to have another Tampa ✌🏻- two in a row baby 🏆🏆

  12. bojim Says:

    After reading this, I agree with Ira.

  13. Bucfanforever Says:

    Since Brady won three Super Bowls around that time, I’d give the advantage to the 2020 Bucs.

  14. Baby Grace Says:

    I love both teams, but the 2020 would win and probably easily. Why do I say that? If you look at all of professional sports the athletes are bigger, stronger, faster with better training and diet control. Almost forgot about coaching. How many coaches do the Bucs have now that are dedicated to one position only?

    I have heard many people say the Green Bay Packers under Lombardi was the best ever. That team would struggle against some JUCO teams and have no chance against college teams today because of what I typed above.

    The 2002 Bucs were the best for there era and the 2020 are the best of this era. Comparing teams of different eras with 18 years in between them is impossible.

  15. Alvin Scissors Harper Says:

    I disagree. The 2020 offense is waaay better just about everywhere than the 2002 offense. The 2002 defense was much better than the 2020 defense, until the playoffs. In the playoffs, I would give a slight advantage to the 2002 defense. So, I like the 2020 team to win by a touchdown.

  16. Anonymous Says:

    I think you are correct about 2002 defense. However; that is only when you are comparing teams of that era. The 2002 was the best defense in the NFL period. We will never be able to say definitively who had the best team obviously because they can’t play each other. If they could I would bet a lot of money on the 2020 team because the players of today are so much better then the they were 18 years ago.

  17. Cobraboy Says:

    Different game.

    John Lynch alone would draw roughing penalties galore. and DB’s could get all handsy with WR’s.

    QB’s wear tutu’s in today’s game.

  18. HeyItsAdam Says:

    Both D’s faced the Top Offense that year and the league MVP at QB.

    02 gave up 3 touchdowns.

    20 gave up 3 field goals.


  19. Brandon Says:


    Hey, it’s Stupid… the 02 Bucs gave up two touchdowns. The other TD was from a blocked punt. The 02 defense also scored three TDs…pn the #1 offense in the league.

  20. HeyItsAdam Says:

    Dear Brandon,

    I stand corrected. 2 TDS vs 3 FGs. Still……

    Who’s the better QB? Mahomes or Gannon?

    “When the debate is lost, slander becomes the tool of the loser.” (Socrates)