Short On Hardware, Long On Greatness

October 21st, 2023

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BY IRA KAUFMAN columnist

(Ira is known as The Sage of Tampa Bay Sports because, well, he is the sage of Tampa Bay sports. He’s been covering the Bucs since 1985, following six years on the NFL beat including starting on the New York Giants beat in 1979. Sage is a Pro Football Hall of Fame selector and is a member of the Hall’s prestigous senior committee. Ira drives a cherry red 2020 Ford Escape, “the fancy kind,” he purchased at Bill Currie Ford. Sage can be bribed effectively with a cannoli, a top shelf cuban sandwich or Bette Midler tickets.)

No regrets. None.

Jason Licht and Todd Bowles faced a tricky choice in the offseason. Try to bring back Lavonte David or decline to make a contract offer and allow him to leave in free agency.

In retrospect, the decision appears to have been a no-brainer, but it wasn’t. All over the NFL, teams move on from 33-year-old linebackers, even ones who have been faithful and productive for the franchise.

Lavonte David

Five games into Tampa Bay’s 2023 season, you can make a compelling argument that David has been the club’s best player. He was one of the few Bucs who played with conviction and poise against Detroit in last week’s 20-6 setback, posting 12 stops, a sack, 2 tackles for loss and a pass breakup that few 23-year-old linebackers in this league could have pulled off.

“People say I’m the oldest guy on the team,” he says, “but I don’t feel that way.”

You can bet Bowles played a major role in bringing David back to One Buc Place for a 12th season. He has come to depend on No. 54 for leadership, sure tackling and an ability to sniff out plays before they develop.

“The guy’s still doing it,” says Devin White, still trying to emulate David’s consistency on a weekly basis. “He’s obviously going to be one of the all-time great linebackers to ever play the game — at least in my eyes. He’s still having fun.”

And it shows.

David has never been one to disrepect opponents or engage in excessive celebrations, but his passion for the game has been evident since he broke into the NFL in 2012. The following season, David was a statistical marvel with 145 tackles, 5 interceptions, 2 forced fumbles and 7 sacks, garnering first-team All-Pro honors for the only time.

Compiling a list of the Top 10 Lavonte David quotes could prove to be quite a challenge, but he remains affable and approachable. You can bet Falcons coach Arthur Smith has spent considerable time this week talking up David’s skills ahead of this divisional matchup. David was one of three Bucs defensive players Smith singled out during his visit to The Pat McAfee Show this week.

Until Tom Brady arrived in 2020, David played for a lot of bad Buccaneer teams. Tampa Bay was rarely featured in prime time and that led to a lack of appreciation nationally for David’s professionalism and accomplishments.

For example, David has earned only one Pro Bowl berth, despite being named one of the NFL’s Top 100 players five times in voting by his peers. He has cracked the Top 10 list for career tackles and tackles for loss.

But compare his hardware to two contemporaries and David regrettably comes up short.

Luke Kuechly, who played only eight seasons, made the Pro Bowl seven times. He was a five-time first-team All-Pro and was named the league’s Defensive Player of the Year in 2013, the same season David filled up the stat sheet so completely.

Bobby Wagner, back for a second stint with the Seahawks after one year with the Rams, has earned eight Pro Bowl berths and made first-team All-Pro six times.

Photo courtesy of Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Most importantly, Wagner and Kuechly were both named to the All-Decade team of the 2010s at linebacker, along with Chandler Jones, Khalil Mack, Von Miller and Patrick Willis.

“I want to be remembered as one of the most electrifying playmaking linebackers that ever played the game,” David says.

While his spot in Tampa Bay’s Ring of Honor is secure, a gold jacket may be beyond his ach, even with all those checked boxes.

Fair or not, Hall of Fame voters are attracted to hardware. The hierarchy seems to be apparent: All-Decade, All-Pro, Pro Bowls, in that order. That’s why John Lynch had to wait so long to enter the halls of Canton, despite nine Pro Bowls. Unlike Derrick Brooks, Rondé Barber and Warren Sapp (two), Lynch never made an All-Decade team and he was a first-team All-Pro safety only twice in 15 seasons.

Five years after his retirement, Lavonte David will be eligible for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He has built a powerful resume for a bust in Canton, but first things first. Atlanta rookie Bijan Robinson is averaging 5.0 yards per carry. Sunday will be his first meeting with David.

The odds are good that Robinson will enjoy a long, productive NFL career. David has already been there, done that. There’s a decent chance David may even extend a hand Sunday and help the young man up off the ground.

After a 2-yard loss, of course.

27 Responses to “Short On Hardware, Long On Greatness”

  1. Tampabaybucfan Says:

    Great article, Ira….for a great Buccaneer…….they just don’t come any better….
    This is an article that can be republished….and you should get no complaints.

  2. adam from ny Says:

    ya think he’s got another year left in the tank for next season???

    i hope so

  3. adam from ny Says:

    the man was lookin’ “all world” in those orange unis last sunday

  4. Larrd Says:

    I grew up a Browns fan and all Browns fans know Clay Matthews and Michael Dean Perry should get more consideration, just like Gruber and David in Tampa. Got to flap your gums, I guess. The sportswriters’ fault, excepting Ira of course.

  5. Lets bring the Hammer! Says:

    David has come a long ways from the “Tenessee Ready”
    game. Joe wrote his infamous quote then. He has a stronger mindset now.

    He had a Great Game last Sunday. I’m glad he is still playing strong.


  6. K_bassuka Says:

    A true leader and class act. I wished the team value his contributions a little more. LVD is a true Buccaneer!

  7. Bojim Says:

    I really hope he is re-signed. If not, teams will try no snap him up. He is more than worthy and deserving of all the good things that come his way.

  8. FrontFour Says:

    My favorite Buc since he arrived from Nebraska. And I’d take him over all of his contemporaries you’ve listed, Ira.

  9. WillieG Says:

    4 times All Pro and 6 timesPro Bowl doesn’t get #40 in the HoF conversation, so I’m pretty sure David is screwed.

  10. Dewey Selmon Says:

    Hammer. Joe didn’t invent Tennessee ready. Lovie Smith announced that before a 56-14 opening season loss lol.

  11. Cobraboy Says:

    Great player, but not enough hype for HoF.

    Coverage/run-stuffer inside LB’s don’t get HoF nods, but sacking LB’s do. I never consider Lawrence Taylor a LB, but a DE. OLB’s in a 3-4 are DE’s, not really LB’s in my world.

    Ray Lewis is the exception to the rule.

  12. BucU Says:

    Lavonte is an all time great football player but he’s an even better human being. And from what I’ve read and seen he got that from his mom may she RIP.
    We’ve been blessed to have a man like him represent our team for over a decade. Mad respect for Lavonte David always.

  13. BucU Says:

    I also want him to stay in the organization when he does call it quits.

  14. orlbucfan Says:

    FrontFour Says:
    October 21st, 2023 at 9:53 am
    My favorite Buc since he arrived from Nebraska.
    Mine, too, FF. He will retire as a Buccaneer and belongs in Canton. Mr. Licht will see to the former, but the latter is a crapshoot and politics. LVD is also a first class act off-field as well. Go LVD and Bucs, tomorrow!!

  15. Lombardi Lenny Says:

    I love L. David. Dude is a total class act. Hope he gets into the hall

  16. Jerseybuc Says:

    He’s got the most important hardware. A ring

  17. Fred McNeil Says:

    You might have something to say about that well deserved jacket, Ira. You got Rhonde one. You’ve got one more in ya at least, young man.
    Hopefully you can get Mike Evans one aslo.
    You da man!

  18. Proudbucsfan Says:

    It’s probably going to be ok for him if he doesn’t make the hall of fame. He has that huge gorgeous championship ring and he’s made millions, he and his family set for life and his name will never be forgotten as long as Tampa has a professional football team. He definitely does deserve to be in the hall of fame even if he doesn’t have the hardware because all the pro bowl is nothing but a popularity contest.

  19. ModHairKen Says:

    LD, 1A best LB in team history. No one will ever eclipse Mr. Derrick Brooks.

    I will say this, Brooks had Sapp. And Lynch. And Barber. And Rice. David has not had that backing.

  20. godlovesbucs Says:

    There have been only 3 non top tier college players I fell in love with and wanted Tampa to draft. We got 2 of the 3 in Godwin and LVD. The third was Devon Achane…

  21. A Bucs Fan Says:

    LVD is a HOF player.Period. He beat the consensus HOF LB Kuechly in every statistical category except INT. He also had more solo tackles, TFL, sacks and INT the year Luke won his DPOY.

  22. Cobraboy Says:

    RoH no doubt.

  23. Mike S Says:

    Bette Midler tickets? I assume those are for the wife?

  24. Esteban85 Says:

    Hall of fame voters are attracted to hardware? Isn’t the most important hardware a Super Bowl championship ring? Screw the accolades from the know it alls of the NFL. We saw how much those know it alls (Peter king) were wrong in the preseason.
    Ira, I hope you can be the one speaking for David’s ascension into the hall of fame.

  25. 74 Bucs Fan Says:

    LVD is the man

    Favorite Bucs though:

    Batman Woods

    Not in that order necessarily

    Less accomplishment but add Warrick Dunn in there

  26. StormyInFl Says:

    Is, and was always better than the constantly overrated Luke Kuechly. But lack of exposure and playing during the lost decade have caused him to be criminally overlooked by casuals in other markets.

  27. garro Says:

    Spot on Ira!

    This is exactly why the “hardware” voting has become a joke! Pro Bowls have become irrelevant to this fan. All Pro is becoming just as bad.

    Search for a list of who votes for AP All Pro and you will get nada, nothing, and zilch. The voters are biased and disregard, or completely ignore some players such as David. (All I could glean is that Detroit has no voter) Also, as we here in Tampa have noted again quite recently, they “the media” don’t do their homework. Brady left so we stink ring a bell?

    Thus as far as the HOF is concerned the “hardware” and playing on teams that were or were not perennial winners should be disregarded entirely. Add to that some members of the selection committee are questionable to me for similar reasons.

    Go Bucs!