“The Final Piece” Can’t Make The Finals

December 1st, 2023

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Who says Simeon Rice was unblockable? Surely not the Pro Football Hall of Fame panel of selectors.

Once again, one of the most formidable pass rushers of his era has failed to make the list of 25 semifinalists. Four edge rushers — Jared Allen, Robert Mathis, Dwight Freeney and Julius Peppers — were chosen to advance out of a long list of candidates, with Peppers expected to be elected to Canton in his first year of eligibility.

Retired Bucs defensive end Simeon Rice.

Rice has been named a semifinalist only twice and has never survived the cut to the 15 finalists whose credentials are discussed at length by the committee. As Tampa Bay’s representative since 2005, I can’t grasp why Rice’s resume doesn’t command more respect.

“We were a very good defense and once we acquired Simeon from Arizona, we became great,” says Derrick Brooks. “He so much wanted to be part of winning. People forget the contract he signed to come here was one of the first where a player bet on himself.”

Rice signed as a free agent in March of 2001, two weeks after the Bucs agreed to terms with Brad Johnson.

“In my mind, this is a Super Bowl team,” Rice said at the time. “I’ve always looked at myself as a championship-type player who’s just been on a lot of flawed teams.”

According to Brooks, former Bucs defensive line coach Rod Marinelli was convinced Rice would be the missing piece.

“I’ll never forget Rod pulling me to the side during the Pro Bowl in Hawaii and telling me to do what I could to make sure this guy gives us a look as a free agent,” Brooks says. “Rod looked over at Sim playing around in his stance and said, ‘That’s the right end we’ve been looking for.’ “

Rice averaged 10 sacks during his five seasons with the Cardinals and he was ready for a new challenge. His first playoff game for Tampa Bay proved disappointing as the Bucs were drubbed 31-9 in Philadelphia. All Rice did that day was sack Donovan McNabb twice, force a fumble and make seven tackles.

That was a mere appetizer, however. It all came together for Rice and the Bucs in the following season.

If voters had been allowed to wait until the end of the game to cast their ballots, there’s a good chance Rice would have been named Super Bowl MVP in the rout of the Raiders. He dropped league MVP Rich Gannon twice and set the early tone of defensive dominance.

Glory days for longtime Bucs fans.

“You look at our Super Bowl,” Brooks says. “In their first drive after our turnover, Sim took the game over.”

It’s easy to forget Johnson threw a pick to Charles Woodson on the third snap of the game, setting the Raiders up at the Tampa Bay 36. On third down, a Rice sack forced the Raiders to settle for a field goal.

“We don’t look back — all because of Simeon Rice,” says Brooks.

In five playoff games as a Buccaneer, Rice posted 7 sacks and 4 forced fumbles.

That’s called impact.

Playing off Warren Sapp’s right shoulder, the man was a terror coming off the edge with 4.5 speed and fury. He mastered the blind-side strip and finished his career with 122 sacks in 174 games.

Rice has qualified for Hall consideration since the Class of 2013, the same year Sapp was fitted for a gold jacket in his first year of eligibility. As the years go by and the Hall of Fame panel becomes younger, there will be fewer voters who saw Rice hunt quarterbacks so dynamically in his prime.

When selectors meet in January, Peppers will sail into the Class of 2024 without much opposition. He was a two-time All-Decade player, finishing with 159 1-2 sacks, 52 forced fumbles and an astounding 11 interceptions.

Did Rice have a better career than Peppers? He did not, but that doesn’t mean his Hall of Fame case shouldn’t be heard. He would be the fifth Buc off that defense with a bust in Canton, but that’s all right because that unit was so good for so long.

“They talk about Warren, myself, John and Rondé, but Simeon is just as big a part because he was able to elevate our defense to a level we would have never seen,” Brooks says. “That acquisition made our defense complete. He was the final piece.”

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15 Responses to ““The Final Piece” Can’t Make The Finals”

  1. Dave Pear Says:

    Keep it up, Sage. Preach on.

    We could argue that Simeon Rice would have more impact today if he suited up than headless chicken JTS.

    Sim was unstoppable.

  2. D-Rome Says:

    Simeon Rice was great, but he didn’t do enough in his career to warrant the HoF. Neither did Robert Mathis. Pro football reference’s (PFR) Hall of Fame monitor doesn’t have him being a HoFer and only two DE’s with a lower score than Rice’s are in the Hall. He’s borderline, but I can’t imagine him ever getting in.

    To put in perspective, Derrick Brooks is considered by PFR the 2nd greatest outside linebacker to play the game after LT. Warren Sapp is the 8th greatest among DTs.

    Simeon Rice isn’t even in the Bucs Ring of Honor. He should be up there at the very least.

  3. Buc1987 Says:


  4. Max Says:

    Simeon Rice had the combination of height, speed, and agility.

    He was highly influential in shaping the prototype for modern edge rushers like JPP, Von Miller, Freeney/Mathis, DWare, Chandler Jones, Myles Garrett.

  5. zzbuc Says:

    Extraordinary player, very fun to watch!!!!!!!!!

  6. Rod Munch Says:

    Keep the fight going Ira!

    I think the issue is going to be that Gruden destroyed what should have been a dynasty because he thought it was more important to sign Charlie Garner and Tim Brown than to keep the defense together.

    Gruden as a coach = good. Gruden as a GM = the worst.

    Anyways, because Gruden destroyed that team and they only got one SB, other low-IQ morons outside this area, are going to just make a blanket statement that 4 players from that defense is enough, and tune out any arguments, no matter what.

  7. SlyPirate Says:

    Peppers was a monster. I put him up there with HOF DeMarcus Ware.

    The other 3 guys weren’t at that level. They had great careers. If one gets in, they all can make a case. Looking at what Ware and Peppers accomplished, I question if any of the three should qualify.

    Simeon Rice
    Years: 12
    Double Digit Sacks: 8 years
    Sacks: 122
    Tackles: 389
    Forced Fumbles: 35
    INT: 5

    Dwight Freeney
    Years: 16
    Double Digit Sacks: 6
    Sacks: 125
    Tackles: 283
    Forced Fumbles: 47
    INT: 0

    Jared Allen
    Years: 13
    Double Digit Sacks: 8
    Sacks: 136
    Tackles: 497
    Forced Fumbles: 31
    INT: 6

    Julius Peppers
    Years: 16
    Double Digit Sacks: 8 years
    Sacks: 159
    Tackles: 553
    Forced Fumbles: 51
    INT: 11

    DeMarcus Ware (HOF)
    Years: 11 <<<<<
    Double Digit Sacks: 8
    Sacks: 159
    Tackles: 138
    Forced Fumbles: 35
    INT: 3

  8. Tampamac Says:

    @Rod- Don’t remind me of the Charlie Garner nightmare.. Gruden wanting ‘his guy’ is why Thomas Jones wasn’t resigned (and he wanted to come back to Tampa). Dude had a borderline HOF career once he left here.

  9. Larrd Says:

    Warwick Dunn, before that.

  10. Rod Munch Says:

    Larrd Says:
    December 1st, 2023 at 3:33 pm
    Warwick Dunn, before that.


    Well Dunn was a legit cap issue, with all the stars on the team, they couldn’t keep everyone – and that was a Rich McKay choice.

    The issue was in 2003, when Gruden wanted to sign Andre Rison, who reportedly couldn’t break a 5.0 40, and Rich McKay vetoed it, Gruden went straight to Malcolm Glazer and threw a hissy fit, saying McKay had to go, who was then fired. Then Gruden become the defacto GM, no matter what BS titled that Bruce Allen had, it was Gruden calling the shots, and that’s when they cut John Lynch and let Sapp walk to sign those former washed up Raiders. Also Gruden had a thing of signing every 30+ injured offensive tackle he could, and then later started collecting QBs (remember when we traded for Jake Plummer, for example).

    Gruden ran that team straight off a cliff, because people said he won a SB with Dungy’s team – which is the truth. Because of that, he had to prove he could win it on his own – and promptly destroyed the team and that all-time great defense.

    Also, knowing Gruden ruined that team and was the GM, is why when he was on MNF, and always talked about how the team never drafted a top QB when he was there, as if it wasn’t his choice, is absurd.

  11. Cobraboy Says:

    Rice was not the most butt-snorkeling friendly guy to journalists, so it’s no surprise many don’t want him in the HoF.

    It has nothing to do with his work on the field.

  12. It's Corn Says:

    He was great but he never led the league in sacks or was the NFL Defensive Player of the Year. First team All-Pro 1 time, which is good, but just 1. Only 3 Pro Bowls.

    Compare to Sapp: Defensive Player of the Year, 4 first team All-Pro, 7 Pro Bowls.
    Compare to Brooks: Defensive Player of the Year, 5 first team All-Pro, 11 Pro Bowls.
    Compare to Lynch: 2 first team All-Pro, 9 Pro Bowls.
    Compare to Ronde: 3 first team All-Pro, 5 Pro Bowls, led league in interceptions.

    so… not QUITE as impressive a career as the 4 already in.

  13. 1#bucsfan Says:

    Now that was a defense to watch. The standard that I got to grow up to. Man love me some lynch knocking bones loose sapp getting dirty brooks tackling everything even the water boy. Bring that defense back to Tampa please. Also look at what lynch is doing for the niners. His style of defense mixed in with new age offense. Them adding chase young is equivalent to when we added rice. I don’t like the niners but I’ll root for lynches team

  14. Obvious Says:

    Simeon Rice’s niche was coming up Big in the Heat of Big Moments! Yes. He definitely deserves a solid look see for someone looking for the forgotten “diamond in the rough” type hero.
    Because he was many things and he was that diamond to. Great sleeper candidate

  15. garro Says:

    Allen and Mathis better than Simeon? Not a freaking chance! No way no how!

    Go Bucs!