Is it premature to talk about this year’s Tampa Bay Bucs team being in the same class as a Super Bowl winner like the franchise’s lone champion in 2002? Well, probably so. But who cares what the rules are?
With Tom Brady leading a multi-faceted offense and the Bucs defense typically playing solid football, it’s worth a comparison … and the NFL betting lines are evidence many fans think this team is pretty special.
In 2002, the team was built on defense. The numbers below in the comparison chart will clearly show that. Tampa Bay had been a defensive juggernaut for a few years but just couldn’t get over the hump to join the league’s pinnacle. The offense was the problem, and in 2002 the team conjured up just enough of an offensive spark to combine with a suffocating defense to build a Super Bowl winner.
In 2020, things are more balanced, as mentioned earlier. With a mistake-prone Jameis Winston now playing back-up quarterback in New Orleans, and his “replacement” being the all-time QB leader in Super Bowl victories (ahem, Brady), the Bucs have built something special.
Like Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls did in basketball when it came to surrounding the superstar with outstanding role players, Tom Brady and the Bucs worked on building an offense that worked best with his skillset, and improved the Bucs’ football lines along the way.
Brady requested building up the tight end stable with an old buddy in Rob Gronkowski, while adding an impressive third-down weapon out of the backfield (Leonard Fournette) and another dynamic weapon at receiver (Antonio Brown). Couple that with a solid draft class, and something special was born -- even with the pandemic cutting short season preparations.
Now, Tampa Bay fans find themselves in January wondering if this team can win a few more. And, is it actually better than the 2002 group that won it all? That’s up to you to decide, but below is a side-by-side chart showing how the two teams compare statistically as well as how they compare positionally.
Take a look:
Where did the 2002 and 2020 Bucs teams stack up against the NFL during their 16-game regular seasons? Take a look:
|Team Off. (YPG)||24th||7th|
|Team Off. (Scoring avg.)||18th||3rd|
|Pass Off. (YPG)||15th||2nd|
|Rush Off. (YPG)||27th||28th|
|Team Def. (YPG)||1st||6th|
|Team Def. (Scoring avg.)||1st||9th|
|Pass Def. (YPG)||1st||21st|
|Rush Def. (YPG)||3rd||1st|
|RECORD (REG. SEAS.)||12-4||11-5|
Who led the Bucs in key statistical areas during their 16-game regular seasons of 2002 and 2020? Take a look:
|OFFENSE||2002 LEADER||2002 STATS||2020 LEADER||2020 STATS|
|Top passer||Brad Johnson||3,049 yds, 22 TDs||Tom Brady||4,633 yds, 40 TDs|
|Top rusher||Michael Pittman||718 yds, 1 TD||Ronald Jones||978 yds, 7 TDs|
|Top receiver||Keyshawn Johnson||1,088 yds, 5 TDs||Mike Evans||1,006 yds, 13 TDs|
|Top O-lineman||Roman Oben||n/a||Tristan Wirfs||n/a|
|DEFENSE||2002 LEADER||2002 STATS||2020 LEADER||2020 STATS|
|Top sacks||Simeon Rice||15.5 sacks||Jason Pierre-Paul||9.5 sacks|
|Top tacklers||Derrick Brooks||118 tackles||Devin White||140 tackles|
|Top INTs||Brian Kelly||8 INTs||Carlton Davis||4 INTs|
|SPECIAL TEAMS||2002 LEADER||2002 STATS||2020 LEADER||2020 STATS|
|Kicker||Martin Gramatica||32 FGs||Ryan Succop||28 FGs|
|Punter||Tom Tupa||42.8 YPP||Bradley Pinion||45.2 YPP|
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Brian McLaughlin is a writer for BetMGM and co-host of BMac and Herd’s FCS Podcast. He has written for The Sporting News, headed up the PARADE Magazine High School All American teams, covered the FCS for HERO Sports, and wrote for so many newspapers he lost count. Follow BMac on Twitter @BrianMacWriter.