Tampa Bay Buccaneers: John Lynch

TAMPA, Fla. – On the surface, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are doing their due diligence on Jameis Winston.

[+] EnlargeJameis Winston
AP Photo/Doug McSchoolerJameis Winston might have played in state, but he's still not an easy sell to the fan base.
They had the Florida State quarterback in for a visit Tuesday. He met with general manager Jason Licht, coach Lovie Smith, ownership and others. That’s the kind of homework you would expect from a team that holds the No. 1 overall pick in the draft.

But I have to wonder if the Bucs had an ulterior motive in bringing in Winston almost two months before the draft. And I wonder if that ulterior motive is why pictures and video of Winston’s visit showed up on the team website. I’m still wondering if that possible motive played a role in Smith saying a few weeks ago that he would have no problem with Winston being the face of the franchise.

Are the Bucs preparing their fans for the selection of Winston?

Ordinarily, fan bases jump up and down when their team holds the No. 1 pick and is about to draft a quarterback. That is especially true when the quarterback played his college football in the same state.

But things are different with Winston. His football talent is unquestionable, but he’s a polarizing figure. A large part of the Tampa Bay fan base still is hoping the Bucs take Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota instead.

That’s because of Winston’s background. While at Florida State, he was accused of (but not charged with) sexual assault. He also had several other off-field transgressions that have left questions about his maturity.

But the early indications are that Winston has won the Bucs over and they’re prepared to draft him. The Glazer family, which owns the team, is very private. But the Glazers still care very deeply about public perception. They want a franchise that fans can fall in love with the way they did back in the glory days of Derrick Brooks, Warren Sapp and John Lynch. They need a face for their franchise, and Winston is a charismatic guy.

Maybe the Bucs are being so public with their feelings about Winston because they want to give their fans some extra time to embrace the selection.
TAMPA, Fla. -- The fact that coach Tony Dungy and safety John Lynch didn’t get elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame should serve as a dose of cold, hard reality for Tampa Bay Buccaneers fans.

It might be a while before the Bucs get their next representative in the Hall of Fame. Maybe Lynch and/or Dungy slide in during a lean year, but maybe they keep coming close, but just short.

Dungy and Lynch both have excellent qualifications. But you can also poke holes in the Hall of Fame arguments for each of them. Dungy won a lot of games with the Bucs and Indianapolis Colts, but he won only one Super Bowl despite having a great defense in Tampa Bay and Peyton Manning in Indianapolis.

Lynch was the consummate hitter, but safeties usually are measured by interceptions. Lynch only had 26 of them.

Tampa Bay fans are a little spoiled because Warren Sapp and Derrick Brooks each made it in on the first ballot in the two previous years. It already has been shown that Dungy and Lynch are going to have a hard time getting in.

If they don’t, who’s next from the Buccaneers? You can make a strong case for cornerback Ronde Barber, who will be eligible in two years. Barber’s durability allowed him to put up Hall of Fame numbers, but he might not be the automatic first-ballot choice that Tampa Bay fans believe he is.

Outside of Tampa Bay, Barber is viewed a little differently. Scouts, coaches and players from other teams will tell you that Barber was a very good player. But he also is seen as someone who was a product of the system in the Tampa Two defense. They’ll also tell you teams didn’t have to game plan for Barber the way they did for Sapp and Brooks.

Maybe Barber gets in, or maybe he joins Lynch and Dungy on the fence. If none of those three makes it, it could be another generation before the Bucs get their next representative.

It could be current defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, who needs to string together a bunch more seasons like the last three. If that doesn’t happen, the next representative for the Bucs might be someone who hasn’t even joined the team yet.
It took John Lynch's career four years to really get going. Once that happened, it seemed like it would never stop.

Lynch’s career is a study in longevity, especially when you consider the position he played and how he played it. Lynch is a finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame's class of 2015, which will be announced Saturday night.

But Lynch put together a Hall of Fame résumé a long time ago. He played safety for 11 years for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and four for the Denver Broncos. He did it with a physical, aggressive style that has rarely been seen before.

Lynch was known for his brutal hits, but he should be known for more than that. While helping the Tampa 2 defense become famous in the late 1990s and early 2000s, Lynch put up numbers that are worthy of the Hall of Fame.

Although he wasn't asked to spend a lot of time in coverage, he was effective. He had 26 career interceptions and 36 passes defensed. Lynch was also a playmaker, recording 10 forced fumbles and 13 sacks. Lynch was selected to nine Pro Bowls.

His most complete season was his second with Denver (2005) -- he had four sacks, four forced fumbles and two interceptions. The fact that Lynch was able to put up those type of numbers late in his career is a testament to his durability.

Not bad for a guy who started only 10 games in his first three seasons. But once coach Tony Dungy arrived in 1996, Lynch was a regular in the lineup and became the prototype strong safety for the Tampa 2 defense.
TAMPA, Fla. -- I think John Lynch belongs in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. But I have to admit I’m partial.

I had the good fortune to cover the early part of Lynch’s career with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. I saw plenty of big hits that made the highlight reels. I also saw some big interceptions. Beyond that, I saw one of the nicest guys I’ve ever covered.

But personality doesn’t count in the Hall of Fame voting. If it did, Lynch would have no problem getting in. But the reality is he’s fighting an uphill battle. He made it to the final 15, but he may not make it any further when the voting takes place Saturday in Phoenix.

Safety just isn’t a glamour position in the eyes of the Hall of Fame voters. Only seven full-time safeties are in the Hall of Fame. Guys like Ronnie Lott and Rod Woodson don’t count because they split their careers between cornerback and safety.

There hasn’t been a true safety selected since Paul Krause in 1998. And it took Krause, who is the NFL's career leader with 81 interceptions, more than a decade to get into the Hall of Fame.

If it was so difficult for Krause to get in, it probably will be even tougher for Lynch. The most important statistic for safeties is interceptions. Lynch had 26 in his career. That’s a respectable number, but it’s not a Hall of Fame number.

If Lynch is going to have any chance at getting in, voters will need to take a big-picture look at his career. They need to remember that Lynch, along with Warren Sapp and Derrick Brooks, were the key parts to a defense that was the best of its era. They need to remember that Lynch wasn’t a center fielder. He could play the pass, but his bigger role was to be a hitter.

Lynch was one of the hardest-hitting safeties in NFL history. But that might not be enough to convince the voters to put him in the Hall of Fame.
TAMPA, Fla. -- The Tampa Tribune's Ira Kaufman did a fine piece Friday on the 20th anniversary of Malcolm Glazer's purchase of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

One quote jumped out at me. It came from New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft.

[+] EnlargeMalcolm Glazer
USA TODAY SportsThe 20 years of ownership under the late Malcolm Glazer and his family have seen their share of peeks -- such as the 2002 Super Bowl trophy -- but also valleys for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
"Those fans should remember what it was like 20 years ago, before the Glazer family took over," Kraft said.

That's an excellent point. Even coming off a 2-14 season, the Bucs are in much better shape than they were 20 years ago. I remember those days well, and they were absolute chaos.

After previous owner Hugh Culverhouse died, the team was operated by a three-man trust. The goal was to sell the team, and keeping it in Tampa Bay didn't seem to be a priority. There were rumblings that the Bucs would end up in Cleveland, Sacramento or Orlando.

Glazer's purchase didn't immediately stop the speculation. He played the game like the masterful businessman that he was. He flirted with a few other cities but ended up getting Hillsborough County voters to pass a tax to pay for a new stadium.

That coincided with the start of an era of prosperity the Bucs had never before enjoyed. Glazer hired coach Tony Dungy in 1996, and soon the Bucs became playoff regulars.

Raymond James Stadium was the place to be seen in Tampa Bay, and the Bucs boasted of having a waiting list of 100,000 for season tickets. A Super Bowl championship in the 2002 season highlighted it all.

There was star power with coach Jon Gruden, defensive tackle Warren Sapp, linebacker Derrick Brooks, safety John Lynch and wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson.

Glazer, who helped bring the Super Bowl to Tampa twice, suffered a series of strokes in 2006 and died in 2014. Even before his illness, his sons Bryan, Joel and Ed were heavily involved in the business side of things, and their roles only increased.

The ownership philosophy and style didn't change, but the results did soon after Glazer became ill. The Bucs haven't made the playoffs since the 2007 season and haven't won a postseason game since their Super Bowl victory.

Attendance has fallen, and the Bucs have bought up tickets to prevent local television blackouts the last two seasons.

But after the rocky tenures of coaches Raheem Morris and Greg Schiano, the Bucs seem to have found stability. They also hold the No. 1 pick in the draft.

Despite all the recent struggles, the Bucs still are better off than they were 20 years ago.
The Pro Football Hall of Fame class will be announced Jan. 31. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers' John Lynch is one of 18 finalists.

[+] EnlargeJohn Lynch
Mitchell Layton/Getty ImagesJohn Lynch finished his career with 26 interceptions.
When I think about Lynch, two things stand out, and they're contradictory. On the field, Lynch was a vicious hitter (he once knocked out his own brother-in-law John Allred, then with the Bears). Off it, Lynch was one of the nicest guys I have ever covered.

So how could a guy be so nasty on the field and so gentle off it? I remember asking Lynch that when I was doing a story on him at the Pro Bowl one year. His answer was that he flipped a switch when he walked onto the field and became a different person, and that's why Lynch might end up in the Hall of Fame.

Being a nice guy isn't going to get Lynch into the Hall of Fame. What matters is what he did on the field, and he did plenty. Along with Warren Sapp and Derrick Brooks, both Hall of Famers, Lynch helped turn the Bucs from a laughingstock into a regular playoff contender.

When the Bucs unceremoniously let Lynch go after 11 seasons because they thought he was washed up, he went to the Denver Broncos and had four productive seasons.

He had 490 tackles, 26 interceptions, 13 sacks and 10 forced fumbles. Interceptions are the key stat for safeties, but Lynch's total doesn't stand out.

What stood out were the hits Lynch delivered. They didn't go unnoticed, as Lynch was selected as a finalist and is in his third year on the ballot. And those big hits should be the first thing voters think of when they're selecting this year's class.
Former Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Tony Dungy and safety John Lynch have made the list of 26 semifinalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Class of 2015.

Dungy and Lynch were among the 15 finalists this past year but didn’t make the final cut. They’ll face a strong challenge again next year.

The list of first-year semifinalists includes Kurt Warner, Isaac Bruce, Torry Holt, Edgerrin James, Orlando Pace and Junior Seau. Lynch also could face a tough time getting in due to his position. It’s tough for safeties to get into the Hall of Fame, and safeties Steve Atwater and Darren Woodson also made the list of semifinalists.
TAMPA, Fla. -- They talked like they were drafting the second coming of John Lynch.

Instead, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers of a past regime might have hit on a second Sabby Piscitelli.

The current regime was only too happy to give up on 2012 first-round pick Mark Barron on Tuesday as the NFL's trading deadline approached. Barron was shipped to the St. Louis Rams for fourth- and sixth-round picks in 2015. The Bucs also traded reserve linebacker Jonathan Casillas to the New England Patriots. The Bucs will get New England’s fifth-round pick next season and send their 2015 sixth-round pick to the Patriots.

But it's the trade of Barron that's most significant. The current tandem of coach Lovie Smith and general manager Jason Licht obviously didn't share the same high opinion of Barron that former coach Greg Schiano and general manager Mark Dominik did only two years ago.

Hindsight is always 20-20, but the Bucs could have taken linebacker Luke Kuechly with the seventh overall pick in the first round in 2012. Instead, they passed and took Barron. Kuechly won Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2012 and Defensive Player of the Year in 2013 while playing for Carolina.

Barron hasn't been a total bust like Piscitelli, but he has produced only three interceptions in three seasons. Barron never has come close to playing up to his potential.

Barron became expendable in part because the Bucs have a trio of average safeties in Bradley McDougald, Major Wright and Keith Tandy. None of those safeties has as much natural talent as Barron. But Barron's talent wasn't showing in the current system.

Barron also became expendable because he just wasn't as good as advertised. Maybe Barron turns into a force in St. Louis. But he was nothing more than mediocre in Tampa Bay.

Anybody else think the 2012 Bucs should have gone linebacker and drafted Kuechly?
TAMPA, Fla. -- Buccaneers coach Lovie Smith generally is positive when he’s asked about specific players.

But, so far, I haven’t heard him put as much praise on one player as he did on strong safety Mark Barron on Monday night. Smith compared Barron to one of the greatest players in Tampa Bay history.

“We’ve talked a lot about and I’ve heard (the media) talk a lot about Lavonte David and Gerald McCoy being compared to two Hall of Famers (Derrick Brooks and Warren Sapp),’’ Smith said. “But we had another great safety here in John Lynch. Mark Barron looks the part.’’

I don’t think that’s much of an exaggeration. Barron was a high draft pick with lots of physical talent. He’s shown promise at times, but he should really thrive under a defensive-minded coach like Smith.

“I’m very pleased with him,’’ Smith said. “I really like what he did at Alabama. He had a good season last year, but it’s ahead of him. We need a big strong safety moving down into the box. But he went three days and had interceptions on three days. He has good hands for a big guy. We like the direction he’s going.’’
In his 24-minute Pro Football Hall of Fame induction speech, Derrick Brooks thanked dozens of people from every stage of his career.

There were plenty of emotional moments, but one stood out to me: when Brooks thanked the late Lee Roy Selmon, the first draft pick and the first Hall of Famer in the history of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

“Lee Roy set the standard, and we’re just trying to walk the path he set for us," Brooks said.

Selmon was much more than a football player. He was elegant, classy and heavily involved in the Tampa Bay community long after his playing days were over. Selmon left this world too soon, and he left a void in Tampa Bay.

But now that void is being filled. Brooks is as close to Selmon as you can get. Of course, Brooks was a tremendous football player. But, like Selmon, Brooks is so much more. Brooks now is the biggest icon in the Tampa Bay region, but he wouldn’t like hearing that. That’s because Brooks is especially humble.

That was best demonstrated when Brooks asked all his Buccaneers teammates who made the trip to Canton, Ohio, to stand and be recognized.

“Please stand up and let me bow and salute you guys," Brooks said.

Brooks had plenty of help. But, perhaps more than anyone, Brooks was responsible for turning around a dismal franchise.

“The Tampa Bay Buccaneers [were] the team that invented losing," said ESPN’s Chris Berman, who served as the master of ceremonies.

Brooks was drafted in 1995 by a team that hadn’t had a winning season since 1982. Joining forces with coach Tony Dungy and teammates such as Warren Sapp, Hardy Nickerson, John Lynch and Ronde Barber, Brooks ushered in the most successful era in franchise history. The Bucs became regular playoff contenders and, eventually, Super Bowl champions.

Brooks last played in 2008, but he’s more visible than ever. Brooks founded a high school in Tampa, does all sorts of charity work and works as the president of the Tampa Bay Storm.

“As a servant leader, I just want to do the best I can to make something better when I come into touch with it," Brooks said.

Brooks always has made the things he comes into contact with better. Selmon started that path, but now it’s Brooks’ turn to follow in the footsteps.

Bucs going slowly with Goldson

July, 27, 2014
TAMPA, Fla. -- The Bucs are going slowly with one player who normally goes all out.

That’s safety Dashon Goldson. He had ankle surgery after last season and was forced to sit out the entire offseason program. Goldson is healthy now, but the Bucs don’t want to rush him.

“We want to get him incorporated into everything, but we limited his reps,’’ coach Lovie Smith said. “We had him start off and that was pretty much it. We’ll be able to progress a little bit with his reps. But I was impressed with his movement.’’

Backup Major Wright took a lot of reps with the first team Saturday. But the Bucs have big plans for Goldson.

“He’s a very smart football player,’’ Smith said. “We’re going to ask an awful lot [of him]. It’s our Mike linebacker and our free safety -- they make most of the checks, most of the calls. They’re our Hardy Nickerson and John Lynch.’’

Goldson ran into problems last year with illegal hits and was suspended for one game. Smith said he’s confident that won’t be an issue this season.

“He has great knowledge, and we know he’ll hit," Smith said. "We’ll get him to lower that target."

Top 15 Buccaneers: No. 8

July, 2, 2014
We continue our list of the top 15 Buccaneers with No. 8:

Mark Barron, strong safety

What he did in 2013: Barron started 14 games and had 88 tackles, two sacks and two interceptions. The previous coaching staff and front office felt Barron had a Pro Bowl year, but was overlooked due to the team’s record.

Why he’s No. 8 in 2014: I don’t think Barron had a Pro Bowl season last year, but I think he can get to that level going forward. He has all the physical tools and shows good instincts at times. Barron should benefit as much as anyone from coach Lovie Smith’s Tampa 2 defense. Back in Tampa Bay’s glory days, John Lynch was the strong safety and a Pro Bowl regular. Barron could end up being the second coming of Lynch.
The other day, I wrote about future candidates for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Ring of Honor.

We talked about Doug Williams, Ricky Bell, Mike Alstott, John Lynch, Monte Kiffin, Tony Dungy, James Wilder and Ronde Barber. I think all of them should get into the Ring of Honor at some point.

But they may have to take a spot in line. With the death Wednesday of owner Malcolm Glazer, there's another obvious candidate.

Glazer deserves a spot in the Ring of Honor as soon as possible. Although he wasn't always popular with fans, Glazer did more for this franchise than anyone.

When he paid a then-record $192 million for the Bucs in 1995, Glazer was taking over a franchise that was a laughingstock. The Bucs had been bad for most of their existence and there was even talk about the team moving out of Tampa Bay.

Glazer fought a hard battle to get taxpayers to fund a new, state-of-the-art stadium that kept the Bucs in town. He also started changing just about everything.

He put the Bucs in new red and pewter uniforms. He also hired Dungy, who turned the franchise into a consistent winner. When Dungy couldn't quite get the Bucs over the hump, Glazer made a tough decision. He fired Dungy and traded for Jon Gruden.

In Gruden's first season, the Bucs won the Super Bowl. Speaking of Super Bowls, Glazer was instrumental in bringing two of them to Tampa Bay.

There are a lot of candidates with qualifications that make them worthy of the Ring of Honor. But none of them have better qualifications than Glazer.
Scott Smith of the Buccaneers’ official website took a look into the future, exploring possible 2015 inductees into the team’s Ring of Honor.

That gave me a lot to think about. Smith lists James Wilder, Tony Dungy, Monte Kiffin, Mike Alstott and John Lynch as the top five candidates. I’ve got no problem with any of those possibilities and I also would include Ronde Barber after a little more time passes from his retirement. All of those guys belong in the Ring of Honor at some point.

But there are two players from deep in the team’s history that I think belong in the Ring of Honor -- quarterback Doug Williams and running back Ricky Bell. This is where things get a little tricky.

Since starting the Ring of Honor, the Bucs pretty much have gone in chronological order. Derrick Brooks will be inducted in September and Warren Sapp got the honor last year. That makes plenty of sense because Sapp went into the Pro Football Hall of Fame last year and Brooks will go in this summer.

Brooks and Sapp were from the Dungy era, so it would make sense if Dungy, Kiffin, Alstott or Lynch was chosen in 2015. I’d put Lynch and Alstott as the early favorites.

But I’d like to offer a suggestion to the Bucs. The rules for the Ring of Honor don’t limit the number of inductees to one per year. Next year would be the perfect year to break from tradition and induct two people. Reach deep into the past and make Williams or Bell one of the inductees along with one of the Dungy-era candidates.

Williams and Bell have been passed over before, but it’s time to get one (or both) of them into the Ring of Honor. Bell’s career and life were cut short by an illness. But, for a brief period, Bell was one of the best running backs in the league and a class act off the field.

Williams probably already should be in the Ring of Honor and he’s partly to blame. Williams helped the Bucs go from an expansion team to respectability. But his spot in team history has been clouded a bit. Williams came to work in the team’s personnel office, but that didn’t last. Williams clashed with former general manager Mark Dominik and left the team on bad terms.

It’s time for Williams to set aside his bitterness. And it’s time for the Bucs to set aside memories of Williams’ departure.

The Ring of Honor is a very special thing and it should fully represent the team’s history.

Greatest Buccaneers: No. 5

April, 14, 2014
I’m taking a little time off. But, while I do, I wanted to leave you with something to keep you entertained.

Starting today and continuing through the rest of this week, I’m going to share with you my ranking of the top five players in Tampa Bay history.

I’m going to start with Doug Williams at No. 5. Williams wasn’t a slam dunk like the first four (although the order on them was a challenge). As I attempted to come up with No. 5, I considered players like John Lynch, Jimmie Giles, Mike Alstott, Paul Gruber and Hardy Nickerson.

After a lot of thought, I chose Williams. My reasoning was simple. Williams and Lee Roy Selmon, who will be a little higher up in the top five, were the two players who first brought respectability to a franchise that began its existence with an 0-26 record.

Williams led the Bucs to the NFC Championship Game in just their fourth year of existence. Williams never put up spectacular numbers, but he had a knack for producing in the clutch. I have no doubt that Williams would have ranked higher on this list if he had stayed with the Bucs longer.

But Williams spent only five years in Tampa Bay. He left for the United States Football League after an ugly salary dispute. The Bucs went into a tailspin after Williams’ departure and some suggested it was karma for the way the team treated Williams.

Things were smoothed over for a while as Williams came to work in the team’s personnel office in the 2000s. But Williams and former general manager Mark Dominik clashed and Williams left the team. It’s a shame that one of the best players in franchise history has an icy relationship with the team.