To dismiss the 1999 Buccaneers season as an NFC Championship game and a blown review on the Bert Emanuel catch would be a crime. The team was building something generational. They were building a legacy.
With last week being the 20th anniversary of the 2000 Championship game on January 23rd, 2000 against the Rams. The Bucs Report wanted to take a closer look at the pivotal season that put the Buccaneers in that NFC Championship game and on the verge of a dynasty.
The New Faces
The Bucs would draft Anthony “Booger” McFarland in the 1st round out of LSU. In the 2nd round they would go to Tulane and bring a local boy made good back to Tampa Bay. Drafting quarterback Shaun King out of Tulane. Growing up in St. Petersburg and playing high school football for the Gibbs Gladiators, King would play a crucial role that fateful season. The 3rd round would see Tampa Bay draft Martín Gramatica out of Kansas State. The “Argentine Assassin” would win the hearts of Tampa Bay fans and be known as “Automatica”. In the 4th round the team would go back to its Florida roots and draft safety Dexter Jackson out of Florida State. Jackson would be named the MVP of Super Bowl XXXVII just three years later. To refer to this draft as a productive one would be a gross understatement.
The Rest of the Krewe
Most of the main suspects were already in place. There was Hardy Nickerson, Derrick Brooks, Warren Sapp, John Lynch, and Mike Alstott. Those were the five All Pros that 99 season. Add in center Tony Mayberry, and there are your six pro bowlers that season as well.
There were impactful players from Florida colleges. Reidel Anthony (UF), Brad Culpepper (UF), Jacquez Green (UF), and Warrick Dunn (FSU) there was Karl “the truth” Williams, Ring Of Honor left tackle, Paul Gruber. Defensive linemen Marcus Jones, Chidi Ahonatu, and Tyoka Jackson. An offensive tackle named Jerry Wunsch, and guard Jorge Diaz.
Quarterbacks Trent Dilfer, Shaun King, and Eric Zeier would all see playing time that season. In what would become a common theme on Tony Dungy teams here in Tampa Bay. A stifling defense would give way to an offense that seemed to always play in spite of itself. Which is in no way a reflection of how awesome it was to watch the A-Train steamrolling defense’s.
But let’s be honest. This Buccaneers team was to forever be known as a defensive juggernaut. With linebackers Shelton Quarles, Alshermond Singleton, and Jeff Gooch. Cornerbacks Ronde Barber and Donnie Abraham. The defense was the identity. What made this entire team so lovable was that for all the names on the defensive side of the ball. There were offensive players like TE’s Dave Moore and Patrick Hape. Players who brought the lunch pale to work everyday. Giving this Tampa Bay team an identity. A tough, grind it out, fight to the gun team that took no prisoners.
The Coaches and Front Office
By the start of Tony Dungy’s 4th year at the helm of the Buccaneer ship, an impressive cast of characters were ready to go. With a coaching staff that included Lovie Smith, Herm Edwards, Monte Kiffin, Rod Marinelli, and offensive line coach Chris Foerster(currently serving as game planning assistant for the NFC Champions 49ers). A front office with the likes of Tim Ruskell, and Jerry Angelo. General Manager Rich McKay had put together an organization primed for success. There was even a quarterbacks coach by the name of Clyde Christensen. The same Clyde Christensen who coaches the Buccaneers quarterbacks today.
There you have it. The cast has been introduced. The story has yet to be told. Stay tuned as the Bucs Report takes an extended, 3 part look at the Buccaneers 1999 season.
Next up: The regular season
Photo credit: Bleacher Report