Remembering Brad Johnson and the Bucs

by Gary Shelton on January 31, 2023

in general

Tuesday, 4 a.m.

I remember Simeon Rice, his breath on Rich Gannon. Rice should have. been the MVP of that Super Bowl, if you want to know the truth.

I remember Jon Gruden, pumping his fist as ran down the sideline. Gruden's era would unravel in Tampa Bay, but on that night, I honestly felt he had done the best one-year coaching job in the history of the NFL.

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I remember Derrick Brooks, speeding down the sideline with the game-clinching interception. I remember Michael Pittman, a pedestrian running back who had the night of his life. I remember Dwight Smith taking back two interceptions for scores.

But most of all, I remember Brad Johnson, who had the post-season of his life.

It was 20 years ago (plus a few days) that the Tampa Bay Bucs won their first Super Bowl. They went into the graveyard known as Veteran's Stadium, in Philly, and won. They went to San Diego where they were an underdog to the Raiders, and won.

That was 7,311 days ago. It seems like it was last week.

The special thing about that Bucs' team was its journey from punch-line status. For years, the Bucs were the worst franchise in pro sports, a coach-killing, quarterback-ruining club where nothing ever went right.

Yet, they became a team of personalities, of Warren Sapp and John Lynch and Ronde Barber and Keyshawn Johnson and Keenan McCardell. No matter what you thought of yourself, there was a player to match your outlook on life.

Then there was Johnson, a quarterback who was just a step above a journeyman. He won all of 30 games as a Buc (counting the post-season) and was gone.

Ah, but for one post-season, he was magic. He outplayed Jeff Garcia of the 49ers. He outplayed Donovan McNabb of the Eagles. He outplayed Rich Gannon of the Raiders. He was unflappable.

No, he was no Tom Brady. On the other hand, he was a low-drafted quarterback who came to the Bucs late. He withstood some criticism for his short-passing game. And he made players around him better -- notably a horrible offensive line.

Johnson didn't last long. He started 16 games in 2003, then lost his only four starts in 2004.

But Johnson was proof you didn't have throw it 80 yards to win. You guide your team. You put points on the board.

And you win.

Twenty years later, you can still see him smile.

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