The Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Class of 2014 gets inducted on Saturday. Shutdown Corner will profile the seven new Hall of Famers this week, looking at each of their careers and their impact on the game.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 1995-2008
By the time it happened, the game was almost out of reach. But Brooks' 44-yard interception return for a touchdown in the final minutes of Super Bowl XXXVII put an exclamation point on one of the most dominant defensive performances in championship history and sealed the franchise's first and only Super Bowl title.
Brooks was the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year in that 2002 regular season, leading the team with 173 tackles, and adding a career-high five interceptions (three of which were returned for scores), 15 passes defensed, one fumble recovery and one sack. He was a major contributor in the Bucs’ victory in Super Bowl XXXVII where he had three tackles, one pass defensed and one interception returned for a score against the Oakland Raiders.
"If Warren [Sapp] was the heart of our defense, then Derrick Brooks was the soul that propelled us to our Super Bowl championship in 2002," Bucs co-chairman Bryan Glazer said.
Impact on the game
Brooks was drafted with Sapp in 1995 to aid what had been one of the NFL's worst defensive units for more than a decade. He instantly became a starter and never missed a game over the following 14 seasons, with his three non-starts as a rookie coming when the team opened in nickel defense against run-and-shoot teams.
Brooks and Sapp became the pillars of what would become a defensive dynasty in the team's vaunted Tampa 2 scheme, started by Tony Dungy and continued on for more than a decade by others. Brooks and Sapp would become only the second pair of teammates both taken in Round 1 of the draft to enter the Pro Football Hall of Fame after Dick Butkus and Gale Sayers.
From the weak side, Brooks was the ultimate playmaker against the run, outstanding in pass coverage and recognition and a film-room scholar who could predict what offenses would do based on his incredble recall and tremendous understanding of schemes.
For his career, Brooks made 11 Pro Bowls, was named All Pro six times and is a member of the NFL's All-Decade Team for the 2000s.
Sapp has been the most visible and audible figure of the team, but it was Brooks' quiet, stoic presence that was noteworthy on some of the NFL's best defenses of the 1990s and 2000s. He is one of the most beloved and respected players in franchise history.
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Case against his bust in Canton
There isn't one. Brooks was not a great pass rusher (13.5 career sacks in 224 regular-season games), but that's not at all what he was asked to do in the Bucs' scheme. Dungy's defenses — and most of his successors' related systems — seldom blitzed and often funneled things defensively toward their most reliable playmaker. Brooks seldomly let them down.
Case for his bust in Canton
Let's start with the team achievements. From Brooks' arrival in '95 through the championship season of '02, the Buccaneers won 73 games in eight seasons, a total it had taken the team nearly the previous 16 years to amass. The Buccaneers twice led the NFL in total defense (2002 and 2005) with Brooks leading the way, and it was the NFC's top-ranked unit five times in his career (1998, 1999, 2002, 2005, 2007). The Bucs had made the postseason only three times in the first 19 seasons prior to his arrival but made it seven times — with one championship — in his 14 years with the team.
"I take pride in being loyal and committed. That's how I carry myself. If you do that, you'll win and the Pro Bowl and stuff like that will follow.” — Brooks, via Pro Football Hall Of Fame
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