Still No Official Nickname, So Champs Will Do For Now
The Tampa Tribune, published 27 January 2003

It's time. Tampa Bay has earned the right to be considered among the greatest defenses in the history of the NFL, so they at least deserve a nickname. Minnesota had the Purple People Eaters and Chicago had the Monsters of the Midway. What does Tampa Bay have?

Maybe a name with red in it. Or pewter. Maybe with pirates. Or a ship. Or bay. Just something. ``It needs to be something with speed and hitting people hard because that's the things we do on defense,'' said cornerback Dwight Smith, who returned two interceptions for touchdowns Sunday. ``We run around and hit people.''

That's not all the Bucs defense does. They dominate. No other defense this season smothered opponents quite like Tampa Bay. The NFL's top-ranked defense finished first in seven statistical categories this year, including points allowed (196) and interceptions (31).

``It's not very trendy, it's not very catchy, but I think just call us the No. 1 defense in the league,'' linebackers coach Joe Barry said. ``Our nickname is best ever,'' defensive backs coach Mike Tomlin said.

Tampa Bay set a Super Bowl record with its five interceptions, three of which were returned for scores, against Oakland on Sunday. Smith became the first player in Super Bowl history to return two picks for touchdowns. ``We were told that coming into this game, if we won a championship, that we'd go down as one of the great defenses of all time,'' strong safety John Lynch said. ``We came out and did what we did all year and I think you've got to say that we go down as one of the greatest of all time.''

Nickname talk is nothing new for the defense. Years ago when it first began to earn a reputation around the league, players dismissed the notion of a catch phrase. They said the defense didn't warrant one. Not until they got a Super Bowl ring. Now they've earned the jewelry so it's time for a nickname. ``Just call us World Champions,'' linebacker Shelton Quarles said. ``That's good enough.''