The Tampa Bay Buccaneers had one very long run of playoff years; from 1997 to 2002 the Bucs enjoyed 5 playoff seasons, and came a FG away from a 6th. 1998 was an 8-8 season that saw the Bucs get eliminated around 7pm on a missed FG between Chargers and Cardinals, even though they finished the biggest road win in history; 35-0 win over Cincinnati!
In that span, The Bucs had a top ten defense, top 5 many times;
- 1999- 2nd
- 2001- 6th
* Coached by Jon Gruden instead of Tony Dungy
In an age of free agency, most teams dont keep a core group of players together this long. The Veterans of the group Hardy Nickerson and DT Brad Culppeper were let go after 1999, and a drop in ranking ensued. But with the new coaching of Jon Gruden came fierce competition and the only no.1 ranking for Sapp/Brooks/Lynch together. Even after the Super Bowl, the 2005 Bucs finished NO.1 again behind the Booger McFarland/Brooks/Quarles/Barber bunch. There is even a defense named after the Bucs, the “Tampa 2”.
It wasn’t the first time either, the “Orange Crush” defense led by Lee Roy Selmon and crew were ranked No.1 in 1979, NO.1 vs passing TDs in 1981, and went to playoffs from ’79 to ’82 missing the ‘tournament’ in 1980.
DEFENSE…is in Tampa’s DNA, and its why fans get so pumped up about the return of it these past few weeks.
Offense? What offense. Crickets…thats all youll hear; The Bucs have had a handful of offensive stars over the last 40 years, not even enough to make a top 10…Doug Williams, Ricky Bell, Jimmy Giles, James Wilder, Mark Carrier, Paul Gruber, Mike Alstott, Warrick Dunn….how about the awesome Eight? Forty years of NFL Football and really these are the only Bucs whose names youll find in the record books. I can name 8 good Linebackers in the history of the franchise (see below).
In Bucs history, only three years did the Bucs do anything offensive(odd choice of word); 1984 when running of James Wilder gave Bucs a #10 finish, 2000 when the turnover prone defense helped the Bucs score the most points in franchise history. And 2003 when Brad Johnson played every game the whole season, the Bucs were a jugernaught no.10 offense again.
40 years, 2 top 10 (exactly 10) finishes…until now.
The modern era, these are NOT your fathers Buccaneers. These Bucs run over people (Doug Martin in 2012 and 2015), Throw the ball all over your team (3x 1000 yard seasons in a row by Mike Evans AND Joey Galloway), promising Quarterbacks in Josh Freeman (dont laugh, he was ranked 13th in 2010) and 5 years later, Jameis Winston, who ended up the NO.11 QB in his freshman year last season!
These new Bucs who brandish a larger Pewter helmet and bolder colors with return of the Orange, spent two straight drafts on the Offensive side of the ball, revamped the Offensive line with top draft picks, and Tampa Bay has been running the ball down hill, throwing the ball to Vincent Jackson and now Evans.
You just know the Bucs wont rest easy in the offseason;they will be after someone to compliment Evans, someone in the backfield who can break a run to the end zone when they see that hole, and a head coach who isnt known as a Guru, just a down to earth guy who gives you the hard truth when you ask for it. The Media loves him, and fans who were calling for his job a few weeks ago, will be chanting “Coach of the Year” if Tampa Bay makes the playoffs in 2016!
Tomorrow, well look at numbers that show how good Tampa Bay is,,and we’ll show you all about that famous “Trip to SAN DIEGO” in 1996 that turned the Bucs around…and a DT who heard his team called the YUCKS and vowed to never hear it again.