Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers play their home games at the Raymond James Stadium, after moving there in 1998, and they are affiliated to the Southern Division of the National Football Conference in the National Football League. The name will also ring bells with Brits, as the Buccaneers are owned by American tycoon Malcolm Glazer, famous for his takeover of Manchester United.
Throughout their history, the Bucs have struggled to find a winning formula. The franchise entered the NFL in 1976 along with the Seattle Seahawks as expansion teams, and immediately got off to a bad start. In the AFC West division, they lost their first 26 games.
They then enjoyed a brief successful era in the late 1970s and early 1980s, winning two NFC Central championships. This success was short-lived, however, as the Bucs suffered losing records in the next fourteen seasons.
The franchise have enjoyed their most successful era under the management of current head coach John Gruden. Since he took over in 2002, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have won three division titles and one conference championship.
In his first year, Gruden led his team to their only Super Bowl appearance to date against his former team the Oakland Raiders. And Tampa Bay didn’t disappoint, winning the game comfortably 48-21 in Super Bowl XXXVII.
An Early Franchise
In 1976, the Bucs joined the AFC West division in the NFL, although they were moved to the Central division a year later. Tom McClosky was initially granted the Tampa Bay franchise, but after severe money problems, the wealthy tax attorney Hugh Culverhouse took over at the helm.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers first played their home games at the Tampa Stadium. At capacity, there could be up to 72,000 people in the stadium, making it one of the largest sporting arenas in the world.
However, to say that the franchise started slowly is an understatement. They didn’t win in their first two seasons, losing twenty-six games on the trot. Finally, they won their first game away at the New Orleans Saints in 1977.
Finally, success arrives
After starting slowly, the Bucs’ state of affairs soon took a turn for the better, as the team improved vastly in the 1979 season. They started the campaign with five successive wins, thanks mainly to the performances of budding quarterback Doug Williams, along with a strong defence led by Lee Roy Selmon, who would go on to be inducted into NFL’s Hall of Fame. Running back Ricky Bell also impressed, as he rushed 1000 yards for the first time in the team’s history.
After the good start to the season, Tampa Bay needed to win just one of their last four games to secure a place in the playoffs. The Bucs made hard work of it, as they lost three straight games to the Minnesota Vikings, Chicago Bears and San Francisco 49ers respectively.
This meant that the Bucs had to win their final game of season, at home to the Kansas City Chiefs. They did exactly that, finishing the season with a 10-6 record to clinch the Central Division title. This record was also the first time in the franchise’s short history that the Bucs produced a winning season.
The Bucs met the Philadelphia Eagles in the divisional round of the playoffs, and surprisingly won 24-17. However, their campaign would end there, as they lost NFC Championship Game a week later, when the Los Angeles Rams humbled the Bucs, 9-0.
The Bucs would continue their success into the early 1980s, as they won the Central Division again in 1981 in truly gripping circumstances. For the final game of the season, the Bucs faced a Detroit Lions team that had not lost at home all season.
The winner would be named division champions, whilst the loser would miss out on the playoffs. Despite trailing early on in the match, the Bucs came back to secure their second title thanks to an 84-yard touchdown after David Logan recovered a fumble.
The success was again short-lived, as they were soundly beaten 38-0 by the Dallas Cowboys in the divisional round of the playoffs. This loss would prove to be the catalyst for further disappointment for the Tampa Bay faithful, as it would be another eighteen years until the franchise would win another title. 1982 would also prove to be the last time the franchise recorded a winning season under the ownership of Culverhouse.
New ownership and a new dawn
Culverhouse sadly passed away and left the franchise close to bankruptcy. This came as a shock to many people, as they had previously been a very profitable team under his ownership. The death created much uncertainty over the future of the Bucs, as the interested parties in the succession were from different states, with the owner of the Baltimore Orioles, Peter Angelos, claiming that if he were awarded the franchise he would move them to Baltimore.
Fortunately, right at the last minute, Malcolm Glazer won the rights to the franchise after bidding $192 million, making history in the process as the most money paid for a professional sports franchise at that time. The money that Glazer brought to the team meant that the Bucs could push on to bigger and better things, but it would take time.
Signs of improvement followed after Glazer appointed Tony Dungy, formerly of the Minnesota Vikings, as their head coach. He also increased ticket prices in order to raise money for a new stadium, the Raymond James Stadium (where they play their home games now). Dungy took over at the helm in 1996, and struggled in his first season, finishing with a record of 6-10.
However, his temperament, which was very calm and collected, would bring back confidence and raised the spirits of the team.
The fruits of this measured approach followed in the 1997 season, when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers became a much more consistent outfit. They began the season as they did in 1979, winning the first five games.
The Bucs then went on to secure their first winning season since 1982, with a 10-6 record. They eventually lost to the Green Bay Packers 21-7, who went on to become NFC Champions, but huge optimism surrounded Tampa Bay ahead of their move to their new stadium.
Initially, the move proved to be a huge anti-climax as the Bucs struggled throughout the 1998 season and finished with a below par record of 8-8. However, things got brighter for the Bucs in the following season, as Dungy’s regime began to take shape.
They ended the season with a much-improved record of 11-5, securing their third NFC Central Division Championship in the process. This was largely down to the Bucs having the best defence in the NFL that season.
They defeated the Washington Redskins in a tight encounter in the Divisional round, but lost in the NFC Championship Game 11-6 to the St. Louis Rams. Ironically though, defeat marked a turning point in the franchise’s history, as they were soon to enjoy the most successful period.
Super Bowl Champions
This successful period, however, would not be under the guidance of Dungy, as he was sacked after the Bucs lost to the Philadelphia Eagles in the Wildcard Round of the 2001 season. The process of finding a replacement was a long one.
Many people were offered the chance to take over at the helm, including former New York Giants head coach Bill Parcells and University of Florida head coach Steve Spurrier. The latter turned down the Bucs after he received the highest salary offer ever in NFL history, from the Redskins.
Parcells also turned down the Bucs for the second time, and so the Glazer family stepped in and stated that they wanted Jon Gruden to take over as head coach. Despite some problems, they got their wish and Gruden left the Oakland Raiders to join the Bucs in 2002.
This move by the Glazer family would prove to be an astute one, as the team would go on to enjoy their most successful era under his wings. In his first season in charge, the Bucs moved to the new NFC South Division and, in 2002, they enjoyed their most successful season to date.
They easily won the division, with their best ever record of 12-4. To rub salt into wounds, Gruden took his new team to face his former team in Super Bowl XXXVII and thrashed them 48-21, sealing the first and only Super Bowl victory for the Tampa Bay franchise.
Since their success in 2002, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have gone on to win two further NFC South Division championships, in 2005 and 2007. However, they have failed to progress further than the playoffs. Still, with the financial backing of the Glazer family, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will surely continue to progress and become one of the most dominant forces in the NFL.
- Super Bowl Championships – Winners (2002 (XXXVII))
- Conference Championships – NFC Winners (2002)
- Division Championships – NFC Central Winners (1979, 1981, 1999) NFC South Winners (2002, 2005, 2007)
Hall of Famers
- 63 – Lee Roy Selmon, DE
- 63 – Lee Roy Selmon, DE
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have been involved in breaking many NFL records, and here are just some of them:
- Matt Bryant kicked the second longest field goal in NFL history in 2006, as his 62-yard attempt won the Bucs the game against the Eagles.
- Since the AFL-NFL Merger, the Buccaneers are the first expansion team to win a Super Bowl.
- They hold many defensive streaks, having the record for most consecutive games with at least one sack (69 games). The defence also went 50 successive matches with at least one forced turnover and one sack.
After winning the Super Bowl in 2002, the Bucs again set many records. They became the first team to claim a Super Bowl title:
- After losing the first game of the season on home soil.
- After rushing less than 100-yards during each game in the regular season.
- After having three interceptions returned for touchdowns.
- From the NFC South division.
There is also a myth within the media surrounding the Bucs, known as the “Tampa Bay Curse”. This refers to the fact that no team has gone on to win the Super Bowl after losing to Tampa Bay in the regular season.