Tampa Bay Buccaneers Fun Facts & History
Few NFL fans will confuse the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with one of the most prestigious franchises in NFL history. Having an all-time winning percentage under .400 tends to do that for a team. However, anyone who has bought Bucs tickets and attended a game at Raymond James Stadium knows that Tampa Bay has an interesting and unique history - not to mention, great players, just check out the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Super Bowl Roster. The Bucs have experienced both highs and lows in nearly 50 years as a franchise. They’ve even won a Super Bowl, which is more than some teams. All of that makes it worthwhile to explore the history and some of the fun facts about the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Starting Off on the Wrong Foot
The Bucs could not have asked for a worse start as a franchise. In their inaugural season in 1976 under head coach John McKay, Tampa Bay went winless, going 0-14. The Bucs were ravaged by injuries throughout the season, signing several players from the CFL just to fill out their roster. They scored just 125 points while giving up 412 points. One thing that most fans don’t realize is that the Bucs spent that first season as members of the AFC West, which wasn’t a good fit for them geographically. In 1977, the Seahawks joined the AFC West, allowing the Bucs to move into the NFC Central, which became their home until 2002.
Signs of Light
Tampa’s second season in the NFL wasn’t much better than the first. However, it did see the Bucs win their first game in franchise history. After starting the season 0-12, the Buccaneers beat the New Orleans Saints 33-14. The Tampa Bay defense forced three interceptions to help secure the win, which snapped a 26-game losing streak the Bucs endured at the start of the franchise. Tampa would win the following week against the St. Louis Cardinals to finish their second NFL season 2-12. Things got a little better from there, but the Buccaneers have had a losing all-time record ever since.
Despite not winning a game until their second season, the Buccaneers only waited until their fourth season to make the playoffs for the first time. During the 1979 season, Tampa Bay went 10-6, winning the NFC Central division for the first time and making the playoffs. After beating the Eagles in the Divisional Round for their first playoff win in franchise history, the Bucs lost the NFC Championship Game to the Los Angeles Rams 9-0 despite playing the game at home. Nevertheless, it was a huge step in the right direction for the franchise.
After winning their first-ever playoff game in 1979, it took the Bucs nearly 20 years to win another playoff game. The 1980s and early 90s became a lost era for Tampa Bay. From 1983 to 1996, the Bucs endured 14 straight losing seasons, winning five games or fewer in nine of those 14 seasons. However, it all started to turn around under Tony Dungy, who became head coach in 1996. By 1997, Dungy had led Tampa Bay back to the playoffs, leading them there four times in five seasons.
Despite being the first coach in franchise history to have a winning record, Dungy was fired after the 2001 season and replaced with Jon Gruden. Under Gruden, the Bucs went 12-4 during the 2002 season, dominating the 49ers and Eagles in the playoffs before doing the same to the Raiders in a 48-21 victory in Super Bowl XXXVII. It was the crowning achievement in franchise history thanks to a dominating defense that Dungy is largely credited with cultivating. Oddly enough, Tampa Bay’s first and only Super Bowl championship came during the team’s first season in the NFC South, which is the division the Bucs call home to this day. Of course, 2002 became one of the few times the Buccaneers won the NFC South, as they struggled to maintain consistent success in the years after Gruden led them to their Super Bowl win.
Despite their ups and downs on the field, the Buccaneers have had plenty of award winners in their history. Tampa’s young players have always stood out with the Bucs having five Rookie of the Year Award winners. Wide receiver Lawrence Dawsey was the first Tampa Bay player to win Rookie of the Year honors in 1991. He was followed the next year by defensive tackle Santana Dotson. Running backs Warrick Dunn and Cadillac Williams have also won Rookie of the Year while playing for the Bucs with quarterback Jameis Winston being the most recent winner in 2015. Tampa’s defense has also produced three Defensive Player of the Year winners. Lee Roy Selmon won the award back in 1979. Of course, that was 20 years before Warren Sapp won it with Derrick Brooks also taking home the award in 2002.
In the Hall
Not surprisingly, Selmon, Sapp, and Brooks are among the former Buccaneers players who are members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Three other Hall of Famers have played for the Bucs during their career with Steve Young, Randall McDaniel, and Tim Brown making stopovers in Tampa. That list will grow one day with future Hall of Famer Tom Brady joining the Bucs in 2020. Of course, Selmon, Sapp, and Brooks are the only three players in the Hall of Fame because of what they accomplished while playing for the Buccaneers.