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Tampa Bay Buccaneers football is nearing a half century in the NFL. In that time, the franchise built itself up from a laughable squad at its inception all the way to Super Bowl champions. Fans of the Bucs have endured both the best and worst parts of rooting for the home team. Ever hard-working, the team will compete down in Florida again for another chance to hoist the Lombardi Trophy.
To say that things got off to a rocky start for this franchise in 1976 would be an understatement. Indeed, the Buccaneers did not win a game until week 13 of their second season, making for 26 straight losses to begin their history. However, after finally crossing this hurdle, their play gradually got better and by 1979 the Bucs won their division and found themselves hosting the NFC Championship. Shut out by the Rams 9-0, the Bucs fell back into mediocrity (and then lower) and would only make the playoffs twice more before 1997. They would set an NFL record with 12 consecutive seasons with 10 or more losses.
Despite having talented names come through Tampa over the years including Lee Roy Selmon, Doug Williams, Jimmie Giles, Ricky Bell, and Steve Young the Buccaneers could never put together a winning product. The next playoff appearance by the Bucs would be in 1997 under head coach Tony Dungy. He would bring the Bucs to the playoffs four times in his six seasons there. However, it was not until the 2002 season that Jon Gruden took over and brought the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to the Promised Land with a Super Bowl victory. Winning 48-21 over the Oakland Raiders, the Buccaneers had finally ascended to the top of the NFL.
The past few seasons have had the feel of earlier Buccaneers teams. Failing to eclipse 10 wins since 2010, the Bucs have gone through coaches and quarterbacks quite quickly in recent years, including at the end of 2018 when they let go of Dirk Koetter. Going 19-29 during his tenure, management decided to go in another direction in the hopes of ending this trend and building this team back into a contender. Their hopes are pinned on the franchise quarterback, Jameis Winston. Along with running back Peyton Barber and receivers Mike Evans, DeSean Jackson, and Adam Humphries, the Bucs offense has the capabilities to keep the opposing defense up at night worrying about Sunday. A double threat at the tight end position for Tampa, Cameron Brate and OJ Howard are competing for first string and both can put up great numbers. The result this season, however, has been disappointing. While Winston sat out the first few games of the season, Ryan Fitzpatrick filled in and played well. Winston struggled this year, leading to him being benched for Fitzpatrick later on. Fitzpatrick’s early season magic wore off and he lost the starting job again. All of this turmoil at QB spelled disaster for this team as they will miss the playoffs yet again in 2018.
Defensively, the Buccaneers have a host of talent up front with Pro Bowler Gerald McCoy, Jason Pierre-Paul, and Beau Allen. Shut down corner Brent Grimes is a vulture on the field, always stalking his prey before swooping in to make the big play. Lavonte David, Jordan Whitehead, and Justin Evans are also major contributors for this club.
There may be a lot of work to do in Tampa, polishing this raw team into a well-oiled machine, but the framework is definitely in place. If the new coach can find a way to motivate his group and galvanize their efforts toward the Super Bowl, then another appearance by this NFC South team may be in the cards in the near future. While the 2018 season will end with the Bucs in last place in the division, the team is ready to move past this disappointing result and ascend the rankings.
The best Tampa Bay Buccaneers players to have ever graced the gridiron include Derrick Brooks, Warren Sapp, Ronde Barber, John Lynch, Mike Alstott, Lee Roy Selmon, Simeon Rice, and Warrick Dunn. Click here to learn more about the history of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers franchise.