This series of articles will celebrate (or laugh at) some of the worst professional sports teams of all time. I will focus on teams within my lifetime so expect the worst from the 1970s to present day.
In 1976, the NFL decided to expand to 28 teams, adding the Seattle Seahawks and Tampa Bay Buccaneers into the NFL fraternity. Neither team had high expectations in their first season, but few would have guessed how horrible the Buccaneers would end up in their initial season.
The Buccaneers first move, before they stepped on the field was name former USC head coach, John McKay to patrol the sidelines. McKay had a very successful tenure with the Trojans, winning 4 National Championships, while compiling a 127-40-8 record. Some critics were against the hire, because McKay had no previous NFL experience. However some thought McKay’s winning ways from USC would transfer over to the Buccaneers.
McKay was very quotable and was noted for some superb quips. When asked about his opinion on the NFL, McKay answered:
“I don’t know what this pro football mystique is. I’ve gone to pro camps. They throw the ball, they catch the ball. Many of them are ex-USC players. I’m not amazed at what they do. I’ve watched the pros play. They run traps, they pitch the ball, they sweep. What else is there?”
McKay was also asked about the contrasts between coaching USC and coaching Tampa.
“It’s a three-hour time difference.”
Yes McKay had a great sense of humour, but this Buccaneers team probably made him cry more often than laugh.
The Bucs did have the first overall pick in the NFL draft, and they wisely selected defensive tackle Lee Roy Selmon from the University of Oklahoma. Selmon spent his entire 9 year career with the Buccaneers, becoming the first Buc to be enshrined into the Hall of Fame. Selmon led the team with 5 sacks despite missing 6 games due to injuries. The Bucs selected Lee Roy’s brother Dewey in the third round. Dewey spent 6 years in Tampa Bay before finishing his career with the San Diego Chargers in 1982.
The expansion draft was a downright horror show for Tampa Bay. Linebacker Doug Swift was plucked from the Miami Dolphins, but he chose to retire and go to medical school, than report to the Bucs. Running back Anthony Davis was picked up, but he refused to report as he was still under contract with the Toronto Argonauts of the CFL. Davis played under McKay at USC. Johnny McKay, the son of coach McKay was selected as well, which brought out cries of nepotism from some media members. Fullback Vince Kendrick was taken from the Atlanta Falcons. However the Buccaneers didn’t realize that Kendrick had a knee injury and would hardly play for the Bucs.
These band of misfits were finally ready to take the field on September 12, 1976 against the Houston Oilers at the Astrodome. The Bucs in those bright tangerine jerseys, which resembled a melting creamsicle finally were playing a real live football game. Except someone forgot to tell the Bucs. The Oilers scored an easy 20-0 victory over Tampa, and the nightmare was on.
The next week, the Bucs played their home opener against the San Diego Chargers. Tampa Stadium (otherwise known as the Big Sombrero thanks to ESPN loudmouth Chris Berman) was sold out and a fever pitch hit the city. It didn’t last long as the Bucs offence failed to do anything as the Chargers rolled to a 23-0 whitewash of the Bucs. Two games. Zero points.
Quarterback Steve Spurrier, who was a star at nearby University of Florida, struggled to find any consistency. NBC analyst John Brodie mentioned that many of Spurrier’s passes were thrown to the ground, short of the receiver. To that, McKay offered another classic quip:
“That’s OK, we’ll just get shorter receivers.”
The Bucs finally scored some points in Week 3. Kicker Dave Green booted 3 field goals, but it wasn’t enough as the Bucs lost 14-9 to the Buffalo Bills. Tampa Bay would go on to lose their next two games, before facing their expansion brethren, Seattle Seahawks in Week 6. Many thought if the Bucs were going to win a game, this would be it. While it was a close game, the Seahawks emerged with a 13-10 victory leaving the Bucs desolate yet again. Next up for Tampa was state rival Miami. The Dolphins were struggling as well, starting 2-4 and needing a win to stay in the playoff race. The Bucs were motivated and played Miami tough. But a Garo Yepremian field goal at the gun, gave the Dolphins a 23-20 triumph, which further broke the Buccaneers’ hearts even more.
The season further disintegrated with loss after loss piling up. After the Bucs were destroyed 42-0 by the defending Super Bowl Champion Pittsburgh Steelers, McKay offered this interesting tidbit.
“We didn’t block real good, but we made up for it by not tackling.”
McKay was also asked about his team’s execution:
“I’m in favour of it.”
The season came to a conclusion when the Bucs lost 14-0 to the New England Patriots on December 12. When it was said and done, the Buccaneers went 0-14 for the season.
The Bucs only averaged 8.9 points per game which is the worst since the merger in 1970. They ranked last in total yards, averaging a measly 214.7 yards per game. The Bucs ranked 25th in passing and 26th in running. The amazing part is they weren’t last in those categories.
The defence was slightly better, but still flimsy. The Bucs gave up 29.4 points which was only better than the Seahawks who gave up 30.6 points per game. The Bucs ranked 24th in yards allowed, as they relinquished 342.9 yards per game.
McKay in his end of the year press conference, left a few more gems for the media to have some fun with. McKay was asked what advice would he give to players, staying in Tampa in the offseason.
“Stop by my office tomorrow and pick up some fake noses and moustaches so no one recognizes your sorry asses.”
McKay left with these final words.
“We’ll be back. Maybe not in this century, but we’ll be back.”
The Bucs would go on to lose the first 12 games of next season, before finally recording their first win, a 33-14 triumph over the New Orleans Saints. In 1979 the Bucs had improved dramatically, as they rose to the top of the NFC Central Division. The Bucs advanced to the NFC Championship game, where they had their hearts broken by the Los Angeles Rams by a 9-0 score. The Bucs would have to wait till 2002, before finally achieving their ultimate goal of winning the Super Bowl.
Finally the uniforms must be discussed. Let’s face it, these uniforms were something else. I have no idea who came up with this concoction, but my guess is whoever designed it, wasn’t a football fan. Tangerine does not belong on a football field. Ever! These uniforms were so bright, that sunglasses sales went through the roof in the Tampa Bay area. And that logo. The winking pirate. The less said, the better.
You can follow me on Twitter @jstar1973