After reaching the NFC Championship game in the 1979 and again making a playoff run in the 1982 playoffs, the Buccaneers potentially left some titles on the table.
After three straight seasons the Bucs were able to pick up some key pieces that eventually would bring Coach John McKay to fruition. Although he would receive flack for taking Ricky Bell RB out of USC over Tony Dorsett, I still feel injuries and his illness hampered Bell’s success later in his career. During the 79 season Bell was able to pass the 1,000 yard mark which says a lot for what Tampa Bay was at the time. If Bell would have stayed healthy who knows how he could have impacted the Bucs offense going into the early eighties.
Doug Williams fell into the teams lap in the first round of the 78 Draft, even leading the team to a 5-11 record, which I’ll state again was pretty solid for a team that almost didn’t win a game for two straight seasons. After putting the organization on his back, the Buccaneers ownership had Williams under a contract for $120,000 which at the time was less than several back ups. Williams asked the Culverhouse ownership to bump him up to $600,000 which was solid at the time especially after bringing the fledgling franchise to the playoffs twice. Culverhouse was only willing to offer Williams $400,000, resulting in Williams leaving the team for the USFL’s Oklahoma Outlaws. Five years later Williams would lead the Washington Redskins to a Super Bowl, the Bucs however would go on to have 12 consecutive seasons with 10 or more losses.
You would think if the team was so bad why didn’t they draft any good players? Under the Culverhouse regime the Bucs had one of the lowest salaries in the league which hindered free agents from joining the team, thus not helping an aging Lee Roy Selmon on defense resulted in the teams decline. The mishandling of Bo Jackson prior to drafting him was a franchise crushing blow for the team, and something I don’t think the Bucs have recovered from until recently. The trading of future Super Bowl winning QB Steve Young in favor of mediocre Vinny Testaverde was also a blunder for the team.
It was not until the death of Hugh Culverhouse in 1994 and Sam Wyche coming on board as coach that the tide would turn for the franchise after drafting John Lynch in 93 and both Warren Sapp and Derrick Brooks. All three would later become the cornerstones of Tony Dungy and Monte Kiffin’s Tampa 2 defense that ultimately would bring championship gold to Tampa Bay.