10 Greatest Tampa Bay Buccaneers Teams of All Time

Tampa Bay's years of frustration have been matched by years of greatness

It is safe to say that no franchise ever had as rough a start as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Established in 1976, the Buccaneers were winless in their first NFL season in the AFC West. They moved to the NFC Central the next season and lost their first 12 games before winning their final two. The 0-26 start is one of the more infamous stats in football history.

 

But while Tampa Bay has experienced a few long periods of futility (and is currently in one now), the franchise also has had periods of greatness and fielded many talented teams. Here are the 10 best.

 

10. 1982

Finished: Lost to Dallas Cowboys 30-17 in the First Round of the Playoff Tournament

Regular Season Record: 5-4

The Bucs lost their first three games in the strike-shortened season, but rebounded to win five of their last six and make the unique 16-team playoff tournament. In the first round, they led Dallas 17-16 going into the fourth quarter, but two controversial penalty calls and 14 straight points by the Cowboys cost them the game. Quarterback Doug Williams left the team for the USFL in the offseason and Tampa Bay did not make the playoffs for 14 seasons.

 

9. 2001

Finished: Lost to Philadelphia Eagles 31-9 in Wild Card Round

Regular Season Record: 9-7

Tampa Bay made the playoffs for the third year in a row but lost to the Eagles again in the wild card game. Head coach Tony Dungy was fired and went to the Indianapolis Colts, where he won a Super Bowl five years later. The Buccaneers traded two first-round draft picks, two second-round picks, and $8 million for Raiders head coach Jon Gruden, who won the Super Bowl the next year. All in all, things worked out for the best.

 

8. 1981

Finished: Lost to Dallas Cowboys 38-0 in Divisional Round

Regular Season Record: 9-7

Doug Williams threw for more than 3,500 yards as Tampa Bay won the NFC Central for the second time in three seasons. Sadly, the Buccaneers' season ended with a nasty beatdown by Dallas.

 

7. 2007

Finished: Lost to New York Giants 24-14 in Wild Card Round

Regular Season Record: 9-7

The last Tampa Bay team to date to make the playoffs won the NFC South by two games. However, the Bucs came up short against a Giants team of destiny.

 

6. 2000

Finished: Lost to Philadelphia Eagles 21-3 in Wild Card Round

Regular Season Record: 10-6

The Bucs made the playoffs for the third time in four years, but an overtime loss to the Green Bay Packers in the final game of the regular season eliminated their chances of winning the division and earning a first-round bye. Instead, Tampa Bay traveled to frigid Philadelphia for a wild card game, where the Bucs were outmanned.

 

5. 2005

Finished: Lost to Washington Redskins 17-10 in Wild Card Round

Regular Season Record: 11-5

NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year Carnell "Cadillac" Williams set the record for the most rushing yards in his first three games with 474 and the Buccaneers won the NFC South. In the playoffs, they held the Redskins to 120 yards, but Washington turned two turnovers into touchdowns and that proved to be the difference in the game.

 

4. 1997

Finished: Lost to Green Bay Packers 21-7 in Divisional Round

Regular Season Record: 10-6

Tampa Bay retired its old orange and white "Bucco Bruce" uniforms and entered the season sporting better duds. The Buccaneers' play improved too, as they made the playoffs for the first time since 1982 and head coach Tony Dungy was named NFL Coach of the Year.

 

3. 1979

Finished: Lost to Los Angeles Rams 9-0 in NFC Championship Game

Regular Season Record: 10-6

After starting 0-26 and winning only seven games in their first three years of existence, Tampa Bay shocked the football world by starting 5-0 on its way to a 10-win season. Then the Bucs beat the Eagles in the Divisional Round to make the conference championship. This is one of the most remarkable turnarounds in NFL history.

 

2. 1999

Finished: Lost to St. Louis Rams 11-6 in NFC Championship Game

Regular Season Record: 11-5

The Bucs Tampa 2 defense was the foundation of the franchise's first 11-win season and return to the conference championship for the first time in 20 years. There, they made the "Greatest Show on Turf" look downright boring and prompted a change in the NFL rulebook. Down 11-6 late in the fourth quarter and facing 2nd and 23 on the Rams 35-yard line, quarterback Shaun King hit Bert Emanuel with an 11-yard pass that was caught before Emanuel hit the ground with the ball touching. The officials reviewed the play and ruled the pass incomplete. Facing the same down and distance, King threw two more incompletions and Tampa Bay turned the ball over on downs. In the offseason, the NFL adopted the "Bert Emanuel Rule," which allows for a catch if the receiver has possession and control of the ball even if it touches the ground.

 

1. 2002

Finished: Beat Oakland Raiders 48-21 in Super Bowl XXXVII

Regular Season Record: 12-4

After three straight playoff losses, newly acquired head coach Jon Gruden beefed up the offense. The additional firepower matched a defense that led the league in yards allowed per game and set the record for most interceptions (40) in a season by a Super Bowl-winning team. The outcome was that one of the league's longest-suffering franchises finally became a champion.

 

— Written by Aaron Tallent, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Tallent is a writer whose articles have appeared in The Sweet Science, FOX Sports’ Outkick the Coverage, Liberty Island and The Washington Post. Follow him on Twitter at @AaronTallent.

 

(Top photo courtesy of Getty Images)

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