NFL

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers Struck Gold 25 Years Ago to Reshape Their Franchise

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers struck gold in the offseason this year, signing six-time Super Bowl champion Tom Brady. Brady is seeking his seventh ring as he guides the Bucs into Super Bowl 55 for a meeting with the Kansas City Chiefs. The Buccaneers also struck it rich 25 years ago after many seasons of failure.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers struggled early in their history

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The Tampa Bay Buccaneers came into the National Football League as an expansion team in 1976. They entered with the Seattle Seahawks, who joined the AFC, while Tampa found a home in the NFC. It was ugly right out of the gate for the Bucs.

Playing under head coach John McKay, the Buccaneers had a woeful start to their NFL career. McKay was brought in after a successful coaching stint at USC and wasn’t used to losing. He got a strong dose of it immediately. The Buccaneers dropped their first 26 games as they went 0-14 in their inaugural season before dropping their first 12 games in 1977.

McKay went 44-88-1 in nine seasons with the Buccaneers. In 1979, the Bucs had their first winning season. Tampa went 10-6 and made its way to the NFC title game.

The Buccaneers are headed to their second Super Bowl

As bad as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were when their franchise began in 1976, they bounced back and made it to Super Bowl 37. In that 2002 season, the Buccaneers went 12-4 and were led by a dominant defense. Under head coach Jon Gruden, the Buccaneers defeated the Oakland Raiders 48-21 to claim the Lombardi Trophy.

Gruden, ironically, had been the head coach of the Raiders the year before. Gruden was acquired in a rare trade the involved a coach. Prior to the 2002 season, the Buccaneers traded two first-round picks, two second-round picks, and $8 million to the Raiders in exchange for Gruden, according to The Sporting News.

This year, the new-look Bucs are returning to the Super Bowl. Tampa Bay signed veteran free agent Tom Brady before the season began and then loaded the team with talent. Already armed with two strong wide receivers in Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, the team added veteran Pro Bowler wide receiver Antonio Brown and veteran Pro Bowl tight end Rob Gronkowski. They also signed former first-round pick Leonard Fournette to their backfield. The Bucs have been in win-now mode since signing Brady and it’s paid off so far.

The Bucs set the tone for their first Super Bowl 25 years ago

Back in 1995, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers had the draft of a lifetime, which helped set the tone for their victory in Super Bowl 37. The Bucs had a pair of first-round draft picks and struck gold with both of them. Picking at No. 12, the Bucs selected defensive tackle Warren Sapp out of Miami.

Tampa Bay also had the 28th pick and selected linebacker Derrick Brooks. Both contributed heavily to that stingy defense that propelled the Buccaneers to a Super Bowl title during the 2002 season. Sapp and Brooks go down as two of the top players in the franchise’s history. Both are Hall of Famers.

Only two other teams, the Chicago Bears in 1965 (Dick Butkus and Gale Sayers) and the Baltimore Ravens in 1996 (Jonathan Ogden and Ray Lewis), drafted two Hall of Famers in the first round of the same draft, according to The Canton Repository. Sapp made the Pro Bowl seven times, while Brooks is an 11-time Pro Bowler.