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1976 Tampa Bay Buccaneers season
Head coach John McKay
Home field Tampa Stadium
Results
Record 0–14
Place 5th AFC West
Playoff finish did not qualify
Timeline
Previous season Next season
N/A 1977

The NFL Tampa Bay Buccaneers had their debut season in 1976, making league history as the first team to play an entire 14-game season without winning or tying a single game. They did not score until their third game and did not score a touchdown until their fourth. They lost by a touchdown or more eleven times. Colorful, maverick former USC coach John McKay, whose wisecracking remarks occasionally agitated fans and the league, led the team. Lee Roy Selmon, the Buccaneers' only Hall of Fame representative (as of 2009), made his rookie debut in an injury-plagued season.

The expansion draft was largely made up of aging veterans, giving the Buccaneers little basis for success. The tone was set for the season as the team got lost in the Houston Astrodome when leaving the locker room to take the field for their opening game. They spent 20 minutes trying to find their way out, and barely made it to the field in time for the opening kickoff. The team did not score a touchdown until cornerback Danny Reece returned a fumble 44 yards in the fourth game. Their first touchdown pass was thrown by running back Louis Carter in an "Expansion Bowl" loss to the Seattle Seahawks in which the two teams combined for 310 yards in penalties.[1 ] The season was marked by conflicts between McKay and quarterback Steve Spurrier. By the time the season ended, only four starters from the first game were still on the roster, and 17 players were on injured reserve. They were last in the league in points scored, touchdowns, and rushing touchdowns.[2] They were outscored 412–125, allowed 6.7 yards per play, and allowed an average of 183 rushing yards per game.[3] After a 19-point 4th-quarter performance brought them within striking distance of a victory in week 9 against the Kansas City Chiefs, they were blown out of every game the rest of the season. According to defensive end Pat Toomay, "By the time we got to the last game of the season, we had so many injuries that we didn't feel we had much of a chance. Everybody was so sick of the season that they showed up packed and ready to get out of town. It looked like a bunch of Okies fleeing the dust bowl."[4] The injury problems were at least partly the result of the teams having only been given hours to prepare for the expansion draft, with no medical information provided on the players.[5] The defense were hit particularly hard by injuries. On the field for upward of 90 plays per game, they played the equivalent of two seasons in one.[6][7] The 2008 NFL Network program "10 Worst Teams of All Time" (produced prior to the 2008 Detroit Lions season) recognized the 1976 Buccaneers as the worst NFL team ever. Subsequent expansion teams were given a more generous allotment of draft picks and expansion draft opportunities, in part to avoid a repeat of the Buccaneers' difficulties.[8]

Contents

John McKay

Owner Hugh Culverhouse, encouraged by recommendations from Vice President of Operations Ron Wolf and Alabama coaching legend Bear Bryant, chose John McKay, winner of four national championships at USC, as the first Buccaneer head coach. Other candidates considered included Hank Stram, Ara Parseghian, and Joe Paterno. McKay was reportedly offered a five-year contract worth $750,000, plus cars, insurance, and real estate. McKay turned down an offer from the Seattle Seahawks and a counter-offer from USC to take the job. Critical of the NFL, McKay had turned down offers from professional teams in the past. McKay cited NCAA cutbacks in finances and recruiting as motivations for leaving the college ranks, saying simply that it was "time to try something else".[9][10]

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McKay quotes

McKay had a natural sense of humor that helped him to cope with the pressures of the long losing streak, and it was not unusual for his press conferences to resemble comedy routines. While this may have helped cope with the on-field frustrations,[11] it also served to mask how difficult the experience was for McKay, a situation his son Rich compared to "taking off in a jet airplane and finding out that neither engine works."[12]

  • When asked about his offense's execution: "I'm in favor of it".
  • On hearing about kicker Pete Rajecki's nervousness at playing in front of McKay: "That's unfortunate, as I plan on attending all the games".
  • At a postgame press conference: "You guys don't know the difference between a football and a bunch of bananas."
  • At the following week's press conference, after a member of the media left a case of bananas at his door: "You guys don't know the difference between a football and a Mercedes-Benz."[13]
  • On John Brodie's comment that Steve Spurrier throws one of three passes into the ground: "That's OK, we'll just get shorter receivers."[14]
  • "We've determined that we can't win at home and we can't win on the road. What we need is a neutral site."
  • "We didn't block real good, but we made up for it by not tackling."[15]
  • When asked how he compared coaching in Tampa to coaching at USC: "It's a three-hour time difference."[16]
  • "I thought all along that we would win 14 games. Right after the opening kickoff I said, 'Well, I'll be damned'".
  • "I've been telling the players, 'Let's have a good time.' (Pause) They took me literally".
  • "Mr. Culverhouse has been a great owner. He hasn't come to the dressing room yet to give me any suggestions. Well, I need some advice. I called the Baltimore owner, but he was busy".[1 ]
  • To players planning on staying in Tampa over the offseason: "Stop by my office tomorrow and pick up some fake noses and mustaches so no one recognizes your sorry asses".[17]
  • "We'll be back. Maybe not in this century, but we'll be back."[2]

Additionally, assistant coach Dennis Fryzel, when the team was penalized for having 12 players on the field, asked a referee, "Which one was it?"[18] And injured guard Ira Gordon reportedly told McKay, "Coach, I got the x-ray, but I don't feel any better".[19]

McKay's comments on coaching in the NFL

I don't know what this pro football mystique is. I've gone to the 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?
- John McKay, in Sports Illustrated[20]

Coach McKay had won four national championships while coaching at USC, and he never hesitated to express his lack of awe at the NFL. He earned enemies in the league with his dismissive comments and nonchalant attitude.[21] The league liked to promote the games as having life-or-death significance, and were undercut by a coach who would make statements such as, "You draw X's and O's on a blackboard and that's not so difficult. I can even do it with my left hand".[22] Such statements made the Buccaneers' road more difficult, as a feeling grew around the league that McKay was a newcomer who needed to be taught a lesson. Linebacker Richard 'Batman' Wood echoed those sentiments: "It was a brand-new organization. Who cared about us? They wanted to devastate us, beat us in the ground. And with coach McKay coming from college, they wanted to maybe even play us a little harder."[4]

Other winless teams

Five previous teams finished with a winless and tieless season record, mostly during World War II: the 1934 Cincinnati Reds at 0–8, the 1942 Detroit Lions at 0–11, the Chicago Cardinals, the Brooklyn Tigers at 0–10, and the 1944 Chicago Cardinals/Pittsburgh Steelers at 0–10 (the Cardinals and Steelers merged for the 1944 season and are commonly referred to as Card-Pitt). The 14-game single-season losing streak was matched by the 1981 Baltimore Colts, who won their opener and closer, but lost every game in between.[23] The 0–14 record has since been matched by the 1980 New Orleans Saints, who won their second to last game to end the season 1–15. The 1990 New England Patriots had a 1–1 record when several of the players sexually harassed a female reporter. The fallout from the scandal contributed to the team finishing 0–14 in its final games.[24] The record was surpassed by the 2001 Carolina Panthers, who lost their last fifteen games to eclipse the Buccaneers' record for consecutive games lost in a single season, and the 2008 Detroit Lions, the only winless team in the era of 16-game schedules. Nine NFL teams have lost 15 or more games in a season since the 1976 Buccaneers' record. The Buccaneers' 26-game losing streak from 1976 to 1977 still stands as the longest in modern NFL history.[25]

Offseason

The Buccaneers signed their first-ever free agents in January: former Birmingham Americans and Nebraska guard Tom Alward, Denver Broncos and Notre Dame defensive end Pete Duranko, and Chicago Bears wide receiver Wayne Wheeler.[26] Having not selected a quarterback in the veteran allocation draft, they addressed that need by trading with the San Francisco 49ers for local favorite Steve Spurrier. The former Heisman Trophy winner was obtained for a second-round draft choice and two of the veteran draftees, Bruce Elia and Willie McGee.[27] An earlier attempt to obtain a quarterback failed when the team sent a future draft pick to the Saints for backup quarterback Larry Cipa, only to waive him when he failed his physical.[28] The Buccaneers also used a third-round pick to obtain defensive back Mike Washington from the Baltimore Colts.[29]

Coaching Staff

Ron Wolf, who had been the Oakland Raiders' director of player personnel since 1963 and was credited with much of their success, was hired as Vice President of Operations.[30] Shortly thereafter, Wolf hired Tom Bass, a head of scouting and former defensive coordinator for the Cincinnati Bengals, as director of player personnel.[31] Former McKay assistant Phil Krueger was added to the staff, joined shortly thereafter by Wayne Fontes and Willie Brown, who were added as defensive backs and receivers coaches, respectively.[32][33] Dennis Fryzel, the last University of Tampa head coach, was added to handle special teams.[34] Denver Broncos assistant Jerry Frei was hired as offensive line coach, becoming McKay's first assistant hired from the professional ranks, and was followed by former New York Jets defensive coordinator Dick Voris, hired initially as defensive line coach.[35][36] Abe Gibron, former head coach of the Chicago Bears and college teammate of McKay at Purdue, was brought on board as a defensive assistant.[37] The staff was completed with the addition of Atlanta Falcons assistant and former Buffalo Bills head coach John Rauch as offensive coordinator.[38] Tampa resident Harry Smith, a trainer with experience working with local college athletes such as John Matuszak and Gary Huff, became the team's strength and conditioning coach.[39]

Expansion Draft

The list of available players was released only 72 hours before the draft, and included many medical rejects who did not even report to training camp.[40] McKay initially felt that the draft included a higher-than-expected level of talent,[41] joking that "they're in their late 30s. I couldn't be happier".[42] While the expansion draft did not include many well-known starters, it included several players who had notoriety with previous professional and college teams:

NFL Draft

The 1976 NFL Draft was considered to be the worst draft class in many years, with only eight high-quality prospects, as compared to the normal 27 or 28. The popularity of the wishbone offense among college teams left the draft devoid of quarterback prospects.[51] A drawing held the previous December gave the Buccaneers the rights to the first overall selection.[52]

Pick Round Player Position School
1 1 Lee Roy Selmon Defensive End Oklahoma
30 2 Jimmy DuBose Running Back Florida
60 2 Dewey Selmon Linebacker Oklahoma
61 3 Steve Young Tackle Colorado
91 3 Steve Maughan Linebacker Utah State
121 4 Richard Appleby Wide Receiver Georgia
124 4 Everett Little Guard Houston
125 5 Michael Kelson Defensive Back West Texas State
154 5 Steve Wilson Tackle Georgia
158 6 Curtis Jordan Defensive Back Texas Tech
183 7 Parnell Dickinson Quarterback Mississippi Valley State
238 9 Bruce Welch Guard Texas A&M
267 10 Sid Smith Linebacker Brigham Young
292 11 Melvin Washington Defensive Back Colorado State
321 12 George Ragsdale Running Back North Carolina A&T
348 13 Brad Jenkins Tight End Nebraska
377 14 Carl Roaches Wide Receiver Texas A&M
404 15 Bob Dzierzak Defensive Tackle Utah State
433 16 Tommy West Linebacker Tennessee
460 17 Jack Berry Quarterback Washington & Lee
= Pro Bowler = Hall of Famer

Draft Trades

As an expansion team, the Buccaneers were given two extra picks in each of the 2nd–5th rounds. Their second 2nd-round pick was traded to the San Francisco 49ers for quarterback Steve Spurrier. Their first 3rd-round pick was traded to Baltimore for cornerback Mike Washington. Their first 4th-round pick and last 5th-round picks were traded to the Los Angeles Rams for linebacker Jim Peterson. Their 8th-round pick was traded to the New York Jets for linebacker Steve Reese.[53]

Draft Selections

With the first selection in the draft, the Buccaneers picked Lee Roy Selmon, considered to be the best defensive tackle in Oklahoma history and described as "one of the greatest defensive linemen I have ever watched" by coach McKay.[54] Shortly thereafter, with their second pick of the second round, they took his brother Dewey. The two, who were the two leading tacklers on the 1975 Oklahoma Sooners football team, became the third pair of brothers in NFL history to go to the same team in the same draft.[55] The move prompted brother Lucious Selmon to offer to come out of retirement if Tampa Bay would obtain his NFL rights.[56] The Buccaneers spent their first second-round pick on Florida fullback Jimmy DuBose, and took Colorado offensive tackle Steve Young in the third round.[57] Later-round picks who made the team included defensive back Curtis Jordan, quarterback Parnell Dickinson, and running back George Ragsdale. Carl Roaches, later a Pro Bowl return man for the Houston Oilers, and Tommy West, later the head coach of the University of Memphis, were selected by the Buccaneers but did not make the roster.[58]

Preseason

The Buccaneers' first training camp began on July 6, at the team's training facility near Tampa International Airport, with a crew from NFL Films on hand to film the proceedings.[59] Chicago Bears quarterback and Tampa native Gary Huff showed up to taunt the receivers.[60] McKay noted that many of the players were out of shape, and expressed surprise at players who he felt were not taking advantage of a big opportunity.[61] Ron Wolf, after seeing the team's players in action, admitted disappointment at his own efforts in assembling the team.[62] Defensive coordinator Abe Gibron promised to be honest with each player about their performance. He told one player that he had a chance of making the team, but added, "You're built like Tarzan, but you run like Jane".[63]

Regular season

The team started out with solid defensive play, but they began to wear out as the Buccaneers' offensive ineptitude meant that the defense spent a lot of time on the field. J.K. McKay pointed out the tendency of the offense to feel pressured after a three-and-out possession, with the result that they would press even harder the next time, quickly going three-and-out again.[64] Placekicker Mirro Roder was cut after missing three field goals in the first two games, in both of which the Buccaneers were shut out. Roder was not replaced, with punter Dave Green taking over his duties.[65] Rick Jennings spent the shortest amount of time with the club of all players that season; picked up on waivers from the Raiders on a Tuesday, he was released the same Thursday. New uniforms had to be ordered for the team when it was discovered that the fans could not tell the players apart because the numerals on the white uniforms could not be seen from the stands.[66] Many local Miami Dolphins fans were angered when the NFL upheld the Buccaneers' demand that Dolphin games not be broadcast in the Tampa Bay area on days that the Buccaneers play at home.[67] The timing of the decision led to the firing of Director of Administration Curt Mosher after the season.[68] After being shut out in three of their first five games, and with the team having yet to throw a pass for a touchdown, offensive coordinator John Rauch resigned, citing "personal differences". His duties were taken over by McKay, who pointed to the increased effectiveness of the team's "simpler" offense, saying that they were no longer "trying to do all the things people said you have to do in this league".[69] On a strange NFL weekend in which O.J. Simpson was ejected from a game for fighting, the Chicago Bears lost a game due to a referee's inadvertent whistle, and Minnesota Vikings receiver Sammy White fumbled away a touchdown due to starting his celebration before entering the end zone, McKay launched an obscenity-filled tirade against Denver Broncos coach John Ralston after a blowout loss.[70] McKay admitted that his feelings dated back to their college rivalry, when McKay coached at USC and Ralston coached at Stanford University, but pointed to specific plays such as a reverse and a last-minute punt return as evidence that Ralston was trying to run up the score.[71] Third-string running back Manfred Moore caught a lucky break when, waived after the week 13 game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, he was picked up by the Oakland Raiders as an injury replacement for ex-Buccaneer Rick Jennings. He wound up going from an 0–13 team to the eventual Super Bowl champion.[72] McKay said that the week 4 game against the Baltimore Colts summed up the season: "On one play I looked up and one of our guys was getting kicked out of the game, and two more were getting carried off".[73]

Roster

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 1976 roster
Quarterbacks

Running Backs

Wide Receivers

Tight Ends

Offensive Linemen

Defensive Linemen

Linebackers

Defensive Backs

Special Teams

Reserve Lists

Rookies in italics
* = starter
** = opening day starter

[74][75][76]

Coaching staff

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 1976 coaching staff
Front Office

Head Coaches

Offensive Coaches

 

Defensive Coaches

Special Teams Coaches

  • Special Teams Coordinator – Dennis Fryzel
  • Strength – Harry Smith

[77][78]

Schedule

Regular season
Week Date Opponent Result Kickoff Venue TV Attendance Record
1 September 12 Houston Oilers L 20–0 The Astrodome NBC 42,228 0–1
2 September 19 San Diego Chargers L 23–0 Tampa Stadium NBC 39,558 0–2
3 September 26 Buffalo Bills L 14–9 Tampa Stadium NBC 44,505 0–3
4 October 3 Baltimore Colts L 42–17 Memorial Stadium NBC 40,053 0–4
5 October 10 Cincinnati Bengals L 21–0 Riverfront Stadium NBC 40,700 0–5
6 October 17 Seattle Seahawks L 13–10 Tampa Stadium CBS 43,458 0–6
7 October 24 Miami Dolphins L 23–20 Tampa Stadium NBC 61,437 0–7
8 October 31 Kansas City Chiefs L 28–19 Tampa Stadium NBC 41,779 0–8
9 November 7 Denver Broncos L 48–13 Mile High Stadium NBC 61,703 0–9
10 November 14 New York Jets L 34–0 Shea Stadium NBC 46,427 0–10
11 November 21 Cleveland Browns L 24–7 Tampa Stadium NBC 36,930 0–11
12 November 28 Oakland Raiders L 49–16 Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum NBC 49,590 0–12
13 December 5 Pittsburgh Steelers L 42–0 Three Rivers Stadium NBC 43,385 0–13
14 December 12 New England Patriots L 31–14 Tampa Stadium NBC 41,517 0–14

[79]

Standings

AFC West
Team W L T PCT PF PA
Oakland Raiders 13 1 0 .929 350 237
Denver Broncos 9 5 0 .643 315 206
San Diego Chargers 6 8 0 .429 248 285
Kansas City Chiefs 5 9 0 .357 290 376
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 0 14 0 .000 125 412

Game summaries

Week 1: at Houston Oilers

1 2 3 4 Total
Buccaneers 0 0 0 0 0
Oilers 0 7 3 10 20

September 12, 1976 at The Astrodome, Houston, Texas
The Buccaneers, making their NFL debut against the Houston Oilers, averaged less than two yards per offensive play. They were unable to score despite being given good field position by two Oiler fumbles. Steve Spurrier completed 8 of 21 passes for 36 yards, and starting running backs Jimmy DuBose and Louis Carter rushed for 12 yards on 15 carries. Despite being outgained 169 to 8 by the second quarter, they were only behind 7–0 and missed a chance to tie the score when Lee McGriff dropped a Spurrier pass in the end zone. A later drive ended when Spurrier overthrew John McKay, Jr., instead hitting defender C.L. Whittington. A third chance to tie the score was lost when Mark Cotney dropped an interception of a Dan Pastorini pass with a clear path to the end zone. Whittington gave the Buccaneers the ball on the Oiler 11-yard line by fumbling a punt, but then killed the Buccaneers' scoring chances by intercepting another Spurrier pass.[80] Ronnie Coleman ran 25 times for 142 yards for the Oilers. McKay expressed concern over the team's offense after the defeat, and responded to a reporter's taunt of "I thought you said you were going to win some games?" by saying, "Houston has been in the league 6,000 years and still hasn't won a championship. The Bucs will be heard from".[81] It was a day with a bad beginning, middle, and ending for the Buccaneers. The day began with the Buccaneers getting lost in the maze-like Astrodome interior, and ended with the team's charter plane bouncing and rolling before righting itself on landing.[82] In addition, starting tackle Dave Reavis was injured during pregame warmups and was lost for the season.[83]

Week 2: vs San Diego Chargers

1 2 3 4 Total
Chargers 3 3 0 17 23
Buccaneers 0 0 0 0 0

September 19, 1976 at Tampa Stadium, Tampa, Florida
The San Diego Chargers got 16 first downs, compared to 5 for the Buccaneers. Chargers players and coaches praised the Buccaneers' defense, who held them to 9 points until the final three minutes of the game, saying that they played the equivalent of five quarters. Three Tampa Bay quarterbacks completed a combined 3 of 8 passes for −4 yards. Buccaneers receiver Bob Moore said, "We're at rock bottom now...but if we start pointing a finger, we'll go 0–14". The Chargers finished with 325 yards of offense to the Buccaneers' 125.[84] Inconsistent blocking was blamed for the offensive problems, a situation that was not helped by the injury to tackle Dave Reavis.[85] Mercury Morris, who had been picked up on waivers by the Chargers from the Miami Dolphins after the Buccaneers' preseason game against the Dolphins, commented that the difference in Buccaneers' offensive line protection between the two games was like watching two different teams. The Buccaneers' lack of speed was also noticeable.[86] The loss marked the first time since 1961 that a professional football team was shut out in the first two games of the season, when the Oakland Raiders were shut out by the same two teams in the same order.[87]

Week 3: vs Buffalo Bills

1 2 3 4 Total
Bills 0 7 0 7 14
Buccaneers 6 0 0 3 9

September 26, 1976 at Tampa Stadium, Tampa, Florida
The Buccaneers scored their first points, but were not able to score enough to win, despite statistically outperforming the Buffalo Bills in most phases of the game. The Buccaneers had only three Dave Green field goals to show for seven possessions inside the Bills' 22-yard line. O.J. Simpson was held to 39 yards on 20 carries.[88] The Bills, the highest-scoring team in recent years, were 1 of 12 in third-down conversions, and were surpassed in yardage, first downs, rushing average, and number of total plays.[89] Buffalo took the lead on Bob Chandler's 58-yard reception of a tipped pass. The Buccaneers' 338 yards of offense, a great improvement over their previous two games, coincided with coach McKay's relenting to Steve Spurrier's demands that he be able to call his own plays. Spurrier suffered a bone chip in his throwing hand that made his status questionable for the next week's game.[90]

Week 4: at Baltimore Colts

1 2 3 4 Total
Buccaneers 0 3 0 14 17
Colts 0 24 9 9 42

October 3, 1976 at Memorial Stadium, Baltimore, Maryland
After taking a 3–0 lead against one of the league's better teams on a Dave Green field goal, the Buccaneers were overwhelmed by the Baltimore Colts in a disastrous second quarter. A Danny Reece interception of a Bert Jones pass was called back due to a roughing-the-passer penalty, and another was dropped by Richard Wood. Cornerback Mike Washington was thrown out of the game for fighting. Cal Peterson and Lee Roy Selmon went out with knee injuries.[91] Film of the game appeared to indicate that the injury to Selmon was intentional.[92] The Colts followed with 9 points in each of the next two quarters. The Buccaneers finally scored their first two touchdowns of the year, a fumble return by Danny Reece and a 1-yard Charlie Davis run. The Colts set team records with eight sacks, and with 124 penalty yards. They outgained Tampa Bay 458 yards to 89 and 31 first downs to 6. The Buccaneers were only able to complete four passes; wide receiver Lee McGriff was their leading passer with a 39-yard completion. Said McKay afterward, "Field position hurt us badly, dropped passes hurt us badly, no blocking hurt us badly, injuries hurt us badly, and penalties hurt us badly. Otherwise, it was a perfect afternoon."[93]

Week 5: at Cincinnati Bengals

1 2 3 4 Total
Buccaneers 0 0 0 0 0
Bengals 14 0 7 0 21

October 10, 1976 at Riverfront Stadium, Cincinnati, Ohio
With four defensive starters out with injuries, the Buccaneers spotted the Cincinnati Bengals a 14–0 first-quarter lead. The defense came together for the last three quarters, with the only points coming from Tommy Casanova's 25-yard fumble return for a touchdown. Ken Anderson, the AFC's leading passer,[94] was held to 98 yards passing. Lacking healthy linebackers, the Buccaneers abandoned their 3–4 defense in favor of a 4–3.[95] The Buccaneers held a 191–174 yardage advantage over the AFC Central-leading Bengals in the final 45 minutes.[96] The Bengals declined to hand out game balls to any of their players after the win.[97]

Week 6: vs Seattle Seahawks

1 2 3 4 Total
Seahawks 0 13 0 0 13
Buccaneers 3 0 7 0 10

October 17, 1976 at Tampa Stadium, Tampa, Florida
Seattle Seahawks linebacker Mike Curtis blocked a field goal that would have sent the game into overtime, guaranteeing a Seahawk victory in what was billed as the "expansion bowl" meeting between two winless, first-year teams. The Buccaneers outgained the Seahawks, 285 yards to 253, but the officials outgained both, with 310 yards in penalties. The 35 penalties (accepted, 41 were thrown by the officials) were two short of the 25-year-old league record. Each team was penalized for holding eight times. Defensive tackle Pat Toomay complained that "the officials made us look like a bunch of idiots". Tampa Bay running back Louis Carter, stuffed at the goal line, threw the ball to Morris Owens, who dove into the end zone for the first Buccaneer passing touchdown.[98] A tackle by Seahawk punter Rick Engles prevented a touchdown return by Danny Reece that would have won the game for the Buccaneers.[99] An earlier field goal try was blocked by Lyle Blackwood. The game ended with Dave Brown being helped from the field after being hit in the eye by the final penalty flag.[100]

Week 7: vs Miami Dolphins

1 2 3 4 Total
Dolphins 3 14 3 3 23
Buccaneers 7 0 6 7 20

October 24, 1976 at Tampa Stadium, Tampa, Florida
A blocked field goal and extra-point attempt provided the margin of victory for the Miami Dolphins. Ex-Dolphin receiver Morris Owens came back to haunt his old team with three touchdown catches. Starting quarterback Parnell Dickinson threw the first, then was replaced by recently-acquired quarterback Terry Hanratty after injuring his ankle. When Hanratty proved ineffective, Steve Spurrier, who had not practiced during the week due to a swollen knee, came off the bench to throw the final two touchdowns. It took a final-minute, 55-yard Garo Yepremian field goal to clinch the game for the Dolphins, whose pass defense had been decimated by injuries. 192 of the Buccaneers' 334 total yards came through the air.[101][102][103] John McKay would later point to this game as the high point of the Buccaneers' season.[73]

Week 8: vs Kansas City Chiefs

1 2 3 4 Total
Chiefs 3 3 14 8 28
Buccaneers 0 0 0 19 19

October 30, 1976 at Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City, Missouri
The Kansas City Chiefs credited their defense with the win after holding the Buccaneers to 14 yards rushing. The Buccaneers managed only 2 first downs and 34 yards of total offense before exploding for three touchdowns in the final ten minutes.[104] The Buccaneers were mistake-prone and ineffective throughout the first three quarters. Ken Stone was penalized for roughing on a missed field goal in the first quarter, with the result that the Chiefs got a second chance to kick it. The special teams allowed Henry Marshall to return a punt 59 yards, setting up the Chiefs' second touchdown. They got 14 first downs and 162 yards in the final 15 minutes, scoring on an Essex Johnson run and passes from Steve Spurrier to Johnny McKay and Jack Novak. Coach McKay felt that the difference was that the team did not begin giving effort until the fourth quarter. McKay also felt that the Chiefs left themselves vulnerable by trying to run up the score. Bert Cooper, filling in at linebacker for an injured Steve Reese, was consistently exploited in the passing game.[105] McKay later threated to fire players who he felt were giving a slack effort, specifically referring to a Chiefs kickoff that rolled all the way to the 4-yard line, with no Buccaneers trying to recover it. Spectators booed the team, and one threw a dead bird at Spurrier as he returned to the locker room after the game. Buccaneer defenders found some consolation in having held the AFC's top offensive team to only 13 points.[106] Defensive end Council Rudolph played, despite the death of his father the previous evening.[107]

Week 9: at Denver Broncos

1 2 3 4 Total
Buccaneers 0 10 3 0 13
Broncos 10 0 14 24 48

November 7, 1976 at Mile High Stadium, Denver, Colorado
With the score tied 10–10, Buccaneer linebacker Cal Peterson suffered a career-ending injury untouched when his knee gave out while running in an interception for what would have been a touchdown.[108][109] Lee Roy Selmon also suffered a season-ending knee injury.[110] After taking a 13–10 lead on a Dave Green field goal, the injury-riddled Buccaneers were doomed by an 8½ minute span in which the Broncos scored 38 points.[111] Coach McKay accused Broncos coach John Ralston of running up the score and stormed off of the field, refusing to shake hands with him after the game. He later referred to Ralston as a "horse's ass" and said, "I don't like any part of him. His day is coming". Ralston responded by pointing out that most of the Broncos points came on fumble recoveries and interceptions. McKay later revealed his thoughts on the team's likely high draft position, saying "This team needs a catalyst. Ricky Bell can run through a wall".[112]

Week 10: at New York Jets

1 2 3 4 Total
Buccaneers 0 0 0 0 0
Jets 7 17 7 3 34

November 14, 1976 at Shea Stadium, Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, New York
In what was according to coach Lou Holtz a prearranged move, New York Jets rookie quarterback Richard Todd was replaced by Joe Namath late in the first quarter. Namath responded with a passing display that gave the Jets a 24–0 halftime lead. Saying that his players were "polite" to Namath, coach McKay compared the Buccaneers to a junior-high team, and said that the only thing they did better than the Jets was to be the first team on the field after halftime. Clark Gaines rushed for 103 yards for the Jets. The Buccaneers' three quarterbacks combined for 171 yards passing, more than the Jets' quarterbacks, but the Buccaneers failed to score for the fourth time in the season.[113] This was considered to be the Buccaneers' last good chance to win a game, with the next four opponents all in playoff contention. The Jets' 34 points were nearly a third of their season total to that point.[114]

Week 11: vs Cleveland Browns

1 2 3 4 Total
Browns 7 0 7 10 24
Buccaneers 0 7 0 0 7

November 21, 1976 at Tampa Stadium, Tampa, Florida
Strong first-half play left the Buccaneers tied 7–7 with the Cleveland Browns at halftime, but they failed to maintain the intensity for the second half of the game. A screen pass from Steve Spurrier to Essex Johnson caught the blitzing Cleveland linebackers out of position for a 13-yard touchdown. The solid blocking of the first half gave way to the Cleveland rush in the second half, and Spurrier was replaced with Parnell Dickinson in the fourth quarter. Dickinson wound up leaving the game with a season-ending knee injury on a play in which he threw an interception to Terry Brown.[115][116] Two Browns players were ejected for fighting, in a game in which several Buccaneers complained of cheap shots being taken. Dave Pear said, "If I had a gun, I would have shot them both in the head", of two Cleveland players who tried to take out his knees.[92]

Week 12: at Oakland Raiders

1 2 3 4 Total
Buccaneers 7 3 0 6 16
Raiders 7 14 21 7 49

November 28, 1976 at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, Oakland, California
The Oakland Raiders, with an NFL-best 11–1 record, scored three touchdowns before the Buccaneers got their third first down. Mark van Eeghen scored on two 1-yard runs. A 2-yard Ed Williams touchdown run tied the score at 7–7 after the Buccaneers recovered a fumble at the Oakland 14-yard line in the first quarter. A Dave Green field goal made the score 21–10 at halftime, but Ken Stabler threw for two third-quarter touchdowns for the Raiders. Steve Spurrier finished the Buccaneers' scoring with a fourth-quarter touchdown pass to Morris Owens.[117] Dewey Selmon suffered a serious knee injury, the Buccaneers' 14th of the season, on the first play of the game.[110]

Week 13: at Pittsburgh Steelers

1 2 3 4 Total
Buccaneers 0 0 0 0 0
Steelers 7 21 14 0 42

December 5, 1976 at Three Rivers Stadium, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
John McKay gave ex-Steelers quarterback Terry Hanratty the start against his former team, saying that Hanratty's familiarity with the Steelers' schemes made him the best choice. "I don't know if I'm doing him a favor or not", said McKay, who compared the game to Custer's last stand.[118] Hanratty was pulled in favor of Steve Spurrier in the second half. McKay later told reporters critical of Hanratty's performance, "You guys should take a Sunday off and play behind our offensive line. They just poured in on us."[119] Rocky Bleier ran for 118 yards and three touchdowns, and Terry Bradshaw completed two touchdown passes to Lynn Swann.[120] Franco Harris, with 55 yards rushing, became the fourth player both to rush for 5,000 yards in four seasons, and to gain 1,000 yards four or more times. The Steelers jumped out to a quick 21–0 lead, helped by two early Tampa Bay turnovers deep in their own territory. Pittsburgh players, some of whom could still remember having gone 1–13, described the game as "strange", but declined to comment on the Buccaneers' play. The Buccaneers managed only 85 yards of offense against a Steeler team that needed the win to maintain their playoff chances.[121]

Week 14: vs New England Patriots

1 2 3 4 Total
Patriots 0 7 7 17 31
Buccaneers 0 14 0 0 14

December 12, 1976 at Tampa Stadium, Tampa, Florida
Two fumbles deep in New England Patriots territory overcame a stubborn Buccaneer effort. The Patriots' 260 rushing yards stood for years as the most allowed in a game by the Buccaneers, while their total of four pass completions remains the least by a Tampa Bay opponent. New England came from behind twice on Andy Johnson touchdown runs, and took the lead for good on Sam Hunt's 58-yard return of a Steve Spurrier interception. Johnson's first touchdown run was a 69-yarder that set a club record. Patriots quarterback Steve Grogan set an NFL record with four seconds left, rushing for his 12th touchdown of the year. The Buccaneers also set an NFL record, by becoming the first and only team to go winless in a 14-game season.[122][123][124]

Scores by quarter

1 2 3 4 Total
Opponents 61 140 106 113 420
Buccaneers 23 37 16 49 125

Awards and Records

  • Steve Spurrier and Pat Toomay were named offensive and defensive MVPs, respectively.[125]
  • Morris Owens' three touchdowns against Miami on Oct. 24 stood for 9 years as the team record, and is still second-place all-time (both for touchdowns and points scored in a single game).
  • The defense allowed 933 plays, the lowest until the 1998 team allowed 925.
  • The 321 passing attempts and 180 completions are both the least ever allowed by the Buccaneers.[126]

References

  1. ^ a b Marshall, Joe. "Yes, We Now Have a Winner". Sports Illustrated, 25 Oct 1976 [1]
  2. ^ a b Martz, Ron. "30 Seasons: 1976–2005. From Sinking Ship to World-Class Cruise." St. Petersburg Times: Sep. 11, 2005
  3. ^ Associated Press. "How Bad Can They Be? Dolphins Favored Sunday". The Sporting News. 28 Nov 2007 [2]
  4. ^ a b Associated Press. "Those 1976 Buccaneers Know All About Losing". si.com. 26 Dec 2008. Accessed 19 Sep 2009 [3]
  5. ^ Romano, John. "The Glory in Being the Worst". St. Petersburg Times. 5 Nov 2002
  6. ^ Bishop, Greg. "When Bucs Went 0 for the Season". The New York Times. 2 Dec 2007
  7. ^ [4]Vanderbilt University interview with Pat Toomay. Accessed 20 Jun 2009. Archived June 24, 2009.
  8. ^ Fitzpatrick, Frank. "Super-Charged at Birth: Panthers, Jaguars Got Head Start with New Expansion Rules." Los Angeles Daily News, 10 Jan 1997
  9. ^ Cardon, Mark. "Bucs Get Man They Wanted In McKay". The Sarasota Herald-Tribune. 1 Nov 1976
  10. ^ United Press International. "Time Had Come To Try Something Else - McKay". The Sarasota Herald-Tribune. 1 Nov 1976
  11. ^ Scanlon, Dick. "McKay Had a Quick Wit". The Lakeland Ledger. 11 Jun 2001
  12. ^ Farmer, Sam. "More's the pity for winless Detroit". The Los Angeles Times. 24 Dec 2008
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  77. ^ [19]Buccaneers All-Time Coaches Roster. Accessed 15 Jun 2009. Archived 2009-06-17.
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  86. ^ LeNoir, Bob. "Chargers become meek - after game". St. Petersburg Times. 20 Sep 1976
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  88. ^ Hansen, Greg. "Almost Doesn't Count". St. Petersburg Evening Independent. 27 Sep 1976
  89. ^ Chick, Bob. "Offense Isn't So Offensive". St. Petersburg Evening Independent. 27 Sep 1976
  90. ^ Martz, Ron. "He'll call his own plays...but will he play vs. Colts?" St. Petersburg Times. 28 Sep 1976
  91. ^ Martz, Ron. "Painful loss for the Bucs". St. Petersburg Times. 4 Oct 1976
  92. ^ a b Mizell, Hubert. "Fisticuffs followed by a handshake". St. Petersburg Times. 22 Nov 1976
  93. ^ Martz, Ron. "Baltimore bruises Bay Bucs". St. Petersburg Times. 4 Oct 1976
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  95. ^ Martz, Ron. "Buc defense turned tough after early swoon". St. Petersburg Times. 11 Oct 1976
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  99. ^ Tierney, Mike. "Close, but no cigar". St. Petersburg Times. 18 Oct 1976
  100. ^ Martz, Ron. "Seahawks scuttle erring Bucs, 13-10". St. Petersburg Times. 18 Oct 1976
  101. ^ McClure, Bob. "Bucs Were Offensive...Finally". The Lakeland Ledger. 25 Oct 1976
  102. ^ Associated Press. "Last Minute Win 'Toe' Close for Dolphins' Shula". Ocala Star-Banner. 25 Oct 1976
  103. ^ Holliman, Ray. "And the jeers became cheers". St. Petersburg Times. 25 Oct 1976
  104. ^ Associated Press. "Defense saves Chiefs from Buccaneers". Eugene Register-Guard. 1 Nov 1976
  105. ^ Hansen, Greg. "Tttthat's All, Folks". St. Petersburg Evening Independent. 1 Nov 1976
  106. ^ Mizell, Hubert. "McKay: We're working on 0-14". St. Petersburg Times. 1 Nov 1976
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  108. ^ Toomay, Pat. "A debilitating case of Bucs fever". [21] Accessed 19 Jun 2009
  109. ^ Schneider, Dick. "Buccaneers' Linebacking Big Problem". The Lakeland Ledger. 16 Jul 1977
  110. ^ a b Martz, Ron. "Dewey joins Lee Roy on sidelines". St. Petersburg Times. 30 Nov 1976
  111. ^ Associated Press. "McKay fumes at Broncos for pouring it on Tampa". The Eugene Register. 8 Nov 1976
  112. ^ Associated Press. "McKay Blasts Ralston After Bucs' 9th Loss". Ocala Star-Banner. 10 Nov 1976
  113. ^ Associated Press. "Namath heroics make McKay fume". The Eugene Register-Guard. 15 Nov 1976
  114. ^ Martz, Ron. "The worst is yet to come for bumbling Bay Bucs". St. Petersburg Times. 16 Nov 1976
  115. ^ Martz, Ron. "Second-half flop sinks Bucs". St. Petersburg Times. 22 Nov 1976
  116. ^ Schneider, Dick. "Dickinson Out For Season". The Lakeland Ledger. 22 Nov 1976
  117. ^ Associated Press. "Raiders Punish Bucs 49-16". The Victoria Advocate. 28 Nov 1976
  118. ^ Martz, Ron. "Practical joker Hanratty faces his former victims". St. Petersburg Times. 4 Dec 1976
  119. ^ Staff writers. "Jack Lambert Steeler MVP". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. 5 Dec 1976
  120. ^ Wire reports. "Bengals expected Raider showdown". Boca Raton News. 6 Dec 1976
  121. ^ Stellino, Vito. "Steelers Zip Tampa". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. 6 Dec 1976
  122. ^ Associated Press. "Pats Win, Raiders Next". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. 13 Dec 1976
  123. ^ Murray, Vince. "Injury Riddled Buccaneers Looking For Help On Defense". Ocala Star-Banner. 15 Aug 1981
  124. ^ The Tampa Bay Buccaneers Public Relations Department. 2009 Tampa Bay Buccaneers Media Guide
  125. ^ Hairston, Jack. "Super Inside". Ocala Star-Banner. 19 Jan 1977
  126. ^ The Tampa Bay Buccaneers Public Relations Department. 2009 Tampa Bay Buccaneers Media Guide
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