Before the start of training camp and the official kickoff of the 2014 Buccaneers season, Bucs Nation will take you through every season in Buccaneers history, one by one, to paint the whole picture of how the Buccaneers got to where they are today.
Today we take a look at 1989, as we edge closer to the sweeping change that would come in just a few years.
Record: 5-11 (Last in NFC Central)
Points scored: 320 (16th in NFL)
Points against: 419 (27th in NFL)
Mark Carrier's Breakout Season: 1989 saw the best season by a receiver in Buccaneers' history, as Mark Carrier would post 1422 yards (the most in franchise history to this date) and nine touchdowns (most in franchise history at the time, and third-most today) on 86 receptions to earn a Pro Bowl bid and help the Bucs post their fifth-best offensive season in team history according to Pro Football Reference's SRS.
New Scoring Leader: To go along with Carrier's breakout, kicker Donald Igwebuike set a franchise record by scoring 99 points on kicks and PATs in 1989, eclipsing his own mark from 1985. At that point, Donald was the franchise's all-time leading scorer by quite a large margin (the next closest player was James Wilder, with 140 fewer points for his career). He remains fifth on the Bucs' franchise scoring ranks.
One Last Wilder Ride: James Wilder would leave the Buccaneers after the 1989 season, ending his prolific spell as the team's offensive outlet for the entire decade of the 80's. Wilder would depart the Buccaneers as the franchise leader in carries (he still is), yards (he still is), rushing touchdowns (he was passed by Mike Alstott but remains second), and fumbles (he's currently second behind Trent Dilfer). He also departed as the team's all-time leader in receptions, a title he still owns.
Things Are Looking Up: After a 2-2 start, the Bucs held off a late rally from the Chicago Bears for a 42-35 victory in Week 5 of the 1989 season. The team had a winning record in Week 5 or later for only the second time since the team's last playoff appearance (1982), and it was the first time they did so with their own players (the 1987 team went 2-1 with replacement players to earn a winning record early that year).
So Much For That: All of the positive momentum built up in the 3-2 start was gone by the end of a Week 10 24-10 loss to the Minnesota Vikings. A late Herschel Walker touchdown put the Vikings ahead to stay as the Bucs couldn't muster any offense against the playoff-bound Vikings.
The 1989 NFL Draft, as BucPower aptly describes it, was an unmitigated disaster for the Buccaneers. Broderick Thomas was a decent player, but didn't quite live up to his fourth-overall pick potential, while the remainder of the draft produced only one player who would spend at least a season as a starter, and that was punter Chris Mohr, who only punted in Tampa for one year.
So with no new talent via the draft, and not notable additions from free agency or trade, the Bucs had to improve from within, and did so to some degree. Vinny Testaverde threw fewer interceptions, Mark Carrier had a breakout season, and a few of the Buccaneers defensive backs had strong seasons as well.
But the lack of talent on defense was on full display, and the poor play at quarterback kept the Bucs from keeping up with their frequently scoring opponents. The Bucs didn't have a workhorse back to replace the aging James Wilder, and finished in the bottom ten in rushing, which put far too much pressure on the erratic Testaverde.
Buccaneer fans must have felt like the winning ways of the late 70's and early 80's were light years away at this point, as the franchise seemed to be treading water as the worst team in the NFC Central for the past five years. How much longer would they have to wait until things got better?