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.
In this edition, we focus on the 2007 season, which remains to this day the last time the Buccaneers made the playoffs.
Record: 9-7 (First in the NFC South)
Playoff Results: Lost to New York Giants in the Wild Card round (0-1 record)
Points scored: 334 (18th in NFL)
Points against: 270 (3rd in NFL)
The Roller Coaster: The Buccaneers went from worst, to first, to worst, to first from 2004-2007, capping their roller coaster ride with a playoff berth in the 2007 season. To this date, the 2007 campaign was the most recent trip to the playoffs for the Bucs, and also the best defensive ranking for the team since 2002.
From Training Camp Favorite to Leading Rusher: Earnest Graham always seemed to stand out in preseasons and training camps, but never got his chance to play during the regular season, but injuries pressed the former Gator into duty in 2007, and he responded by scoring 10 touchdowns as the leading rusher for the Bucs.
I Like Your Stylez: Greg White, who would later be known as Stylez G. White, burst onto the scene for the Bucs after joining from the Orlando Predators at the recommendation of Jay Gruden. White lead the team in sacks in what would be his first year as a pro, despite being drafted in 2002 by the Texans but never playing a down of NFL football.
An Ugly Victory: Jeff Garcia left the Bucs Week 12 victory against the Redskins early due to a back injury, and Bruce Gradkowski would take over in his place. And as Roy Cummings said of the game at the time, it was downright ugly. The Bucs forced six turnovers and didn't turn the ball over, yet still only managed to win 19-13. Earnest Graham would score the only Buccaneer touchdown on a three-play drive in which he was the only player to advance the ball. The Bucs would settle for four Matt Bryant field goals to secure the victory.
Stumbling into the Playoffs: The Bucs would finish with a two-game lead on the division, and ended the regular season with a meaningless loss to the Carolina Panthers. But a two-game losing streak to end the season set the tone for the playoffs, as the Bucs would fall to the Giants in the first round by a score of 24-14. Jeff Garcia threw two interceptions and the Bucs couldn't stop Amani Toomer, who hauled in seven catches for 74 yards and a score to help the Giants win.
Dissatisfied with the quarterback play of the prior year, the Bucs signed veteran signal caller Jeff Garcia to lead Jon Gruden's offense in 2007, and that helped turn things around almost immediately.
But the talent pool wasn't very deep, and this problem was exacerbated by the very poor drafting the team had done in recent seasons. Top pick Gaines Adams never proved to be worthy of his draft position (and would later pass away at far too young of an age), while all-time draft bust Sabby Piscitelli and disappointing lineman Arron Sears represented the Bucs other top picks that year.
A new quarterback, combined with solid production from relative unknowns like Earnest Graham, Greg White, Alex Smith and Philip Buchanon, lifted the Bucs out of the NFC South cellar for a season, at least, and delivered their most recent division title in what must be called one of the weaker NFC South fields in division history.
In fact, the Bucs had the division sewn up heading into a Week 17 game against the Panthers, despite having a modest 9-6 record.
But a defeat at the hands of the Giants would send the Bucs home, and would be their last taste of playoff football under Jon Gruden. (Or Raheem Morris.) (Or Greg Schiano.)
(Sorry for the spoilers.)