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.
We continue with 1994, which was a season of tragic but important change in Tampa.
Record: 6-10 (Last in the NFC Central)
Points scored: 251 (26th in NFL)
Points against: 351 (20th in NFL)
Cleaning Up the Offense: A year after having one of the worst turnover differentials in the NFL, the Buccaneers cleaned up their offense drastically, finishing with the fewest lost fumbles in the league and landing in the top-five on the "least turnover" charts.
But It Wasn't Because of Trent Dilfer: 1994 first-round pick Trent Dilfer was not the reason for the less destructive offense, as the rookie would throw six interceptions on only 82 attempts in his first year. Craig Erickson was the better caretaker of the offense, throwing only 10 picks in 399 attempts.
The Era of the Defensive Tackle: Starting what would become a trend in Tampa, Brad Culpepper led the team in sacks in 1994 with four. The team would add more talent the next year, but for now, Culpepper was setting the table for a spell of excellence at tackle for the Bucs.
Offensive Meltdown: The Buccaneers barely turned the ball over on offense in 1994, and were it not for a disastrous performance against the Minnesota Vikings, they could have finished with an even more impressive turnover total. But in Week 9, the Bucs gave the ball away five times in a 36-13 loss to Warren Moon and the Vikings, including interceptions from both Craig Erickson and Trent Dilfer.
Errict Rhett's Breakout: Rookie running back Errict Rhett posted his third 100-yard performance of the season, finishing with 192 rushing yards on 40 carries, as the Bucs would win against the Washington Redskins by a final score of 26-21. A late Craig Erickson touchdown run put the Buccaneers ahead for good as the team started a winning streak and moved to 4-9 on the year.
The Buccaneers experienced an important but distinctly sad loss during the 1994 season with the passing of original owner Hugh Culverhouse. Despite his many questionable decisions and the frustrating performance of the team, Culverhouse was the grandfather of football in Tampa Bay, and his death left the team in a state of uncertainty.
The rights to the team were handed over to a trio of trustees to his estate, and there was speculation that FANS Inc. would reach a deal to purchase the Bucs and move them to St. Louis. Moves to Orlando, Maryland and even Canada were rumored, and fans of the team were left waiting and wondering wether they'd have a franchise to cheer for in Tampa after the end of the 1994 season.
To compound this sense of anxious worry, the Bucs showed signs of being a good football team by the end of the 1994 season. A four-game winning streak, including a victory over the would-be St. Louis Rams, boosted hope for the future of the players on the team under new GM Rich McKay.
Rookie Errict Rhett posted a 1000-yard season while Craig Erickson continued to run a relatively safe Tampa Bay offense and helped the Bucs finish strong and provide a glimmer of hope for the future.