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 the 1996 season, when a new coach and even more new talent would get the Bucs headed on the right track.
Record: 6-10 (Last in the NFC Central)
Points scored: 221 (30th in NFL)
Points against: 293 (8th in NFL)
Back at the Top: The Buccaneers' would finish with a single-digit ranking in one of the four major team categories (points scored and allowed, yards scored and allowed) for the first time since 1982 in Tony Dungy's first year as coach, as the defense allowed the eighth-fewest points in the NFL. Much like the proud defenses of the late 70's there was no offense to support them, but the defense returned the Bucs to the top of SOMETHING in the NFL, a sign of things to come.
About That Offense...: The Buccaneer defense finished last in scoring in 1996, thanks to poor quarterback play, inconsistent performances from the backs, and a continued issue with turnovers. Trent Dilfer was better than he was during his horrible 1995 campaign, but he was still well below average in the NFL, while Errict Rhett started only seven games, and the rushing attack struggled as a result.
Building a Hall of Fame Resume: Warren Sapp dominated in Tony Dungy's new defense in Tampa, posting nine sacks and helping the Buccaneer defense earn its lofty ranking. Derrick Brooks led the team in tackles and snagged an interception along the way, as the second-year Bucs proved they were perfect fits for their new head coach and the schemes he brought to the Bucs.
The A-Train Arrives: Rookie fullback Mike Alstott scored his first touchdown during a Week 7 victory over the Minnesota Vikings, which would be the Bucs' first win of the year. The 24-13 win saw the Buccaneers gain over 100 fewer yards than the Vikings, but win the turnover margin battle by three, and score timely touchdowns to seal the win in the second half.
Brad Johnson's Revenge: The Vikings would get their payback against the Bucs during the penultimate week of the season, as Brad Johnson would step under center and lead Minnesota to a 21-10 victory. The Bucs gained only 169 yards of offense and turned the ball over twice and wasted a four turnover day by the defense in a frustrating defeat to fall to 5-10.
The Buccaneers replaced the fired Sam Wyche with Tony Dungy, who had spent most of the last decade as the defensive coordinator for the Minnesota Vikings and Pittsburgh Steelers. It was Dungy's first spell as a head coach, quickly rising through the ranks after his career as a player ended in 1979.
Dungy brought with him several talented coaches, including former Saints defensive coordinator and 4-3 defense pioneer Monte Kiffin, college defensive line coach Rod Marinelli, and an Ohio State defensive assistant named Lovie Smith, which set the tone for the dynasty of NFL coaches the Bucs would generate over the following year.
The results weren't instant, however, as the lack of talent on offense meant the Bucs returned to a double-digit losing season after breaking a streak of 12 straight seasons with 10 or more losses just a year prior.
But the defense surged to the top of the league, with second-year stars Brooks and Sapp joining established veteran Hardy Nickerson as the core of the Tampa Bay defense.
Rookie Donnie Abraham would make a quick impact on the defense, while rookie fullback Mike Alstott would hit the ground running (and hitting poor defensive backs), and the pieces were falling into place for a team that had long struggled to compete for anything more than last in the NFC Central.