If your catching this piece mid-season, you may be wondering why we're talking about the 1979 Bucs. Well in a few weeks, November 8th, the Bucs are going to play the Green Bay Packers at Raymond James, but the place is going to look like Tampa Stadium! Thats because the Bucs are going to wear their Orange Uniforms for the first time since 1996, and even though you may remember Orange Bucs as losers, the old Orange Bucs were the exact Opposite! Their story is an amazing tale of rising from NOTHING, from 0-26, to NFC Championship only two years later. I would encourage you to do a search for Know your 79 Bucs and check out ones youve missed, its a great story!
When we left off, the Bucs got over their losing streak, which gave them a 5-2 record, by beating the Packers at home. Now they would face the team that has won just about every division championship for the NFC Central in the entire decade: The Minnesota Vikings. Last year in '78, the Bucs upset the Vikes for their first win of the year, and first division win ever. This year the Vikings would be ready. ---Well, not really. The Bucs had no problem moving the ball even though they didnt score too many points.
Ricky Bell had 75 yards while Eckwood had 28 more, and Doug Williams threw 12 completions in 25 attempts, for 267 yards! The Bucs primary receiver back then was Isaac Hagins, who had respectable speed but average hands. He finished with 5 catches for 149 yards in the Bucs 12-10 win with the Bucs scoring 9 points in the second half, including a missed xtra point. The Bucs moved to an incredible 7-2 record. The screen shot below may look a little funny for a home game for the Vikes...Thats because the Vikings used to play outdoors at Metropolitan Stadium. The HHH Metrodome was put in use opening week 1982, and guess who
played there? Tampa Bay at Minnesota: 1st game ever at Metrodome!
The Bucs took it to the road again for game 10, this time against the Falcons who had a pretty good team in 1978. The Bucs ran into a stumbling block there. Doug Williams had a very frustrating day, he was 11 of 24 for 198 yards, hitting Jimmy Giles for a late TD with 22 seconds left in the game after giving up a 60 yard touchdown a minute earlier while trying to get the ball back to mount a 2:00 offense. Instead of getting the stop down 10-7 and only needing a FG, Bucs give up a long run, and then finally score that TD they were looking for earlier!
Here is a nice view of those two touchdowns...
And so the Bucs head for one more road game on the three game road stand, this time going to Detroit to play the Lions who are not doing too well in 1979. Then the Bucs return home to Tampa to take on the New York Giants, the team that beat them in week 5 when Phil Simms the rookie QB beat the Bucs who were 5-0 while the Giants were 0-5. The 7-3 Bucs appear to actually be playoff bound! Only two years ago they were 0-26 and had not won a single game.
Why did the Bucs have success in 1979? There are a few reasons....
1) Back then if you finished last in your division, you were rewarded with a last place schedule. The Bucs did not play a lot of playoff teams, but that doesnt take away from what they accomplished. This was a time when the NFL teams ran the ball first, then passed second. That was all being changed in San Francisco where a coach named Bill Walsh was teaching his young guys about this West Coast Offense thing where you pass first! But as for everyone else, the Bucs were built to play the run. They had a quick but strong defensive line in Lee Roy Selmon, Randy Crowder and Chicago cast off Wally Chambers.They played the 3-4 and the Bucs linebackers were second to none. They were big and fast. and they knew coach John McKays defense. 9 of the 11 defenders had started playing together since 1977!