Lesson 1- The Beginnings: 1976
At the time, there were only 26 teams in the NFL. Then they decided to add Seattle and Tampa Bay. The Bucs were named in 1975 after Hugh Culverhouse took ownership when the original winner was not able to go through with it. The team colors were chosen, Florida Orange, Red, and White. The Logo was picked out, and the team would be known as the Bay Bucs. USC Head Coach John McKay was picked to coach the team, and the 1976 preseason opener was selected to be at Los Angeles, so McKay could open in his old stadium. Wasn’t as planned; LA Rams 26 Tampa Bay 3. The NFL Films crew was there for it too.
It didn’t get any better..The Bucs Lost every game in 1976, they did not score their first points until the 3rd game. The team had absolutely no offense whatsoever, but the defense was sort of respectable, at least until towards the end of the year when the losing took its toll.
Tampa Bay was put in the AFC West in its first year, and Seattle was in the NFC, like it is now. The idea was that The Bucs and Seahawks woud play every single NFL team in their first two years. So the Bucs played all AFC teams in 1976, except one NFC game against the Seatlle Seahawks dubbed Expansion Bowl I. The Bucs lost of course.
There was no home and away series with divisional opponents for the two expansion teams in those first two years.
Tampa Bay had the 24th Defense out of 28 teams, and was dead last in offense, at 28th. They started the season out by getting lost in the Houston Astrodome! The team came out of the lockers, took a wrong turn, and got lost! It took them about ten minutes to find the tunnel to go to the field. The Houston security did not let them in the gate at first either, because he had been working NFL games for years, and "never heard of no Buccaneers"!
No one else did either, they lost 0-20. Then they came home and gave up only 3 FGs to Tony Fritch of the then Chargers, before losing control of the game in the late 4th and falling 0-23. The next week the Bucs scored their first points, taking a 9-7 lead into the 4th qtr before losing.
By the time it was over, the Bucs had lost every single game they played, and were the weekly butt of jokes on the Johnny Carson late night show. Our team was a joke. But we had the #1 pick in the draft, and heisman trophy winner Tony Dorsett of Pittsburgh was waiting in the wings.