The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are off to a 1-5 start to the 2014 season, but its the manner in which they've lost, and the teams they've lost to, that have them in contention for being one of the worst teams of all time.
Pro Football Reference has a metric known as the Simple Rating System, which evaluates a team based on strength of schedule and margin of victory. An explanation of the system is available on their website.
According to that ranking system, the 2014 Buccaneers are currently the second-worst team in franchise history, behind only the 1976 expansion squad which was lacking in talent at nearly every position and did not win a single game.
Here is a list of every Bucs season ranked by the SRS, from worst to best:
|Simple Rating System|
Strength of Schedule |
Average quality of opponent as measured by SRS (Simple Rating System)
|1976||NFL||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||-20.5||0.8||-19.7||-10.8||-8.8|
|2014||NFL||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||-14.0||-4.8||-18.8||-6.8||-12.0|
|1986||NFL||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||-14.6||-0.8||-15.4||-4.6||-10.8|
|1991||NFL||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||-10.4||-0.8||-11.1||-7.0||-4.2|
|1977||NFL||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||-8.6||-2.2||-10.7||-11.1||0.3|
|2011||NFL||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||-12.9||2.3||-10.6||-4.0||-6.6|
|1983||NFL||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||-8.7||-0.3||-9.0||-7.5||-1.6|
|2006||NFL||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||-8.9||0.9||-7.9||-7.2||-0.8|
|1993||NFL||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||-8.7||1.1||-7.6||-3.3||-4.3|
|1985||NFL||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||-9.6||2.2||-7.4||-1.9||-5.5|
|1990||NFL||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||-6.4||-0.7||-7.1||-4.0||-3.2|
|1994||NFL||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||-6.3||0.0||-6.2||-5.4||-0.8|
|1992||NFL||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||-6.1||0.3||-5.9||-2.0||-3.9|
|1987||NFL||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||-4.9||-0.8||-5.8||-3.1||-2.7|
|2009||NFL||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||-9.8||4.1||-5.6||-4.6||-1.1|
|1980||NFL||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||-4.4||-0.7||-5.1||-3.5||-1.6|
|1989||NFL||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||-6.2||1.1||-5.1||-0.4||-4.7|
|1995||NFL||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||-6.1||1.1||-5.0||-6.9||1.9|
|1988||NFL||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||-5.6||1.5||-4.1||-1.9||-2.2|
|1984||NFL||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||-2.8||-0.7||-3.5||-0.2||-3.4|
|1978||NFL||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||-1.1||-2.2||-3.3||-4.1||0.8|
|1996||NFL||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||-4.5||1.5||-3.0||-5.9||2.9|
|1979||NFL||Tampa Bay Buccaneers*||2.3||-5.1||-2.8||-4.6||1.8|
|2004||NFL||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||-0.2||-2.5||-2.7||-4.0||1.3|
|2013||NFL||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||-6.3||3.6||-2.7||-2.9||0.3|
|2005||NFL||Tampa Bay Buccaneers*||1.6||-2.6||-1.0||-2.8||1.8|
|2010||NFL||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||1.4||-2.0||-0.6||-1.0||0.4|
|2012||NFL||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||-0.3||0.3||0.0||1.3||-1.3|
|1982||NFL||Tampa Bay Buccaneers*||-2.2||3.1||0.9||-0.4||1.3|
|2007||NFL||Tampa Bay Buccaneers*||4.0||-2.8||1.2||-2.3||3.6|
|1998||NFL||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||1.2||0.1||1.3||-2.3||3.5|
|2003||NFL||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||2.3||-0.7||1.6||-2.9||4.5|
|2008||NFL||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||2.4||-0.1||2.3||-0.6||2.9|
|1999||NFL||Tampa Bay Buccaneers*||2.2||0.4||2.6||-4.1||6.7|
|1997||NFL||Tampa Bay Buccaneers*||2.3||0.5||2.7||-2.4||5.1|
|1981||NFL||Tampa Bay Buccaneers*||2.9||0.1||3.0||-1.4||4.4|
|2001||NFL||Tampa Bay Buccaneers*||2.8||1.3||4.0||0.7||3.3|
|2000||NFL||Tampa Bay Buccaneers*||7.4||-0.1||7.3||3.4||3.9|
|2002||NFL||Tampa Bay Buccaneers*||9.4||-0.6||8.8||-1.0||9.8|
The current iteration of the Bucs suffers in this ranking due to the weak schedule they've played so far, which drags down the calculation, but this metric is supposed to be predictive, which doesn't bode well for Lovie Smith's crew moving forward.
The Bucs do currently have the worst defense in the league according to both yards and points rankings, something that has happened only one other time in franchise history (1986). The Bucs have always had good defenses, but by pretty much any measure, they've been one of the worst units in the league so far this season.
Other statistical sources aren't any more optimistic about the Bucs. Football Outsiders has them ranked in the bottom four in every category of DVOA, Pro Football Focus has them as the worst defense in the league according to its grades, and numberFire ranks the Bucs as the 31st best team in the NFL, and would project them to lose by over nine points to an "average NFL team" according to their nERD calculation.
Easier opponents await them in the month ahead, but tough challenges will be waiting as the season winds to a close. Will the team rebound and start playing respectable football by the time the Green Bay Packers show up at Raymond James in December, or will the Bucs be on the verge of one of the worst seasons in NFL history going up against one of the NFL's best teams on that weekend?
For a franchise with a storied history of losing, and losing often, it's embarrassing to be able to say a team is on pace to challenge for the title of "worst Bucs team of all-time." Yet that's exactly what Lovie Smith's 2014 team is doing. Fans can only hope that Smith's coaching and leadership over the bye week helped to turn this team around, or the two-game gap to the top of the NFC South will become nothing but a distant memory as the team prepares for a top-two pick in the 2015 NFL Draft.