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Buccaneers on pace to have worst season since 1976

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They say that "numbers never lie," and if that's true, the 2014 Bucs are a historically bad football team.

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Joe Robbins

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
Year Lg Tm MoV Strength of Schedule
Average quality of opponent as measured by SRS (Simple Rating System)
SRS OSRS DSRS
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
Provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/20/2014.

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.