clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Season by Season History of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 1987

The Buccaneers hired a new head coach, snagged a QB with their first draft pick, and seemed to have righted the ship. Could they finally turn things around, half a decade after their last decent season?

Before Marc Trestman became the Bears' QB guru and head coach, he was an assistant for the lowly Buccaneers.
Before Marc Trestman became the Bears' QB guru and head coach, he was an assistant for the lowly Buccaneers.
Rob Foldy-USA TODAY Sports

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 another season of change in Tampa, the 1987 campaign.

Season Recap

Record: 4-11 (Tied for last in NFC Central)

Points scored: 286 (19th in NFL)

Points against: 360 (20th in NFL)

Replacement Players: The 1987 season saw a labor strike resulting in replacement players being used to keep the NFL Season alive. And unsurprising to most the Buccaneers actually did better with their replacement team than they did with their real one, finishing with a 2-1 record during the strike.

Vinny Testaverde's Introduction: After spending the first pick in the draft on the Miami product, the Bucs plugged in Vinny Testaverde for a total of four starts, and he failed to impress. The player who would become one of the longest-tenured quarterbacks in recent league history failed to complete 50% of his passes and threw six interceptions to only five touchdowns.

Finally Replaced Lee Roy Selmon?: After a couple of seasons with disappointing production from defensive linemen, the Bucs finally got a strong effort from a pass rusher in 1987, as Ron Holmes would get eight sacks in only 10 games. Holmes started off slow, but in 1987 he showed signs of why the Bucs drafted him in the first round two years earlier.

Key Games

Who Needs Vinny?: The Buccaneers opened the season with a 48-10 beatdown of the Atlanta Falcons, as veteran Steve DeBerg started under center over first-overall pick Vinny Testaverde. DeBerg threw for five touchdowns as the Bucs got off to a 1-0 start and seemed to be more of a threat under their new head coach.

Can We Keep the Replacements?: Former Buccaneers target Jim Zorn finally landed in Tampa, just a few years later, as he'd quarterback the team to a 20-10 win over the Vikings in the final replacement players game of the season. The veteran Zorn didn't actually have a very good game, but it was the replacement defense which scored twice and lifted the Bucs to a victory.

Major Storylines

The labor strike of 1987 was the major story of that season, as three games of the Buccaneers' season were spent with replacement players on the field, and all-time low crowds in the stands.

But in Tampa specifically, a change of coaches and the selection of a new quarterback were headlines that would have an impact beyond a one-month stretch of the '87 season. Gone was Leeman Bennett, who led the team to only four wins in two years, and in would come Ray Perkins, former Alabama coach, who brought about a new mentality in Tampa.

Perkins arrived and identified size, strength and speed as three major areas of need in Tampa, and worked the team hard to improve their strength while he sought out players who better fit what he was looking for. This included adding Mark Carrier in the draft, but surprisingly led to the departure of Steve Young, as the Bucs added Testaverde with the first pick of the draft.

The Bucs would also add Mike Shula with a 12th round pick. Yes, that Mike Shula. And 1987 would be Marc Trestman's only year coaching in Tampa, before his career would twist and turn on its way to becoming the Bears' head coach. He came to Tampa along with Testaverde, who he coached in college.

And the Bucs would play better under Perkins, but the results didn't come as a result. The Bucs (not the replacements) won only two games that year, including an eight game losing streak to end the season. Things were slightly looking up, as the team wasn't a total embarrassment, but there's still something to be said about a team that won as many games with replacement players as they did with their real players.