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 is 1999. You know what that means. (Sorry Bert, we all know it was a catch.)
Record: 11-5 (First in the NFC Central)
Points scored: 270 (27th in NFL)
Points against: 235 (3rd in NFL)
The End of the Dilfer Era: Trent Dilfer was benched, returned to the starting lineup, and was then sidelined due to injury during the 1999 season, which would be his last in Tampa. The former first-round pick was nothing short of a disappointment, making too many mistakes and failing to bring any consistency to the offense. Shaun King would take over at the end of the season for the Buccaneers, taking care of the offense en route to the NFC title game.
Franchise Kicker: The Buccaneers spent a third-round selection on Kansas State kicker Martin Gramatica, and he lived up to expectations from day one. Tasked with scoring points for the struggling Tampa Bay offense, Martin set a team record by connecting on 27 field goals during the 1999 season. He would break his own record in 2000, and again in 2002, showing that the Bucs made the right call in taking a kicker so early in the draft.
Sapp Attack: Warren Sapp broke out and became a full-fledged superstar in 1999, tallying 12.5 sacks in 15 games, earning First-Team All-Pro honors and being named Defensive Player of the Year for his efforts.
A Critical Win: With a 4-4 record after defeating the hopeless Saints, the Bucs took on the Kansas City Chiefs with a lot to play for. And thanks to a defensive stop in the red zone with less than a minute to play, the Bucs held on to a 17-10 victory to move to 5-4. This was the second of six straight wins for Tampa Bay, which would launch them into the driver's seat for the NFC Central title.
The Greatest Ref-Show on Turf: The Buccaneers took on the Rams for the second time in an NFC Championship game, 20 years after their first heartbreaking loss to the now St. Louis franchise. And despite holding the high-flying offense to only 10 points, the Bucs fell short on a late attempt to come from behind and lost 12-6. But the reason for the loss has been the topic of conversation in Tampa (and the NFL) ever since...
"He said 'The ball hit the ground,' but when I saw the play a little later on, that is not how I would have described it." - Tony Dungy
Tony Dungy isn't alone, as Bucs fans around the world cursed and complained and yelled when Bert Emanuel's diving catch on 2nd-and-23 was ruled incomplete after a replay review. This set the Buccaneers up with a nearly hopeless 3rd-and-forever situation, and they would turn the ball over on downs as a result.
The play, as chronicled by NFL Network here, led to a rule change from the NFL to better define what a catch is, as whatever rules were in place at the time weren't clear enough.
But the bigger issue for the Buccaneers, apart from one frustrating missed call by the officials, was the inability to score on offense. When Mike Alstott wasn't rumbling into the end zone, the Bucs had trouble putting points on the board via the touchdown, just like the 1979 team years before.
This frustrating lack of offense would set the wheels in motion to bring more flair to that side of the ball, allowing a dominant defense to have a better chance of winning football games. But for now, the Buccaneers had to settle for being on the wrong end of a low scoring game against the Rams yet again, and hope they'd get another chance at a Super Bowl appearance in the future.