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In 1987, the Bucs were better off with strike-breakers than their actual players

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A trip back in time.

Dan Hampton chases Steve Deberg Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Way back in 1987, NFL players struck for four games. One of those games was cancelled, and three of them were played with replacement players—including a few of the players association’s players who crossed picket lines.

The result was some terrible, no-good football and the breaking of the strike after a third game of replacement games. And for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, amusingly, those three games led to two wins and one loss.

That’s amusing because the Bucs were terrible that season. They won just two games the rest of the year, and Football Outsiders estimates they were the second-worst team in the entire NFL that year with a somewhat mind-bogglingly low DVOA of -28.6%.

Both the offense and the defense were awful, and the Bucs were lucky to win any regular season games to be honest. Steve DeBerg played eight horrible games, and Vinny Testaverde was somehow even worse when the Bucs were finally done with DeBerg.

But when the replacement players got on the field, suddenly the Bucs were an average team. They won two out of those three replacement games, meaning half of their total amount of wins that year (they went 4-11) came from replacement players. Perhaps the Bucs should have convinced their players to strike for a little longer?

So hey, if the players end up striking for higher pay in a few years, keep this in mind to soothe your desire for some form of NFL play. Or don’t, and support employees fighting for a bigger share of the pie. Whichever.