The Countdown to Kickoff for the Buccaneers has hit SIX weeks, folks. Training camp is underway, the preseason isn’t far off and we are six short weeks away from Tampa Bay opening up its 2019 season against the San Francisco 49ers at Raymond James Stadium.
Every Sunday leading up to kickoff of the new season, we’ll be taking a look back at old Bucs seasons, correlating with how many weeks are left in the countdown. Last week, we returned to the 2007 season. So, with six weeks to go now, we’re taking a look back at Tampa Bay’s 2006 season.
2006 Season in Review
The Bucs came into the 2006 season hoping to build off of an NFC South title in 2005. Even with the Super Bowl-winning Jon Gruden still leading the way, Tampa Bay started slow and never recovered. Injuries and inconsistency were a huge problem. An 0-3 start was followed by two straight wins. But from there, it was another three-game losing streak. Then came a win... And then a four-game losing streak. The Bucs finished the year 4-12, good for a last-place finish in the division.
The team failed to score a touchdown in the first two games of the season, losing 27-0 at home to Baltimore and 14-3 on the road in Atlanta. In Week 3’s 26-24 loss to the Panthers at Ray Jay, the Bucs lost starting quarterback Chris Simms for the season after he ruptured his spleen. A post-bye loss to the Saints — with rookie Bruce Gradkowski playing pretty well under center — dropped Tampa Bay to 0-4.
Gradkowski then led the Bucs to two straight wins, beating the Bengals 14-13 before dropping the Eagles 23-21 on a 62-yard field goal by Matt Bryant. From there, the only two wins came in Week 11 (20-17 over the Redskins) and Week 16 (22-7 over the Browns).
2006 Notes and Highlights
- The Bucs’ 27-0 loss to the Ravens in Week 1 was their first shutout loss at home since 1996. Chris Simms threw three interceptions in the loss.
- Michael Vick and former Buc Warrick Dunn tore up Tampa Bay at the Georgia Dome in Week 2. Vick ran for 127 yards and a touchdown, while Dunn went for 134 on 21 carries. The Falcons won 14-3, and Simms threw another three interceptions.
- The Bucs nearly earned their first win of the season in Week 3, but instead lost the game and their starting quarterback for the rest of the year. Tampa Bay trailed 20-7 at halftime, but came back to make it 21-20 in the third quarter on touchdown runs by Cadillac Williams and Simms. After the Simms injury, the Bucs lost on a field goal with under 10 seconds to go.
- Let’s all just take a minute to be thankful that Simms’ ruptured spleen was diagnosed when it was so that he could have emergency surgery. It was originally thought to just be a rib injury.
- Rookie Bruce Gradkowski got his first career start in Week 5, and he nearly led the Bucs to an upset win over the Saints in the Superdome. Two Gradkowski touchdown passes — with a Mike Alstott touchdown run mixed in — had Tampa Bay leading 21-17 in the fourth quarter. The team was unable to hold on, allowing a 65-yard punt return for a touchdown by Reggie Bush with less than five minutes to go.
- The Bucs finally earned their first win of the year in Week 6, upsetting the Bengals 14-13 at home. Tampa Bay trailed 13-7 with under a minute to go, but Bruce Gradkowski found Michael Clayton for an eight-yard touchdown with 43 seconds to go. Matt Bryant’s extra point gave the Bucs the lead, which they didn’t relinquish. Cincinnati had a chance to win it with a 62-yard field goal, but it was unsuccessful.
- The Bucs followed up their Week 6 with another victory in Week 7, beating the Eagles 23-21. Ronde Barber came up with two pick sixes off of Donovan McNabb, helping Tampa Bay to a 17-0 lead. That lead shrunk to 17-14 in the fourth quarter before a Matt Bryant field goal made it 20-14. A 52-yard touchdown pass from McNabb to Brian Westbrook with 46 seconds left made it 21-20 Philadelphia, but then...
- MATT BRYANT NAILED A 62-YARD FIELD GOAL TO SEND THE EAGLES HOME WITH A LOSS. It was such a historic moment. AND it led to one of Gene Deckerhoff’s best radio calls ever, in my humble opinion. Absolutely legendary.
- The Bucs beat the Eagles despite being outgained 506-196. That’s impressive on its own.
- The Bucs lost to the Giants in Week 8, but it was notable considering it was the last time Ronde and Tiki Barber faced off.
- Tampa Bay played on Monday Night Football in Week 10, but it was in a losing effort. Carolina won 24-10 to sweep the season series.
- In Week 11, the Bucs got their revenge against the Redskins, who knocked them out of the playoffs in 2005. Cadillac Williams ran for 122 yards in the win, while Gradkowski threw for two touchdowns (one to Joey Galloway, one to Anthony Becht).
- Week 12 was a Thanksgiving Day game for Jon Gruden’s team, but it wasn’t a happy holiday. The Cowboys won 38-10 in Dallas.
- Tim Rattay replaced Gradkowski in the first half of a Week 15 loss to the Bears. He started at quarterback for the rest of the season.
- Rattay and the Bucs won on Christmas Eve in Week 16, beating the Browns 22-7. Derrick Brooks came up with a pick six, Phillip Buchanon came up with an interception and Jermaine Phillips grabbed two of his own.
- Tampa Bay failed to end the season on a high note, losing 23-7 to the Seahawks in Week 17.
- The Buccaneer defense ranked outside of the top 10 for the first time since 1996.
- The Bucs had three players in the Pro Bowl: Ronde Barber, Derrick Brooks and Dave Moore.
- 2006 was the final season of Mike Alstott’s storied Bucs career.
2006 Buccaneers Player of the Year
Joey Galloway — who I named as the 2007 Buccaneers Player of the Year — has a case for the 2006 honors as well. But in the interest of giving the defense some love (and because he put together a heck of a season), I’m going with Ronde Barber here. He finished the season with 100 tackles (86 solo), three interceptions, 16 passes defended and two defensive touchdowns. His two-touchdown performance against Philadelphia was one of the more memorable individual efforts of the year for Tampa Bay. I mean, does it get better than Ronde intercepting Donovan McNabb?! Despite playing for a four-win team, Barber was named to his third straight Pro Bowl (the fourth of his career).
2006 was a lost season for the Bucs. It was sandwiched in between the team’s last two playoff appearances, so it’s easy to forget about. With the injury to Chris Simms and the overall substandard play, there wasn’t a ton to love in 2006. However, the year did yield at least a few memorable moments/performances. Ronde Barber’s two-pick game being capped by Matt Bryant’s 62-yard game-winner? Every Bucs fan should remember that game fondly. Joey Galloway finished with 1,057 yards and seven touchdowns (half of Tampa Bay’s touchdown catches). That’s class. But overall, 2006 was a disappointment.
We’re six weeks away from kickoff, Bucs fans. Stay tuned to this rewind series every Sunday until Week 1 of the 2019 season.