The first Buccaneers preseason game has come and gone, and our countdown to regular season kickoff is down to FOUR weeks. That’s right. In just four Sundays, Tampa Bay will host the San Francisco 49ers at Raymond James Stadium to start the 2019 campaign.
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 2005 season. So, with four weeks to go now, we’re taking a look back at Tampa Bay’s 2004 season.
2004 Season in Review
The 2004 season was a continuation of the Buccaneers’ disappointing downslide after Super Bowl XXXVII. The issues started early. Head coach Jon Gruden worked to get Bruce Allen in the building as his general manager, and a short time later, three members of the Super Bowl team were on their way out. The team decided not to re-sign John Lynch and Warren Sapp, which was controversial enough. To add to the situation, Keenan McCardell was traded because he was unhappy with his contract.
The Bucs’ acquisitions didn’t help either. Their signings of Todd Steussie and Charlie Garner didn’t work out, nor did their trade for future Hall of Famer Tim Brown. To make matters even worse, Hurricane Charley came through and shortened training camp.
Tampa Bay began the 2004 season with four straight losses, though only one of them was by more than six points. The Bucs snapped their losing streak in Week 5 with a road win over the Saints, but went right back to losing the next week. When they got to their bye in Week 8, they were 2-5.
Three strong offensive performances led to three wins in their next five games, getting them to 5-7. However, the winning stopped there. Tampa Bay lost its last four games to finish the season 5-11 and miss the playoffs for a second straight year. Not even the league’s fifth-ranked defense could get the Bucs into contention.
2004 Notes and Highlights
- Ronde Barber returned a fumble for a touchdown in Week 1, but Tampa Bay’s 169 offensive yards weren’t enough for an opening day victory. The Bucs lost to the Redskins in Washington by a final score of 16-10.
- Chris Simms replaced a struggling Brad Johnson in the first half of the Bucs’ Week 2 matchup with the Seahawks in Tampa. Tampa Bay failed to score an offensive touchdown for the second straight week, losing 10-6. Rookie Michael Clayton led the team in receiving for the second consecutive game.
- A Super Bowl XXXVII rematch against the Raiders awaited in Week 3, but the Bucs couldn’t repeat their effort that won them their first Lombardi Trophy. A 6-6 game turned into a 30-6 Oakland lead by the end of the third quarter. A fourth-quarter comeback effort ultimately fell short, with the Bucs losing 30-20.
- In Week 4, the offense sputtered again. Michael Clayton finished with 91 yards and his first career touchdown catch, but the Bucs fell 16-13 to John Lynch and the Broncos to fall to 0-4.
- Tampa Bay finally found the win column in Week 5, beating New Orleans 20-17 on the road. With Brad Johnson benched, Chris Simms got the start. Simms eventually left with an injury, being replaced by Brian Griese. It was Griese that led the way for the Bucs, throwing for 194 yards and a touchdown on 16-of-19 passing.
- Playing on Monday Night Football in Week 6, the Bucs lost 28-21 to the Rams in St. Louis. Griese threw for 286 yards and two touchdowns, while Clayton caught eight passes for a career-high 142 yards. Tampa Bay tied the game at 21-21 late in the third quarter before going scoreless in the fourth.
- The Bucs got out to a 13-0 lead over the Bears in Week 7 before going on to win 19-7. Michael Pittman led the way, rushing for 109 yards and a touchdown on 23 carries. Clayton led all receivers with six catches for 62 yards and a score.
- After their bye week, the Bucs won a shootout over the Chiefs at home in Week 9. Brian Griese threw for 296 yards and two touchdowns, while Michael Pittman ran for 128 and three scores. Jermaine Phillips came up with a fourth-quarter interception to help Tampa Bay put the game away.
- The Bucs’ most lopsided win of the season came in Week 11 when they beat the 49ers 35-3 at Raymond James Stadium. Griese kept it rolling, throwing for 210 yards and four touchdowns, connecting with Joe Jurevicius five times for 82 yards and two touchdowns. Pittman went over 100 yards again, rushing for 106 and two touchdowns on 21 carries.
- Not even a 347-yard game from Griese could help the Bucs win in Week 12. They fell 21-14 to the Panthers in Carolina.
- The Bucs upset the Falcons in Week 13, shutting them out by a score of 27-0. With the win, Tampa Bay prevented Atlanta from clinching the NFC South. Pittman and Mike Alstott both ran for touchdowns, and the defense contained Michael Vick. They picked off Falcons quarterbacks a combined three times, with two coming against Vick. Brian Kelly, Ryan Nece and Dwight Smith came up with interceptions for the Bucs.
- The Bucs lost their final four games of the season, finishing at 5-11.
- Brian Griese threw for 20 touchdowns on the year, but was intercepted 12 times.
- Michael Pittman didn’t quite get to 1,000 yards on the ground, but he came pretty close. He finished with 926 yards on 219 carries, scoring seven touchdowns.
- Rookie receiver Michael Clayton caught 80 passes for 1,193 yards and seven touchdowns.
- Simeon Rice totaled 12 sacks on the season, getting to the 100-sack mark for his career.
2004 Buccaneers Player of the Year
As tempting as it was to give this to Michael Pittman, Derrick Brooks or Ronde Barber, this had to go to Michael Clayton. The first-round pick — selected 15th overall — out of LSU was the biggest bright spot for the Bucs in 2004. His 80 catches, 1,193 receiving yards and seven touchdown receptions led the team. Despite playing on a five-win team, Clayton was named the 2004 Offensive Rookie of the Year. He never lived up to his huge rookie campaign, but he still deserves the nod here.
The 2004 season was another letdown for the Bucs. It was their second consecutive losing season after winning the Super Bowl. Letting Sapp and Lynch walk was disappointing enough, but then the season actually happened. Brooks and Barber were still around to lead the defense, and both were All-Pro and Pro Bowl selections. Clayton’s big year earned him the highest rookie honor as well. Rice harassed opposing quarterbacks all year long. So, it wasn’t all bad. But a five-win season? Those can never be that good.
We’re four weeks away from kickoff, Bucs fans. Stay tuned to this rewind series every Sunday until Week 1 of the 2019 season.