Forty-three years can produce a lot of memorable moments.
That's how many seasons the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have played, and they are about to launch into training camp for their 44th, which happens to double as the National Football League's historic 100th campaign. All across the league, NFL teams are celebrating that landmark season by identifying the biggest moments in their respective histories. The Buccaneers want YOU to help them do exactly that.
Every Bucs fan has her or his favorite memory, and there are too many to count. Maybe you were there when the franchise got its first regular-season win in New Orleans on December 11, 1977…or more likely you were part of the victory celebration when the team plane landed back in Tampa. Maybe you watched the ridiculous Monday Night Football shootout against the Rams in 2000 and thought you'd never see a more exciting Buccaneers game. Perhaps you shed a few tears along with Mike Alstott when he was honored at Raymond James Stadium upon his retirement.
Those were all amazing moments for both the team and its fans. So were Dwight Smith's two pick-sixes in Super Bowl XXXVII and the parade that followed in downtown Tampa after the Bucs won, the drafting of Lee Roy Selmon and his subsequent induction into the Hall of Fame, and the unforgettable rain-drenched afternoon at old Tampa Stadium that ended in a 3-0 win over Kansas City to send the Bucs to the playoffs for the first time. Those with a more jaded heart might even include the Bert Emanuel catch-that-should-have-been at the end of a thrilling 1999 NFC Championship Game.
Great moments, all. However, we are about to present you with four more that are arguably even more memorable for Buccaneers fans everywhere. And then it will be your turn. In the poll below, you can vote for your choice as the singular top moment in franchise history, and help us celebrate the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' place in the first 100 years of the National Football League.
Click on each header for a more detailed story about each of these four amazing moments in franchise history.
The Buccaneers brought a historically-good and amazingly-well-prepared defense into their first Super Bowl, and that crew did not disappoint. Tampa Bay set still-standing Super Bowl records for interceptions and return touchdowns and also sacked Oakland quarterback Rich Gannon five times. The offense pitched in, too, with a 100-yard performance by running back Michael Pittman, two touchdown catches by Keenan McCardell and a dominating effort by the offensive line.
The Buccaneers built a 34-3 lead by shortly after halftime but Oakland managed to make it interesting down the stretch, pulling to within 13 points. That's when Derrick Brooks stepped in with the biggest play of an incredible season that earned him NFL Defensive Player of the Year honors.
The most amazing thing about perhaps the most amazing moment in Buccaneers franchise history was the sound.
The packed stands of the last game ever to be played at Veterans Stadium were at full throat as Donovan McNabb and the Eagles were mounting a rally in the 2002 NFC Championship Game…and then suddenly you could hear a pin drop. Ronde Barber, recalling McNabb's reaction to a slot blitz from earlier in the game, baited the opposing passer into a hot read and then jumped the route, recording the most important turnover in the career of the franchise's all-time leading interceptor. Barber took his pick 92 yards untouched in the opposite direction and the Buccaneers were suddenly headed across the country for their first-ever championship game.
If you have any doubt about how difficult the expansion rules were in 1976 when Tampa Bay launched the league's 27th franchise, just look at the team's 0-26 start over the next two years. Sure, the victory in New Orleans that ended that infamous beginning was enormous, but the rapid rise to the top from there was even more important.
After three straight losing seasons, the Buccaneers shocked the league by opening 1979 with a five-game winning streak. That Selmon-led squad would end up with 10 wins and its first division championship. The reward was a home game to open the postseason against the Philadelphia Eagles, who were loaded with such playoff-tested veterans as Ron Jaworski, Wilbert Montgomery and Harold Carmichael. Not only did Selmon and the Bucs' defense keep that crew in check, but rugged Ricky Bell carried 38 times for 142 yards to grind out the landmark win.
This "moment" took about three hours but it effectively erased a decade-and-a-half of futility.
The Buccaneers began the opening day of the 1995 NFL draft with the seventh-overall pick in the first round. Before the day was over, they turned that into two Hall-of-Famers. It began with an initial trade down, and then later the assets gained in that deal were used to move back up into the opening frame. The results were the selections of Warren Sapp and Derrick Brooks, both of whom now have gold busts in Canton. It's fair to say that all of the winning and playoff contention, as well as that Lombardi Trophy, never would have happened without the draft-day machinations of April 22, 1995.