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1977 Buccaneers Season 2 Schedule

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1977 Tampa Bay Buccaneers Season 2 Brief

The 1977 Tampa Bay Buccaneers season continued the losing streak that encompassed the entire 1976 season, and extended it to 26 games, which as of 2015 remains a record in the National Football League. Fear of becoming the Buccaneers’ first victim provided motivation to opposing teams. It took nearly two seasons for the Buccaneers to achieve their first franchise victory, a 33–14 win over the New Orleans Saints in the second-to-last game of the year. A crowd of 8,000 celebrating fans gathered at team headquarters to greet the team on their return from New Orleans. The very next week, the Bucs earned their first home victory, over the St. Louis Cardinals.

Coach John McKay declared the team to be "stronger at every position, with the exception of the quarterback position" than the 1976 team. Injuries, especially at quarterback and offensive line, prevented the offense from gaining any consistency, while the inexperienced line was able to provide neither adequate pass protection nor lanes for the running backs. Opponents lauded the Buccaneer defense's performance, even while posting record numbers of sacks against the Tampa Bay offense. The offense managed only six touchdowns in the entire season, and set a league record of six shutout losses that still stands.

Offseason

Rumors began to circulate alleging that the Buccaneers were a disorganized and confused organization, and returning veterans were promised that changes were forthcoming. It was pointed out that none of the team's administrative staff had any experience in their position, at the same time that a team of rookie players and coaches was being fielded. These problems were addressed with the firings and resignations of six coaches and administrators at the beginning of the year. Head coach John McKay used the opportunity to take control of more aspects of the organization, and selected replacements of his choosing. McKay was criticized over his handling of the players, and was accused of cutting veterans who could have helped the team, such as Ira Gordon, over ego conflicts. A perception arose that McKay was intolerant toward challenges to his authority, as he frequently cut players who argued with him, and surrounded himself with former USC players and staff. Concern that McKay preferred players who would keep their mouth shut, rather than players with talent, produced resentment among veterans who worried that their limited career spans would be spent with a losing team. Critics accused McKay of attempting a style of play that was more appropriate for the college game, and noted Don Shula's comment that preparing for the Buccaneers was like preparing to play USC. Reporters who covered the team indicated that McKay did not respond to the losing streak with the humor that it was hoped he would, but that he became an "old grouch" who complained about his coaching assistants, game-day officiating, and opposing coaches who he accused of running up the score. This was reflected in a bitter tone that had crept into McKay's trademark humor, with comments such as "I keep a picture of O.J. Simpson by my side at all times to remind me of the days when I knew how to coach".

Dennis Fryzel, coach of the Buccaneers’ much-criticized special teams, was replaced by USC offensive line coach Skip Husbands, who became the fifth USC assistant to join McKay in Tampa. Head trainer Dave Kendall was replaced by Northwestern University trainer Tom Oxley. Oxley was immediately given the task of rehabilitating the previous season's seventeen players who finished the year on injured reserve. A surprise trade brought Chicago Bears backup quarterback and Tampa native Gary Huff to the team, while incumbent quarterback Steve Spurrier was placed on waivers. Spurrier and McKay had often feuded during the previous season. McKay stated that cutting Spurrier meant that he would have a choice of teams with whom to sign. A rumored attempt to make a deal for Cleveland Browns quarterback Mike Phipps was denied, although a trade was later made for Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Mike Boryla.

NFL Draft

Draft trades

A pair of trades gained three picks for the team, which helped compensate for the lack of selections in rounds 4–7. Cedric Brown went to the Oakland Raiders in return for selections in rounds 6 and 9, while guard John Miller brought a tenth-round pick from the San Francisco 49ers. Brown eventually returned to the Buccaneers after being waived from Oakland. The two sixth round picks were traded to the Chicago Bears in return for quarterback Gary Huff, while the fifth round pick was traded to the Miami Dolphins for the rights to linebacker Ray Nettles. The other two selections had been traded during the previous season: the fourth round pick had gone to the Cincinnati Bengals for running back Charlie Davis, and the seventh round pick had been traded to the New York Jets for linebacker Richard Wood.

Draft Selections

The Buccaneers held the first pick in the 1977 NFL Draft, and chose Ricky Bell of USC. This was the first time since O.J. Simpson in 1969 that a running back was taken with the first overall draft pick. Bell was signed to a contract the same day and quickly reunited with his college teammate Dave Lewis, who was taken in the second round. Lewis became the eleventh former USC player on the Tampa Bay roster, and when given the news that he was now a Buccaneer, said, "You mean a Trojan Buccaneer". No other NFL team had as many players from any one school, and the Buccaneers received the unwanted nickname of "USC East". Scouting services regarded Lewis poorly, but the Buccaneers rated him as the best linebacker in the draft. McKay would later call Lewis "the steal of the draft", and say that he would be a top five pick if the draft were held over again. The previous year's offensive line woes were not addressed in the draft, as the team had no picks in the middle rounds, and didn't feel that there were any linemen worth taking in the later rounds. Third round pick Charley Hannah, brother of future Hall of Fame tackle John Hannah, would eventually be converted from defensive end to offensive guard.

Preseason

The expected preseason quarterback battle between Mike Boryla and Gary Huff failed to occur, as both suffered knee injuries in the first two preseason games. This left the team with just two healthy quarterbacks: Parnell Dickinson, who had less than a full year's experience due to a knee injury, and rookie Randy Hedberg. Jeb Blount was eventually claimed off waivers from the Oakland Raiders. Hedberg won the starting job with strong performances in the final two preseason games. Dickinson proved prone to throwing interceptions, due to trouble reading defenses and a tendency to throw late passes over the middle, and was cut from the team during training camp. The former Minot State quarterback Hedberg's surprising rise from fourth-stringer to opening-day starter led to shouts of "Why not Minot?", sales of "RH Positive" T-shirts, and the addition of a radio affiliate in faraway North Dakota.

A building strategy that emphasized developing young players instead of playing veterans who didn't fit into the team's future plans led the team to trade veteran offensive tackle Mike Current to the Miami Dolphins for troubled former first-round draft pick Darryl Carlton.[28] McKay called Carlton "amazing", and said that "he just doesn't make mental mistakes". Dan Medlin and Jeff Winans, a pair of guards obtained from the Raiders via trade, were touted as the first Buccaneer guards with the speed to lead running plays. The team tried to address their lack of experience at linebacker by arranging a trade for Jack 'Hacksaw' Reynolds, at the time a training camp holdout from the Los Angeles Rams. Reynolds questioned the validity of his contract, and refused to report to what his agent called "Outer Mongolia". The Buccaneers eventually negated the trade, and obtained Rik Bonness from the Raiders. Bonness, a former Nebraska center in only his second season as a linebacker, added depth but not experience. Former 1974 first-round draft choice Bill Kollar came to Tampa Bay after being let go by the Cincinnati Bengals due to injury concerns.[3] Jeris White came over from the Miami Dolphins to solidify the trouble spot at left cornerback.

Regular Season

The Buccaneers took their place in the NFC Central Division, while the other 1976 expansion team, the Seattle Seahawks, switched conferences with Tampa Bay and joined the AFC West. This fulfilled the NFL's plan of having the expansion teams play each other twice and every other NFL franchise once during their first two seasons. Tampa Bay's 1977 schedule consisted of a game against each of the other thirteen NFC teams, and the Seahawks.

The improved Buccaneer lineup included such oddities as running back Anthony Davis, who entered the NFL after playing in the World Football League and the Canadian Football League and thus was a rookie for the third time, and Cecil Johnson, a free-agent linebacker from Miami who chose the Buccaneers over three other teams so that he "wouldn't have a long, sad ride home" if he didn't make the squad. Progress was apparent with the defense, who allowed no 100-yard rushing performances other than Walter Payton's. A wave of injuries to the offense forced constant lineup changes. Redskins defensive end Ron McDole observed that, while the offensive line featured good individual blockers, their lack of experience playing together hindered their ability to operate as a unit, and that they were easily beaten by pulling stunts. Defenders thus had little trouble thwarting the "student body right" plays favored by McKay. Never able to establish any offensive consistency, they were shut out an NFL-record six times. Their first twelve games produced a mere 53 points, some of which occurred on defense, and 23 of which came against fellow expansion team Seattle. McKay illustrated the team's situation with comments such as "We couldn't score against a strong wind", and "I may quarterback the team myself." Quarterback was the position most obviously affected, but the tight end position was struck similarly. A season-ending knee injury suffered by tight end Bob Moore in one game left Dana Nafziger, an injured rookie whose regular position was linebacker, as the team's only player available at a position that was crucial to McKay's offense. Ricky Bell had some injuries to contend with, but when healthy, displayed sluggish play and a tendency to fumble on crucial drives.

Q. What two disasters were accompanied by band music?

A. The Titanic & the Buccaneers.
– Johnny Carson

Fearful of the perceived humiliation of being the first to lose to Tampa Bay, opponents prepared carefully for the Buccaneers. Dallas Cowboys quarterback Roger Staubach said, "...we didn't want to be the first. Psychologically, it could have wrecked our year". New York Giants coach John McVay said after a victory, "In 25 years of coaching I've never had as much pressure on me as I did this week". A popular Tampa area T-shirt depicted a sinking pirate ship with the inscription "Go for 0". The franchise finally broke through to victory in a week 13 road game against the New Orleans Saints that led Saints head coach Hank Stram to lament, "What a nightmare. It was the worst experience of my coaching career. We're all ashamed for our people, for our fans, for our organization". Stram, an early head coaching candidate for the expansion Buccaneers, was fired the following week. The first Buccaneer home victory came in the following week's season-ending game against the St. Louis Cardinals. Cardinals coach Don Coryell, already feuding with team owner Bill Bidwill, was also fired shortly after the loss. The two-game winning streak ended the Buccaneers’ losing streak at 0–26. Howard Cosell honored the Buccaneers’ first victory by choosing it as the lead game for the halftime highlights of ABC TV's Monday Night Football broadcast, and interviewed McKay by telephone during the game. Bill Cosby, filling in for longtime Buccaneer mocker Johnny Carson as host of The Tonight Show, devoted a five-minute comedy routine to the win. No Buccaneers were honored with Pro Bowl selections following the season, although it was believed that Lee Roy Selmon, Dave Lewis, and Dave Pear would all have been chosen had they played on a playoff contender.

Season:
PRESEASON
Date   Opponent Week/Record Outcome
Saturday
Aug. 6
Dolphins Miami Dolphins
Tampa Stadium, Tampa Bay, FL
PS - wk 1
0-1
Lost 7-13
Saturday
Aug. 13
Bengals @ Cincinnati Bengals
Riverfront Stadium, Cincinnati, OH
PS - wk 2
0-2
Lost 0-45
Saturday
Aug. 20
Packers Green Bay Packers
Tampa Stadium, Tampa Bay, FL
PS - wk 3
1-2
Won 10-7
Saturday
Aug. 27
Falcons @ Atlanta Falcons
Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, Atlanta, GA
PS - wk 4
1-3
Lost 21-30
Saturday
Sep. 3
Bills @ Buffalo Bills
Rich Stadium, Orchard Park, NY
PS - wk 5
1-4
Lost 6-17
Saturday
Sep. 10
Colts Baltimore Colts
Tampa Stadium, Tampa Bay, FL
PS - wk 6
2-4
Won 14-0

1977 Season Results

Record: 2-12, DIV: 0-4 (5th in NFC Central)
Date   Opponent Week/Record Outcome
Sunday
Sep. 18
Eagles @ Philadelphia Eagles
Veterans Stadium, Philadelphia, PA
RS - wk 1
0-1
Lost 3-13
Saturday
Sep. 24
Vikings Minnesota Vikings
Tampa Stadium, Tampa Bay, FL
RS - wk 2
0-2
Lost 3-9
Sunday
Oct. 2
Cowboys @ Dallas Cowboys
Texas Stadium, Irving, TX
RS - wk 3
0-3
Lost 7-23
Sunday
Oct. 9
Redskins Washington Redskins
Tampa Stadium, Tampa Bay, FL
RS - wk 4
0-4
Lost 0-10
Sunday
Oct. 16
Seahawks @ Seattle Seahawks
Kingdome, Seattle, WA
RS - wk 5
0-5
Lost 23-30
Sunday
Oct. 23
Packers Green Bay Packers
Tampa Stadium, Tampa Bay, FL
RS - wk 6
0-6
Lost 0-13
Sunday
Oct. 30
49ers @ San Francisco 49ers
Candlestick Park, San Francisco, CA
RS - wk 7
0-7
Lost 10-20
Sunday
Nov. 6
Rams @ Los Angeles Rams
Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, Los Angeles, CA
RS - wk 8
0-8
Lost 0-31
Sunday
Nov. 13
Giants Ney York Giants
Tampa Stadium, Tampa Bay, FL
RS - wk 9
0-9
Lost 0-10
Sunday
Nov. 20
Lions @ Detroit Lions
Pontiac Silverdome, Pontiac, MI
RS - wk 10
0-10
Lost 7-16
Sunday
Nov. 27
Falcons Atlanta Falcons
Tampa Stadium, Tampa Bay, FL
RS - wk 11
0-11
Lost 0-17
Sunday
Dec. 4
Bears Chicago Bears
Tampa Stadium, Tampa Bay, FL
RS - wk 12
0-12
Lost 0-10
Sunday
Dec. 11
Saints @ New Orleans Saints
Louisiana Superdome, New Orleans, LA
RS - wk 13
1-12
Won 33-14
Sunday
Dec. 18
Cardinals St. Louis Cardinals
Tampa Stadium, Tampa Bay, FL
RS - wk 14
2-12
Won 17-7
PLAYOFFS
Date   Opponent NFC/Superbowl Outcome
Season
Ended
Buccaneers @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Tampa Stadium, Tampa Bay, FL
None
None
00-00

ALL Tampa Bay Buccaneers Season Links
1976 1977 1978 1979 1980 1981 1982 1983 1984 1985 1986 1987 1988 1989 1990
1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005
2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018

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