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1983 Buccaneers Season 8 Schedule

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1983 Tampa Bay Buccaneers Season 8 Brief

The 1983 Tampa Bay Buccaneers season began with high expectations, as it was considered by some to be the Buccaneers' best squad yet. They were predicted by some to be Super Bowl contenders, but disappointment quickly set in as personnel changes and a rash of injuries contributed to a league-worst 2–14 record. The team was unable to agree on a contract with quarterback Doug Williams, resulting in his departure for the USFL. Jack Thompson was acquired from the Cincinnati Bengals as what was termed "an insurance move" during Williams' negotiations, for a draft choice would turn out to be the top pick in the 1984 NFL Draft. The team's record was somewhat deceptive; they lost numerous close games, but failed to execute at key times. According to McKay, "I think the other teams looking at us respect us. I don't think anyone is volunteering to play us". Opposing coach Bud Grant pointed out that they were "losing games they should've won". The Buccaneers took their opponents into overtime several times during a season that included a record number of overtime games league-wide. Nine of their losses were by a touchdown or less, and six by a field goal or less. James Wilder emerged as one of the NFL's best running backs, but was not able to finish the season due to injury. Eighteen different players spent time on the injured reserve list over the course of the season, and only three started all sixteen games. This season ended the Buccaneers' streak of having made the playoffs three of the last four seasons, and began a streak of 14 consecutive losing seasons, 13 of which saw the team lose at least 10 games (the exception was a 7–9 campaign in 1995).

After the Buccaneers' first-ever undefeated preseason, the regular season began with a long losing streak. The loss of Williams was believed to be a major distraction to the team. Without Williams' strong arm and scrambling ability, the Buccaneers were forced to remake their offense as a short passing attack, with James Wilder as the primary target. Opponents were successful at shutting down that short attack, and the Buccaneers were successful at neither running the ball nor hitting Kevin House and Jimmie Giles with deep passes. Injuries had much to do with their troubles: every member of the offensive line suffered an early-season injury. The Buccaneers ranked last in the league in the ratio of touchdowns scored to touchdowns allowed. The linebackers and defensive backfield were also hit hard by injuries. The inconsistency of kicker Bill Capece cost the team some games, and eventually led to McKay's famous pronouncement that "Capece is kaput". McKay blamed the team's problems on lack of effort and threatened personnel changes, though admitting that replacements would not be readily found. Attendance began to decline, with fans calling for McKay's retirement. It was pointed out that the revenue lost through unsold tickets would have more than covered the $200,000 gap between what Williams had demanded and the team had been willing to pay. Owner Hugh Culverhouse reported an expected loss of $1.25 million due to declining ticket sales, while merchants reported a drop in merchandise sales. The team's final 2–14 record tied them with the Houston Oilers for the league's worst mark, but the Buccaneers were awarded last place over the Oilers by virtue of their opponents' worse combined winning percentage.


The offense's ineffective performance in their 30–17 playoff loss to the Dallas Cowboys renewed criticism of the performance of the Buccaneer offense.[16] Cowboys cornerback Everson Walls stated that the Buccaneers' game plan was very familiar, as it was exactly the same as on previous meetings. He also claimed that Doug Williams made postgame comments complaining of the offense's conservatism, although Williams said that his actual comments were misinterpreted by Walls. Coach John McKay responded by saying that he would continue to run the offense as usual, and not hire an offensive coordinator. Rumors began to fly that McKay was hoping for a good season so as to be able to retire on a winning note, with Dick Vermeil and Wayne Fontes mentioned as likely replacements.

Coaching Changes

Offensive line coach Bill Johnson and quarterbacks coach Bill Nelsen were fired soon after the end of the 1982 season. Johnson was replaced by University of Miami offensive coordinator and former Florida Gators center Kim Helton. McKay described Helton as an excellent teacher in Miami's pro-style offense. University of Illinois receivers coach and former Bengal Chip Myers took over Dowler's vacated receivers' coach spot. The changes were criticized as cosmetic moves that replaced Johnson, who had notable success building offensive lines over a 23-year career, with Helton, who had no professional experience at all. Furthermore, the Buccaneers had allowed the least sacks of any NFL team during Johnson's four-year tenure.

Player Movements

Several injured players left the Buccaneer roster in the spring. Jerry Eckwood was waived after failing a physical due to a back injury, Randy Crowder retired to take a coaching job at Penn State, and Bill Kollar was waived when he was deemed to be a medical risk if he played again. The loss of Kollar left the roster thin at defensive end, as there were only four players remaining at that position. Of these, Dave Stalls was trying to maintain Colorado residency in order to obtain a veterinary license, and so notified the club that he would retire if not traded to the Denver Broncos. Charley Hannah entered a contract dispute with the team, with the result that Sean Farrell began to be trained at tackle.

The offseason was marked by disputes over player salary. Offensive tackle Charley Hannah was unable to come to terms with the team, and was traded to the Los Angeles Raiders for defensive end Dave Browning and a 1984 fourth-round draft choice. Jimmie Giles held out of training camp, and attempted to use threats of leaving for the USFL as leverage to get his contract renegotiated. Giles, who was upset because the previous year's players' association contract expiration prevented a promised renegotiation from occurring, became the first Buccaneer to engage in a training camp holdout while under contract. Mark Cotney also had difficulty reaching an agreement with the team, but was eventually able to settle a contract. Lee Roy Selmon was awarded a new three-year contract that made him the highest-paid defensive end in the league.

McKay spoke of the need to begin replacing the aging original players, with the process already having begun at linebacker. However, the secondary featured four starters who were all at or near the age of 30, and who would all need to be replaced over the next couple of years.

The Doug Williams cContract Dispute

Doug Williams' original five-year contract expired at the beginning of the year. A published report of player salaries revealed that Williams, who had led the team to playoff appearances three out of the preceding four seasons, was the sixth-lowest-paid starting quarterback in the NFL. Eighteen NFL backup quarterbacks also had salaries higher than Williams'. His $120,000 salary was the same as that of Atlanta Falcons backup Mike Moroski, and behind that of both Dallas backup quarterbacks and some teams' punters and kickers. Buccaneer spokesman Rick Odioso responded that Williams had refused several offers to increase his salary and extend his contract, instead preferring to play the contract through to the end. Odioso also pointed out that the reported base salaries did not reflect performance and signing bonuses, on which the Buccaneers depended more heavily than most NFL teams. Believing his worth to have been around $400,000, which was in line with what most top NFL quarterbacks were being paid, Williams had rejected the team's contract offers in previous years in an attempt to force the team to pay him fairly or trade him.

Soon after the reporting of the salary, Williams' wife Janice developed severe headaches. A brain tumor was diagnosed, and emergency surgery was performed. She died a week later. The tragedy required that Williams leave his daughter to be raised by his mother in Louisiana, leaving him with no personal ties to the Tampa area. It also delayed negotiations.

Despite rumors that he might retire or leave for the USFL, Williams expressed the desire to play the rest of his career as a Buccaneer before going into coaching, with an eventual goal of succeeding Eddie Robinson as coach of Grambling. The Buccaneers made an offer that owner Hugh Culverhouse called "generous" and said would place Williams among the five highest-paid NFL quarterbacks. Williams' agent denied this, saying that the Buccaneers' offer was for substantially less than several quarterbacks make, was less than what his client Joe Namath received from the New York Jets in 1975, and that the Buccaneers should be embarrassed by it. Williams made two different salary demands during the negotiations, raising his demands when hearing about the salaries paid to Dan Fouts and to rookies John Elway and Tony Eason. The team made a second offer that was described by negotiator Phil Krueger as being comparable to that paid to Atlanta Falcons quarterback Steve Bartkowski. After rejecting this offer, Williams began to speak of the USFL as a definite alternative. Williams' demands were in the range of $800,000 to $900,000. When Williams rejected the Buccaneers' offer, they traded the following year's first-round draft pick to the Cincinnati Bengals for backup quarterback Jack Thompson. Williams interpreted the move as a message that the team was no longer interested in his services, and suggested that the team's willingness to deal first-round draft picks was a sign of their reluctance to pay for top-quality talent. It is believed that, as a traditionally low-paying team (25th lowest of the 28 teams, according to union figures), the Buccaneers' salary structure would be disrupted by meeting Williams' demands, which might result in higher salary demands from Pro Bowlers such as Lee Roy Selmon and Jimmie Giles.

Krueger told Williams' agent, Jimmy Walsh, that the team's $400,000 offer would be withdrawn if Williams did not report for the opening of training camp. Williams and Walsh lowered their request to $600,000, a price that the team said they would have been willing to meet before the Thompson trade. Williams charged that he would not have been treated so poorly in negotiations had he been white, and said "I hope the Bucs go 0–16 but all my friends make the Pro Bowl". On August 9, Williams called a 28th-birthday press conference to announce his signing with the USFL Oklahoma Outlaws for a sum worth substantially more than what Tampa Bay offered, ending his time as a player with the Buccaneers. Williams also reported that guard Greg Roberts, a close friend who had encouraged him to sign with Oklahoma, was also considering moving to the USFL.

NFL Draft

The Buccaneers found themselves without a first-round pick, due to the previous season's much-criticized trade for the rights to select defensive end Booker Reese. Although Reese's development was slow, the team still claimed to have no regrets over the decision. The Buccaneers did not select until the 45th pick in the draft, with offensive line, linebacker, and defensive back considered to be need areas, although the team considered themselves to be a mature team with no glaring needs. Offensive line was considered to be a deep position in the draft, but the team did not expect to find an overlooked player the way they had Sean Farrell the previous year. Tackle Sid Abramowitz, linebacker Darryl Talley, and safety Dave Duerson were highly regarded candidates expected to be available in the mid-second round, although personnel director Ken Herock stated that the team would pick one of the premier quarterbacks (Williams was at that point still expected to sign) if one fell to them. The team eventually identified defensive backs Mike Richardson of Arizona State and Darrell Green of Texas A"I, and Baylor center Randy Grimes, as the three players they would most like to see available.

The Buccaneers had no 1st-round pick this year, having traded it the previous year to the Chicago Bears for their 1982 2nd-round pick, which they used to select Booker Reese. The extra 6th-round pick came from the San Francisco 49ers, in return for the Buccaneers' 1984 4th-round pick.

Draft Selections

According to McKay, with the number of quality, improving young players already on the team, none of the twelve draft picks were expected to be able to unseat any of the established veteran starters. The team drafted more for future help, especially at positions such as offensive tackle and defensive back, where the incumbent starters were aging. Randy Grimes, who the team said they would have picked even if All America center Dave Rimington had still been available, was to be given a look at tackle, despite never having played a position other than center. Grimes' selection was a surprise, as the Buccaneers were considered to already have a stockpile of talent at the interior line positions, but McKay felt that he was too good to pass up. Alabama cornerback Jeremiah Castille, who Bear Bryant had once called "pound for pound, the best player in the SEC", was considered short at 5'9", but was considered to have good speed and to play well against the run. Kelly Thomas and Ken Kaplan were huge offensive tackles with great upper body strength. Thomas, who McKay said would make the team unless he were to drop dead, was believed to potentially be comparable to his USC teammates Bruce Matthews and Don Mosebar, but had been overlooked due to having been an offensive lineman for only three years. Tony Chickillo was a defensive tackle who had fought back from a crushed pelvis to become a starter for the University of Miami. Wide receiver Rheugene Branton had been a star player at Tampa's C. Leon King High School. Hasson Arbubakrr was compared to a smaller version of Booker Reese. Weldon Ledbetter, Marcus Dupree's blocking back at Oklahoma, was considered to have slim chances against incumbent James Wilder. Mark Witte was considered to have the same problem, behind Jimmie Giles and Jim Obradovich on the depth chart.


Culverhouse led a campaign, approved unanimously by league owners, to retain the expanded 49-player roster for the 1983 season.[54][55] McKay criticized the players who were holding out for more money, saying that they lack understanding of how new contracts are negotiated. He had especially hard words for Jimmie Giles, who was being fined $1,000 for each day of camp missed, and who he said was in danger of falling behind the greatly improved Jerry Bell. Uncertainty over Giles' situation forced the team to spend a conditional draft pick on veteran Baltimore Colts tight end Reese McCall. Camp attendance was more important than usual, as the team added the most complicated offensive system that it had yet used. The loss of Williams was expected to be a factor in the team's attitude going into the season, as he was considered by teammates to be an exceptional athlete who could do things that few others could. The perception that management had not done everything possible to keep him was expected to create some resentment among the players. Williams pointed out that the debacle made him, and some of the team's other players, wonder whether management was committed to building a good team. The loss of Williams created resentment not only among the team, but among fans in Tampa's African-American community, where some boycotted games and hoped for a losing season. It was alleged that Culverhouse threw parties that cost more than what Williams had asked for. Some players were angered when they saw the money spent on players by USFL teams, contrasted with Culverhouse's reluctance to spend any money on players or the team.

Although some observers considered the Buccaneers to have their strongest lineup yet, preseason saw 10 of the team's 24 starting positions up for contention. Holdouts, injuries, and the improvement of young players were given as reasons for the turnover. McKay expected to keep three quarterbacks on the roster, as he considered the team to lack a true No. 1 quarterback. The condition of the secondary was uncertain, as Norris Thomas was placed on the physically unable to perform list with a shoulder problem, and Cedric Brown's status was unknown due to a broken ankle. Danny Spradlin was acquired from the Dallas Cowboys for a future draft choice, to address the lack of depth at linebacker. Former FSU and British Columbia Lions running back Larry Key was signed as a free agent, with draft pick John Higginbotham waived to make room for him.

The preseason began with quarterbacks Golsteyn and Thompson relatively even, Golsteyn having a slight advantage due to his year of experience in the Tampa Bay offense. McKay described Kelly Thomas as "as good as any offensive lineman we've ever had in here", and compared his progress to that of Sean Farrell the previous year. The run defense, among the NFC's worst the previous season, continued to be a concern. Mental errors also continued to be a problem, with mistakes such as numerous penalties and running plays with only 10 men on the field. The quarterbacks continued to run neck-and-neck through the first two preseason games, with Golsteyn directing two fourth-quarter comebacks for wins. The later part of the preseason saw the offensive line solidifying, showing a previously unseen drive to move the ball into the end zone, rather than a contentment to let drives stall at around the 20-yard line. However, injuries became an issue, especially at linebacker, where the team was left with only three healthy veterans. A large number of offensive line injuries prompted McKay to keep an extra lineman on the roster. This meant cutting Dave Browning, for whom the team had just traded Charley Hannah. McKay remarked that Browning lacked the speed he'd shown in the past, and kept the much quicker Hasson Arbubakrr. Similarly, the team kept speedy rookie receiver Gene Branton, while cutting inconsistent longtime starter Gordon Jones. Final cuts included offseason acquisitions Larry Key, Reese McCall, and Rick Moser. The Buccaneers finished their first undefeated preseason with a 41–21 victory over the New England Patriots in which they scored the most points ever while setting records for yardage in a preseason game (492) and most points scored in a half (31). In preseason matchups, the Buccaneers were the NFL's highest-scoring team.

Regular Season

The team opened the season with starting quarterback Jerry Golsteyn, who had thrown only one NFL pass since 1978, and who had joined the Buccaneers the previous year while playing semi-professional football and working in an Orlando health club. Golsteyn was named the surprise starter after a strong preseason, but was demoted in favor of Jack Thompson after committing key errors in the first two games. Constant injury problems prevented the Buccaneers from establishing any consistency on offense. In addition to all offensive linemen suffering injuries, the team was left with only three healthy receivers when Kevin House pulled a muscle in the same week that Gene Branton was placed on injured reserve. The team continued the previous year's trend of needing to come back from second-half deficits, with the difference being that the team no longer had big-play potential. Observers felt that the team performed as though they had lost the confidence that they could score points when they needed to. Despite the team's offensive woes, McKay refused to blame Thompson or any of the other quarterbacks, showing a patience similar to that which he showed with Doug Williams. He continued to state that Thompson was consistent and could become "a good solid quarterback", but acknowledged that he had not performed to expectations. He stated that the team would be looking to improve their quarterback situation the following year, but that the draft was expected to be short on quarterbacks, and that the team was not likely to be able to find a better player than Thompson through trades or free agency. A rumored trade for New York Giants quarterback Phil Simms never developed; Simms eventually broke his thumb and went on injured reserve. For the first three weeks of the season, the team ranked 2nd in the NFC in defense, but last in offense. The defense collapsed after the third game, allowing 55, 27, and 34 points in the next three losses. McKay said that defensive players were beginning to worry about covering for other players instead of focusing on their own position, and that the defense was breaking down as a result. He also noted that the increased booing was causing the players to tighten up and play what McKay called "scared football". After McKay threatened to punch Milwaukee Sentinel reporter Bud Lea following a 55–14 loss to the Packers, a newspaper poll showed that 92% of Florida residents felt that McKay should be fired.

Several injuries to the defensive backfield required that the team play more young players than they desired to, with the result that their pass defense fell among the league's worst after having led the NFC the previous season. Injuries later hit the linebacking corps. In a game against the Cardinals, the team had no experienced outside linebackers, and started two players who had both been with the team for less than two weeks and did not even know each other's names. Curiously, the team continued to bring in linebackers unfamiliar with their system, despite the presence of a healthy, experienced Richard Wood. Their battered secondary received a boost when former Cowboys and Giants safety Beasley Reece, disgruntled over having his roster spot taken over by Terry Kinard, demanded a release and was claimed off waivers. Reece wound up as a starter, and became one of the league interception leaders. Two Buccaneers signed with the Denver Gold of the USFL: Dave Stalls, who was waived immediately, and offensive lineman George Yarno, who was to leave after finishing the season. As the season went on, an offensive strategy emerged: get the ball as much as possible to James Wilder, an all-purpose back with skills comparable to those of the Cardinals' Ottis Anderson. This was effective in a near-victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers, in which Wilder's 42 carries broke Franco Harris' NFL record (Wilder's record wound up being broken three weeks later by Butch Woolfolk of the Giants); and in their first win of the year, a victory over the Minnesota Vikings in which Wilder ran for 219 yards. However, broken ribs suffered the following week forced Wilder to miss the rest of the season, which in turn forced McKay to abandon efforts to fashion the Buccaneers as a running team. This roughly coincided with a general return to health along the offensive line, which resulted in a level of pass protection that allowed Thompson to break through with a run of seven touchdown passes in two games. Kicker Bill Capece wound up carrying much of the blame for the team's performance; one year after kicking several last-minute game-winning field goals that helped the team make the playoffs, he went 10–23 on field goal attempts. In the season finale, the team resorted to using George Yarno as the kicker on an extra-point attempt

Date   Opponent Week/Record Outcome
Aug. 6
Saints New Orleans Saints
Tampa Stadium, Tampa Bay, FL
PS - wk 1
Won 20-17
Aug. 13
Oilers @ Houston Oilers
Houston Astrodome, Houston, TX
PS - wk 2
Won 23-17
Aug. 20
Falcons Atlanta Falcons
Tampa Stadium, Tampa Bay, FL
PS - wk 3
Won 17-6
Aug. 26
Patriots New England Patriots
Tampa Stadium, Tampa Bay, FL
PS - wk 4
Won 41-21

1983 Season Results

Record: 2-14, DIV: 1-7 (5th in NFC Central)
Date   Opponent Week/Record Outcome
Sep. 4
Lions Detroit Lions
Tampa Stadium, Tampa Bay, FL
RS - wk 1
Lost 0-11
Sep. 11
Bears @ Chicago Bears
Soldier Field, Chicago, IL
RS - wk 2
Lost 10-17
Sep. 18
Vikings Minnesota Vikings
Tampa Stadium, Tampa Bay, FL
RS - wk 3
Lost 16-19
Sep. 25
Bengals Cincinnati Bengals
Tampa Stadium, Tampa Bay, FL
RS - wk 4
Lost 17-23
Oct. 2
Packers @ Green Bay Packers
Lambeau Field, Green Bay, WI
RS - wk 5
Lost 14-55
Oct. 9
Cowboys Dallas Cowboys
Texas Stadium, Dallas, TX
RS - wk 6
Lost 27-27
Oct. 16
Cardinals St. Louis Cardinals
Tampa Stadium, Tampa Bay, FL
RS - wk 7
Lost 27-34
Oct. 23
Saints New Orleans Saints
Tampa Stadium, Tampa Bay, FL
RS - wk 8
Lost 21-24
Oct. 30
Steelers @ Pittsburgh Steelers
Three Rivers Stadium, Pittsburgh, PA
RS - wk 9
Lost 12-17
Nov. 6
Vikings @ Minnesota Vikings
Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, Minneapolis, MN
RS - wk 10
Won 17-12
Nov. 13
Browns @ Cleveland Browns
Cleveland Stadium, Cleveland, OH
RS - wk 11
Lost 0-20
Nov. 20
Bears Chicago Bears
Tampa Stadium, Tampa Bay, FL
RS - wk 12
Lost 0-27
Nov. 27
Oilers Houston Oilers
Tampa Stadium, Tampa Bay, FL
RS - wk 13
Won 33-34
Dec. 4
49ers @ San Francisco 49ers
Candlestick Park, San Francisco, CA
RS - wk 14
Lost 14-27
Dec. 12
Packers Green Bay Packers
Tampa Stadium, Tampa Bay, FL
RS - wk 15
Lost 23-6
Dec. 18
Lions @ Detroit Lions
Pontiac Silverdome, Detroit, MI
RS - wk 16
Lost 41-21
Date   Opponent NFC/Superbowl Outcome
Buccaneers @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Tampa Stadium, Tampa Bay, FL

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