Reviewing the 1988 season
THE PRESEASON
The Bucs lost all four games. They gave up a third-round draft pick for former New England receiver Stephen Starring, a move they'd later regret. They cut punter Monte Robbins, the fourth-round pick. Remember these names? Miles Turpin, Don Pumphrey, Keith Bosley, Alan Herline, Al Williams, Pete Caspariello.

WEEK 1 Eagles 41, Bucs 14
Notes: Among players cut the weekend before the season-opener were veteran wide receiver Gerald Carter, linebacker Don Graham, nose tackle Dan Sileo, and defensive end Kevin Kellin. Perkins said later in the week that the Carter release was “a few years overdue,” despite the fact that Carter's best years were his last three. Free agent rookie Sidney Coleman made the team instead of Graham, the Bucs' fourth-round draft pick in 1987. Also making the team was free-agent rookie Odie Harris, who is Gerald Carter's cousin. Perkins also announced that rookie Reuben Davis, a ninth-round draft choice, would start at left defensive end over veteran John Cannon.
Game: Vinny Testaverde threw five interceptions and five Tampa Bay rushers combined for just 43 yards as the Philadelphia Eagles pounded the Bucs 41-14 in front of the smallest crowd ever to watch a Bucs home-opener (43,502). About the only Buc who had a good day was wide receiver Bruce Hill, who caught eight passes for 157 yards while Starring sat out on the inactive list. Hill's performance was the first sign that the Starring trade may have been a mistake. (PS. The Bucs didn't score in the first quarter.)
Perkins quote: “That game was damned embarrassing, in my opinion. If it wasn't embarrassing to any of the guys in there, they need to get out of town.”

WEEK 2 Bucs 13, Packers 10
Notes: Former University of Florida quarterback Kerwin Bell tried out with the Bucs after being cut by the Miami Dolphins. It rained all week, forcing the Bucs to practice inside. Testaverde didn't throw one pass until game day. Twelve punters had tryouts with the Bucs, but Perkins opted to keep Ray Criswell, who averaged 32 yards through the preseason and Philadelphia game.
Game: Tampa Bay snapped its nine-game regular-season losing streak with a 13-10 win over Green Bay at Lambeau Field. Donald Igwebuike kicked the winning 28-yard field goal on the last play of the game. Iggy also kicked a 53-yarder, which ended up being the longest NFL field goal of the year. James Wilder rushed for 91 yards. Linebacker Ervin Randle left the game with a shoulder injury that would keep him out eight weeks. (P.S. The Bucs didn't score in the first quarter.)
Perkins: “We're not a great team yet, by any means. We had a very poor pass rush from where I stood. We can't expect to compete defensively if we can't rush any better than we did today.”

WEEK 3 Cardinals 30, Bucs 24
Notes: Bucs sign former Phoenix running back Derrick McAdoo just in time for the game against the Cardinals. Receiver Gene Taylor was released. Igwebuike was mugged and robbed outside a Tampa night club. He lost $500 and a 14K gold watch.
Game: The Bucs led the Cardinals 24-23 with 5 minutes to go, but Cliff Stoudt burned the Bucs' defense with a 42-yard touchdown pass to Jay Novacek, and Tampa Bay fell short 30-24. (P.S. The Bucs didn't score in the first quarter. 44-0 and counting.)
Perkins: “I'm proud of the way we fought back, but we were not strong enough to stay there when we had to. It's very disappointing and very frustrating, but I don't think they (the Bucs) can be ashamed of themselves. I did see some improvement, and in the future we're going to be a hell of a football team.”

WEEK 4 Saints 13, Bucs 9
Notes: Buccaneer defensive linemen expressed concern over their lack of sacks (1 in 82 passing plays). Bucs owner Hugh Culverhouse donated his private jet for a relief flight to Jamaica after Hurricane Gilbert destroyed the island.
Game: The Bucs played what ended up being one of their three best games of the year, but couldn't do quite enough to upset New Orleans. Final score: 13-9. (P.S. No score again in the first quarter. 54-0 and counting.)
Perkins: “I like our guys. I like our team. Each week they are giving us a little more. They played hard the whole ballgame and I'm proud of them for that.”

WEEK 5 Bucs 27, Packers 24
Notes: Randle underwent surgery on his shoulder and joined the injured reserve list. The Bucs were favorites going into the weekend for just the second time in two years.
Game: Testaverde completed six of seven passes for 107 yards in the final two drives, and the Bucs beat the Packers 27-24. Igwebuike's 44-yard field goal in the final seconds clinched the win. Linebacker Kevin Murphy intercepted a pass and ran it in 35 yards for a touchdown. (P.S. No Bucs score in the first quarter. 57-0. This is getting ridiculous.)
Perkins: “When we look at the films of the first few quarters, they're probably going to look like horror films. We made far too many mistakes offensively. But our defense played real good from start to finish. It was probably the best they've played since we've been here.”

WEEK 6 Vikings 14, Bucs 13
Notes: The Bucs signed linebacker Pete Najarian, a former Minnesota Viking, just in time for the game against the Vikings. Center Kevin Thomas was waived to make room for Najarian. Twenty-nine Bucs complained of flu symptoms and were given penicillin shots. Testaverde caught the bug the worst.
Game: Tampa Bay's field goal unit didn't get on the field in time, and the Bucs missed upsetting the Vikings by about five seconds. Final score: 14-13. Starring caught a 53-yard Hail Mary pass with 17 seconds to go, but couldn't get out of bounds. Perkins blamed himself for the loss, and called the game “the biggest disappointment of the year.” (P.S. Still no Bucs score in the first quarter. 64-0. Stay tuned.)
Perkins: “I told the team that I lost the game, not them. The people on the field didn't recognize that the field-goal unit was coming on, but I have to take the blame for that. I'm the head coach, and I have not properly prepared the team for that situation.”

WEEK 7 Colts 35, Bucs 31
Notes: Rookie running back William Howard got his first start in place of James Wilder.
Game: Testaverde threw for 469 yards (226 in the final quarter), but Indianapolis won the game 35-31. The Bucs trailed by 25 at one point. That fourth quarter was a hint of what Testaverde could become. (P.S. You guessed it. 71-0 in first quarters.)
Perkins: “You have to give Indianapolis credit, especially in the first half, they kicked the s--- out of us. We fought back, but that's no consolation. We got our a-- handed to us. We made some really stupid mistakes, like penalties, and we're not a good enough football team to do that and win against any team in the NFL.”

WEEK 8 Vikings 49, Bucs 20
Notes: Testaverde called the Colts game his personal “turning point” and vowed that the performance would carry over to the Vikings game. Dan Turk and Stephen Starring were placed on injured reserve. Starring's future with the team looked bleak at this point.
Game: Testaverde had his worst game of the year - six interceptions - and the Vikings drilled the Bucs 49-20. (P.S. Igwebuike kicked an 18-yard field goal in the first quarter.)
Perkins: “He's (Testaverde) just trying too hard to get the ball into the end zone, and he has to learn he's not Superman. He can't do it all by himself, and he can't take things away from defenses in this league.”

WEEK 9 Dolphins 17, Bucs 14
Notes: Testaverde supposedly hurt his back in the shower. The next day, Perkins announced that Joe Ferguson would start at quarterback against Miami for two reasons: 1. Testaverde's back bothered him. 2. “Maybe Old Joe can give us a spark.” Former Northeast High safety Selwyn Brown joined the Bucs to replace Mark Robinson, who went on injured reserve with a pulled groin.

Game: Ferguson, starting in his first game in 22 months, came close to leading the Bucs to victory over the Dolphins. He completed 70 percent of his passes for 291 yards and two touchdowns in a 17-14 loss. Three Buc rookie running backs fumbled inside the Tampa Bay 35 during the third quarter. All 17 Dolphin points followed those turnovers.
Perkins: “It doesn't take a Phi Beta Kappa to see what happened here today. Miami didn't beat us. We handed it to them on a silver platter.”

WEEK 10 Bears 28, Bucs 10
Notes: Wilder, who injured his knee in the Miami game, underwent arthroscopic surgery. Perkins announced that Testaverde would start against Chicago. Bears coach Mike Ditka suffered a mild heart attack.
Game: The Bears ruined Perkins' 47th birthday by handily defeating the Bucs 28-10 on a cold, snowy day at Soldier Field. Igwebuike missed two field goals, receivers dropped balls, and the Bucs' defense faltered.
Perkins: “There were some players in uniform today that probably shouldn't be in an NFL uniform the way they played.”

WEEK 11 Bucs 23, Lions 20
Notes: The Bucs released Starring, and Perkins admitted the trade was “a mistake.” They also cut Gene Taylor.
Game: Igwebuike came to the rescue again. His 52-yard field goal with 10 seconds left gave the Bucs their third win of the year, 23-20 over Detroit. Bruce Hill's 26-yard catch with 26 seconds to go set up the field goal.
Perkins: “That's what he (Igwebuike) gets paid to do. He's also paid to make kickoffs, which he didn't do very well today. There were a lot of mistakes and screw-ups. I don't know if we would have beaten a really good team, but who said wins had to be pretty?”

WEEK 12 Bears 27, Bucs 15
Notes: Testaverde revealed that he's colorblind, but refused to use that as an excuse for his 26 interceptions. Ron Holmes underwent knee surgery, and would end up sitting out the rest of the year. Kevin Kellin re-joined the team to fill in for Holmes.
Game: Testaverde completed just 7 of 22 passes for 86 yards (with two interceptions) as the Bucs lost to the Bears 27-15 at Tampa Stadium. Tampa Bay also lost Igwebuike for the season. The 5-foot-9 Nigerian pulled a groin while tackling kickoff-returner Dennis Gentry.
Perkins: “Vinny stunk the place out. His performance was not acceptable.”

WEEK 13 Falcons 17, Bucs 10
Notes: The Bucs re-signed placekicker John Carney, who had been released during training camp, and placed Igwebuike on IR. Carney had been parking golf carts at the PGA National course in Palm Beach.
Game: Carney had two of three field goal attempts blocked (though one was called back for a penalty) and the Bucs lost to Atlanta 17-10 on a muddy Fulton County Stadium field. An NFL season-low 14,020 fans were on hand. Testaverde had three interceptions, and the normally-stingy Bucs run defense gave up 181 yards on the ground.
Perkins: “This might have been the worst game we played defensively all year. Also, I've talked about youth, but it really irritates me when a young player gets opportunities and doesn't improve. At some point you've got to say, `This guy can win, this one can't.' We're still short of people, but we're a better team than we were at this time last year.”

WEEK 14 Bucs 10, Bills 5
Notes: Tight end Calvin Magee had knee surgery, and the Bucs signed Jeff Parks to take his place. They also signed wide recevier Greg Richardson, a 5-foot-6 speedster whom Perkins coached at Alabama.
Game: Bucs 10, Bills 5. One of the biggest upsets of the year. The Bucs had no turnovers and looked most impressive during a successful goal-line stand. This win would do wonders for the confidence of the team.
Perkins: “I'm happy! We took a mighty big step today. We proved that we are not, in fact, as far away (from being a winning team). We fought our guts out. With all the crap Vinny's taken, I think he played one of the greatest games I've ever seen a quarterback play.”

WEEK 15 Patriots 10, Bucs 7 (OT)
Notes: Gene Upshaw, executive director of the NFLPA, was mighty embarrassed after poking fun at Testaverde during a break of a television interview. Little did he know that his jokes were being picked up by satellite and being heard in homes all over America.
Game: The New England Patriots squeaked by the Bucs 10-7 in overtime on the coldest Sunday in Buccaneer history. The wind-chill factor was 25-below zero at Sullivan Stadium by the end of the game. Tampa Bay won the overtime coin toss, and elected to kick off. Considering the weather conditions, and the Bucs' inept kicker and punter, it was the logical choice.
Perkins: “It's a tough thing when your team plays as hard as we did and loses. I really felt we were going to win it, especially when we went into overtime. I would've done the same thing (choose to kick at the beginning of overtime and take wind advantage) 10 out of 10 times.”

WEEK 16 Bucs 21, Lions 10
Notes: Donnie Elder and Randy Grimes were named alternates for the Pro Bowl.
Game: The Bucs ended the season on a winning note with a 21-10 victory over the Lions at Tampa Stadium. It was the first time in four years that the Bucs win their season-finale. Every Buc player received a game ball Monday morning.
Perkins: “I'd like to wish all the fans who have been coming to the stadium - not just this season, but in years past - a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. We appreciate the support, and hang in there.”

Report card for the Bucs
Quarterback: C-
Vinny Testaverde's performances were less-than-average most days, above average on a few occasions, and average the rest of the time. Though he cut down on mistakes the last few weeks of the season, the fact remains that Testaverde completed just 47 percent of his passes and was intercepted an NFC-record 35 times in 15 games. He must do better than that.

Running backs: B-
Rookies William Howard (115 carries, 452 yards, 3.9-yard average), Lars Tate (122-467, 7 touchdowns, 3.8-yard average), and Kerry Goode (63-231, 7 catches for 68 yards) have shown they belong in the NFL, but all showed signs of inexperience. Had James Wilder (86-343, 4-yard average) not been injured during Week 9, he might have had his best year since 1985. Jeff Smith (4.4 yards per carry, 16 catches for 134 yards) has been a reliable backup.

Wide receivers: A-
NFL sophomores Bruce Hill (1,040 yards, 9 touchdowns) and Mark Carrier (970 yards, 5 touchdowns) formed the most prolific receiving duo in Bucs history. Tight end Ron Hall (39 catches, 555 yards) rarely made errors. Frank Pillow, Don Smith, and Calvin Magee made clutch catches.

Offensive line: B
Bucs quarterbacks were sacked 34 times, lower than the NFL average, even though they passed more times than the average NFL quarterback. It was difficult to tell that left tackle Paul Gruber was a rookie. With the exception of the right guard position, the same offensive line started all 16 games.

Defensive line: C
The Bucs recorded fewer sacks (20) than every team in the league except Pittsburgh (19). But they were excellent against the run. No team in the NFL allowed fewer yards per carry (3.2). Rookie Reuben Davis was a steal in the ninth round. Nose tackle Curt Jarvis improved greatly since training camp.

Linebackers: B
This group is the strength of the Bucs' defense. Eugene Marve provided leadership, both on and off the field. Kevin Murphy hasn't been flashy, but his consistent play has been noticeable almost every week. Rookie Sidney Coleman played surprisingly well in place of Ervin Randle for eight weeks. Randle shone the last three weeks of the season. Winston Moss played better than he did last year. Chris Washington and Jackie Walker provided solid depth.

Secondary: C
The team's absolute weak spot the first half of the year, the secondary made strides the second half. At mid-season, the Bucs had eight interceptions. They've had seven in the past three weeks, and several more passes broken up. Safeties Mark Robinson and Harry Hamilton (6 interceptions) have made a big difference.

Special teams: B
Had placekicker Donald Igwebuike not been injured, he might have made the Pro Bowl. He kicked three game-winning field goals in the final seconds and was perfect on extra points (21 of 21). His kickoffs could've been better. Grade: A. John Carney, Igwebuike's replacement (well, sort of), didn't deserve whatever he was paid. He was perfect on extra points, however. Grade: D. Ray Criswell remains the lowest-rated punter in the NFL, though he out-punted Pro Bowler Jim Arnold on Sunday. Grade: D. Kick returner Donnie Elder (22.7 yards per return) and punt returner Bobby Futrell (10.5 yards per return) ranked among league leaders all season. Grade: A-. Several other Bucs - Jackie Walker, Kerry Goode, Henry Rolling, Odie Harris, Chris Washington - made big hits. Grade: B. -

The St.Petersburg Times 1988