Looking back to 1991
When you think about it, the 2006 season was a historic one for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. No other team in franchise history finished with a final record of 4-12! The 1987 team came close finishing 4-11 with one game cancelled due to the NFL players strike that season, but if given an opportunity I am sure Ray Perkins could have coached them up to a 12th loss.

This was a hard season to stomach. I’m not going to lie and say I saw it coming, but I did not enter the season confident of a playoff appearance. The 2005 Buccaneers were a good team, but their NFC South championship did have a whiff of fluke to it.

No I expected the Bucs to go 9-7, possibly 8-8. No where in my wildest dreams did I foresee the 4-12 season full of debacles that occurred. But as I am in the habit of looking backward rather than forward (historian you know) I did want to place the 2006 season in perspective.

This may have been the second worst season the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have ever finished. Not simply because of the record. The 1976, 1977, 1983, 1985, 1986 and 1991 teams finished with worse records. No, this season was worse than all but one of those because not only were expectations not met but because the team lacked almost any entertainment value whatsoever.

Think about it. At least in 1976 and 1977, John McKay’s team was setting a NFL record for losses and deep down inside everyone could see the progress. 1983 was a bad year but no one had expectations of greatness with the loss of Doug Williams. Likewise, 1985 and 1986 may have been the worst two seasons in franchise history as far as competitiveness goes, but no one saw the team Leeman Bennett put together and thought: book a reservation for playoff tickets.

With the exception of 1991, the 2006 season was the worst. Do You Remember?

Think back to 1991. Ray Perkins was no longer the coach, replaced by look-a-like Richard Williamson. Where Perkins had been angry, Williamson was avuncular. A career assistant with a pleasant personality, Williamson was a “players coach” and just the tonic the Buccaneers needed. With a steady, calm (and compared to Perkins some would say sane) approach to coaching, Williamson would get maximum effort out of the Buccaneers. That didn’t exactly happen.

Much like the 2006 Buccaneers, the team in 1991 was offensively challenged, especially at the quarterback position. Both teams rotated through three different quarterbacks who struggled. The 2006 team went through Chris Simms, Bruce Gradkowski and Tim Rattay due to injury and poor planning. The 1991 team went through Vinny Testaverde, Chris Chandler and Jeff Carlson due to poor performance and really bad planning. A first round draft choice for Chris Chandler!?! What, you couldn’t at least get three magic beans instead?

The losses also ran the gamut from extremely close, such as the 1991 loss at Green Bay in which a series of breakdowns led to a late 15-13 loss, to the infuriatingly stupid such as a series of personal fouls that gave the Bears a 21-20 decision to the woefully painful as Green Bay came to Tampa Stadium and ripped the Bucs to pieces in a 27-0 romp. Sounds like the ’06 games against New Orleans (24-21), Carolina (26-24) and Baltimore (27-0).

The few wins the 1991 team had were very lucky. A one point squeaker against Philadelphia (14-13), a shocking upset of a playoff team (30-21 over Detroit) and a boring win over a fellow cellar dweller (17-3 over Indianapolis). That is eerily similar to a squeaker against Cincinnati (14-13), a shocking upset of a playoff team (Eagles 23-21) and a couple of boring wins over cellar dwellers (Washington 20-17 and Cleveland 22-7).

The only thing that keeps this season from being worst is that at least we have some hope for the future. The Bucs have a first round draft choice and several good picks. Also, love him or hate him the Bucs have a good head coach in Jon Gruden and stable ownership dedicated to winning. In 1991 the Buccaneers had the constantly befuddled Hugh Culverhouse “standing at the altar” after being jilted by Bill Parcells and no draft choices of consequence thanks to the aforementioned Chris Chandler deal.

Time will tell if the Buccaneers learn from the lessons of 2006. As for me, I’ll keep studying the team and hope that we don’t have a season like this again for at least fifteen more seasons.

Denis Crawford, January 2007