For the third year running, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers owned the first pick of the NFL draft, but unlike their first two seasons, they did not reserve the privilege of
selecting the first player for themselves. After the success of LeeRoy Selmon in 1976, and the limited success of Ricky Bell the year after, the Bucs did not really want
to take the overwhelming choice of college football's best player, running back Earl Campbell. However, there proved to be no shortage of suitors for the chance to
obtain the 1977 Heisman Trophy winner, and the Buccaneers entered into a deal with the Houston Oilers that saw them swop first round picks with the AFC Central
division team, gain an additional second round pick, and also promising second year tight end Jimmie Giles.
Tampa needed a quarterback, a leader and focal point for the offense to grow from. Steve Spurrier had been a short term measure, but none of his successors had
amounted to anything leaving John McKay with a huge hole to fill behind center. For this position, the Bucs went for Grambling's Doug Williams, a strong-armed
leader who had taken his team under his powerful right arm and had been a finalist for Campbell's Heisman Trophy. Williams was not a popular choice with some of
red-neck Florida fans and commented on the bigotry he found in the NFL several times during his 1990 autobiography.
At one point he received a rotten water melon through the post with a note attached, telling him "to try throwing this to some of his other *******” on the team.
Williams was made of stronger stuff however, and having easily won the starting position in training camp, took control of the team from the opening game of the
The majority of the other selections in that draft however, were far from as
successful as Williams and Jimmie Giles would prove to be. The two second
round picks, running back Johnny Davis, and guard Brent Moritz, both came
from big name colleges, but lasted only three and one professional seasons
respectively. A trade with the Dolphins brought defensive back Jeris White,
who would go on to win a SuperBowl ring with the Redskins, but for now
joined an ever-increasingly powerful defense, anchored up front by Selmon
and Dave Pear, with a solid secondary that was playing together for the
second straight season. Pear would become the Bucs' first-ever Pro Bowler
following the 1978 season, and proved to be an effective nose tackle in
McKay's 3-4 defense, while Selmon developed into the all-NFL force that he
would become in the following few seasons.
Things did not start well for the 1978 Buccaneers, despite being full of hope
from their two-game winning streak carried over from their second season.
Two straight home losses brought memories of the earlier string of defeats,
and the comedians began to dust off their Tampa Bay jokes for further use.
But with Doug Williams powerful arm beginning to find its mark against NFL defenses, and enough of a running
game behind Bell and Jimmy DuBose, the Bucs won enough games to find themselves with a 4-4 mark after eight
games. That however, was as far as the third year team was going to go, as a late hit from Ram defensive end Fred
Dryer, the man who would later go on to star in the television show Hunter, broke Williams' jaw and sent the rookie
passer to the sidelines for the remainder of the season. Mike Rae took over as the starting quarterback, and despite
being of quick feet and rushing for nearly 200 yards over the last seven games of the season, was able to engineer
just one more victory out of a disappointing end to a promising campaign.
The Buccaneer defensive unit finished the season ranked 4th in the NFL, an amazing turn-around from the expansion
squad. The linebacking crew were led by the Batman, Richard Wood, who amassed 168 tackles on the season, a
record that stood until a certain Mr Nickerson became a Tampa Bay player some 14 seasons later. Wood, so
nicknamed because of his liking for the caped crusader's logo to appear on his pads during games, was joined by
Cecil Johnson, Dewey Selmon and David Lewis, in the first great quartet of linebackers to appear in the orange
colours. Selmon had 11 sacks and made All-NFC honours, while the likes of Cedric Brown and Mark Cotney at safety,
and Mike Washington on the corner, were gaining notoriety around the league for their ball-hawking abilities.
One special teams' play from 1978, remains on every NFL highlight film to this day however. The Bucs were lining up
for a fieldgoal against the Vikings, with punter Dave Green holding for Neil O'Donoghue. The center snap from the
eight-yard line, went sailing over both players' heads, and a mad dash back up the field began by players of both
sides. O'Donoghue reached the ball first and attempted to kick it, soccer-style, back towards the Vikings' endzone.
His foot connected with clean air, and ended in a heap under a pair of Vikings. Ultimately Green was brought down,
somewhere around midfield, by a host of purple shirts, delighted their team would be taking over in such good field
position. "You really don't want to go back to the bench, Coach McKay will kill you" Dewey Selmon advised Green
and O'Donoghue as they turned to face the remainder of their team-mates.
If there was one criticism that was levelled at Doug Williams in his rookie year, and indeed ultimately through his
career, it was his low percentage of completions, just 37.6% in his first NFL season. Williams always maintained that
this was due to his unwillingness to force an interception or take a sack, two things that he thought would hurt the
team. He would rather throw the ball away and lose something on his statistics, and then go back to the air on
another down from the same yard-line. As Jimmie Giles began to gain in experience as a quality tight end, Doug
would have a real threat downfield, rather than the somewhat weak group of receivers he worked with during 1978. And as the running game began to develop behind a growing line, this would also take
pressure away from the rookie in the No.12 shirt. Buccaneer fans had begun to experience success on a more regular basis during their third season as NFL fans. Now they wanted more.
QB Jeb Blount
TE Lon Boyett (Trade - OAK)
OL Blanchard Carter
RB Anthony Davis (Trade - HOU)
G Howard Fest (Retired)
QB Randy Hedberg
K Allan Leavitt
LB Mike Lemon
TE Bob Moore (Trade - CHI)
DE Glenn Robinson
DE Council Rudolph (Trade - MIA)
C Dan Ryczek (Trade - LA)
FB Ed Williams
QB Mike Boryla
CB Bill Cesare
DE Wally Chambers (Trade - CHI)
DE Randy Crowder (FA - MIA)
TE Alvin Darby
T Rockne Freitas (Trade - DET)
TE Jimmie Giles (Trade - HOU)
WR Frank Grant (Trade - WAS)
G Greg Horton (Trade - LA)
TE Jim Obradovich (Trade - SF)
K Neil O’Donoghue
QB Mike Rae (Trade - OAK)
G Kurt Schumacher (Waivers - SF)
RB Charlie White
1 Apr - Traded TE Lon Boyett to Oakland for a 1978 10th round pick. Tampa Bay then
traded the pick to Pittsburgh in trade T026
14 Apr - Traded a 1979 1st round pick and TE Bob Moore to Chicago for DE Wally
Chambers. With the pick, Chicago selected DT Dan Hampton.
19 Apr - Traded C Dan Ryczek to the LA Rams for a 1978 6th round pick. With the
pick, Tampa Bay selected WR Elijah Marshall.
24 Apr - Traded a 1978 1st round pick to Houston for 1978 1st, 1978 2nd, 1979 3rd
and 1979 5th picks and TE Jimmie Giles. With those picks, Houston selected RB Earl
Campbell and Tampa Bay selected QB Doug Williams, G Brett Moritz, DE Reggie
Lewis and QB Chuck Fusina.
30 Apr - Traded RB Anthony Davis to Houston for RB Don Hardeman.
3 May - Traded a 1978 10th round pick (from trade T021) and a 1978 11th round pick
to Pittsburgh for DT Ernie Holmes. With those picks, Oakland selected K Tom Jurich
and DB Nat Terry.
11 May - Traded a 1979 4th round pick to Detroit for G Rockne Freitas. With the pick,
Detroit selected TE Ulysses Norris.
6 Jul - Traded DE Council Rudolph to Miami for a 1979 8th round pick. With the pick,
Tampa Bay selected DL Gene Sanders.
6 Jul - Traded a 1979 10th round pick to San Francisco for TE Jim Obradovich. With
the pick, San Francisco selected DB Howard Ballage.
1 Aug - Traded a 1980 4th round pick to San Diego for G Booker Brown. With the
pick, San Diego selected QB Ed Luther.
13 Aug - Traded RB Don Hardeman to Baltimore for a 1979 3rd round pick. With the
pick, Tampa Bay selected RB Jerry Eckwood.
11 Sep - Traded 1981 3rd round pick to the LA Rams for G Greg Horton. With the
pick, the LA Rams selected DT Greg Meisner
12 Sep - Traded a 1980 5th round and a 1981 5th round picks to Oakland for QB
Mike Rae. With the picks, Oakland selected LB William Bowens and DB James Davis.
10 Oct - Traded a 1979 7th round pick to Washington for WR Frank Grant.
Washington traded the pick to Houston who selected DB Tim Ries.