The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are a relatively young team, especially in comparison to teams like the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears, which are both 93 years old. The Bucs, only 36 years old, were founded in 1976 when Tampa was awarded the National Football League’s 27th franchise.
The Bucs have seen a lot of ups and downs over the years. Getting started wasn’t easy — in the first two years, the Bucs were widely considered the worst team in the NFL. Injuries, aging veterans and other obstacles plagued the team. In addition, the Bucs were playing in a hand-me-down stadium: the Tampa Stadium, renamed Houlihan’s Stadium in 1997, was originally built in 1967 for the University of Tampa’s football program. It wasn’t until the University of Tampa’s football program died out that Houlihan’s became the official home of the Bucs. The roller coaster of wins and losses continued until 1996, when Malcolm Glazer bought the Bucs franchise for $192 million. Glazer and his sons were deeply committed to fielding a winning professional football team and sought to make the Bucs more competitive by retiring the old oranges and cream colored uniforms, convincing Hillsborough County to raise sales taxes to partially fund the building of Raymond James Stadium and hired former Minnesota Vikings defensive coordinator Tony Dungy as head coach.
By 1997, the Bucs were headed back to the play-offs and landed on the cover of Sports Illustrated not just once, but twice. By 1998, the construction of Raymond James Stadium was completed, Houlihan’s Stadium was demolished and the Buccaneers had an impressive new stadium to call home. The Bucs became stronger with every season and boasted NFL legends such as Warren Sapp, Mike Alstott and Warrick Dunn. In 2002, after the hiring of Jon Gruden as head coach, the Bucs won the NFC South title with a 12-4 record — the team’s best record to date. They later went on to play the Oakland Raiders in Superbowl XXXVII and won 48-21. Coach Jon Gruden became the youngest head coach to win a Superbowl game.
In 2005, the Buccaneers selected rookie Carnell “Cadillac” Williams in the first round of the draft, who was named as the AP’s 2005 Offensive Rookie of the Year, in no small part for setting the NFL record for most yards rushing: 474 in his first three games. The powerhouse that was the Buccaneers went on to win the 2005 NFC South, finishing 11-5. The Bucs again won the NFC South division in 2007 and qualified for a playoff spot at 9-7.
The Bucs may only be in their 36th year, but they have undergone uniform changes, ownership changes, a stadium change and are now under the leadership of their ninth head coach in franchise history, former Rutgers head coach Greg Schiano. For the 2012 season, the Bucs are second in the NFC South division at 6-5. Cornerback Ronde Barber was named NFC Defensive Player of the Week, and running back Doug Martin has earned six awards this season, including Rookie of the Week, Ground Player of the Week and NFC Offensive Player of the Week. What will the Bucs do next? Pack up your vehicle, friends and family to head to a game and find out!
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Amanda Mole has been a Tampa Bay resident for the past 21 years. She is well acquainted with the Bucs community. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.