This year’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers team has the potential to be one of, if not the best team in franchise history. The Bucs are undoubtedly the biggest winners of the offseason as they added Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady as well as previously-retired tight end Rob Gronkowski.
However, even with the vast potential of the 2020 squad, Tampa Bay has had some really solid teams throughout its four-plus decades of existence.
Here are the three best teams in Buccaneers history.
The first three seasons of the Buccaneers’ existence were pretty awful. In the first three years since joining the NFL in 1976, Tampa Bay would post a less-than-ideal 7-37 record, including going 0-14 in year number one.
So, when the Buccaneers came into the 1979 season and ended up winning 10 games, it was a surprise to say the least.
The first double-digit win team in franchise history, the ’79 team was led by a tough-as-nails defense that led the NFL in points allowed per game (14.8). While the team’s offense didn’t fare quite as well as the defense, Tampa Bay still had solid players like 1977 No. 1 overall pick Ricky Bell, who had by far the best season of his career in 1979 when he totaled 1,511 yards from scrimmage and nine total touchdowns.
The Buccaneers would go on to lose a defensive battle in the NFC Championship against the Los Angeles Rams 0-9 and would go back to their losing ways the next season, but the ’79 team is an important footnote in the history of the franchise.
Like the 1979 team, the 1999 Buccaneers team featured an underwhelming offense but one of the best defenses in all of the NFL. The vaunted Tampa 2 defense held opponents to just 14.7 points per game this season and allowed over 21 points just twice during the entire year.
Tampa Bay would eventually fall to The Greatest Show on Turf, the St. Louis Rams, in the NFC Championship but nonetheless, this team was special.
All-Pro fullback Mike Alstott and running back Warrick Dunn carried a solid Bucs rushing attack but it was the defense led by players like Derrick Brooks, John Lynch, Warren Sapp, Hardy Nickerson, Ronde Barber and Donnie Abraham that made this team what it was.
It only makes sense that the only Super Bowl champs in team history make the top spot on this list. In new head coach Jon Gruden’s first season after leaving the Oakland Raiders the previous season, the Buccaneers would go 12-4 before skating through the playoffs with an average margin of victory of 23 points.
The 2002 team was essentially an upgraded version of the 1999 iteration as the team allowed only 12.3 points per game to their opponents. Once again, the defense was led by the likes of Brooks, Sapp, Lynch and Barber but this time, the team had Pro Bowl efforts from linebacker Shelton Quarles (113 combined tackles) and defensive end Simeon Rice (team-high 15.5 sacks).
As for the offense, Alstott was joined in the backfield by Michael Pittman (1,195 yards from scrimmage) while wide receivers Keyshawn Johnson and Keenan McCardell combined for 1,758 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns.
Perhaps the biggest difference of the 1999 and 2002 teams was the quarterback play of Brad Johnson. In only 13 games, Johnson would throw for over 3,000 yards while tallying 22 touchdowns and only six interceptions.
A 48-21 shellacking of Gruden’s former team in Super Bowl XXXVII put the cherry on top of the best season and best team in Buccaneers history.