1980 Tampa Bay Buccaneers Season

The 1980 Tampa Bay Buccaneers season began with great optimism in the wake of their surprise NFC championship appearance of the previous season. After scoring a playoff win in only their fourth year, the Buccaneers were considered such a model franchise that the NBA expansion Dallas Mavericks adopted their building plan. A 3-1 preseason and victories in their first two regular-season games, including an NFC championship rematch against the Los Angeles Rams in the Buccaneers' Monday Night Football debut, gave an early impression of the team as a force that had arrived. However, the optimism dissipated as the offense underachieved, while opponents seemed to have solved the Buccaneers' 3-4 defense. A rash of defensive injuries, beginning with the Rams game, required playing many inexperienced players who proved not to be as ready as expected. Losses accumulated as opponents repeatedly took advantage of the Buccaneers' "bend but don't break" defensive strategy of preventing big plays while allowing small gains. In week 6 they recorded their first, and as of 2009, only tie in their history, 14-14 against the Green Bay Packers. Bright spots included Doug Williams setting numerous Buccaneer passing records while leading the NFC in combined yardage, and a strong draft class.

The season quickly came to be a struggle. As teams began to open up their passing games in response to league rule changes, the Buccaneer defense was exposed as a superior run defense that had difficulty against strong passing attacks. Several quarterbacks had career-best days against Tampa Bay during the season. They also had trouble maintaining consistency in the face of large personnel turnovers, beginning with the preseason trade of Jeris White, and continuing through the injury-plagued regular season. The most serious injury was to Randy Crowder, whose dislocated knee in week 2 ended his career and nearly required amputation. The offense improved through the season, with Doug Williams continuing to mature as a quarterback, and rookie receiver Kevin House developing as a reliable target. As the season wore on, the team began to reflect coach John McKay's volatile personality, frequently arguing with and criticizing officials, while gaining a reputation as a team of complainers. The team's lack of enthusiasm was noticeable to McKay, who observed that the team was not playing the way they had the previous year. As fan frustration grew, "Throw McKay in the Bay" signs began to reappear at home games. Because no other team was dominant in the NFC Central, the Buccaneers stayed alive in the division race until a second-half collapse against the Minnesota Vikings in week 14 guaranteed that they finish the season with a losing record. McKay later described the season as feeling "cursed".

Read more about 1980 Tampa Bay Buccaneers Season:  Offseason, Regular Season, Coaching Staff, Awards and Honors

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