1987 Tampa Bay Buccaneers Season - Overview

Overview

Perkins brought discipline to a team that had been described as "the country club of the NFL", and rebuilt the team with youth. Perkins claimed that the Buccaneers were more talented than the New York Giants team he had taken over in 1979, and selected a then-record 20 players in the 1987 NFL Draft. He improved their conditioning program, and instituted three-a-day practices. Perkins' harsh style was in stark contrast to the laid-back approach of his predecessor Bennett, of whom it was said that his "idea of team discipline was everyone wearing the same color uniform on game day". Conditioning improvements included emphasizing free weights over Nautilus machines, to improve explosiveness. Players were also given pay incentives to work out, although Perkins expressed surprise that players should need extra incentive to improve their conditioning. The improved conditioning paid off early in the season: their opening-week 48–10 win over the Atlanta Falcons still (as of 2012) ranks as the most Buccaneer points scored in a game, matched only in Super Bowl XXXVII. The team had a 1–1 record when the season was disrupted by the 1987 players' strike. Unlike in previous seasons, when players' strikes stopped all play, the owners formed teams of replacement players to play the scheduled games. The Buccaneers had a 3–2 record when regular play resumed, and nearly beat a Chicago Bears team only one season removed from its Super Bowl victory. The game had been preceded by much media speculation over whether Bears star quarterback Jim McMahon would play. It was the first week since undergoing surgery after being dropped on his shoulder following a play the previous November that McMahon was in the Bears' lineup, although Mike Tomczak remained the starter for the game. The Buccaneers took a 20-0 lead and dominated the game for three quarters. Late in the third quarter, McMahon came off the bench and sparked the Bears to a 27-26 win, their biggest comeback in team history. Two weeks later, Tampa Bay had a 28–3 fourth quarter lead over the St. Louis Cardinals. In what is now the third-biggest comeback in NFL history, the Cardinals scored 4 touchdowns to win the game. The Buccaneers did not win again for the rest of the season. It was unprecedented for an NFL team to fall into a season-long losing streak following such a defensive collapse. Once the Buccaneers were out of the playoff picture, Perkins began to prepare Testaverde for the next season. Testaverde's first start came on December 6 against the New Orleans Saints. His 369 yards on 22 completions set a record for an NFL debut, but his two early fumbles set up a Saints lead that the Buccaneers were not able to overcome. Tackle Ron Heller, dispirited by Coach Perkins' confrontational attitude and three-a-day practices that he believed were causing unnecessary injuries to the players, got into a fight with Perkins at halftime of this game that led to his being traded to the Seattle Seahawks. In return, the Buccaneers received defensive lineman Randy Edwards and a 1989 6th-round draft pick that was used to select linebacker Derrick Little. Neither made the Buccaneers' squad. Heller went on to play seven more solid seasons. The Buccaneers finished the season with a 4–11 record. Their 3–4 division record placed them ahead of the 4–11 Detroit Lions for fourth place in the NFC Central. Ron Holmes had eight quarterback sacks despite appearing in only ten games. Ervin Randle, who was named a UPI Second Team All-NFC linebacker, was the only Buccaneer to be singled out for postseason honors.

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