Interested in rooting for one of the NFL's 32 teams -- but don't know where to start? Adam Rank has you covered with this series, which will present a handy guide to becoming an instantly rabid fan of each organization in the league. Below, find out why you should root for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
What you need to know so you don't sound stupid
The Buccaneers lost the first 26 games of their existence. TWENTY-SIX. When coach John McKay was asked about his team's execution, he quipped that he was "in favor of it." This was the most embarrassing stretch in team history -- well, until the Bucs took a kicker in the second round of the 2016 NFL Draft. (A kicker who might not even make the roster in 2017.)
There is a lot of sad history for the Bucs. Four years in, they were really good, reaching the 1979 NFC Championship Game -- and then they were really bad again for awhile. Tampa Bay hired Tony Dungy in 1996 and had this awesome defense, but couldn't break through. Traded for Jon Gruden -- yeah, that Jon Gruden -- in 2002 and won a Super Bowl before becoming bad again. Now this team is absolutely loaded. Boom. You're caught up.
Super Bowl XXXVII
This was kind of like a fever dream for me. I've been to the last nine Super Bowls, but this -- in which the Bucs smashed the Raiders, 48-21 -- was the best I've ever been to. You have to understand, I grew up in Southern California, where you were either for the Rams or the Raiders -- and I wasn't for the Raiders. This was pretty awful for a long time, because Raiders fans can be pretty obnoxious. So, to be in the stadium when said Raiders fans got their comeuppance was pretty great. Think of your annoying friend who supports a really great team that wins all the time and lets you know about it -- and now think about how great you'd feel if that team lost. That was Super Bowl XXXVII. So I'll always love the Bucs for that.
Of course, it also was a nice moment for the Bucs fans who had to suffer through the indignity of all that losing over the years.
Did they really have Steve Young and Bo Jackson?
Well, sort of. The Bucs selected Young with the first pick of the 1984 supplemental draft, which covered USFL and CFL players. He was part of back-to-back 2-14 seasons in 1985 and '86 before being dealt to the San Francisco 49ers in '87 -- shortly before Tampa Bay drafted Vinny Testaverde. Yep, I'll let that soak in for a moment.
All that said, let's think about how dominant the late-'80s Bucs could have been with Young and Jackson. If the Bucs had been good in the '80s, they might not have ever hired Dungy. Which means that ... Ah, hell, we could be here all day. Let's move on to some stuff that actually did happen.
The 1995 NFL Draft
Sometimes, one draft can put a struggling franchise on the road to recovery and set the team up for years. For the Bucs, this draft came in 1995, when they grabbed Warren Sapp and Derrick Brooks with their two first-round draft picks. Adding two future Hall of Famers in one draft is pretty amazing, let alone in one round. That's like when you go to Red Robin and in addition to the fries, you get a few stray curly fries, as well. It's hard to imagine doing better than that.
Uniforms you love -- and love to hate
Everybody adores the Bucs' old creamsicle uniforms. Anybody who uses the Bucs on "Madden" always put them in those threads. Shoot, I did that all the time. But they're fun mostly as nostalgia. I mean, I was alive when they wore those uniforms on the reg, and they weren't great. It's like "The Rock" -- you didn't really care for it when it came out, but you can't stop watching it now. (Oh, who am I kidding? "The Rock" was amazing in the theaters. I saw it five or six times that summer. Such a good movie.)
So stop romanticizing those uniforms. They're great once a year, and let's leave it at that -- like a Christmas sweater. In fact, even once a year might be too much. (That said, those old helmets were pretty dope.)
And I might be in the minority, but I love the new uniforms. Only old people hate them. Which is wrong, because those new uniforms look clean. It's not traditional, but it's pretty great.
The Bucs are going to Super Bowl LII
That's right -- the Bucs are my pick to represent the NFC this season in the Super Bowl. I told this to Bucs fan Dick Vitale (more from him below), and he likes where my head is at on this one. So it checks out.
This team is poised for a run. Jameis Winston is on the verge of being one of the best quarterbacks in the game. He's topped 4,000 passing yards in his first two seasons, and that number is only going to go up. Especially when you have Mike Evans, who is ready to assume the mantle of best receiver in the game. Watching Evans play, it almost seems unfair that a guy that big can do the things he's able to do. And then you surrounded him with speedster DeSean Jackson and rookie tight end O.J. Howard.
If you're going to jump on this bandwagon, you'll have to do it immediately; otherwise that ship is going to sail. (Damn it -- I really didn't mean to make that pun. But now that I've thought about it, can we just pretend that's what I intended from the very start? I would appreciate that.)
You want to go with Lee Roy Selmon, the Bucs' first true superstar and an eternal solid choice. While I recommend the road white Selmon, you are allowed to wear the old creamsicle jersey for this -- you do you. As long you don't wear a contemporary jersey with Selmon's name on it. He never wore that version, and neither should you.
Voice of the fan
Legendary broadcaster and world humanitarianDick Vitale is a Jersey native who grew up cheering on the New York Giants, but once he moved to Tampa Bay years ago, he felt it was important to support the local squad. Derrick Brooks, Warren Sapp and Mike Alstott are some of his favorite players, with Super Bowl XXXVII being the highlight (natch).
Vitale announced a Bucs draft pick last year (don't worry, it wasn't the kicker) and has been a longtime season-ticket holder in Tampa. So why does he think people should get on this Bucs bandwagon?
"This is a team that is about to go uptown, baby. I'm excited about where this team is headed. I know a lot of people out there still laugh if you mention the Bucs and the playoffs. But I like that. It's good to get behind the underdog. Jameis Winston is really starting to turn the corner to be one of the top quarterbacks in the league. Mike Evans is an exciting player. And I love O.J. Howard, this kid out of Alabama who should come in and be really good. They are really surrounding Jameis with a lot of good players, and this is going to be an exciting season.
"And if you live locally, you should for sure support the Bucs."
The franchise's best
I'm going to lean on Mr. Vitale here and go with Derrick Brooks. Fourteen NFL seasons, 11 Pro Bowls and five first-team All-Pro selections. He was the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year in 2002 and capped off the best year of his career with a pick-six that helped give Tampa Bay its first Super Bowl title.
Not enough credit
The lightning to the thunder provided by Mike Alstott (about whom more below), Warrick Dunn was a way more productive back. He had more yards and has helped provide more houses for single parents than you can imagine.
Now this guy right here ... Jon Gruden took over a defense built by Dungy (also overrated) and was lucky enough to play a team he previously coached (and which didn't even bother to change the play calls he designed) in the Super Bowl. It was like playing your little brother in "Madden" and cheating by looking over to see the plays.
I would say that you take a chance on this Bucs' team. The stadium has a pirate ship that fires cannons. I mean, not actual cannon balls, but still -- cannons! You have a pirate theme, so if you want to go all Johnny Depp cosplay, you're good. Or if you want watch a game in a Reyn Spooner, you can do that, too. Plus, I like to hang out in Ybor City. On the field, this team has a pretty nice nucleus that should be good for a long time.