For any Jets fans that aren’t enjoying the 2016 season, just remember that the franchise will never get to the level of 26 straight losses. Tampa Bay lost the first 26 games it played and is the subject of Jason Vuic’s book “The Yucks: Two Years In Tampa with the Losingest Team in NFL History”.
Vuic previously wrote a book about the Yugo and seems to have found a niche writing about ill-fated events. “I didn’t set out to be the ‘worst of guy’. Something draws me to underdogs and losers,” Vuic said.
Vuic grew up in Florida and started watching the Buccaneers when Doug Williams was leading Tampa Bay into the playoffs in the early 80s. Then came over a decade in the wilderness. “I took it as a badge of honor that my team was the worst,” Vuic said. “Fourteen losing seasons in a row but I’m still here.”
When the Buccaneers came to Vuic’s high school for a charity basketball game, it gave the nine-year-old a chance to see Williams, his hero. “He was the Johnny Unitas of the Bucs without question,” Vuic said.
Williams left for the USFL and the franchise went downhill. Vuic thought about writing “The Curse of Doug Williams” but thought it would be too regional. Writing about the early years would help give a history of the franchise as well as the expansion Bucs, a team that still makes blooper reels 40 years later.
Original coach John McKay serves as the protagonist and antagonist it the book. Now he’s remembered for his funny lines, but at the time he didn’t have a great relationship with the press. “The Bucs were the only game in town,” Vuic said. “At USC there was Johnny Carson, the beach, California. People didn’t ride him. If he didn’t win the Rose Bowl they knew he’d be back. The reporters were from the Watergate generation that would really question authority. McKay said he’d make the playoff within five years. If I don’t make the playoffs, I’ll quit. But after every game it was ‘you did this, why, why?'”
His famous line came when he was asked what he thought of his team’s execution and replied “I’m in favor of it.” That didn’t do him any favors with his players. “He was hilarious until he turned his laser beam of sarcasm on you,” Vuic said.
Tampa Bay went 0-14 in 1976, moved to the NFC and began the 1977 season 0-12 before winning the last two games. And it wasn’t a lovable loser scenario. “The offensive coordinator quit in game three because he had enough of McKay’s b.s. He left Riverfront Stadium and never came back. McKay was a funny, grandfatherly guy but he was imperious. He was the emperor of Tampa Bay. Everyone below him was below him,” Vuic said.
Ron Wolf was run out of town and later became a Hall of Fame executive. Joe Gibbs was an assistant coach and later described it as one of the worst years of his memoir. Other than Lee Roy Selmon, the team was devoid of much talent in the first two years.
The team made the 1979 NFC title game and made the playoffs in 1981 and 1982. McKay’s 44-88-1 record doesn’t show how impressive it was making the playoffs three times with a team from scratch before leaving after the 1984 season.
Leeman Bennett won Coach of the Year with the Falcons but went 4-28 in Tampa Bay. Ray Perkins helped rebuild the Giants but went 19-41. Sam Wyche led the Bengals to the Super Bowl but went 23-41.
Tony Dungy turned the Buccaneers into a consistent playoff team and then Jon Gruden came in and led Tampa Bay to victory in Super Bowl XXXVII. Vuic realized that nothing could match that win and cut back on watching.
The Buccaneers have finished in last place five straight seasons, the first team to do that since the league went to four divisions per conference in 2002. “The new team is historically awful,” Vuic said. The losing might get him to watch again.