In mid-November of 1983, Hall of Fame running back Jim Brown contemplated coming out of retirement. Brown wanted to deny Franco Harris, who he deemed an unworthy heir, his all-time NFL rushing record of 12,312 yards.
"I think it's better to die with your boots on like an old soldier," Brown said.
It spoke volumes about the sad state of affairs in
Things were so bad in here during the 1983 season that by Week 13, the Buccaneers had a 1-11 record in the first year of the post-Doug Williams era. Only the Houston Oilers, also at 1-11, were arguably worse than
In a match-up of irresistible force versus immovable object, the Buccaneers and Oilers met at Tampa Stadium on Nov. 27, 1983, to crown the league's worst team. Tampa Tribune columnist Tom McEwen even nicknamed the contest "The Repus Bowl" – super spelled backwards -- in a nod to the game being the exact opposite of the upcoming Super Bowl in
The match-up, however, was not completely without significance. At stake, a claim to the top pick in the 1984 draft. Unfortunately for
"I'd be lying if I said yes," McKay said, "but I haven't seen the opposite either."
McKay could not have anticipated a more opposite result from his team than the one he got that afternoon. In front of a season-low crowd of 38,625 (with 20,474 no-shows), the Buccaneers tied the second-highest scoring output in team history by putting 33 points on the board against the league's 27th-ranked defense. This from a team ranked dead last among all 28 teams in points per game and coming off nine-consecutive scoreless quarters, which actually extended to 10 with a scoreless first quarter.
Nothing could have been quite so unpredictable as quarterback Jack Thompson, nicknamed "The Throwin' Samoan," tossing four touchdown passes, joining Doug Williams as the only the
The defense even rebounded with a strong effort, recording three interceptions and two sacks of
The Bucs being the Bucs, however, nothing came easily against the Oilers.
Kicker Bill Capece, just two weeks away from being famously declared "kaput" by McKay, missed a 41-yard field goal that would have given the Buccaneers an early 3-0 lead. Following a 6-yard touchdown pass from Thompson to Adger Armstrong on the first play of the second quarter, Capece missed the extra point attempt.
Barely 5 minutes later, Thompson connected on a 25-yard strike over the middle to Kevin House for his second touchdown pass of the game. The Buccaneers again struggled to complete the PAT, this time not even getting a chance to kick due to a poor snap by Jim Leonard. Still,
The Oilers opened the second half with an 81-yard kickoff return that set up a 1-yard touchdown run by the great Earl Campbell to cut
The excitement surrounding Thompson's outstanding performance (17 of 29 passing for 224 yards with 4 TD and no interceptions) could be somewhat tempered by virtue of Houston's terrible defense, but the career backup quarterback acquired for a first-round pick still breathed a sigh of relief.
"I think I'm worth (a No.1 pick)," Thompson said after the game. "I tell you again, it is a long-range judgement, not one to be made quickly."
In John McKay's judgement, for once that season, the Bucs weren't the worst team on the field, let alone the entire league. After the game, McKay boasted "the better team won, so you can knock off that manure you've been putting in the paper about whatever kind of bowl it was supposed to be. If