1990 - Perkins goes as the Bucs disappoint again
The Buccaneers moved into the third decade of existence still with their third head coach at the helm, albeit one steering through increasingly choppy waters. Three years of antagonism had led the press to have Ray Perkins already walking the plank unless a play-off berth beckoned at the end of the 1990 season, while some had gone further than that and were even questioning whether he should be on the sideline when the season started. The Bucs' head man remained unfazed by it all, and continued to stress how his team would be winners this time round.
His fourth draft had the team once again picking early on, fourth overall enabling the team to take the blue-chip marquee player it desperately needed on defense. Although the previous year had brought Broderick Thomas with his flashes of brilliance, Perkins needed an impact selection in this all-important year. His selection of another linebacker, Keith McCants, brought surprise to all concerned when one considered that this was the team's strongest position at the time, and time has told this to be one of the bigger lemons ever chosen by a Buccaneer head coach. And when one considers that the following selection by the San Diego Chargers was the perennial Pro Bowler Junior Seau, the magnitude of the error keeps on increasing.
The remainder of the higher round selections were more successful however, both Tony Mayberry and Ian Beckles arriving to bolster the offensive line through the seasons to date, and a new running attack in the form of Reggie Cobb and Gary Anderson. The previous rushing duo of Lars Tate and William Howard were both released in pre-season, leaving Anderson, the former USFL and San Diego stand-out, to take over the tail-back position in return for 2nd and 3rd round draft picks.
On paper this was a pretty reasonable deal, but the Buccaneers and their fans were certainly hoping that the team had found the superstar in the backfield they had been looking for since the heyday of James Wilder some six years before. One final selection of note was the choice of Mike Busch in the 10th round who became the second player to forego an opportunity with Tampa Bay to try his hand at major league baseball. Busch, a third baseman, has not had anywhere near the success as Bo Jackson, but played parts of three seasons with the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 1990s.
Vinny Testaverde continued his gradual improvement at quarterback in his fourth season in the NFL, but was hurt by double coverage on Mark Carrier following his successful 1989 campaign, and injuries hurting Bruce Hill and Danny Peebles. The arrival of Chris Chandler in return for the Bucs' 1992 first round selection served only to hurt that year's draft class and to create an intolerable situation between the two passers, the reserved Testaverde and the volatile yet childish Chandler dividing the team into two camps over who should be leading the team from behind center. Testaverde remained the focal point for the team's lack of success, and there were not many fans in the Tampa Stadium stands still backing Perkins' inaugural draft selection.
Yet the 1990 season started so well for the Buccaneers, a 38-21 victory in Detroit being capped by unheralded free agent Wayne Haddix's interception return for a score. It was the first of seven interceptions Haddix made during the season, and the first of three that ended in the opposing endzone. It led to a Pro Bowl berth but never had one been so undeserved. Haddix had his interceptions because opposing quarterbacks threw in his direction so often to avoid Ricky Reynolds on the other corner. It was this lack of suitable pass defense that gave Jim Everett his Week 2 win with the Rams, and many other touchdowns later in the season.
New kicker Steve Christie had surprisingly won the job in training camp from Donald Igwebuike and proved to be decisive in the march to 3-1 with wins over Detroit and Minnesota. The arrival of Jimmy Johnson's Cowboys to a sold-out Tampa Stadium to meet the 4-2 Buccaneers seemed to just be another win on the schedule, but an inept offensive performance, unfortunate Testaverde interception for a touchdown, and last gasp Aikman-to-Irvin score, gave Dallas an undeserved win and broke the hearts of the Bucs players and fans. Loss after loss piled up until the Bucs stood at 4-8 until the streak ended with a narrow win over the Falcons marked by a Testaverde to Willie Drewery touchdown pass that covered 89 yards, the longest play in franchise history.
Hugh Culverhouse though had seen enough, and fired Perkins the morning after the win over Atlanta, making him the second coach after John McKay to win their final game in charge. The cries of "Jerk the Perk" and "throw Ray in the Bay" had seemingly done the trick and Perkins left under a cloud, complaining bitterly to all and sundry that he had been handcuffed over player moves he wanted to make, a charge strongly denied by the front office. Assistant head coach and receivers' coach, Richard Williamson took over for the final three games, and promptly won his first game over the Vikings, probably based on the relief of the players to be away from the tyrannical reign of their previous coach, as much as for Testaverde's 100-yard rushing performance in that game.
Amazingly the Bucs were still in wild card contention as late as mid-December but two season ending losses prevented the Bucs from reaching the .500 mark for the first time since the 1982 season, and 6-10 was a long way from the mark both predicted at the start of the season, and that expected after the 4-2 start. Anderson and Cobb formed a potent if unspectacular offensive partnership at running back, even if Cobb was playing out of position in the full-back spot, while a brief foray of Chris Chandler at quarterback had seen even less offense than with Testaverde at the helm, putting the much-maligned passer back at the helm. But the players were happier at season's end, knowing that things could only be better without such a hard man directing traffic on the Tampa Stadium sideline.