NFC South: Mark Cotney
TAMPA, Fla. -- There obviously isn't an NFC South team in this Super Bowl, but the fact the game is being played in Tampa gives the division a strong connection to the game. The Buccaneers are the face of the NFL in Tampa Bay -- but it hasn't always been a pretty face.
|David Boss/US Presswire|
|John McKay left USC to take over the expansion Tampa Bay Buccaneers.|
Here's a look back at the early years of the Bucs:
In the very beginning -- out at that primitive facility alongside a Tampa International Airport runway with rodents scurrying the hallways -- the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were a National Football League franchise in name only.
It was 1976 and what showed for the first practice at One Buccaneer Place wasn't pretty. The brand new team, which had joined the league with the Seattle Seahawks, had coach John McKay (who had jumped to NFL riches from the University of Southern California), first-round pick draft Lee Roy Selmon, and ... absolutely nothing else.
"The biggest cast of characters and misfits you've ever seen," jokes current Atlanta Falcons president Rich McKay, the son of John McKay.
Rich McKay was about to begin his senior year as a quarterback at nearby Tampa Jesuit High School and worked as a ball boy that first season. The high school kid had a résumé as good as some of the players who showed and was healthier than most of them.
Back in those days, the NFL's expansion rules just weren't very friendly. There was no free agency, a resource Carolina and Jacksonville used to build quickly when they joined the league in 1995. The expansion draft wasn't much help either. The Bucs and the Seahawks didn't even get the list of players available until 24 hours before the draft and couldn't bring players in for medical exams.
"Over 50 percent of the guys on the list couldn't even pass a physical," Rich McKay says. "I think if my dad had known what the expansion rules were and how everything was going to be stacked against the team, he probably would have stayed at USC. Seriously, it made no sense to give a city a franchise and then give them absolutely no chance for success."