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Thursday, August 19, 2010

Tampa Bay Buccaneers Uniform and Team History

Please click on the evolution of the Buccaneers uniform poster above for a close-up version of the poster. The descriptions below give you some insight and background about the uniforms and/or eras depicted in the poster.

Fall 2022: To purchase a reasonably priced 8" x 24" plaqued mounted version of the Buccaneers poster that's ready to hang on your wall, please visit Heritage Sports Stuff.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 1976 uniform
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were awarded the NFL’s 27th franchise on April 24, 1974. On Oct. 30, 1974, Philadelphia contractor Tom McCloskey was selected as the owner, but he backed off when his business encountered legal problems. So, on Dec. 5, 1974, successful Florida tax lawyer and real estate investor Hugh Culverhouse replaced McCloskey, buying the Bucs for $16 million.

The team got the ‘Buccaneers’ nickname through a radio sponsored competition – which garnered more than 400 suggestions – including “Buzzards”, “Sea Horses” & even “Mafia”!

Culverhouse hired USC’s John McKay as the team’s first coach, and had the daunting task of creating a viable football entity in a “Sunshine State” head over heels in love with its powerhouse Miami Dolphins. McKay had achieved great success at USC, winning four national championships in just 16 years, and hopes ran high in southwest Florida.

The franchise’s first season, 1976, was a trying one for the ‘Bucs’, as the team went winless in all 14 contests – being shut out in 5 of them! But better days lay ahead for these swashbucklers and fans continued to support the team.

This 1976 road uniform, worn by the likes of QB Steve Spurrier, running back Ed Williams, and tight end Bob Moore, is quite unique! This was the only year in the franchise’s history where the team had orange jersey numbers with red trim.

If you look very closely at the Buccaneer logo on the helmet, you will see a splash of white underneath the chin, presumably the Buccaneer’s neckline or shirt collar. By the early 90’s, this design element would be changed to the same Florida orange color as the face. A small but perceptible change that causes football historians a bit of joy when they discover differences in uniforms.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 1976 uniform
The team continues its vicious losing streak from ’76 and goes winless in its first 12 games – bringing the grand total to 26 straight! Then on December 11, 1977, the Bucs, led by QB Gary Huff, and the strong defensive penetration of Lee Roy Selmon, eventually break the streak – demolishing the New Orleans Saints 33-14 in New Orleans! Then the team finishes the season on an ‘up’ note – beating the St. Louis Cardinals 17-7 for their first home victory and ending the season on a two game winning streak.

Compare this ’77 road white jersey to the ‘76 version, and you’ll notice the team has reversed the color scheme – now making the numbers red, and the surrounding trim orange. The belt has also been changed from a reddish / orange color to white.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 1976 uniform
After another sub-par season in ’78, which saw the Bucs finish 5-11 after being 4-4 through the first half of the season, the team opens the ’79 season undefeated after its first 5 games! The team would go on to finish 10-6, and complete a truly remarkable ‘worst to first’ transition! After finishing last in the NFC Central Division in ’78, the Bucs win their first division title.

Not content to stop there, the Bucs went on to upset the Philadelphia Eagles in the first round of the playoffs by a 24-17 score in front of a delighted (and shocked?) Tampa Bay crowd. The wild ride ended a week later as the LA Rams subdued the Bucs 9-0 in front of a still appreciative home crowd.

This home orange uniform, worn by the likes of QB Doug Williams, and young, talented running back Ricky Bell, showcases a rich, orange jersey – complete with white numbers and a white pant / belt ensemble.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 1976 uniform
In the strike-shortened season of 1982, the Bucs assemble a decent 5-4 record and manage to make the playoffs – losing out to the Dallas Cowboys (as they had in 1981 as well) 30-17 in the first round of the playoffs.

This orange home jersey, as worn by running back James Wilder, QB Doug Williams, and tight end Jimmie Giles, showcases a very unusual ‘mesh’ design! Look closely at the body of the ’82 home jersey and you’ll notice the spacing is much wider than on the shoulders and the sleeves, suggesting the fact that it was made of two quite different materials. This happens quite routinely nowadays, but it was quite ground breaking at the time. Another interesting tidbit is that the numbers and red trim are not sewn-on to the shirt, they’re rubberized and “melted” onto the jersey.

Finally, we’ve chosen to show a Florida Orange towel, complete with a red Buccaneer, hanging on the front of the pants. This type of towel was used by wide out Kevin House and other members of the receiving core – to keep their hands dry. When we were doing research for this jersey painting, we were taken by the number of players wearing just such a towel and felt we had to show it in our 1982 painting.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 1976 uniform
The ’85 road white uniform depicted here, as worn by running back James Wilder, QB Steve DeBerg and kicker Donald Igwebuike, has some distinct, interesting features to it.

First, the shoulders are a solid, non-mesh material, and thus made of a different material than the body. The body is a ‘mesh’ fabric, with wide gaps, presumably to keep the athletes cool in the Florida heat.

On the left shoulder is a patch celebrating the team’s 10th anniversary. The top portion of the patch (white) is the Buccaneer (in red). The lower half of the patch (red) consists of a giant ‘10’ and the phrase ‘years’ – all in white. The numbers and trim on the jersey are still rubberized, and are red in color – complete with the traditional Florida Orange trim.

By 1985, the Buccaneers have fallen back to their old ways, and finish the season far off the pace at 2-12. In fact, beginning in 1983, the Bucs will be mired in an protracted losing streak and will go on to have 14 consecutive losing seasons, ending finally in 1997.

We have to pause for a moment and acknowledge the contributions of two great men to the history of the Bucs – both of whom retired prior to the 1985 season. The first is the great coach, John McKay. McKay was much admired and beloved during his nine years at the helm in Tampa, and he did as much or more than anyone could have with the talent he was dealt.

The second is the great defensive end, and soon to be Hall of Famer, Lee Roy Selmon. Selmon was the Bucs' first draft choice and the Number One pick overall in the 1976 draft. In his nine-year career, Selmon was named to the Pro Bowl six times and was selected as the NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 1979.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 1976 uniform
As mentioned earlier, the franchise is mired in a dry spell. In fact, not since the ’82 season have the Bucs enjoyed a playoff berth, much less a winning record. Nonetheless, droves of Floridians, and fans across the continent, continue to stick by their team, and in a handful of years they will be rewarded for their patience. In the meantime, there are seasons like 1992 where the team goes 5-11 and is out of the playoff picture by mid November, but they can still enjoy the talents of Vinny Testaverde, Reggie Cobb, Gary Anderson, Mark Carrier and Santana Dotson.

The ’92 road white uniform shown here showcases several new features – both the shirt collar and pants have been converted from white to orange. Also, the size of the mesh holes, so large in the early 80’s, have been decreased so as not to be quite so noticeable as to make the jersey almost transparent. And if you look very closely at the helmet, you might notice that the logo has been altered slightly right below the Buccaneer’s chin, the neckline or shirt collar is no longer white, it has become orange. A small change yes, but a change nonetheless that someone took pains to implement.

One other note about the uniform: If you look closely at almost all NFL uniforms worn from 1991 on, you’ll note a small NFL shield patch on the jersey’s neckline. Most NFL uniforms added the NFL logo patch to the neck, and to the upper left thigh of the pants, beginning in 1991. The only major exception to this practice was in 1994 when the teams wore their throwback uniforms – in most of these cases the teams did not wear the NFL shield patch.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 1976 uniform
If you look very carefully at the ’93 road white uniform, you might just see it. There, just on top of the orange & red stripe pattern on the right sleeve is some writing. If you saw a profile of the right arm, you’d be able to read the tribute paid by the Buccaneers to the only owner the team had known - long-time owner Hugh Culverhouse – who passed away prior to the 1993 season. It simply reads: ‘Mr. C’ .

The team finishes 5-11 again, but there are a few nuggets, including wins over the Vikings, Bears and Broncos and the wizardry of wide receiver Courtney Hawkins.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 1976 uniform
In 1994, the NFL helped celebrate its 75th anniversary with the introduction of ‘throwback’ jerseys – which every team wore at least once over the course of the season, sometimes numerous times.

The Bucs’ 1994 orange throwback home jersey, as worn by QB Trent Dilfer and linebacker Hardy Nickerson, was a tribute to the 1977 home uniform worn by Tampa Bay’s first generation of stars such as Lee Roy Selmon, running back Ricky Bell, QB Gary Huff and wide receiver Morris Owens. If you look closely, you’ll see the diamond-shaped NFL patch commemorating the 75th anniversary on the upper left chest.

One other note about the uniform: If you look closely at almost all NFL uniforms worn from 1991 on, you’ll note a small NFL shield patch on the jersey’s neckline. Most NFL uniforms added the NFL logo patch to the neck, and to the upper left thigh of the pants, beginning in 1991. The only major exception to this practice was in 1994 when the teams wore their throwback uniforms – in these instances, most teams did not wear the NFL shield patch. The Buccaneers however, did, and thus you can see the small NFL shield patch on the neck and upper left thigh of the pants of their orange throwback uniform.

Notice also that the front of the pants no longer ‘lace up’ - the laces have been replaced by a zipper.

Alas, the 1994 Buccaneers played a bit too much like the Bucs from the early years, and they finished 6-10 and out of the playoffs for the 11th year in a row.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 1976 uniform
The Buccaneers seems to turn over a new leaf, both in terms of uniform design and on-field success. We’ve now entered the Tony Dungy era.

After taking over the head coaching reins in ’96, the team responds, winning 5 out of its last 7 games. This confidence & high level of performance continues into the ’97 season – rewarding Buccaneers’ faithful with its 1st winning season in 15 years as the Bucs go 10-6!

In the NFC Central Wildcard game, the Buccaneers take on the Detroit Lions in their 5th ever playoff game (and their first home playoff game since 1979) – and the Bucs prevail 27-10 to win only their second playoff game ever! Heady days indeed!

The following week the Bucs take on the Packers in an NFC Divisional Playoff, and the playoff savvy, Super Bowl bound Packers set the Bucs back by a 27-7 score.

The franchise radically alters the look of the team uniform – and even changes the traditional ‘Buccaneer’ logo! In place of the knife-chomping swashbuckler is a giant skull & crossbones flag – wrapped triumphantly around a giant sword. The team’s jerseys are now white (road) with red numbers and black trim, and red (home) with white numbers & black trim.

You have to look very closely, but the red numbers on this ’97 road jersey have a thin, orange piping inside the outer black border. This thin orange stripe is repeated on the side of the pants. Note also that just below the NFL shield on the neck of the jersey is the word ‘Buccaneers’ in what is known as a ‘secondary logotype’. The addition of a secondary team logo just below the V-neck is now used by quite a few NFL teams, and was relatively new in 1997.

This painting shows the Buccaneers wearing copper / gold pants. It’s interesting to note that the Buccaneers had the option of wearing these pants or their white ones with the road white jersey – in this case we’ve chosen to show the copper/gold version because it’s such an unusual color. Note also the fact that the Buccaneers’ pants have converted back to a ‘laced’ front.

Finally, note how the uniform numbers normally found on the sleeves of Bucs jerseys have been moved onto the shoulders, and in their former place is the team’s new secondary mark – a pirate ship!

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 1976 uniform
The Buccaneers have now moved into their new, municipally financed, Stadium, known initially as Raymond James Stadium. It has since been renamed Houlihan’s Stadium.

This ’98 home red uniform, as worn by the lethal backfield combination of Mike Alstott & Warrick Dunn, showcases virtually all of the new elements explained earlier in the ’97 painting of the road white uniform.

Look closely at the sleeves, and you’ll notice one simple, black stripe. Look even closer at the chest numbers – and you’ll see the same thin orange outline around the white number. It’s interesting to note that the Buccaneers had the option of wearing these pants or their white ones with the home red jersey – in this case we’ve chosen to show the white pants because it’s such a great new look.

As is so often the case with a team on the rise, there is a small let down after a big turnaround season, and thus it was with the Bucs. After going 10-6 and advancing to the second round of the playoffs in 1997, the 1998 Bucs go 8-8 and miss the playoffs entirely.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 1976 uniform
This 2000 road uniform, as worn by newcomer Keyshawn Johnson, defensive tackle Warren Sapp and safety John Lynch, is very similar to the ’97 design – but in this case we’ve featured the WHITE pants.

Keyshawn was a welcomed addition to an already talented team. This acrobatic receiver helps take the pressure off the gifted Tampa Bay running game – and gives QB Trent Dilfer a different offensive outlet. After long last, it seems that Tony Dungy’s Buccaneers have all the pieces in place to make a serious run at the Super Bowl – and there couldn’t be a more deserving audience than the Tampa Bay faithful!

In the previous season, the 11-5 Bucs reached the 1999 NFC championship game before falling to the eventual Super Bowl XXXIV champion St. Louis Rams by a remarkable 11-6 score – remarkable because the Bucs defense held the vaunted Rams offense to their second lowest point total all season but still lost.

So as pumped as the Bucs were heading into the 2000 season, the 10-6 Bucs stumbled in the 2000 playoffs, losing their NFC Wildcard game to the Eagles 21-3 and making a far-too-early exit from the playoffs.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 1976 uniform
Jon Gruden took over as head coach of the Buccaneers for Tony Dungy, who was let go after the 2001 season after a disappointing 31-9 loss to the Eagles in the 2001 playoffs. With a fiery new head coach in place, the Bucs began the season with renewed hope playing in the newly formed NFC South Division. Their new division mates were: the New Orleans Saints, the Atlanta Falcons and Carolina Panthers.

The Bucs did not get off to the start they were hoping for as they lost their first game to the Saints, at home, 26-20 in overtime. They would quickly rebound, winning their next five games behind a dominant defense that would finish the season ranked #1 in the entire NFL. During that five-game run the Bucs defense would surrender only 1 touchdown. Throughout the rest of the season Tampa's defense would carry the team. The unit relinquished only 12.3 points per game, best in the league, and 252.8 yards per game, almost 40 fewer yards than any other team.

On the offensive side of things, during the regular season veteran QB Brad Johnson flourished under Gruden's tutelage, throwing for 22 touchdowns and only six interceptions.

After finishing the season 12-4, it was off to the postseason for the 5th time in 6 years. The Bucs trounced the 49ers 31-6 in the Divisional Playoff at home. The next week they upset the Eagles, in Philadelphia, 27-10 to win the NFC Championship.

This would be the Bucs first trip to the Super Bowl in 26 years of the club’s existence. They head into the big game with an all-time postseason record of 5-7. In 1979 they made it all the way to the NFC championship game, but ended up losing to the then-Los-Angeles Rams 9-0.

In Super Bowl XXXVII the Bucs met coach Gruden’s former team - the AFC Champion Oakland Raiders. Frighteningly, QB Brad Johnson threw an interception on the Bucs’ first possession. But the vaunted Bucs defense rose to the occasion and held the Raiders to a FG. By halftime the Bucs led 20-3 and the defense had completely taken the Raiders out of the game - allowing just 3 first downs and 62 yards total offence.

Tampa Bay’s dominance continued in the second half and they won the game handily 48-21. DB Dexter Jackson was named the Most Valuable Player. The Bucs' free safety won the award after intercepting two Rich Gannon passes in the first half, a Super Bowl record.

The Bucs were the home team in Super Bowl XXXVII and chose to wear their red home jerseys. The 2002 version of their home uniform features dark silver pants to match the helmet. On the side of the pants are a series of orange, red and black stripes running down to the knee. The dark red jersey has large orange numerals with orange and black trim on the front and back. On the shoulders are “TV” numbers and on the sleeve is the team logo, a pirate ship with a scull & cross bones.

You may notice that this 2002 Buccaneers jersey features a Super Bowl patch. The practice of both Super Bowl teams wearing a Super Bowl patch begin with Super Bowl XXV in January 1991 when the Buffalo Bills and the New York Giants each wore a "Super Bowl 25th Anniversary" patch on their jerseys. Another seven years would pass before a specific Super Bowl patch would next appear, this time in Super Bowl XXXII in January 1998 when the Broncos played the Packers. Every year since then the Super Bowl combatants have both worn an official Super Bowl patch during the Super Bowl. (Some keen observers may suggest that a "Super Bowl patch" was worn in Super Bowl X in January 1976 when the Steelers faced the Cowboys, but in that case the patch worn by both teams commemorated America's bicentennial, not the game itself.)

One final uniform note: If you look closely, you’ll notice an “NFL Equipment” patch on the jersey’s neckline and on the upper left thigh of the pants. This style NFL equipment patch, which is a bit bigger than the size of a golf ball, was added to all NFL team uniforms in 2002 The “NFL Equipment” patch replaced the previous “NFL shield” patch (which was the size of an average postage stamp) that had been worn on uniforms in the same two places (below the “V” of the neckline and on the upper left thigh) almost without exception since the 1991 season.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 1976 uniform
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Celebrate the Buccaneers' uniform history by owning a piece of history:
If you love the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the history of the Buccaneers franchise, you might really love to own an original piece of artwork celebrating the team's historic uniforms as seen in the poster at the top of this blog - you can actually own one of those original pieces of art! There are only 13 pieces of original art available for sale, and when these 13 are sold, that's it, they're all sold out.

These original watercolor paintings would make a great gift (birthday gift, anniversary gift, retirement gift, Christmas gift, etc.) for someone you love or even a great gift for yourself (one of these framed pieces would look fantastic in your home or office). Each piece can be bought one of three ways:
1. As unframed art that you could have framed or mounted yourself (the one on the left)
2. Framed in our "Classic" framed version (the middle version)
3. Framed in our "Deluxe" framed version (the version on the right)

If you would like more information about this great artwork including the three ways you could purchase each piece, please visit our Tampa Bay Buccaneers YouTube video at or go directly to the artwork website where you can see and purchase the artwork.

And if someone you know loves the history of sports uniforms (but maybe another team) and loves great art, please let them know that we have over 1500 pieces of great original artwork for sale at (all NFL teams, all MLB teams, all NHL teams, all CFL teams, select NCAA football teams) or check out each team's video at the Heritage Sports Art YouTube Channel

And please search my blog archive for other blogs on the history of the Buccaneers.


This blog was written by Scott Sillcox and was last updated August 19, 2010. I have tried to ensure the accuracy of the information, but I am human and can make mistakes. If you believe I have made a mistake, please let me know by email at !

Many thanks!!!

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