Today in Sports History: December 11th

12/11/1977 - Bucs get first win

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers finally get on the board by beating the New Orleans Saints, 33-14, in the second-to-last game of the year. For the Bucs, who had joined the NFL the year before, it was their first win in franchise history. They lost 14 regular season games in '76 and were coming dangerously close to repeating in '77. It took them awhile, but at long last the second-longest losing streak in NFL history was over at 26 games (the Chicago Cardinals lost 29 straight from 1942-1945).

"Hell can now freeze over," wrote Herbert Mizell of the St. Petersburg Times. "There can be a month of Sundays. The Good Lord was willing and this time the creek didn't rise." The Associated Press sarcastically ran an article titled, "Tampa Bay Wins: Is Super Bowl Next?"

"I thought it was the greatest victory in the history of the world," proclaimed Buccaneers coach John McKay, who proudly lit a cigar after the game. McKay was once asked what he thought about his team's execution, to which he replied, "I'm in favor of it."

"What a nightmare!" said distressed Saints coach Hank Stram. "It was the worst experience of my coaching career. We're all ashamed for our people, our fans, our organization." Stram was fired in a matter of days.

Over 10,000 Bucs fans greeted the team as they flew in to Tampa Bay the next day. With the win, the Buccaneers ended close to two seasons of torment, where they had been the ultimate laughingstock and the butt of every joke. The following week, they went out and won again, prompting John McKay to state, "I'm going to go home, take a shower and tell myself what a great coach I am. Fifteen more and we'll tie the record for most consecutive wins."

Whatever ridicule the Buccaneers escaped was passed onto the New Orleans Saints, who weren't much of a football team either. The team finished just 3-11 that year and were commonly referred to as the 'Aints; it wasn't until 1987 that they at last posted a winning season and it wasn't until 2000 that they actually won a playoff game. Fans would display their misery by coming to the stadium with brown paper bags over their heads, usually with something like "Saints fan" written on it.

It was their lowest moment in franchise history. None of the NFL teams wanted to be the one, the team that was so bad that they lost to the worst team in modern history, the Bucs. It was particularly hard for New Orleans quarterback Archie Manning, who had told the press that it would be "disgraceful" to lose to the win-less Buccanneers. In a final quip after the game, McKay added, "Archie said it would be a disgrace to lose -- and it is."

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