The Buccaneers took part in the team’s first NFL Draft back in 1976. Back then there was no internet, no cellphones, and NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle stood on a stage and announced each team’s selection. This year, there is nothing but the internet upon which the entire draft will take. Players and team executives will report in from all locations with varying types of cellphones. Even NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell will announce team selection from the basement of his house. What could go wrong?
In 1976, the Deck was Stacked Against the Buccaneers
Before the Buccaneers would see their first NFL Draft, they would take part in their first expansion draft on March 30-31st. This was the first hosing the team would take from their NFL brethren. Teams would only release a list of the five players they would offer for the expansion draft just 72 hours before it started. There would be absolutely no medical information provided and sometimes, players on the expansion list had not even reported to camp yet due to previous injuries. This was one of the big reasons that 1976 Buccaneers teams would finish the season with 17 players on the IR.
Even with the deck stacked high against them, the Buccaneers still found a gem of a steal off of the Houston Oilers squad when they failed to protect Mark Cotney. Playing nine years in the Tampa Bay secondary, Cotney would be both a member of the Buccaneers team that started 0-26 and be an integral part of the 1979 Buccaneers squad that went from worst to first.
Tampa Bay is on the Clock
Few teams can say that the very first time they dipped into the collegiate waters they drafted a Hall of Fame player. That’s exactly what the Buccaneers did when they selected 1975 Outland Trophy winner, 1975 Lombardi Trophy winner, and 1975 UPI Lineman of the year Lee Roy Selmon. Anchoring what many believe to be the best defensive line in college football history, the Oklahoma Sooners had been National Champions in both 1974 and 1975. Coach Barry Switzer called him the best player he had ever coached. That first draft pick was not just the best player on the board. That first pick by the Buccaneers became the face of the franchise.
The Song Remains the Same
Whether using landlines, choppy video-conferencing, cellphones or smoke signals, the goal of the NFL draft for 32 teams remains the same. Stockpile talent, build much-needed depth, and if you’re lucky, find a new face of the franchise. The Buccaneers for the first time in a while have many options for faces out in front of the franchise. That said, the 2020 NFL Draft could be the very next chance to find another.