TAMPA — Let's get this straight: The Bucs are inducting Hall of Fame DE Lee Roy Selmon into the team's first Ring of Honor today and honoring members of the 1979 team while wearing the uniforms of the 1976 team.
Well, that certainly covers it.
First, applaud the Glazer family for finally finding a way to honor the history of the franchise in Raymond James Stadium. When they bought the team in 1995, they ran from its past like their hair was on fire.
But trust me, it wasn't all bad.
After an 0-26 start, the Bucs reached the NFC Championship Game against the Rams in just their fourth year and reached the playoffs three times in four years. The highlight that year — and of the whole franchise until the Bucs won the conference title in Philadelphia and beat the Raiders in Super Bowl XXXVII after the 2002 season — was the upset of the Eagles in the '79 division playoff game.
I was a teenager at that game and braved frigid temperatures a few days later to camp out in a line that wrapped around the parking lot at old Al Lopez Field for NFC title game tickets. We got within 6 feet of the ticket booth before officials stopped sales because the mob was pushing and shoving and conditions became dangerous.
The Bucs lost to the Rams 9-0, and QB Doug Williams tore his biceps in the third quarter and didn't return. He would not have been able to play in the Super Bowl had the Bucs won.
Williams will join his '79 teammates on the field today, and many of his former teammates still live in the area.
"I've always said history is important," Williams said. "It's hard to know where you're going if you don't know where you've been. No matter what you want to do — you can change the colors of the uniform, you can do whatever — it's still the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. And that's what you have to live with.
"A lot of guys live in this area, and when I got here, I had an opportunity to talk to a lot of them. And a lot of them were disappointed. It's almost like being kicked to the curb. So I think the guys that have come around that are going to be here (today) feel pretty good about being a part. … I think for the younger players to see the older guys, that's a big thing. There's so many guys in the area, it's easy to let the past be part of the future."
Interestingly, while Williams recognizes Selmon's immense talent, he says RB Ricky Bell was the most valuable player in '79.
"I understand the Ring of Honor and all of that, but if it's for the '79 team, the bell cow of that football team was Ricky Bell, and he always will be," Williams said.
Nothing wrong with waiting: Count Packers QB Aaron Rodgers among those who say NFL quarterbacks benefit from not having to play for several years. Rodgers, who sat behind Brett Favre for three seasons in Green Bay, leads the NFL in passer rating and has thrown 14 touchdowns and two interceptions.
"I think there's definitely merit to both schools of thought," Rodgers said. "Personally, I wouldn't have wanted to do it any other way. You think you're ready to play Year 1, but you can look back and for me the lights really came on in Year 3 when I felt like I was ready to play at the level I would've wanted to play at.
"In Year 1, you're still learning. You're learning your own offense; you're not an expert at that yet. You're learning defenses, and in the NFL, the defense has caught and passed the offense a lot of times. I'm not saying the young kid (Josh Freeman) won't play well because I know he's extremely talented. I'm just saying you look back in Year 3 and realize how much better of a player you are."