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Forgive fans if they’re cautious when it comes to Tom Brady. The Bucs have been burned before

Parcells, Spurrier, Favre ... the Bucs have been disappointed many, many times in the past.
Former Patriots quarterback Tom Brady could just as easily be saying "Bye, Bucs" as "Hi, Bucs."
Former Patriots quarterback Tom Brady could just as easily be saying "Bye, Bucs" as "Hi, Bucs." [ DAVID J. PHILLIP | AP ]
Published Mar. 17, 2020|Updated Mar. 18, 2020

TAMPA — Pinch yourself, Bucs fans.

With Tom Brady apparently coming to Tampa Bay, which could become official as early as Wednesday when NFL free agents can sign with teams, the Bucs finally have nabbed the big acquisition they set their offseason eyes on.

The Bucs often have been on the losing end of a big deal. Whether it was Bo Jackson, Bill Parcells or Brett Favre, their efforts to land the big fish tended to result in an empty hook.

With Brady in the fold, it’s now a little easier for Bucs fans to take a look at some of the ones that got away.

Bo Jackson, 1986

Tampa Bay Buccaneers scout Pat Kirwin holds up card indicating his team's choice for the first player taken in the 1986 NFL draft: Auburn running back Bo Jackson.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers scout Pat Kirwin holds up card indicating his team's choice for the first player taken in the 1986 NFL draft: Auburn running back Bo Jackson. [ Times ]

This one has less to do with being left at the altar than how the Bucs managed to cause such discord with Jackson — a two-sport star who is regarded as one of the greatest natural athletes of his generation — that he refused to sign with the team after it made him the No. 1 overall pick. Bucs owner Hugh Culverhouse sent his private jet to bring Jackson in for a visit and physical, which turned out to be an NCAA violation, and Jackson was ruled ineligible for the second half of his college baseball season. Jackson believed the Bucs did it on purpose so he wouldn’t pick baseball over football. Jackson’s coaches at Auburn said it all could have been avoided with some due diligence.

Bill Walsh, 1991

The Bucs didn't land Bill Walsh in 1991 and proceeded to go 3-13.
The Bucs didn't land Bill Walsh in 1991 and proceeded to go 3-13. [ MARCIO JOSE SANCHEZ | ASSOCIATED PRESS ]

After coaching the 49ers to three Super Bowls, Walsh had found a second career in the broadcast booth working for NBC when he was courted by Culverhouse, who offered Walsh $2 million to become both head coach and general manager. Walsh admitted he was tempted by the offer, but interestingly enough, NBC locked him up on a new deal. The Bucs were left at Square One, and failed in their pursuit of fired Eagles coach Buddy Ryan and then-Giants defensive coordinator Bill Belichick. Instead, they took the interim tag off Richard Williamson, who took over when Ray Perkins was fired with three games left the previous season, and Tampa Bay went 3-13.

Bill Parcells, 1992 and 2002

The Bucs couldn't lure Bill Parcells, right, out of retirement in 2002, but the Cowboys eventually did.
The Bucs couldn't lure Bill Parcells, right, out of retirement in 2002, but the Cowboys eventually did. [ TONY GUTIERREZ | AP ]

A decade apart from each other, Parcells, who won two Super Bowls with the Giants, flirted with the Bucs’ head coaching job on two separate occasions but left a deal on the table both times. In 1992, Culverhouse offered Parcells a five-year, $6.5-million deal to emerge from retirement, and Culverhouse thought he had a deal done before Parcells reneged. The Bucs hired Sam Wyche instead. Then, in 2002, the Bucs fired Tony Dungy and formally began negotiating with Parcells, though it was believed they were courting Parcells before firing Dungy. Parcells decided he couldn’t make the proper time commitment to return to coaching, but the Bucs saw it as another 11th-hour case of cold feet by Parcells, who eventually did return to the NFL to coach the Cowboys. The Bucs made a trade with the Raiders for Jon Gruden.

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Steve Spurrier, 1996

So much for only being a college coach. After turning down the Bucs, Steve Spurrier eventually tried his hand at NFL coaching at Washington.
So much for only being a college coach. After turning down the Bucs, Steve Spurrier eventually tried his hand at NFL coaching at Washington. [ Times ]

The Bucs turned to Spurrier, who was the franchise’s first quarterback in their expansion season in 1976 and coached the USFL’s Tampa Bay Bandits. Spurrier had built the Florida Gators into a national power, but if there was an NFL job he’d be interested in, it was the Bucs because of his ties. After Spurrier turned them down once, the Bucs offered him $2 million a year for the next five seasons, but ultimately his loyalty to Florida kept him in Gainesville. Spurrier joked that he thought he was just a “college ball” coach at the time, but later went to the NFL to coach Washington, a move that didn’t work out. After also pursuing former Cowboys coach Jimmy Johnson, the Bucs hired Tony Dungy.

Brett Favre, 2008

Brett Favre was another swing and a miss at quarterback for the Bucs.
Brett Favre was another swing and a miss at quarterback for the Bucs. [ CHRIS O'MEARA | Associated Press ]

The Packers were looking to move Favre so they could allow the Aaron Rodgers Era to begin, and Favre’s preferred destinations were Tampa Bay or Minnesota. The Jets wanted him bad, but the prospect of playing in the New York area didn’t appeal to Favre. The Jets brass was resilient in its pursuit of Favre, but a deal to the Bucs appeared all but done, to the point that coach Jon Gruden thought it was complete. The Jets swooped in during the 11th hour and worked a deal for Favre, promising him he could wear his custom camo to get him to report. That season, the Bucs went 9-7 with Jeff Garcia and Brian Griese at quarterback.

Chip Kelly, 2012

Chip Kelly preferred Oregon to Tampa Bay in 2012.
Chip Kelly preferred Oregon to Tampa Bay in 2012.

The Bucs pursued the hottest head coaching name in college football, and reportedly had an agreement done with the University of Oregon coach — both the Bucs and Oregon thought Kelly was coming to Tampa — but within 24 hours Kelly reportedly changed his mind, citing unfinished business at the college level. One year later, with Oregon on the verge of NCAA sanctions, Kelly went to the NFL to coach the Eagles. He also coached the 49ers and is currently back in college at UCLA. The Bucs hired a different college coach, Greg Schiano from Rutgers.

Contact Eduardo A. Encina at eencina@tampabay.com. Follow @EddieInTheYard.

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