"Bucs Show The Nation" blared the big, block orange-Tampa Tribune, trumpeting the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' stunning 24-17 playoff victory over the Philadelphia Eagles. This wasn't a football game. It was a crusade.
Four years ago, the National Football League created the expansion Bucs. Two years later, the Bucs created the longest losing streak in the history of the league -- 26 straight dismal losses. But through it all, Coach John McKay clenched his teeth and stuck steadfastly to what the local folks described simply as "The Plan."
"That's what I told my coaches (at Southern California) when they accepted head-coaching jobs at other schools," McKay said recently. "Don't take a job with less than a five-year contract. If you can't do it in five years, you just can't do it."
The Bucs have done it in four.
Now, they are one victory from the Super Bowl, and no expansion team in the history of the NFL ever has advanced to the conference championship game so quickly.
McKay's plan was simple enough. For the most part, he held on to his draft choices, avoiding the George Allen philosophy of going for established veterans over peach-fuzz picks. He also used those draft choices to build a defense that led the NFL in 1979.
"I've said over and over that we could have made some trades and we'd have gotten four or five wins a year," McKay said."But we wouldn't have come close to the playoffs. San Diego, which tried to do that, has now won for the first time in 14 years.
"I read all I could about professional teams and there was only one thing that ever came out consistently. You're never going to be a winner unless you have a lot of your own draft picks on your team. The teams that have their own draft picks win; the others don't."
The Bucs' current roster lists 21 players picked by the club in the last four college drafts. Twenty-six Bucs were fifth-round choices or better "including players drafted by other teams). There are six No. 1 picks on the squad, including the three men considered to be the cornerstones of the franchise -- defensive end Lee Roy Selmon (1976), running back Ricky Bell (1977), and quarterback Doug Williams (1978).
Still, McKay took plenty of heat when he drafted Bell, who had played for him at USC, instead of Tony Dorsett. And Williams was not a particularly popular choice, either, not in a draft that had Earl Campbell available.
McKay also was criticized for his two trades involving first-round choices. In 1978, the Bucs dealt away their No. 1 choice (used by Houston to pick Campbell) for an obscure tight end named Jimmy Giles and four future draft picks. In 1979, he sent a No. 1 pick to Chicago for veteran defensive end Wally Chambers, a man with a reputation as a malcontent and a wounded knee.
But those moves have paid off handsomely for the Bucs all during their Central Division championship season, and particularly in Saturday's victory over the Eagles.
Bell, who now says, "I always knew that if I could get through the first two years healthy, I could make a contribution to this team," gained 1,263 yards rushing in 1979. He picked up 142 more against the Eagles, set an NFL playoff record with 38 carries and scored two of Tampa Bay's three touchdowns.
Williams, as he puts it, once again has "turned the boos to oohs." He had taken all manner of flak for his nine interceptions in the 14th and 15th games of the regular season as the Bucs needed to win only one more time for the division title.
But on Saturday, this tall young man with the quick release and the whippy arm threw for 142 yards and a touchdown. Both totals should have been higher because several big plays were nullified by penalties and, in the case of a potential TD, by a referee's controversial ruling that Giles did not have possession of the ball when he left the end zone.
Giles, the Bucs' leading receiver this year, made up for the botched call by catching the game-winning touchdown pass midway through the fourth quarter.
And Chambers, who caused seven fumbles in 1979 with wicked hits, was at it again Saturday. Although he missed a good part of the game with a sore knee, he batted down two Ron Jaworski passes at the line of scrimmage and forced a Wilbert Montgomery fumble at the Eagles' five, setting up the Bucs' second touchdown and a 17-0 lead.
The Plan clearly has been successful, and so too, has McKay's rather unique approach to the game.
Ask most NFL coaches what they do during the week and chances are excellent they will tell you about the hours they spend mapping strategy and studying grainy films. They believe squinty eyes are a coach's badge of courage.
Not McKay. He spends no more than a dozen hours a day in the Buc offices, holds the shortest practices in the league and usually slips off to the gold course Friday and Saturday after workouts.
"You get these coaches together late at night and they start talking about where they were stationed in World War II or who played in the 1962 Rose Bowl game," McKay says. "I can't see staying up to 4 a.m. trying to figure out which direction to send a man in motion."
So he doesn't. It's all part of The Plan.