Forty Years Ago, Williams Had Bucs on the Doorstep

By Jeff Moeller, The New York Extra/

Win or Lose, Tom Brady owns the keys to Tampa Bay. He is their football Jesus who came down from his New England heaven to save Tampa from football mediocrity.

He  is four quarters away from a second Super Bowl trophy for the franchise.

The legendary, fountain of youth quarterback, who will be back next season barring injury, is the centerpiece of the franchise and will likely be recognized as the best or one of the finest signal caller in the Buccaneers’ history.

Just over forty years ago, Doug Williams was in a similar situation as Brady. He had the benefit of having a stellar defense coupled with his timely offense. 

Like Brady, Williams proved to be the Bucs’ late seventies’ savior.

A Grambling standout, Williams was the team’s top selection in the 1978 draft (17th overall) and became the initial  African-Amercian, first-round drafted quarterback. He would be the league’s only starting black quarterback.

Williams helped guide the team from the football ashes in their fourth year of existence to the NFC Championship game in 1979. This was a team that lost its first 26 games and won just two in its first two years of existence.

His stats weren’t overwhelming as he had the lowest completion percentage among starters (41.8) and had more interceptions (24) than touchdowns (18), but Williams was the best of a lot from the previous three years that featured Steve Spurrier, Parnell Dickinson, Terry Hanratty, Randy Hedberg, Gary Huff, and Jeb Blount.

Williams did have the big arm and the calming and steady presence the Bucs needed. He had the one-man wrecking crew of LeRoy Selmon — the league’s defensive player of the year — and his smothering defense on the other side of the ball to fall back on.

Already a pioneer in the league, Williams was set to become the face of the franchise, fresh off a few steps away from the Super Bowl as the Bucs suffered a 9-0 loss to the Rams in the NFC Championship.

Unfortunately for Williams, his fame in Tampa was short-lived.

He had a better statistical year in 1980, but his team faltered to a 5-10-1 record. He guided the Bucs back to the postseason the next two seasons only to see them have a first-round exit in both years.

Williams had a contract dispute with management in the 1982strike season that saw him have a slow start and placed in a difficult situation as a player rep. He did rally the team to five wins in their last six games, and sought a deal with $600,000 per year. Bucs’ owner Hugh Culverhouse offered him $400,000.

Williams jumped to the USFL, and after the league folded, he was signed by the Redskins in 1986. 

Fortune again would be on his side the following season. He replaced starter Jay Schroeder and never looked back all the way to a Super Bowl ring.

Williams began the first black quarterback to win the title. He set the tone and the pace. 

Since then, he has been a long-standing executive in the Washington front office.

His trek came full circle. The pioneer blazed some trails for the then and also future black quarterbacks.

Just over forty years ago, Williams entered Tampa as the franchise’ Messiah ready to lead the team to the promised land. He nearly succeeded, but his presence won’t be forgotten.

Sunday evening, Brady will be in a similar role.

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