This Sunday, the (5-2) Oakland Raiders finish their two game Florida road trip against the (3-3) Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Let’s take a quick look at the history between these two teams.
Total Games Between the Raiders and the Buccaneers: 9
All-Time Record: Raiders lead, 6-3
Current Streak: Bucs won the last matchup 42-32 in 2012
Total Raiders Points Scored, Head-to-Head: 270 (30 points per game)
Total Buccaneers Points Scored, Head-to-Head: 206 (22.8 points per game)
Longest Raiders Winning Streak Against Buccaneers: 3 (November 28, 1976 – December 12, 1993)
Longest Buccaneers Winning Streak Against Raiders: 1 (November 4th, 2012 – present)
Alright, let’s just get this out of the way.
I woke up the morning of January 26th, 2003 a moderately-aware, fundamentally-naive pubescent football fan, rife with the type of energy and enthusiasm you only feel when you’re incognizant of just how cruel of place this world can be.
As the hours of January 26th, 2003 ticked to a conclusion, I closed my eyes in a deep, visceral pain, gut-punched by reality, shellshocked beyond reason or recognition.
Not to pile on with the recollection of Raider atrocities here, but only a year earlier, I’d witnessed what, to this very day, remains the single worst display of officiation during an NFL football game, as well as the most blatant defiance of basic, everyday logic and common sense that I’ve ever seen or heard of.
I won’t say any more than that, but the point is, I saw Super Bowl 37 as an opportunity for the Raiders to exorcise those demons. The scar tissue of the world’s greatest screw-job would forever be present and tender to the touch, but a Super Bowl ring the following season would certainly have eased the long-term pain.
Instead, myself and the rest of Raider Nation would plunge headfirst into the depths of football hell.
If I were any wiser at the time, I might have seen it coming. The 2002 Buccaneers boasted one of the greatest defenses in the history of the sport, and had spent the season choking out their opponents with the effort it might take a 200-pound boa constrictor to finish off your daughter’s pet rabbit.
Greatly exacerbating the problem was the fact that the very man who’d constructed and revived the Oakland Raiders into Super Bowl contenders in the first place, was standing on the other sideline with a grin that might give the Cheshire cat pause for concern.
And as all of this was boiling over in the great cauldron of sadness that is Qualcomm Stadium, our Pro Bowl center was in Tijuana on a first-class bender, working on the first draft of his Fear and Loathing-esque memoir.
In 2014, Raiders legend and Pro Football Hall of Famer (finally!) Tim Brown flat-out admitted that he thought then-head coach Bill Callahan had thrown the Super Bowl as a favor to Jon Gruden, whom Al Davis had mercilessly and puzzlingly “traded” to the Buccaneers the offseason before. I question that only because I’m not convinced Callahan had the competency to properly microwave a gas station burrito, let alone tank a Super Bowl, but it’s largely moot. He wouldn’t have had needed to. It was over before it started.
The Raiders and the Bucs have played nine games over the course of the latter’s existence. The Raiders have lost three of those games: the aforementioned debacle in San Diego, a 20-17 OT loss in 1996, and late regular-season matchup in 2012 that might be singularly responsible for Doug Martin’s subsequent contract extension.
Be it not for that cold day in January 2003, this matchup might be inconsequential to me. The Bucs didn’t become some long-reigning dynasty. In fact, they haven’t had much success since. Jon Gruden was unceremoniously fired after embarking on a tenure of mediocrity that calls into question just how good of coach he was in the first place.
Their locker room is a hazmat zone that almost killed one of their players. They ruined the perfectly good career of Josh Freeman. The highly-compensated corpse of Vincent Jackson wanders about their sidelines aimlessly, searching for more cap space to feed on. These are more kin to the creamsicle Bucs of ye olden days than they are to the ones from the turn of the century.
But, try as I might to forget, January 26th, 2003 did happen. And as the current iteration of the Raiders looks to continue turning the corner as both a franchise and a young team on the rise, it’s only fitting that the Buccaneers stand in their way. A regular season game won’t undo fourteen years of suffering, but it could certainly start the process.
Enjoy the game, Nation.