But now hope is
on the Tampa Bay horizon. Two key additions have rekindled Buc optimism and fan
interest. One is Testaverde. The other is the presence of new coach Ray
Perkins. Lured away from Alabama by club owner Hugh Culverhouse in late
December—barely two days after the firing of second-year Buc coach Leeman
Bennett—Perkins has spent the first seven months rebuilding the roster largely
from scratch, with the emphasis on discipline and youth.
lacks in pizzazz he makes up for with an iron-fist style and a steely blue
stare. His approach got results with the once lowly New York Giants, who made
the 1981 playoffs in the third season of Perkins's four-year tenure. "I am
a fairly intense guy," he says. "I want to win. I'd say we have a
better bunch of guys than we had when I started with the Giants."
for business on April 28 with an NFL-record 20 draft choices. But the one that
could make all the difference is the 6'5", 220-pound Testaverde, who led
Miami to a 21-3 record in two seasons. Last year the Bucs got burned with their
No. 1 pick, selecting Auburn tailback Bo Jackson, who later decided to play
baseball with the Kansas City Royals. This time, Culverhouse took no chances.
Dangling a $2 million signing bonus as part of the package, he secured
Testaverde 16 days before the draft.
The magnitude of
the contract hardly endeared Culverhouse, chairman of the owners' committee of
the NFL Management Council, to some of his dollar-conscious colleagues.
However, Culverhouse was in a spending mood. He had already handed Perkins a
reported $750,000 annually for five years. Further, after enduring Bennett's
4-28 record, the 67-year-old tax attorney wanted to take one last shot at
shaking his franchise back to life. So he opened the bank vault for
With Perkins and
Testaverde on the payroll, Culverhouse sees a return to respectability for his
franchise. "First, I feel confident that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will no
longer be known as the country club of the NFL," he says. "We will be
known as a well-trained, well-disciplined, cohesive unit, dedicated to winning.
The single-mindedness of Ray Perkins has infiltrated the players. They have
voluntarily come up to me and said, 'It's tough, but we like it.' "
step in the rebuilding process was to beef up the weight program, a project
that includes the construction of an expanded lifting and conditioning facility
at team headquarters. Center Randy Grimes, a 300-pounder last year, is down to
259. Tight end Calvin Magee, a 285-pounder in 1986, has trimmed to 246. To
underscore his conditioning plan, Perkins requested that all the players live
in the Tampa area year-round.
Testaverde just fine. Within days after the draft, he had moved into a
two-bedroom apartment, decorated by his mother and one of his four sisters. And
he was a regular at Perkins's daily "informal" workouts, which often
looked more like training camp. "Vinny Testaverde has been a catalyst for
our team," says Culverhouse. "He signed before the draft. He agreed to
come and work. He has been around from eight to five, maybe longer, five or six
days a week."
Therein may he
the key to the new Buc movement. Testaverde has given himself a four-month head
start learning Perkins's offensive system and working with a coach known for
molding quarterbacks. In 1979, his first year with the Giants, Perkins and
general manager George Young used the club's No. 1 pick on quarterback Phil
Simms. The unknown from Morehead State became Perkins's special project. Simms
remembers vividly how Perkins would constantly stop him in the hallway and quiz
him on game situations. And there were the endless meetings and film sessions
late into the evening.
"I'd sit in
his office the night before a game and we'd talk strategy," Simms recalls.
"We'd usually have a beer. He'd say, 'All right, it's third-and-five. We're
on their four-yard line and we're losing 27-21. What do we do?' You'd give him
an answer, but he'd say, 'O.K., but we already used that play. We need another
one.' He'd torture you until you came up with the right answers." That kind
of work ethic stayed with Simms—all the way to a Super Bowl championship and
the MVP award for the game.
"What I know
about Vinny Testaverde is that he's dedicated and he works, but he ain't seen
nothing yet until he's been coached by Ray," says Simms. "He's going to
work harder than he ever has. The good thing is that Vinny reported so early.
He's actually getting two years in one as a result."