Buccaneers hit rock bottom 38 years ago with 26th consecutive loss

The Bucs took Lee Roy Selmon with the first overall pick of their first draft, but the future Hall of Famer couldn't prevent the team from losing its first 26 games. Malcolm Emmons/USA TODAY Sports

One week ago, the Philadelphia 76ers broke the record for most consecutive losses by a major U.S. pro sports team.

Thirty-eight years ago, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers set the record the 76ers broke.

On Dec. 4, 1977, the Bucs lost 10-0 to the Chicago Bears at Tampa Stadium. They fell to 0-12 for the season after going 0-14 in 1976, their expansion year, pushing their record stretch of futility to 26 games. The streak ended a week later in New Orleans with a 33-14 win over the Saints, but by then the Bucs had cemented their legacy as one of the worst teams in sports history.

Before Philly's recent run of futility, which finally ended Tuesday after 28 straight losses, Tampa Bay's skid was equaled by the 2010-11 Cleveland Cavaliers and the 2013-14 76ers, but those NBA streaks can't match the Bucs' in historical weight. Tampa Bay lost 26 straight when an NFL season lasted 14 games (the NFL went to a 16-game schedule in 1978), meaning their streak spanned 93 percent of their games over a two-year span. An NBA team playing an 82-game schedule would have to lose 152 consecutive games before sinking to that level of ineptness.

Here are 10 things you might not know -- or remember -- about the longest losing streak in NFL history and one of the longest ever seen in pro sports.

1. Scoring woes: The Bucs were shut out an astounding 11 times during the streak, including in five of their seven home games in 1977. They gained only 135 total yards against the Bears in loss No. 26, but that was an improvement over their 78-yard output against the Atlanta Falcons in a 17-0 loss the week before. Tampa Bay scored 53 total points during its 12 losses in 1977 and 50 points in its two wins that closed the season. Until their season-ending 17-7 win over the St. Louis Cardinals, the Buccaneers had scored a total of three points at home in 1977.

2. Defense did what it could: The streak could have been shorter if the offense wasn't so bad. The Bucs lost four times when allowing 10 or fewer points in 1977. Loss No. 26 was a scoreless tie until the fourth quarter, and the Bears' lone touchdown, a 3-yard run by Walter Payton, was set up by a long completion on a fake punt. "When we eliminate our mistakes we'll start winning, and not until," future Hall of Fame defensive lineman Lee Roy Selmon said after the game. "We made one today on the punt, but we're closer than ever." Selmon was right, because the Bucs ended the streak a week later.

3. Comic coach: John McKay became the Bucs' first coach after a 16-year run at USC that included three Associated Press national championships and 14 consecutive winning seasons. His sense of humor helped him handle the lack of success at the NFL level. His most memorable quip came when he was asked what he thought about his team's execution and, according to legend, replied, "I'm in favor of it." Another McKay gem was: "We didn't tackle well today, but we made up for it by not blocking."

4. Steve Spurrier under center: The Bucs quarterback in 1976 was none other than the future Head Ball Coach, who was acquired via trade from the San Francisco 49ers. In what turned out to be the final season of his playing career, Spurrier saw action in all 14 losses, with 12 starts. The former Heisman Trophy winner and future coach for Florida, the Washington Redskins and South Carolina threw just seven touchdown passes to go with 12 interceptions. That was good enough, however, for Spurrier to be named the team's offensive MVP.

5. It usually wasn't close: The Bucs' 26 losses were by an average of 16 points, and they rarely even led; they were in front only three times at halftime (including a 3-2 edge over the Minnesota Vikings in 1977's second game) and just once after three quarters. The closest call came relatively early, in Game 7 of the streak against the Miami Dolphins, a contest in which the Bucs had a field goal and an extra point blocked. Spurrier threw two second-half touchdown passes to pull the Bucs even, but Garo Yepremian's 29-yard fourth-quarter field goal won it for the Dolphins 23-20.

6. Picked on in Pittsburgh: The most lopsided loss of the streak came in the second-to-last game of the Bucs' first season against the two-time defending Super Bowl champion Steelers. Pittsburgh held Tampa Bay to 105 total yards -- 94 rushing and 11 passing -- in a 42-0 demolition. When asked afterward if he was embarrassed by the loss, the Bucs' 13th in a row, McKay said, "I was embarrassed before we came here."

7. It was worse for two Bucs: When the streak finally ended, linebacker Richard Wood and center Dan Ryczek had a little more reason to celebrate than their other teammates. Each had a personal losing streak of 28 games. Wood had joined the expansion Bucs in a trade with the New York Jets, who lost their last two games of 1975. In coming to Tampa Bay, he was reunited with McKay, who was Wood's coach at USC. Ryczek was picked up in the expansion draft from Washington, which also lost its last two in 1975. "I can't wait to get into the dressing room so I can cry," Wood said after the Bucs' first win. "A grown man ought not to cry out here in front of these people."

8. From best to worst: Offensive lineman Dave Reavis was on top of the football world in 1974 and '75, winning consecutive Super Bowl rings with the Pittsburgh Steelers. He plummeted to the bottom when the Bucs took him with their second pick in the expansion draft. He became a stalwart for Tampa Bay, playing eight seasons and making three playoff trips with the Bucs, but not before losing 26 in a row.

9. From perfect to imperfect: Two members of the Miami Dolphins' unbeaten championship team of 1972 played for the winless Bucs in 1976 -- linebacker Larry Ball and defensive tackle Maulty Moore. The Bucs acquired Ball in the expansion draft and Moore as a free agent. They each lasted only one season for Tampa Bay, so they didn't get the full losing-streak experience.

10. Expansion mismatch: Two of the Bucs' 26 losses came against their expansion brethren, the Seattle Seahawks. The teams met in their sixth game, with the Seahawks winning 13-10 for their first victory in what would be a 2-12 inaugural campaign. The 1977 rematch came in Week 5, with the Seahawks winning 30-23. Seattle finished its second season at 5-9. The Seahawks beat the Bucs the first four times they faced off and seven of the first eight.