When Did the Bucs Last Win the Super Bowl? Looking back at Tampa's Only Triumph

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers' return to the Super Bowl has been a long time in the making.

Super Bowl LV on February 7 will mark the Bucs' first appearance in the NFL championship game in 18 years, when they defeated the Oakland Raiders 48-21 in Super Bowl XXXVII.

The Kansas City Chiefs, the Bucs' opponents on Sunday, know all too well the feeling of returning to the Super Bowl after a long hiatus as they made their first appearance in the NFL championship game in half a century last year.

If the Chiefs' triumph over the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl LIV felt like the natural culmination of a process after Kansas City had made the playoffs in the previous four years, the Bucs were 50-1 outsiders to win Super Bowl LV back in March.

Up until this season, Tampa Bay had not made the playoffs in 13 years and the 31-23 win against the Washington Football Team in the Wild Card round was the franchise's first postseason win since defeating the Raiders in Super Bowl XXXVII.

Despite finishing the regular season with a franchise-best 12-4 record, Tampa arrived in its first Super Bowl appearance as 3.5-point underdog against the Raiders.

Oakland took an early three-point lead courtesy of Sebastian Janikowski's field goal in the first quarter, before the Bucs erupted into a 34-unanswered point scoring spree, as Mike Alstott scored a two-yard rushing touchdown and Brad Johnson threw a pair of touchdowns to Keenan McCardell.

On the other side of the ball, the defense that had been Tampa's cornerstone throughout the season—the Bucs were the first team since the 1985 Chicago Bears to lead the league in total defense, points allowed and interceptions—hit Oakland like a wrecking ball.

Raiders quarterback and regular season MVP Rich Gannon had a night to forget, as he was sacked five times and threw a Super Bowl record five interceptions.

In the second half, Bucs defensive back Dwight Smith had a 44-yard and a 50-yard pick-six either side of a Derrick Brooks interception, which was also returned for a 44-yard touchdown.

Tampa Bay safety Dexter Jackson intercepted Gannon for the two picks that weren't returned for a touchdown and set the tone for the night.

"They [the Raiders] were frustrated because they have been able to shred teams, but not tonight," Jackson, who became only the third defensive back to be named Super Bowl MVP, was quoted as saying by The New York Times after the game.

"We knew if we shut down Gannon and their offense that the whole team would crumble. Kind of like cutting off the head and the body falling."

Jon Gruden of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Tampa Bay Buccaneers' head coach Jon Gruden (L) holds the Vince Lombardi trophy beside Tampa Bay Buccaneers' owner Malcom GLazer during a Super Bowl victory parade in Tampa, Florida on 28 January 2003. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers defeated the Oakland Raiders 48-21 in Super Bowl XXXVII. Peter Muhly/AFP/Getty

The triumph over the Raiders in San Diego vindicated the Glazer family's decision to aggressively pursue Jon Gruden as replacement for Tony Dungy, whom they fired in January 2002 after the Bucs lost in the Wild Card round for a second consecutive season.

In five seasons in Florida, Dungy took Tampa Bay to the playoffs four times but a trip to the Super Bowl remained elusive, with his best result being an 11-6 loss against the St. Louis Rams in the NFC Championship Game in 1999.

Gruden was the Glazers' pick but he did not come cheap, as the Bucs were forced to shell out $8 million in cash payments and a first-round pick in the 2002 and 2003 drafts to convince Raiders owner Al Davis to release him.

The investment paid off as the Bucs hoisted the Lombardi Trophy aloft for the first time and, at 39 years of age, Gruden became the then-youngest ever coach to win the Super Bowl—Mike Tomlin was three years younger when he led the Pittsburgh Steelers to a 27-23 victory over the Arizona Cardinals in Super Bowl XLIII.

"I apologize about how I got here, any feelings I have hurt," Gruden said after the triumph over the Raiders.

"To win a Super Bowl is something that I can't describe how great I feel."

Having lost the season opener against the New Orleans Saints, Tampa Bay won the next five games before to the Eagles in Philadelphia, where the Bucs had lost in the playoffs in the two previous years.

Tampa clinched the No. 2 seed in the NFC with a run of seven wins in the final nine games, before setting the record straight against Philadelphia in emphatic fashion in the NFC Championship Game, defeating the Eagles 27-10 in their last ever NFL game at Veterans Stadium.

The Bucs defense, which in the Divisional Round had kept the San Francisco 49ers without a touchdown in a playoff game for the first time in 17 years, shut down the Eagles in the second half as Tampa Bay reached its first ever Super Bowl.

Following their triumph in Super Bowl XXXVII, however, the Bucs never reached the same heights again, making the playoffs just twice in Gruden's next six seasons in Tampa.

Eighteen years late, the Bucs back in the NFL title game and are the first team in NFL history to play the Super Bowl in their home stadium.