Former Buccaneers Coach Passes Away at 79

Ray Perkins

Getty Former Buccaneers coach Ray Perkins working with New England Patriots quarterback Drew Bledsoe before the Super Bowl in 1997.

Alabama head coach Nick Saban has high praise for former Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Ray Perkins, who passed away Wednesday at age 79.

“Coach Perkins was a great leader who had a tremendous impact on the game of football at all levels,” Saban said according to NFL.com’s Chase Goodbread. “Our thoughts and prayers go out to his wife, Lisa, and his children Tony, Mike, Rachael and Shelby.”

Perkins, who played and coached at Alabama before his stint with the Buccaneers, crossed paths with Saban a few times during their NFL coaching days according to AL.com’s Mike Rodak. That included a 1989 game when Perkins coached the Bucs against the Houston Oilers, where Saban served as defensive backs coach at the time, a 20-17 loss for the Bucs.

Perkins coached the Bucs from 1987 through 1990 with a 19-41 record. The Bucs released a statement via Twitter Wednesday honoring his memory.

Current Bucs head coach Bruce Arians crossed paths with Perkins at Alabama where Arians served as a running backs coach from 1981 to 1982. Perkins coached the Crimson Tide from 1983 to 1986 before joining the Bucs.

“Ray was a great guy. He offered me a job to stay at Alabama and I took the Temple job instead as a head coach. I’ve known him over the years – hell of a coach [and a] hell of a guy. He’ll be sorely missed,” Arians said according to 10 Tampa Bay.

Arians Tweeted about Perkins Wednesday.


Perkins Bucs Era

Perkins came to the Bucs in 1987 after coaching at Alabama as Bucs owner Hugh Culverhouse offered a large contact at that time — $5 million for five years according to Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times.  Perkins also had the title of vice president of player personnel according to Ken Belson of the New York Times.

“He’s my Vince Lombardi,” Culverhouse said according to Stroud.

It didn’t work out that way with four losing seasons, and Perkins didn’t find his Bart Starr along the way. In 1987, Perkins infamously traded away arguably the second-greatest quarterback to ever don a Bucs uniform — Steve Young.

Perkins instead took Vinny Testaverde with the top pick of the draft that same year. Stroud noted that Testaverde never took off under Perkins while Young went on to lead the San Francisco 49ers to a Super Bowl. Late in his career, Testaverde served as a backup to Tom Brady in New England in 2006.

The Bucs never had a winning record or made the playoffs under Perkins, but as Stroud wrote, Perkins inherited a Bucs team in need of a culture change with back-to-back 2-14 seasons.


Big Shoes to Fill

Perkins faced a different challenge during his years coaching at Alabama — leading the Crimson Tide after the retirement of coaching legend Bear Bryant. Perkins, who once played for Bryant, enjoyed some success with a 32-15-1 record and three bowl game wins.

What Perkins did before Alabama, jump started the career of an NFL coaching great. As head coach of the New York Giants from 1979 to 1982, he hired Bill Parcells according to NBC Sports. Perkins also had Bill Belichick on his staff in New York.

Perkins reunited the Parcells as an offensive coordinator in New England during the 1990s and worked with Brady’s predecessor, Drew Bledsoe.

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