More Than Another Losing Bucs Head Coach

December 9th, 2020

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When the end came for Ray Perkins in Tampa, few were surprised.

Although the Bucs had just beaten the Falcons late in the 1990 season, Hugh Culverhouse had seen enough. He fired the man he once labeled “My Vince Lombardi,” and Walter Lee Perkins was seen lugging his belongings out to his car at old One Buc Place in a box crammed with pictures and playbooks.

“He was tough and he was demanding,” former Bucs cornerback Ricky Reynolds told me Wednesday, after learning Perkins had passed away at the age of 79.

“By the end of 1990, you could sense there was going to be a change. The rumors were in the papers and people at Tampa Stadium were yelling ‘Throw Ray in the Bay.’ It was tense and you knew it was just a matter of time.”

It’s easy to dismiss Perkins as just another unsuccessful coach in Tampa Bay history, joining the ranks of Leeman Bennett, Sam Wyche, Raheem Morris, Greg Schiano, Lovie Smith and Dirk Koetter.

Former Bucs head coach Ray Perkins is dead at 79 years old.

He finished with a 19-41 slate and failed to develop Vinny Testaverde, who would find considerable success elsewhere.

Reynolds, a second-round pick out of Washington State in 1987, quickly emerged as a Perkins favorite.

“Coach Perkins was tough but he liked me,” Reynolds said. “He used me for a lot of examples to the rest of the team. He used to say he wished he had 11 Ricky Reynolds on defense.”

Once Perkins was hired by Culverhouse after Tampa Bay’s consecutive 2-14 finishes under Bennett, he turned training camp into a survival of the fittest competition with three practices a day in searing August heat.

The Bucs would usually start off well in September before folding.

“We were in tip-top shape and that helped when the season began,” Reynolds said, “but we never learned how to close games out. As soon as something bad happened, guys would start thinking, ‘Here we go again.’ “

After succeeding Bear Bryant at Alabama, Perkins demanded full authority over football operations in Tampa, Culverhouse agreed, then handed Perkins one of the NFL’s most lucrative contracts.

When it ended, there was no one else to blame.

”I thought we had the pieces of the puzzle coming together, but obviously we didn’t get the job done,” Perkins said. ”It hurt because I`d never been fired in my life. But I got over it, just like you get over a loss and look to the next game.”

Lone Laugh

On a personal basis, I got along with Perkins very well.

Perkins may have the ultimate coaching tree

My first job covering the NFL came in 1979 for United Press International in New York. I was assigned to the Giants, who had just hired Perkins as head coach. Two years after I arrived in Tampa, Perkins walked through the doors at One Buc Place.

He looked at me with those piercing eyes and said: “What are you doing here, Ira?”

“That’s funny,” I replied. “I was about to ask you the same question.”

For the first and only time I can recall, Perkins laughed.

Although he went 23-34 with the Giants, Perkins led a moribund franchise to the playoffs in 1981. He also hired Bill Parcells and Bill Belichick on his New York staff.

“Ray had a huge influence on my life and my career,” Belichick said. “When I went to the Giants in 1979, Ray hired me as the special teams coach. That was really a tremendous opportunity for me and a break in my career at a pretty young age, 27.

“He was a tough coach. The receivers blocked. He conditioned the team hard. He practiced hard. He coached the team like he played, and he was a real grinder.”

As a star receiver for Bryant with the Crimson Tide, Perkins made the tough catches. He wasn’t afraid to cross the middle and absorb a blow. When he became a coach, he demanded that same dedication from his players.

” My first impression in meeting Ray Perkins for the first time were those little beady eyes,” Reynolds said. “He tried to stare me down, like he was looking right through you.”

12 Responses to “More Than Another Losing Bucs Head Coach”

  1. Buddhaboy 19 Says:

    little beady eyes, too funny.

  2. miken Says:

    Great stuff IRA. RIP Coach Perkins. He was a great man, and no one was going to win in Tampa in the late 80’s… unless Culverhouse doesn’t screw up the Bo Jackson pick.

  3. Evolvingbucsfan Says:

    RIP Coach.

  4. Cobraboy Says:

    I wore a bag over my head in the Big Sombrero and participated in the first-quarter boycott of the Falcon’s game.

    Does any other JBF inmate remember that game?

    “Throw Ray in the Bay” was the battle cry at the end of that pathetic run.

  5. Cobraboy Says:

    Perkins was a good man. Grace to all who grieve.

  6. Chris@Apple Roof Cleaning Tampa Says:

    Bill Parcells and Bill Belichick owe Ray Perkins, Big Time!

  7. Buczilla Says:

    Rip Ray Perkins.

  8. 74 Bucs Fan Says:

    Yes I remember “throw Ray in Tampa Bay”. I am as there as a kid but didn’t wear the bag. No chance to succeed then the team then little talent. Rickey Reynolds was and is the man!

  9. 74 Bucs Fan Says:

    Wow – autocorrect is more buzzed than me.

  10. FortMyersDave Says:

    I was there Cobraboy with my girlfriend at the time who was from Alabama, I did not wear a bag but many did around me in the South endzone and I yelled “Throw Ray i n Tampa Bay” as loud as I could. Everyone knew the axe was gonna fall during the bye week but I was happy that the Bucs ended their 6 game losing streak. They had started 4-2 that seasom. My girlfriend’s father was a Bama alum and while not happy that Perkins bolted for the Bucs did say that Perkins was under extreme pressure in Tuscaloosa as he was following the GOAT of coaches in Bear Bryant so he understood the reasoning, Perkins was like Gene Bartow following John Wooden. RIP coach.

  11. Ralph Edward Cindrich Says:

    Paul Gruber, Jerry Wunch, Craig Erickson, Mike Sullivan, and others. All repped by me when he was the Head coach.

    He was a tough old boy and I was a lot closer at that time to Wrestler and NFL player days. He knew I was ready to throw down without fear of him or any GM, NFL Coach, or Executive. It was a big advantage in a game of wills in negotiations and who has the bigger one. When it got to the FU point, and it seemed like a lot with me, wrestling gave me all the confidence I needed. RIP

  12. Rod Munch Says:

    Perkins is the one who hired on Arians at Alabama — and gave us Mike Shula, so thanks for that (not).