1977: Drafting Ricky Bell number one overall instead of the other RB
It can’t be stressed enough that this is not an indictment on Ricky Bell the player, far from it. Bell was a very good running back that played an instrumental part in head coach John McKay’s five-year plan for taking the Bucs from worst to first. The drafting of Bell is on this list because of what could have been.
Heading into the 1977 Draft, two running backs were head and shoulders above all the other prospects. They were Bell of USC and Tony Dorsett of Pittsburgh. Dorsett was a former National Champion and Heisman Trophy winner, (and future Pro Football Hall of Famer) but Bell was recruited and coached by McKay during the end of his tenure at USC.
The kicker here is, Dorsett publicly stated that he didn’t want to play for one of the two expansion teams, the Buccaneers or the Seattle Seahawks who owned the number two overall pick that year. So while he didn’t have the leverage of playing another sport like other players (hint-hint for later) the Buccaneers and McKay at least had the familiarity of Bell to fall back on.
So while the running of Bell, passing of quarterback Doug Williams (and a fantastic defense) lead the Buccaneers to the NFC Championship Game in 1979, Dorsett won a Super Bowl with the team that traded with Seattle, the Dallas Cowboys, as a rookie and ran all the way to the Hall of Fame. All things considered, this has to be on the list.