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House of horrors

'Chucky' Gruden buries Raiders in Super Bowl XXXVII

Posted: Sunday January 26, 2003 10:45 PM
Updated: Monday January 27, 2003 12:51 AM
  Jon Gruden Jon Gruden is the youngest head coach in NFL history to win a Super Bowl title. AP

SAN DIEGO (AP) -- Jon Gruden wanted his story to be a sidebar buried in the sports section. Guess what, Coach? You were the Super Bowl headliner.

Gruden knew so much about his former team and its quarterback that he designed a perfect game plan, which his Tampa Bay Buccaneers used to rout the Oakland Raiders 48-21 in the Super Bowl on Sunday.

After coaching the Raiders for four seasons, Gruden was effectively traded by Al Davis to the Buccaneers last February for two first-round draft picks, two second-round picks and $8 million.

The deal proved to be worth every penny -- and pickoff -- to the Bucs.

Because when the Raiders and Buccaneers made it to the Super Bowl, it was advantage, Gruden. The best pirates on the field were the ones dressed in red and pewter, not silver and black.

NFL MVP Rich Gannon, one of Gruden's best friends on the Raiders, was intercepted a season-high five times. And Gruden's bunch returned three of those picks for touchdowns.

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"Every play they've run, we've run in practice," Tampa Bay strong safety John Lynch, who was miked for TV, said on the sideline before halftime.

In Thursday's practice, Gruden even took over as quarterback on the scout team and ran several plays.

"The film illustrates that I did complete two or three passes. I was very intimidating under center," Gruden joked after the game, surrounded by his wife and three young boys.

"I've got great respect for Rich Gannon as a quarterback. I wanted our team to just get a feel for what it was going to be like with him in command. He's a special guy, and I wanted them to try to feel it a little bit," he said.

Gruden "is still bragging" about Thursday's practice, Lynch said. "He took it down the field. It was probably because we were laughing so much."

Junior Achievers
Youngest head coaches to win a Super Bowl
Years Days
Jon Gruden, TB 39 162
John Madden, OAK 40 274
Joe Gibbs, WAS 42 66
Chuck Noll, PIT 43 7
Don Shula, MIA 43 10
 

Seriously, though, "he gave us a tremendous scouting report," Lynch said.

"Jon Gruden was Gannon," Bucs defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin said. "Nobody can be like Gannon like Gruden can. He taught Gannon. He was in Gannon's head."

Linebacker Derrick Brooks said Gruden's practice appearance "was a huge key for us, to try to give us a small glimpse of how Rich Gannon sees defenses. We were embarrassed because he completed two passes," Brooks said, laughing.

The lesson paid off, though. Brooks, the NFL's defensive player of the year, scored on a 44-yard interception return with just more than a minute left in the game.

Gannon downplayed Gruden's insider knowledge, saying that Oakland's coaches knew his tendencies, too. Most of them worked under Gruden, including Raiders head coach Bill Callahan.

"I don't know if that was a major factor," Gannon said. "I just think their defense played really well and we didn't play well offensively. As a team we didn't play well."

Still, Gannon called it a "nightmarish performance. You hate to have an exhibition like that in this kind of thing."

Gruden's knowledge of the Raiders was probably best illustrated when cornerback Dwight Smith stepped in front of Jerry Rice for a 44-yard interception return and a 34-3 lead with 4:47 left in the third quarter.

As Smith raced toward the end zone, Gruden was a few feet out on the field, running along behind the play, pumping his right fist and then thrusting both arms in the air, a huge smile on his face.

In the closing seconds of the first half, he also pumped his fist and ran onto the field after Keenan McCardell caught a 5-yard touchdown pass from Brad Johnson, capping a 78-yard, 10-play drive that gave the Bucs a 20-3 halftime lead.

Gruden's twisted smile has earned him the nickname "Chucky," a reference to his striking resemblance to a bloodthirsty doll from a horror movie.

He's incredibly intense, showing up for work just after 3 a.m. every day. He dissects film in a room he calls his "football laboratory."

At Tuesday's media day, Gruden was making those funny faces at all the questions about facing Davis and his old team. On Friday, Gruden said it had been "a real strange week for me."

And on Sunday, he led the Buccaneers to their first Super Bowl title, in their first try.

Tampa Bay has the NFL's most dominating defense, and it handled the Raiders so thoroughly that red-clad Bucs' fans chanted, "BOR-ING, BOR-ING," as Gannon broke out of the huddle to begin a drive late in the third quarter.

Dexter Jackson, the game's MVP, had the first two interceptions against Gannon. Smith also had a 50-yard interception return for a TD, with two seconds to play.

 
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