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Gruden has high expectations for Buccaneers

Posted: Wednesday February 20, 2002 5:47 PM
Updated: Wednesday February 20, 2002 9:23 PM
  Jon Gruden With an average salary of about $3.5 million per season, Jon Gruden will be the fourth-highest paid coach in the NFL. AP

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) -- Jon Gruden likes what he's seen of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He won't, however, guarantee a Super Bowl right away.

"I'm not going to make a lot of bold predictions at this time. All I can guarantee is a lot of hard work and effort," the 38-year-old head coach said after being formally introduced Wednesday as the seventh coach in team history.

The sons of Bucs owner Malcolm Glazer lured Gruden from the Oakland Raiders early Monday, ending a long, sometimes embarrassing search for a replacement for Tony Dungy.

Gruden, who had one year left on his contract with the Raiders, received a five-year deal worth about $17.5 million just hours after the Glazers finished talks with San Francisco's Steve Mariucci about becoming Tampa Bay's coach and general manager.

"I had a good job in Oakland. We won some games there. I was fully content to continue to work with the Oakland Raiders and hopefully take our team further in the playoffs," Gruden said.

The Glazers feel they got the perfect fit for the Bucs -- an offensive coach for a team that thrives on defense but has had a sluggish offense. Gruden coveted the Tampa Bay job because he grew up in the area and still has family here.

"There's been a lot of speculation about different jobs the last three or four weeks," he said. "It never really distracted me very much because there's been a lot of speculation since I got to Oakland. But when I woke up Monday and found out I was coming back to Tampa, where I'm from, I was excited."

Gruden shared a podium with his wife, Cindy, and Malcolm, Joel and Bryan Glazer. Although Malcolm introduced the new coach, neither he or his sons spoke or took questions during the news conference.

One person who wasn't on hand was general manager Rich McKay, whose future with the team is uncertain.

The Glazers pursued Bill Parcells as Dungy's replacement without McKay's input, vetoed the GM's recommendation to hire Mavin Lewis two weeks ago, and then finished the search without McKay's help.

McKay interviewed last week for the Atlanta Falcons' GM job.

"We have spoken to Rich and we plan on continuing our discussions over the next few days and into next week," Bryan Glazer said in a statement.

Gruden said he would like to have the opportunity to work with McKay, who has a year left on his contract.

"He's distinguished himself as a top-flight football man. I'm eager to see him back with us," the coach said.

With an average salary of about $3.5 million per season, Gruden will be the fourth-highest paid coach in the NFL behind Washington's Steve Spurrier ($5 million), Seattle's Mike Holmgren ($4.5 million) and Denver's Mike Shanahan ($4 million).

But the price to pry Gruden from Oakland was high for the Bucs, who surrendered two first-round draft choices and two second-round picks in addition to $8 million over three years.

Gruden inherits a team in far better shape than the one Dungy took over in 1996. The Bucs made the playoffs four of the past five seasons and are one of just three clubs -- along with St. Louis and Miami -- that have earned postseason berths each of the past three years.

"I have a high amount of respect for the current status of our football team. They're highly competitive," Gruden said. "There are some inspiring characters already here. I look forward to working with the players and doing everything in my power to put a great coaching staff together and take this franchise to another level."

The Glazers grew impatient with Dungy's offenses, which struggled to score points and undermined Tampa Bay's chances of realizing Super Bowl expectations.

The Bucs overcame a slow start to go 9-7 this season. But Dungy's fate was sealed after the club failed to score a touchdown for the second straight year in a first-round playoff loss at Philadelphia.

Parcells was the first choice of the Glazers. When the two-time Super Bowl winner decided against coming out of retirement, Gruden became the main target of an arduous search that hit a low point when the owners rejected McKay's plan to hire Lewis.

The Glazers were determined to bring in an offensive-minded coach, and Gruden fit that profile and also had the name recognition that the owners felt was essential, too.

Gruden was 40-28 in four seasons with the Raiders, including a 2-2 mark in the playoffs where he led Oakland to a berth in the AFC Championship Game two seasons ago.

The Raiders were the only team to repeat as division champions this year and came within a controversial second-round overtime playoff loss to New England of getting back to the conference title game last month.

Oakland lost in the playoffs to the eventual champions two years in a row -- two seasons ago the Raiders were beaten by Baltimore in the AFC title game.

One of Gruden's first orders of business will be putting together a coaching staff. The Bucs' deal with Oakland prohibits any Raiders assistants from accompanying him to Tampa Bay.

The Bucs retained their entire defensive staff when Dungy was fired. 14. Gruden will serve as his own offensive coordinator, and Monte Kiffin likely will remain as defensive coordinator.


 
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