By Bill Smith
Yesterday, the Glazers who own the Buccaneers fired both GM Bruce Allen and head coach Jon “Chuckie” Gruden. Reports from Tampa indicate that both were at work yesterday and were “blindsided” by the move. Gruden becomes the second head coach with a Super Bowl win on his resume to be let go this year. Denver fired head coach Mike Shannon earlier this month.
While Gruden was shocked, perhaps he shouldn’t have been. He won his Super Bowl with the team that built and trained by his predecessor Tony Dungy and the former GM Rich McKay. Gruden was obtained by Tampa in a trade for 4 high draft choices (2 1st round and 2 2nd round) and 8 million in cash with the Raiders before the 2002 season. In 2002 Tampa went 12-4 and won the Super Bowl beating the Raiders. That got him some time. In 2008, the team was playing well and got to December with a record of 9-3. Then Tampa lost to consecutive games to Carolina, Atlanta, San Diego. After the team lost a humiliating game to the Raiders in the final game of 2008 and missed the playoffs with a 9-7 record, Gruden’s time was up. The December swoon was not unique. Gruden teams had won only 2 games in the last 3 seasons in the month of December.
Overall Gruden went 60 and 57 in his years at Tampa including playoff games. However, in the last 6 years of his stay the team made the playoffs only twice losing in the wild card game each time. So what happened?
A large part of the problem is that Gruden changed QBs faster than most men change TV channels. He got Texas QB Chris Sims in the 03 draft but didn’t like him. Simms played in a total of 5 games starting 2 in his first two years. He didn’t develop until 2005 then suffered a ruptured spleen in 2006. Gruden brought in a covey of veteran QBs including Jake Plummer who retired rather than report to the QB grinder that Tampa had become. The QB merry-go-round in 08 included Browns reject Jeff Garcia, Bronco and Bear reject Bryan Griese, and Luke McCown who has been rejected by just about every team in the league as well as Josh Johnson a 5th round draft choice out of San Diego. The starter Garcia who had a decent 2008 was allowed to become a free agent after the 08 season. After the firing of Chuckie was announced, Garcia said he would not be back in Tampa if he had to play for Gruden.
Allen joined the team in 2004. He was hired to replace GM Rich McKay who resigned due to differences with Gruden. The team lost leadership when he cut both John Lynch and Warren Sapp within days of taking the job. Allen had a lot of draft choices that never paned out. To be fair, he did draft Cadillac Williams who was outstanding until a career threatening injury ended his season in 4th game of the 2007 season.
Allen, who is the son of Hall of Fame coach George Allen, was also criticized for allowing salary cap money to go unused. Because of a lack of success of draft choices, Tampa relied heavily on free agents. That too was given as a reason the Glazers were dissatisfied with him.
Both men received contract extensions in January 08 that was supposed to carry them through the 2011 season. Problems developed between Allen and Gruden over—guess what—QBs. Gruden wanted Allen to take Trent Edwards in 2007 draft and Brady Quinn 2008 but Allen did not. Gruden reportedly wanted Allen to trade for Bret Favre in 08 but again Allen was able to prevent it and won the battle over draft choice and free agent QBs. However, both combatants lost the war.
Reportedly the Glazers had a serious disagreement with both Gruden and Allen over the future direction of the team. In that kind of spitting contest, ownership always wins. Raheem Morris is rumored to replace Gruden. Allen may also be replaced internally by Mark Dominic.
Morris was the DBs coach last year and had just promoted to defensive coordinator in December replacing long time DC Monte Kipen who will join his son Lane Kipen in Tennessee. In 04 and 05 Morris was an assistant DB coach. In 06 he had a successful season as DC for the Kansas State team. He came back to Tampa as DBs coach and in 07 he helped the team become the top pass defense team in the league. Now it looks like Morris will be the next head coach.
Mark Dominic has been with the Bucs since 1995 and has been the Director of Pro Personnel for the last 9 years. While he has spent his career in pro scouting and talent evaluation, he has very little experience in college scouting. That is very often a problem for first time GMs. In college scouting, you have to find the jewels among the late round picks. Evaluating small school players is also a problem for those that have no experience doing it.
In my opinion, Tampa made the right choice in firing Allen but not in removing Gruden. Gruden has done quite a bit without a real QB. The NFL is a QB driven league. That is particularly true in the last few years. Without a franchise quality QB, the offense sputtered.
While he came with a reputation of an offensive guru and having the ability to develop QBs, he never had a chance in Tampa. I don’t think they will have more success with Morris or anyone else they could get. They waited until several of the high profile coaching candidates had already found jobs. There were rumors that key members of the team felt many players did not like Gruden. That may be true. The position of HC is not a popularity contest. I doubt he had lost the locker room. Chuckie suffered from a lack of young talent that resulted in a long injury list almost every year. Free agents and older players tend to go down more often than young ones do.
Allen missed on several key early picks and had never really shown the ability to find the late round picks that develop into key starters. That is the difference between the good GM and the great one. Given the teams lack of success in the past few seasons, Allen had to go.
That’s what I think. Tell me what you think.
Bill Smith is a former coach of several semi-pro teams, has officiated both football and basketball, done color on radio for college football and basketball and has scouted talent. He is a senior writer for NFLDraftDog.com and edits fryingpansports.com. He has also published several novels on and edits .Gruden and Allen forced to walk the plank. by Bill Smith