Make us your home page
Instagram

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Gruden season has begun, and it could get awkward

TAMPA — One week before Christmas, Jon Gruden will walk out of the ESPN broadcast booth during Monday Night Football and onto the 50-yard line at Raymond James Stadium.

The man who was responsible for winning the Bucs' only Lombardi Trophy with a 48-21 victory in Super Bowl XXXVII will watch as his name is unveiled Dec. 18 into the team's Ring of Honor.

Men will scream. Women will weep. The place will go Spider 2 Y Bananas.

GRU-den! GRU-den! GRU-den!

He's deserving of it all. So why is this suddenly a thing to worry about at One Buc Place?

Because after Sunday's 15-10 win over the New York Jets, the Bucs are 3-6. By the time Hank Williams asks his rhetorical question before the MNF game against the Falcons, they could be 4-9 or 3-10.

On Sunday before the Jets game, NFL insider Jason LaCanfora of cbssports.com became the latest to report speculation of Gruden returning to the Bucs as head coach, saying it is ''hardly out of the question," citing league sources.

You have to believe Dirk Koetter wasn't one of those sources.

Gruden was fired by the Bucs along with general manager Bruce Allen after losing the final four games in 2008 to finish 9-7, narrowly missing the playoffs. It's true that since then he has mended fences with the Glazer family, attending several team events over the years.

He is only 54. By comparison, Koetter got his first NFL head coaching job with Tampa Bay last year at 57. What's more, last week Gruden told the NFL Network's Rich Eisen he hasn't ruled out a return to the sideline.

"It's in your blood," Gruden said. "You get some people calling maybe to see if you're interested in coaching again and maybe if you can help recommend a couple guys. I'm pretty much involved with every level of football every day of the week, so I try to help if I can.

"One of these days, who knows, Rich? One of these days, you never know."

Gruden Hog Day officially began Sunday when the University of Tennessee fired head football coach Butch Jones. Gruden began his coaching career there as a grad assistant, and it's where he met his wife, Cindy.

This has become an annual routine for Gruden's agent, Bob Lamonte.

If it's November, college football programs from the Power Five conferences are calling to inquire whether Gruden is ready to trade in his microphone for a whistle. If it's December, it's the NFL owners looking for a head coach who come calling.

For the last nine years, Gruden's answer has been no thanks. But there are reasons to believe if he ever is going to return to coaching, it will be sooner than later. His youngest son has two years remaining in high school. ESPN is expected to announce 100 layoffs sometime after Thanksgiving, Sports Illustrated has reported. That doesn't mean Gruden will be among them, but it's evidence that the Disney-owned cable company isn't doing great.

Remember when Gruden visited One Buc Place in August before his news conference announcing his election to the Ring of Honor? He stuck his head into the quarterbacks meeting room to offer words of encouragement to Jameis Winston.

When Gruden left, there were chuckles and a comment, "He doesn't miss ball much." But that's why he studies film in his role at ESPN, the Fired Football Coaches Association and Gruden's QB camp.

Who knows what the Glazers think of the job Koetter is doing this season. But he's only in his second year as an NFL head coach. And it's undeniable that the Bucs' season got away from them after Winston's shoulder injury. He fought through the pain but went 0-4, scoring only nine points combined in the first half of those games.

The Packers, Dolphins, Texans, Cardinals and Vikings all have lost starting quarterbacks. Only Minnesota with Case Keenum is thriving playing their backup.

If the Glazers believe Koetter was the right coach to turn things around the way he did last season, not much has changed other than Winston's sore right throwing shoulder. The defensive line hasn't played great, but it's hard to sack the QB when you never have a lead. The run game has stalled, but teams have stacked the line of scrimmage daring the Bucs to beat them deep.

Maybe between now and Dec. 18, the Bucs will go on a little win streak. In the meantime, Gruden will be linked every coaching job, including the one he got fired from.

Contact Rick Stroud at stroudbucs@aol.com. Follow @NFLStroud

Gruden season has begun, and it could get awkward 11/13/17 [Last modified: Monday, November 13, 2017 7:52pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Rays agonize over which prospects to protect on 40-man roster

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — That the Rays went right up to Monday's 8 p.m. deadline in deciding to add seven players to the 40-man roster, and that a couple they left off seem to be potential Rule 5 draft losses, was apparently a good thing.

    Brent Honeywell, who was a standout at the All-Star Futures Game and impressive in his Triple-A stint, was added to the Rays’ 40-man roster and could compete for a major-league job in spring training.
  2. Florida A&M football coach Alex Wood resigns

    Sports

    TALLAHASSEE — Alex Wood resigned as Florida A&M football coach Monday, two days after the Rattlers completed their season.

  3. Bucs journal: Dirk Koetter says Doug Martin's not at fault for struggling running game

    Bucs

    TAMPA — RB Doug Martin had just 38 yards on 19 carries in Sunday's win against the Dolphins, but coach Dirk Koetter said his team's struggles running the ball shouldn't go squarely on his running back.

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver DeSean Jackson (11) warms up before the start of an NFL game between the New England Patriots and Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla., on Thursday, Oct. 5, 2017.
  4. UF has little to say after meeting with Kelly

    College

    GAINESVILLE — At last, there's some actual smoke to the Chip Kelly-Florida rumors.

    Chip Kelly wasn’t so great in the 	NFL, but in his four seasons at Oregon, the Ducks were 46-7 while averaging at least 36 points every season.
  5. Lightning impressed with improved offense from defensemen

    Lightning Strikes

    BRANDON — At one point during Saturday's game against the Islanders, the Lightning was first in the NHL in points and second in points scored by its defensemen. That's one reason the team is off to the best start in franchise history.

    Lightning defensemen such as Victor Hedman (77) and Jake Dotchin (59), shown celebrating with Nikita Kucherov, Steven Stamkos and Alex Killorn, are playing bigger offensive roles this season.