TAMPA — Jon Gruden will be re-introduced as the Raiders head coach at a press conference today in Oakland. He's going to bring energy. He's going to bring excitement. He's going to say things that will be memorable.
>"I'll tell ya what, man, the future is so bright, I gotta wear two eye-patches." >
But Bucs fans are left repeating the same question: Why did Gruden chose the Raiders over the Bucs?
This question assumes a couple things. One, that Gruden and the Bucs had a conversation at some level and/or a mutual interest in him returning to the sidelines in Tampa Bay. And two, there was a choice to be made.
Both sides have denied there ever was a discussion about Gruden coaching the Bucs again.
That's hard to believe on many levels. But assuming there was mutual interest, there must be a number of reasons why returning to the Raiders was more attractive to Gruden. It's all speculation, of course, because nobody wants to go on the record for this story. The Bucs announced that Dirk Koetter would return as the Bucs head coach in 2018.
Let's examine why the Raiders and Gruden may be a better match at this point.
> FOLLOW THE MONEY >
Gruden is receiving a 10-year contract worth $10 million per year, according to reports. Money and control are always the biggest obstacles when determining the value of a head coach.
Forbes values the Manchester United soccer club at $3.69 billion and the Bucs at $1.975 billion, both owned by the Glazer family. Money should not be an issue.
But 10 years? That's a long run as a head coach in the NFL. Nobody has a contract for that term. Whether it's back-loaded or not, Gruden could walk away with a lot of money to not coach. The Glazers fired Gruden after the 2008 season and still paid him $15 million over the next three years. Koetter has three years remaining on his deal and defensive coordinator Mike Smith was given a big raise a year ago.
The Glazers have no trouble paying guys not to coach, but that's an unusually long contract and commitment.
"Crazy,'' is how one member of the Bucs organization described the 10-year deal.
> FOLLOW THE POWER >
Forget the fact that the Raiders have a general manager in Reggie McKenzie. As of Tuesday, he won't have the final say over anything. Gruden gets all the money, which means he has all the power. If Gruden has a weakness it's in the personnel end of things. Once he gained control of that following the Super Bowl victory and installed Bruce Allen as GM, the Bucs' draft classes weren't that stellar.
GM Jason Licht could have worked with Gruden if he was asked, but the Bucs may prefer the current structure.
> RIGHTING A WRONG >
The Bucs have never been to the playoffs since firing Gruden. The Raiders traded Gruden, then watched in horror as he showed up with the Bucs in Super Bowl XXXVII to beat the Silver and Black.
Owner Mark Davis wanted to make up for the sins of the father, Al Davis. But the Bucs are nostalgic about the Gruden era and may prefer to remember the Lombardi Trophy he won and stare at his name in the team's Ring of Honor.
> GRUDEN MAY PREFER THE RAIDERS TO THE BUCS >
Gruden was traded to Tampa Bay. He wasn't fired by Oakland. Of course, Al Davis asked whether he wanted to go, but he was fine coaching the Raiders.
In fact, Gruden has an affinity for the Black Hole. He loves the Silver and Black fans. He's a heavy metal guy, so it's a nice fit.
During the process, friends said that there were two places that were special to Gruden — Tampa Bay, where he still lives, and the Raiders, who will move to Las Vegas. The team is expected to begin play there as early as 2019 with a new stadium planned to open in 2020.
THE BUCS PREFER DIRK KOETTER TO GRUDEN>
It's possible the Bucs came to the conclusion that a reset with Gruden wasn't the answer. The family is said to really like Koetter and believe he is the same coach who went 9-7 in 2016. There were a lot of circumstances out of his control that led to a 5-11 mark. Winston's shoulder injury. The lack of pass rushers. Hard Knocks and Hurricane Irma. Winston played better when he got healthy and the team's effort was never in question. They felt he didn't deserve to be fired.
Gruden has studied the game, so the X's and O's won't be the problem. But players have changed. The rules have changed. You can't spend nearly as much time in the off-season, which will drive him crazy. There's very little contact thanks to the CBA.
Besides, at some point the relationship with Gruden and the Bucs would sour again. How do you fire a coach who's in your Ring of Honor?
Contact Rick Stroud at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @NFLStroud