Bucs fire Jon Gruden and GM Bruce Allen
In the stunner of the off-season, the Bucs have fired head coach Jon Gruden and general manager Bruce Allen.
Co-chairman Joel Glazer said Friday night his family was 'extremely frustrated,' by the Bucs' failure to reach the playoffs four times in the past six years.
Tampa Bay was the first team in 15 years to start 9-3 and fail to reach the playoffs, losing their last four games in a row. That historical collapse also included blowing a 10-point fourth quarter lead to the 4-11 Oakland Raiders in the regular-season finale at Raymond James Stadium.
"We were extremely frustrated,'' Glazer said. "The losses are as hard today as they were 14 years ago and the way the season ended obviously was terribly disappointing. But, you know, it's not just one thing. It's four losses ast the end of the season. It's look at our franchise and see where we are and where we want to go.''
Glazer said Friday night the family waited several weeks to pull the trigger on Gruden and Allen because they didn't want to make an emotional decision after missing the playoffs. The Bucs have not named any successors.
But indications Friday night were that the Glazers planned to name defensive coordinator Raheem Morris head coach and pro personnel director Mark Dominik the general manager.
Glazer indicated they have already settled on a plan going forward but won't prepared to reveal it Friday.
"After a lot of careful consideration -- a lot of thought went into this -- and in our mind there's a plan where we want to head with this whole thing,'' Glazer said. "And we'll keep you up on that as things unfold.''
"I think after a lot of careful consideration, letting emotion die down, we just felt that it was time for a change.
Glazer said he met with Gruden and Allen personally to inform him the Bucs had decided to go another direction, one year after signing both to three-year extensions.
"Bruce and Jon are consummate professionals,'' Glazer said. "I want to respect what was discussed between us and them. But we had discussions today and they've done a lot of great things for this franchise. And this is never something that's easy. These are very difficult decisions and very difficult times because you see how hard people work.''
One possibility is promoting Dominik to the GM position with defensive coordinator Raheem Morris as head coach. Recently fired Broncos head coach Mike Shanahan would also seem to be a strong possibility.
ESPN quoted a source saying Gruden was 'blindsided,' by his firing Friday. Gruden was not at his north Tampa home or Reddington Beach condo Friday night. Allen came to the door of his Avila home in Tampa but had no comment.
Gruden was 57-55 as the Bucs head coach but failed to win a playoff game after the Super Bowl season, going 45-51 after his debut.
Last week, Allen said the Glazers were 'unsatisfied,' and that they 'live in a world of championships.'
The list of coaching candidates available include Shanahan, former Steelers coach Bill Cowher, former Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren and Dungy, who rertired Monday from the Indianapolis Colts to return to his family in Tampa.
The Bucs also have Morris, 32, their recently-named defensive coordinator who was a candidate for the Denver Broncos head coaching job. If the Glazer family believes Morris is going to eventually be a successful head coach -- following in the footprints of Steelers coach Mike Tomlin -- he would be the speculative favorite.
Glazer indicated Friday that the team planned to continue their structure of separating the GM and coaching duties.
"We've been pretty happy with the setup we've had here,' Glazer said. "We've always been very comfortable with a coach and a general manager. It's one of our fundamental beliefs.''
The Bucs have $46-million under the salary cap, which should be attractive to prospective coaches and general managers.
Players were understandably stunned by the timing of the news of Gruden's dismissal Friday, but not entirely surprised.
"How do you build a championship team with all the inconsistency?' receiver Mike Clayton said.
"You have to do it the right way. I've always been a person who feels like you reap what you sow. You have to treat people fairly.'
When asked what he wished Gruden would've done differently, Clayton said, "It's about showing more confidence in your players. He was kind of a turncoat. He'd tell you one thing and then do something else.''
Earlier Friday, the Bucs announced the hiring of Joe Barry as linebackers coach.
Gruden won three NFC South titles with the Bucs and became the youngest coach, at age 39, the youngest coach to win the Super Bowl.
The Bucs traded two first-round picks, two second-round picks and $8-million to the Oakland Raiders for Gruden.
But a rift between Gruden and then-general manager Rich McKay developed in 2003 and ended with McKay accepting a similar position with the Atlanta Falcons with a few weeks remaining in the season.
Gruden was responsible for the hiring of Allen, whom he had worked with at Oakland. But Allen's strength was salary cap management, not player personnel, and the talent level may have dipped as a result.
The Glazers obviously felt that Allen and Gruden had enough draft picks and salary cap room to improve the team and a 9-3 start buttressed that belief. But about the time defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin announced he was leaving at the end of the season to join son Lane at the University of Tennessee, the Bucs defense fell apart.
"Our ultimate goal every year is to win a championship,'' Glazer said. "And that's always been our goal and it will remain our goal and we're going to go about things to attain the goals we believe in. And we have core fundamental beliefs that we've had since the day we got here. And we thought it was important for our core fundamental beliefs that we make a change.''