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Former Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Jon Gruden says he'll be back coaching again

TAMPA — Chucky says he will stalk the sidelines again.

It took nearly two weeks of listening to stinging criticisms from several players, but Jon Gruden finally broke his silence Wednesday about his stunning firing as coach of the Buccaneers.

Gruden, 45, admitted he was blindsided by his dismissal on Jan. 16, when the Glazer family fired their seven-year coach and replaced him with defensive coordinator Raheem Morris.

But Gruden vowed to continue coaching and has not ruled out working on the collegiate level.

"Chucky will be back and hopefully my teeth will be as sharp as ever," he told ESPN.com on Wednesday.

Gruden will earn about $15 million for the three years remaining on his contract but intends to use his whistle, whether it's "NFL, college, high school or, maybe, I'll just be the best damn flag football coach in the history of Florida. I'm now head of the FFCA — Fired Florida Coaches Association."

While Gruden has maintained his sense of humor, there's nothing funny about the poor characterizations of the ex-Bucs coach offered by current players Michael Clayton and Jeff Garcia and former Buc Simeon Rice.

"I'm not the first coach to take potshots. Hey, some people were taking potshots at Tony Dungy when I got here," Gruden said. "Jeff Garcia, Michael Clayton, I wish those guys the best. I hope Raheem gets this thing going again."

Despite back-to-back winning seasons for the first time in his seven-year career with the Bucs, Gruden's club became the first in 15 years to start the season 9-3 and miss the playoffs. Tampa Bay lost four straight in December.

"It was rough the way it ended, losing three or four games," he said. "This was the first time in my life being on the front line of the firing squad after 11 years. I've just taken a couple days to unwind with my family. A lot of people have called, being very supportive."

The Glazer family, which owns the Bucs, said it took into consideration feedback from players and fans before arriving at the decision to fire Gruden, whose team reached the playoffs twice after winning the Super Bowl in January 2003 but never won another postseason game.

"We won a Super Bowl," Gruden said. "I got a game ball for winning more games than any Bucs coach in history. I got a game ball for my 100th win (including playoff wins). … Again, it was tough the way it ended, but we did some good things, and I know some people who think we overachieved."

Gruden disagreed with the notion that he could not or would not develop young quarterbacks.

"I really only had one young guy to work with in Chris Simms," he said. "I'd love a shot to coach some young college guys. Look, you know me. I'm an addict. I love to coach."

But for now Gruden is keeping his options open and considering an immediate job. He suggested that he might trade in his headset for a microphone "especially if I actually get to talk about football."

Former Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Jon Gruden says he'll be back coaching again 01/28/09 [Last modified: Thursday, January 29, 2009 7:37am]
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