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Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Glazers replace Jon Gruden as coach with plan that could be bold or reckless

TAMPA — Today, you are a Glazer.

You have decided all of the time, money and emotions you have invested in Jon Gruden are no longer paying dividends. You have convinced yourself that the moment is ripe for a change.

You have season ticket holders rethinking their investment, you have fans shouting about your commitment to winning, and you have an offense still stuck somewhere between third and long.

Today, you are a Glazer.

Are you comfortable hiring Raheem Morris?

This is the move the Glazers have already made.

They have tossed aside the coach with the most wins in franchise history, the youngest coach to win a Super Bowl, and a man they are contractually obliged to pay more than $15-million the next few years, in exchange for a 32-year-old who has never been a head coach in his life.

So I suppose this morning you could surely call the Glazers bold.

Or reckless.

You could say they are staying one step ahead of the rest of the NFL.

Or about to fall far behind.

"We have a plan in our mind," Joel Glazer said Friday night, "and, again, that will all unfold."

This is not a family that acts emotionally or with undue haste. They were not crossing this street without knowing what was on the other side.

Remember this:

The last time they fired a coach, they had Bill Parcells waiting in the wings. And when that fell through, they spent dearly, in cash and draft picks, to pry Gruden loose from Al Davis' sanatorium.

The time before that, the family chased Steve Spurrier and Jimmy Johnson before settling on Tony Dungy.

In other words, the Glazers have a history of reaching for the stars, literally and figuratively.

So with Morris and Mark Dominik as the new head coach and general manager, the Glazers have made a strong left turn from their established style. They have gone in-house for the first time. They have gone below the radar for the first time. They have hired people who were not the hottest commodities in the NFL.

No matter how you spin it, that makes this a sizable gamble.

So why do it?

Only one reason makes sense. When you consider the last month of the regular season and the way the Bucs rolled over and played dead, it is not unfair to suggest the players looked unmotivated and uninspired. And if that's what the Glazers saw, then turning to Morris could be a reasonable solution.

He is a high-energy guy. A motivator. A guy young enough to relate to the players, and perhaps the voice needed to get the franchise off the plateau it has been sitting on for too long.

In other words, he's kind of similar to Jon Gruden in 2002.

The Glazers did not consider Dungy a poor coach when they fired him after the 2001 season. They just grew tired of waiting for him to find an offense, and they had to wonder whether he had lost the ears of his players.

Gruden's voice was the biggest difference in taking the Bucs to the Super Bowl a year later. Yes, his offense was better by season's end. And, yes, he made some nice game-day decisions. But mostly, he lit a fire under the players.

That fire has since grown dim, and the Glazers are ready for another voice.

Of course, there's a big difference this time.

In 2002, Gruden had already reached the postseason as an offensive coordinator and a head coach. And Rich McKay had already spent nearly a decade as an NFL general manager. With Morris and Dominik, the Glazers are buying faith more than experience.

Honestly, I don't know whether that's a mistake. And neither do the Glazers.

But, if nothing else, it is a change.

And the time did seem right for that.

John Romano can be reached at romano@sptimes.com.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Glazers replace Jon Gruden as coach with plan that could be bold or reckless 01/16/09 [Last modified: Saturday, January 17, 2009 12:31am]
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