Jeff Garcia, addressing last week's firing of Jon Gruden for the first time Wednesday, said the Bucs "needed the change" and believes the coach's poor relationship with players played a key role in his dismissal.
The quarterback had a long-running feud with Gruden and general manager Bruce Allen stemming from the team's preseason courtship with Brett Favre and its reluctance to renegotiate his contract last summer. And it was long believed Garcia's two-year relationship with Gruden had deteriorated.
"I know for me, personally, going through that with him was a very difficult time, disappointing time," Garcia said before a community relations appearance in Tampa, according to WTSP-Ch. 10. "But the one thing that I always tried to look back on or reflect on was that I wasn't the first and I won't be the last. If it continues to be this way with players, it is going to get to a point where somebody who is above or in control will say, 'Enough is enough.' I think that's what it got to.
"There are players who were here … before I got here who had their own experiences of how they were treated or how they were misled. For the two years that I was here, I enjoyed my experiences on the field with Coach Gruden. But there were some things that obviously rubbed me wrong. And I'm sure they were not easy to deal with."
Garcia's assessment of Gruden's handling of players mirrored receiver Michael Clayton's sentiments hours after the firings were announced Friday.
Garcia also suggested Gruden should share in the blame for the team's late-season collapse: "Statistics don't lie. When you look at how the team played in December, when you don't finish strong like you need to finish, and especially when you're in a playoff hunt like we were this year, we have to be accountable as players. But everybody has to take responsibility.
"With Jon being … the head guy here a number of years and having different players come in and out and yet the end of the season not really changing as far as how the team is finishing … then that's something that needs to be focused on. And you need to find answers. And if the answer was changing the head coach and changing up the staff a little bit, then that's what they had to do."
Garcia, a free agent who turns 39 on Feb. 24, said of his future: "I am open to listening if they want to talk. … The ball's not in my court. It's in theirs."