The dismissal of offensive coordinator Mike Shula is a move that stuns Tampa Bay assistant coaches and one that coach Tony Dungy had opposed.
Bucs offensive coordinator Mike Shula was fired Wednesday night, a move that stunned Tampa Bay's other assistant coaches at the Pro Bowl and one opposed by coach Tony Dungy.
Dungy informed Shula of his dismissal during a private meeting at the Ihilani Resort, where the Bucs coaching staff had gathered to direct the NFC squad for Sunday's all-star game.
Dungy told other members of his coaching staff of Shula's firing during a meeting at 10:30 p.m. EST.
Shula, who continued to install the offense for the NFC team in practice Wednesday morning, planned to return to Tampa this morning and was unavailable for comment.
It was unclear who would serve as the offensive coordinator for Sunday's Pro Bowl game.
In a meeting described as somber, Dungy told his other assistant coaches that he expected the rest of the staff to be retained, although none officially had been given a contract extension.
Shula, 34, had served as offensive coordinator since Dungy was hired in 1996. But Tampa Bay's offense did not show much improvement throughout his four seasons, finishing 28th overall last season and 30th in passing offense.
The Bucs did not score a touchdown in an 11-6 loss to the eventual Super Bowl champion Rams in the NFC title game Jan. 23 _ the fifth game in which they failed to reach the end zone last season.
Earlier Wednesday, Dungy said he hoped the impasse he, general manager Rich McKay and ownership had reached could be resolved and his entire staff would be signed for the 2000 season.
"That would be my hope, but it's out of my hands," Dungy said. "Truly out of my hands."
After a conference call involving Dungy, Bucs vice presidents Brian and Joel Glazer and McKay Wednesday evening, Dungy notified Shula that he would not be given a new contract. Apparently, ownership and McKay insisted Shula not return next season.
Dungy has been a staunch supporter of Shula, who never had been an offensive coordinator until he was hired by the Bucs. He is the first member of Dungy's original coaching staff to leave.
Before the '99 season, Dungy relieved Shula of his duties as quarterbacks coach and appointed Clyde Christensen. But the Bucs offense did not show much improvement.
Dungy was asked Wednesday if he had a responsibility to his defensive coaches and players to make the offense better, even if it meant changing his coaching staff.
"Of course I do," he said. "I also know this. We've been through one round of the playoffs (in '97); we've been to the NFC championship. And we're trying to get to the Super Bowl. I know people have their opinions on how to get there and I may have my opinions on how to get there, too. And I may be wrong, but I have my opinion."
Dungy is winningest coach in Bucs history and the man who guided his team to within 4:44 of Super Bowl XXXIV behind third-string and rookie quarterback Shaun King.
"We have to throw better, obviously, and that's something we've wanted to do for the last three years and something we're going to continue to work on," Dungy said.
"You can't make excuses, you've got to go in with what you have.
"We had our rookie quarterback and third and fourth offensive tackles playing in the noise where you couldn't hear. You can't go in thinking you're going to have a lot of time to drop back and throw deep."
Before Wednesday's meeting, Dungy predicted that the Bucs would offer contract extensions to all his assistant coaches, rather than split the staff.
"I really can't get into that," he said. "I don't know what's going to happen.
"I just hope it all gets decided."
How Bucs ranked
under Mike Shula
How the Bucs offense ranked in the NFL with Mike Shula as offensive coordinator:
Year Total Rush Pass Pts
1999 28 15 30 28
1998 22 4 27 19
1997 29 11 30 24
1996 28 22 29 30