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Oakland Raiders-Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Evaluating the greatest trade in Tampa Bay sports history

Former Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Jon Gruden raises the Superbowl trophy as he is introduced at halftime, for the 10th anniversary of the game. GAME SUMMARY: The Philadelphia Eagles play the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium on Sunday. The Philadelphia Eagles won 23-21. [DANIEL WALLACE, Times]
Published Oct. 28, 2016

The greatest trade in the history of Tampa Bay sports didn't involve one single player.

Monday, Feb. 18, 2002. The Tampa Bay Bucs traded two first-round draft picks, two second-rounders and $8 million to Oakland to get coach Jon Gruden.

In the short term, the deal was a winner for both teams as Gruden got both teams to the next Super Bowl. In the first season after the trade, Gruden's new team beat his old team soundly in Super Bowl XXXVII.

Gruden scorched the earth behind him in both places.

These days, Chucky heads up his famed Fired Football Coaches of America and is one of the biggest names in football as the larger-than-life analyst of Monday Night Football and self-proclaimed Quarterback Whisperer.

Meantime, the Raiders and Bucs meet this Sunday at Raymond James Stadium with both teams starting to take baby steps to regain their glory days. It has been tough sledding since Gruden departed both franchises.

And that begs the question:

Would you do the trade again?

Depends on which franchise we're talking about.

If you're the Raiders, probably not. Since that Bucs-Raiders Super Bowl in January of 2003, the Raiders not only haven't made the playoffs, they haven't had a winning record. In the past 13 seasons, the Raiders, who did very little with all those picks, have had nine coaches and a 63-146 record. Losing Gruden was the beginning of the end. The Raiders' 5-2 start this season is the first sign of hope in more than a decade.

Oh, and there's this: the Raiders might move to Las Vegas.

Think the Raiders would want a mulligan on Gruden? You bet. They didn't even get a Super Bowl trophy out of it.

What about the Bucs?

Since that Super Bowl victory, the Bucs have made the playoffs twice — both under Gruden. They haven't won a playoff game and haven't even made the postseason since 2007. They are on their fourth coach since Gruden was fired after the 2008 season.

So, considering all that, you think the Bucs will still do the Gruden trade?

Every day and twice on Super Bowl Sunday.

Regardless of what Gruden left behind and the state of the franchise for the past six or seven years, there's one reason why the trade was absolutely worth it: that big silver Lombardi Trophy sitting in the glass case at One Buc Place.

Championships. That's what matters. That's all that matters.

While every team would love to be a dynasty like the Patriots or even a consistent winner such as the Steelers, Seahawks or Packers, the reality is the league is cyclical and there is but one goal: win the Super Bowl.

What is better? To have a good team for 10 years but never win a Super Bowl? Or be mediocre to lousy for nine years, but then win a Super Bowl? Would you rather be the old Bills, losers of four consecutive Super Bowls? Or would you rather be the Bucs, who at least had a championship parade?

For a franchise that might have been the sorriest in sports for darn near 25 years, nothing could ever be better than a Super Bowl. No matter what it took. No matter what happened after.

Know what else the famous Gruden trade did?

It gave us the best bar-stool discussion in the history of Tampa Bay sports:

Gruden or Tony Dungy?

Did Gruden win the Super Bowl or did he win it with "Dungy's players?''

It's an argument that never will be settled. Maybe they both were responsible.

But this much is an absolute fact:

The Bucs had never won a Super Bowl. Dungy was fired. The Bucs tried to get Bill Parcells. They flirted with Marvin Lewis and Steve Mariucci and then gave up the farm to get Gruden. Less than a year later, they won a Super Bowl. Jon Gruden was the coach.

That makes the trade — the one that involved no players — the greatest trade in Tampa Bay sports history.

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