At the start, it looked like it was going to be a good season for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, as they won two of their first three games. Then, as it often does in recent years, the roof of reality caved in, with the Bucs losing to the Saints 30-10 for their fifth straight loss.
(Foot note: Yes, I actually watched the NFL yesterday. I went six weeks without over the whole kneeling controversy, plus week one here in Tampa Bay got wiped out by Hurricane Irma. I think it’s impossible the league didn’t notice, so it’s time to declare victory and move on with baseball season now over and done with.)
When a team underachieves, the sports punditry begins to speculate. Will this lead to the current head coach, Dirk Koetter, being forced out? If so, who will the Bucs hire next?
Since Jon Gruden was fired after the 2008 season, the Bucs have hired four head coaches. They tried the “capable assistant coach” approach with both Koetter and Raheem Morris. They tried the “proven college head coach” approach with Greg Schiano. They tried the “former Super Bowl coach” approach with Lovie Smith, all of which failed. (Six head coaches have taken two teams to the Super Bowl, but none have won the big game with two different teams.)
With the coaching carousel never ending here in Tampa, some got to wondering if Jon Gruden, the only Bucs head coach to make and win the Super Bowl fifteen seasons ago, would take the job in 2018. Gruden’s been in the booth for ESPN calling Monday Night Football games, with the hot rumor being he’d take the job if offered.
As good as the idea sounds and looks on paper, I think it’s a terrible idea. I’ve always argued that the Bucs winning it all in 2002-2003 was with a team Tony Dungy and Rich McKay had built, not Gruden, as he was just there to close the deal. It was a stroke of luck that they played Oakland in the Super Bowl that season, the team Gruden formerly coached. For whatever reason, the Bucs couldn’t parlay that success into a dynasty, as the Patriots have the last couple of decades.
Finally, it was my observations in the 2000’s that Gruden doesn’t mesh with his quarterbacks sometimes, seeming to micromanage them. Putting him back in as head coach with Jameis Winston as his quarterback could wind up being an absolute disaster. Winston is a capable hand who puts up good stats, but it seems to me he gets lost out there in key moments and winds up making bonehead plays. A taskmaster type coach like Gruden sounds like a good fit, but I think it’s more likely there could be a clash of personalities.
Hopefully, the Bucs get off the Gruden bandwagon, but knowing how the Glazers think, it’s possible the wagon has already left the station.