Gruden's future?

Sal Paolantonio has an informative article on the State of the Bucs on ESPN.com today. It's a good read for those who have not been following the Bucs closely this off season and raises some of the issues the Bucs will have to deal with this season.

The first is Gruden, who is in danger of losing his job if he doesn't produce this season.

"Of course, there have been the predictable cries that Gruden didn't actually win the Super Bowl -- that Tony Dungy's players won it and Gruden was just along for the ride. Well, of course, you could say that about nearly every head coach. Nevertheless, Gruden wears the ring."

To me, this is one of the most annoying criticism of Gruden. I think he should actually be applauded for winning with the players that Dungy brought. Fact is, Dungy could not win in the playoffs with the Bucs.

True, Gruden did bring in Michael Pittman, Keenan McCardell and Joe Jurevicious. But he won with a suspect offensive line and an immobile quarterback, Brad Johnson. In Oakland, Gruden had depended on just the opposite, a strong offensive line and a mobile quarterback in Rich Gannon. Put more simply, Gruden won with Dungy's guys.

Anytime a new head coach steps in for a college or NFL team that coach is given a 2 or 3 year grace period to turn the team around. Why? Because the head coach needs to bring in "his type of players". But Gruden was successful in his first season, and that immediate success has now hurt him. People wonder why Gruden was able to win so many games his first year with the Bucs and then they look at how the Bucs have done lately. These people are the same ones who criticize Gruden for winning with Dungy's guys.

You want a reason for why the Bucs haven't been successful the last two years? Simple, no early round draft picks and the salary cap. Veteran players cost much more than rookies, for example on the free agent market an experienced defenseive end would go for about $5 million. The 1st round defensive ends from this years draft are expected to sign for $2-3 million. The Bucs have had a difficult time replacing some of the veteran players who have left lately, Warren Sapp, John Lynch, Warrick Dunn, etc. In the NFL you need to replace key players through the draft and the Bucs have been unable to do this the last couple of years.

As a final thought, I think that the Glazers plan on keeping Gruden around for the long term. They essentially invested 2 1st round picks and 2 2nd round picks in him. If you gave up that much for a guy why would you get rid of him so soon, especially when he won you a Super Bowl? If the Bucs struggle this season (and considering their suspect o-line, that could happen) plenty of people will call for Gruden's head. Here's hoping the Glazers are wise enough to ignore those idiots, and hold onto this young and talented coach.

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