Buccaneers fire Jon Gruden, GM Bruce Allen

In a rather shocking move, the Buccaneers have fired head coach Jon Gruden and general manager Bruce Allen.

Jon Gruden“We will be forever grateful to Jon for bringing us the Super Bowl title, and we thank Bruce for his contributions to our franchise,” Buccaneers co-chairman Joel Glazer said in a statement. “However after careful consideration, we feel that this decision is in the best interest of our organization moving forward.”

The Buccaneers were tied for first place in the NFC South heading into December, but finished with losses to Carolina and Atlanta on the road and San Diego and Oakland at home, where they had been 6-0. One more win would have landed a NFC wild-card berth.

The 9-7 record this season gave Gruden consecutive winning records for the first time since arriving in Tampa Bay, yet still left the Bucs out of the playoffs for the fourth time in six years.

The Glazer family fired Tony Dungy and used four high draft picks — two No. 1s and two No. 2s — and $8 million cash to pry Gruden away from the Raiders following the 2001 season. He led Tampa Bay to its only NFL title the following year, but the Bucs haven’t won a playoff game since the Super Bowl appearance.

Gruden, who had three years remaining on a contract extension he received after winning the NFC South in 2007, leaves as the winningest coach in franchise history at 60-57, including the postseason.

But since going 15-4, including the Super Bowl, in his first season with the Bucs, Gruden went 45-53 and made quick exits from the playoffs after winning division titles in 2005 and 2007.

I don’t get it. I don’t get why the Broncos fired Mike Shanahan and I don’t get this move by the Bucs – or at least, not the Gruden firing. Allen never supplied Gruden with enough quality personnel to win after 2002. Gruden essentially got by with mediocre offensive talent and Allen never solved the quarterback quandary. But maybe I’m laying blame at the wrong feet. Maybe Gruden had just as much involvement as Allen did in choosing the personnel and that’s why both of them were handed their pink slips.

According to NFL Network’s Adam Schefter, new defensive coordinator Raheem Morris is the favorite to replace Gruden, while Director of Pro Personnel Mark Dominik is apparently set to replace Allen.

With the Broncos, Lions, Browns and possibly Rams’ (Jason Garrett is the leading candidate) head coaching vacancies filled, it’ll be interesting to see if Gruden has to sit out a year before getting his next head coaching gig. Unless the Jets bring him in for an interview or another head coach is set to get the axe, it’s doubtful Gruden will find work in ’09. (Although, he could always become a coordinator or assistant for a year just to keep his foot in the door.)

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