Let’s just get into it: Two weeks ago I asked for those interested in writing for Buc ‘Em to shoot me an email with their interest. Several folks have done so. In an effort to weed out the weak links, I gave each interested party two scenarios in which to demonstrate their writing capabilities upon.
The two scenarios are as follows:
(1) The Buccaneers recently fired Head Coach Jon Gruden and General Manager Bruce Allen… Do you agree with the decision? Why or why not? If you had to pick a replacement Head Coach who would it be?
(2) Par for the course… If you had to choose 10 more years of Monte Kiffin esque defense or 10 years of New England Patriot offense (minus the cheating), which would it be? Who was/is your favorite Buc on Offense and Defense?
The contestants responses follow below… Be sure to vote on who you would like to see featured here at Buc ‘Em:
Jon Gruden is gone. After 2002 when I was seventeen, I didn't expect to read that sentence until I at least turned forty. There would be a celebration parade down Dale Mabry, where Bucs greats like Derrick Brooks, Aqib Talib and Robert Marve joined Coach Gruden to pound that rock one last time in the Ray Jay. It would be as moving as when Billy Graham came to speak in the big sombrero. Like the rest of my teenage fantasies, this one did not come true.
After the 2006 season, I expected the Glazers to let Jon Gruden go. I wanted the Glazers to let Gruden go. Even if he could find his next Rich Gannon/Brad Johnson for the 2007 season (which he almost did with Garcia), I was unconvinced that Gruden was capable of bringing another Superbowl victory back to Tampa. It was weird, Gruden was still spitting hellfire on the practice field and in the news room, yet he didn't seem to care as much as he used to. Chucky went from scary intense to borderline apathetic. Gruden gave the impression that coaching was his job not his dream. There is no one explanation for it: maybe that's what happens when you start coaching so young (what will Mike Tomlin be like in five years?), or when you stay in one place for too long or when your ego exceeds your talent. Regardless, in 2007, like a talented athlete fighting for his job security in a contract year, Gruden delivered just enough to keep his job.
Now that he has been fired, I expected myself to be a little shocked. The man did help us win a superbowl. Call me greedy, or if you are feeling generous, optimistic, but the only emotion I am experiencing is, for lack of a better word, hope. Hope that the Bucs will work towards consistency on both sides of the ball. Hope that the Bucs will be in contention each year, not every other year. Hope that the Bucs will remain a source of pride for the community and not just an investment opportunity for Houlihans, Inc. (I never would have expected that the firing of Jon Gruden would make me come across as Martin Fennelly channeling his inner Obama. Maybe I am taking this worse than I initially thought.)
Before ruminating on who should replace Gruden, I have to discuss the firing of Bruce Allen. The firing of Allen was more surprising than the downsizing of Gruden. I genuinely think that over the last two to three years, Allen has done a good job. He placated the Glazers, kept Gruden happy and drafted relatively well. I give Allen a lot of credit for not overspending on flashy free agents (did anyone see what happened to Javon Walker in Vegas, come on!) in favor of building a talented, young offensive line. I'm sure that the Glazers will maintain their fiscal interests by keeping a short leash on Allen's replacement. I do not assume a substantial change between Allen and his replacement.
Finding Gruden's replacement will be difficult. There are a lot of things that I like about Jon Gruden as a coach. He is a tape-rat. He is aggressive. He takes calculated risks both with his playbooks and with his roster. He has won the big game. These are all things that the Bucs must replace when seeking a new head coach.
There are three ways the Bucs should approach finding Gruden's replacement. Like we learned from the Parcells debacle, you have to have multiple options:
OPTION A: Promote Monte
He is practically a head coach as it is. He is well-respected amongst the team, the NFL and the fans. I don't need to explain to this audience why Monte would be a great head coach. This is also a timely choice as Monte is not getting any younger. It would allow the Bucs to keep some of their talented assistants through offering promotions. With Monte as the head coach, I would promote Raheem Morris to defensive coordinator. With younger assistants getting the chance to interview for coordinator and head coaching vacancies, it is important that we keep our own talented, young assistants happy and in Tampa. Losing Raheem would be a substantial blow to this organization, especially with so many talented young players in the secondary.
The next question is who gets to take over the offense. My first choice is Bob Bratkowski. Bratkowski is a proven offensive coordinator who has done a great job in Cincinnati, Pittsburgh and Seattle. Bratkowski knows how to call a balanced playbook and can teach the Bucs how to master the no-huddle offense. Bratkowski should be offered Kiffin's current deal as an assistant head coach/offensive coordinator. Bratkowski would love to work with the Bucs talented offensive line and running backs to set-up what will become a dynamic passing game (remember – Ocho Cinco was a second round pick and Housh was landed in the seventh). If anyone can convince Bratkowski, who has been a coordinator since the 1990s, the merits of staying put as a coordinator, it is Kiffin.
OPTION B: No Monte, Bring in Marty
Marty Schottenheimer is one of the most under-rated coaches in the league. He knows how to motivate players. He keeps teams in the playoff hunt year after year. He is a walking football encyclopedia. And most of all, he can bring good people to work with him. For example, Marty could call up his previous assistant Rob Chudzinski and offer him the position of offensive coordinator/head coach. Chudzinski is a great offensive mind who turned Cleveland around using Derek Anderson as his quarterback. Derek Anderson! Before this season, Anderson was right there with the McCown brothers as going straight to the CFL in four years.
The Marty hire is modeled after what the Cowboys did with Wade Phillips and Jason Garrett. While Marty is much more forceful than Wade (that's an understatement), Marty is no longer physically capable of coaching for another five years. Letting Marty know that he will coach the team for a few years in addition to grooming his successor should be enough to assuage the old curmudgeon.
Chudzinski has a healthy attitude towards both the game and those that play it. Describing his coaching philosophy, Chudzinski stated:
"It's important that (players) feel like you're there to make them the very best they can be and that you care about them as people as well. There has to be a trust factor that you're doing everything you can to help them and they're reciprocating." – Rob Chudzinski
The Chud is by no means a Tony Robbins' proselyte. He is a hardnosed football coach who is well remembered from his playing and coaching days with the Hurricanes. Chudzinski's energy and smarts should make him a prime coaching prospect by 2009. I say we get ahead of the curve by hiring him now.
OPTION C: No Marty, Mooch it is:
Steve Mariucci could work with this offense. Not only is Mariucci's playbook similar to Gruden's, he happens to have a great relationship with Garcia. I know that Mariucci did an awful job in Detroit, but I think he is worth looking at again. He did not have the right personnel or support in Detroit. Not only was he working with Matt Millen, he was playing with an awful offensive line and a quarterback that should have been a piano player, not an NFL quarterback. Mariucci is a gifted tactician who has demonstrated that he can win in the playoffs. New England proves that taking a second chance on a former head coach can payoff tremendously as a person can often learn more from their failures than their success.
R.I.P. Chucky. I am sure that you will be resurrected somewhere else. And then somewhere else after that. And somewhere else after that.
SO GRUDEN AND ALLEN GOT FIRED? WELL I`M A BIT SURPRISED SINCE WE MADE THE PLAYOFFS PRETTY MUCH EVERY YEAR, BUT GRUDEN HAD A HABIT OF RUBBING EVERYONE THE WRONG WAY. I DO BELIEVE DUNGY HAD ALOT TO DO WITH US WINNING THE SUPER-BOWL. GRUDEN JUST HAD THAT LITTLE EXTRA SPARK WE NEEDED TO TURN THE PAGE, PLUS HE WAS NEW AND FRESH AND WE WERE ALL EXCITED HE WAS HERE. SO I THINK A NEW COACH WILL BRING BACK THAT FIRE WE NEED AGAIN. YOU CAN ONLY PUT UP WITH A "JERK" FOR SO LONG BEFORE ENOUGH IS ENOUGH. AS FOR ALLEN WHO CARES WHERE HE ENDS UP, WHERE EVER IT IS YOU CAN BET GRUDEN IS NEAR-BY. HOW DO I FEEL? I`M OKAY WITH IT AS LONG AS WE BRING IN SOMEONE THAT CAN FIRE UP THIS TOWN AND THE BUCCANEER ORGANAZATION. AND THAT WOULD BE BILL COWHER, YEAH MAN, BILL COWHER!
Honestly, give me a Cover 2 anyday of the week over a offense that scores a lot. What good is an offense that scores 50 if the defense gives up 51. The tampa 2 defense has changed the face of almost every defense. If you name the top 5 defenses in the NFL at least 3 play tampa 2. The bears, colts, vikes, bucs, and soon the steelers will be running the tampa 2. To me its the best defense in the league especially if you can get a big linebacker who can stop the run and play the pass. The new england offense may outscore most teams but we all saw what happened when they ran into a pass rushing team. The patriots wish they had the bucs defense last year. Other than brooks and barber and maybe adams we did that with youth and first year players.
My fav buc all time is Warren Sapp. I grew up watchin him sack brett favre and will always see him as the best pass rushing tackle. His is a hall of famers in my book.
Ideally, I would choose 10 more years of balanced football. In this world, the Bucs would have a defense that may give up close the league's average in points, but can make a stop when needed. This defense would be complemented by an offense that eats up clock and scores on a consistent basis. The offense won't be attempting to break records; rather they will be focused on doing what they have to do to win football games week in and week out.
When asked if I want 10 years of great offense or 10 years of great defense, I want to create a panel of Bengals fans and Ravens fans. Who has it worse? Well, I'll say the Bengals because it must be heartbreaking to put up forty-eight points and still lose. I'd rather hold the greatest show on turf to 11 points and almost win any day of the week. I am a Buc fan and my football identity is tied to the history of the bucs from 1994 until the day I die. I came to love football by watching the Bucs hold their opponents to next to nothing. My room was adorned with photos of Warren Sapp chasing down Brett Farve. If I really want to watch high-scoring games because of sloppy defense, I watch college football. When I watch the NFL, I expect tackles to be made, fumbles to be recovered and quarterbacks to be under a constant swarm of pressure. Anything else is a disappointment. Great professional football starts with a great defense. Even a mediocre offense can get hot at the right moment (Eli anybody?), but a solid defense is needed to ensure consistency in the win-loss column.
In light of this, my favorite Buc on offense was Paul Gruber. Gruber was as consistent and loyal as they came. He shored up a weak offensive line for too many years as he got to briefly be a part of the new Bucs era. Gruber grounded out his opponents by improving his technique and never letting his body go. Gruber, like Lee Roy Selmon, had the chance to leave for greener pastures, but he didn't. Still living in Tampa today, Gruber is a local hero who keeps giving back to the community.
My favorite defensive player was/is John Lynch. Lynch was not the most talented player to come through the Bucs organization, but he was one of the most memorable. He played with reckless abandonment, to the point where he would even injure his own family members (remember when he took out his brother-in-law, a tight end with the Bears). Like Gruber, Lynch is a smart player who is better than he should be because of his insane work ethic. Lynch goes out to the desert to train in the off-season. Lynch's departure from the Bucs still hurts, but I can understand it. What I still don't understand is Warren leaving the Bucs and going to the Raiders. Any other team in the AFC would have been fine, but the Raiders? That knocked him off the top spot.
I`M GONNA HAVE TO GO WITH THE KIFFIN DEFENSE OVER THE PATRIOT OFFENSE. WITHOUT A DEFENSE YOU ARE DEAD IN THE WATER IN THIS LEAGUE. AND MONTE HAS A WAY OF GETTING THE MAX OUTTA EACH AND EVERYONE ON THIS DEFENSE AND I WOULD LOVE TO SEE THIS TREND CONTINUE. MY FAVORITE BUC ON OFFENSE WAS AND ALWAYS WILL BE MIKE ALSTOTT. I WATCHED THE GAME WERE WE PLAYED CLEVELAND AND HE WAS ALMOST PASSING OUT FROM THE HEAT AND THE REPS BUT HE WAS CARRYING HALF THE DEFENSE ON HIS BACK EVERY TIME HE TOUCHED THE BALL. AND HE DID THAT ALOT. HE GAVE IT HIS ALL AND ACTUALLY BROKE HIS NECK FOR US! FOR THAT HE`S MY FAVORITE OFFENSIVE PLAYER. MY FAVORITE DEFENSIVE PLAYER IS A TOUGHER CHOICE. GOTTA GO WITH `OL QB KILLA WARREN SAPP. HE WAS SO DISRUPTIVE ON EVERY PLAY AND REALLY BROUGHT IT ON EVERY DOWN. I REMEMBER THE FIRST TIME HE PLAYED, HIS FIRST SNAP IN FACT, HE ALMOST SACKED THE QUARTERBACK IN THE END ZONE FOR A SAFETY IN A PRE-SEASON GAME. I FREAKED OUT! I SAID OH, OH! THIS GUY AINT NO JOKE! BUT THERE IS MANY PLAYERS BOTH OFFENSE AND DEFENSE THAT I REALLY COULD PICK AS MY FAVORITE SO THATS A TOUGH QUESTION.
I wanted to thank the contestants for their interests and may the best
man writer win!!!