Thursday, November 23, 2017
Sports

Jones: The idea of Gruden and the Bucs beats the reality

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Jon Gruden to the Bucs?

Sounds like one sloppy, happy mess.

It would be one part delicious, one part debacle and all parts completely compelling.

I can see it now.

The Bucs season ends Dec. 31. They could hire Gruden before we finish off Auld Lang Syne.

What a way to start the new year.

The fans would love it. The ticket office would love. The media would love it.

It would be awesome. For one day.

Jan. 2, 2018:

Wow, look what the Bucs did! Jon Gruden is back as Bucs coach!

Then Jan. 3 comes and reality sets in:

Oh no, what did the Bucs do? Jon Gruden is back as Bucs coach!

I love the splash of hiring Gruden. I’m just not sure I love the actual hiring of Gruden.

Hey, I like Gruden. What’s not to like? The way he walks. The way he talks. The Chucky face. And, yeah, the guy knows a thing or two about football. Hiring Gruden gives the Bucs something they don’t currently have: relevancy.

But, you know, I’ve seen this movie before.

The first half was Oscar-worthy. Gruden rode into town on a white horse, took over a pretty good Bucs team and in his first season led it to the only Super Bowl this franchise has ever won.

That part was great.

Then came the second half of the movie. The flop part.

After the Super Bowl, he went 45-51 in six seasons and never won another playoff game, getting fired after the 2008 season. He changed quarterbacks like he changed socks. From Brad Johnson to Chris Simms to Brian Griese to Bruce Gradkowski to Jeff Garcia.

If he had lasted another year or two, he would have burned through another quarterback or two. That’s how he operates.

So, do we really need a sequel?

Come to think of it, why would Gruden even want a sequel in Tampa Bay?

He can’t possibly top what he has already done here. He has won a Super Bowl. His name will go on the Bucs Ring of Honor this season. He’s already a legend.

The only way it can get better is to come back and … what? Win two Super Bowls?

This is assuming he even wants to coach again.

There are plenty of rumors about Gruden. There always are. The Bucs want him. The University of Tennessee wants him. If Notre Dame keeps losing like it did in Miami, the Fighting Irish will want him.

And he always keeps the door open whenever he is asked. Of course he does. That’s the smart play.

But he already has a good job. He is a fan favorite calling games for ESPN. He is paid well ($6.5 million, and that doesn’t include endorsements). And he never has the pressure of having to win.

Then again, let’s say he misses the adrenaline that only coaching provides. Let’s say he misses the competition. Let’s say he can’t live without coaching, that it’s in his blood.

Why come back to a place simply to repeat what you’ve already done?

Granted, there’s plenty about the Bucs that might appeal to Gruden.

He lives here, so there’s that. He wouldn’t have to move his family, buy a new house, fill out change-of-address forms.

And, perhaps, he really likes quarterback Jameis Winston. The key to any head coaching job is having a decent quarterback, and maybe Gruden thinks he can lift Lombardi Trophies with Winston as his quarterback.

Still, there are other jobs and other quarterbacks outside of the one place that fired you even after you won a championship.

So what would the Bucs like about Gruden?

For starters, he has won a Super Bowl. That carries a lot of weight on a resume. And he’s a name.

But after that, there are questions.

Will he demand complete control of the franchise even though he’s probably better off just being the head coach?

Will he sour on Winston too quickly and start another revolving door at quarterback?

Will the coach who loves veterans be patient in rebuilding this thing right with kids?

Of course, we are way ahead of ourselves here. At last check, Dirk Koetter is still the head coach, and unless the Bucs take a complete nosedive the rest of the season, he should be the coach again in 2018.

But Gruden’s name is starting to creep into the rumor mill.

So, I have to admit, it sounds fun.

Until it actually happens.

Contact Tom Jones at tjones@tampabay.com. Follow @tomwjones.

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