EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

September 19, 2013

Time for Tampa to bring back Gruden

David Moulton
The Eagle-Tribune

---- — Why don’t the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, coming to Foxboro this weekend, just admit it?

They made a mistake.

Five years ago, the Bucs, for whatever reason, fired head coach Jon Gruden. Gruden had an up-and-down seven years in Tampa Bay.

Four winning seasons produced three division titles and the franchise’s only Super Bowl win.

Yet Bucs fans reacted to the news that Gruden was fired in January 2009 the way Florida Gators faithful handled coach Urban Meyer retiring.

They knew they’d probably be better off with him, and he did things they’d never done before, but they were never emotionally attached to him so it was not that big of a deal.

How about now? Absence make the heart grow fonder? It should.

Raheem Morris replaced Gruden and went 17-31 during his three years.

Greg Schiano replaced him and is 7-11 early in his second season.

The 7-11 record doesn’t look so bad, except he was 6-4 after his first 10 games. That’s a smooth 1-7 since. The Bucs are 0-2 this season and visit New England Sunday.

Schiano is feuding with the guy GM Mark Dominik drafted five years ago to be their franchise quarterback.

Josh Freeman completed 61 and 63 percent of his passes the two years before Schiano arrived. Despite adding a top wide receiver (Vincent Jackson) and running back (Doug Martin) two years ago, Freeman completed 54 percent of his passes last year and 45 percent so far this year.

In other words, everything is getting worse.

Schiano was brought in because the team lacked discipline and he was going to instill it. Why then has no team over the last eight games committed more penalties than Tampa Bay?

This Schiano experiment does not appear to be working.

It may.

There’s still plenty of time left to turn things around this season.

But if they do not, can the Bucs really afford to do nothing?

They are not selling enough tickets to avoid local blackouts, and if Schiano couldn’t groom Freeman, after he appeared fully groomed, do you trust him to mentor the next Bucs quarterback?

Gruden turned 50 last July.

He still lives in Tampa.

He won a Super Bowl with less talent on offense than the current Bucs team has. Besides, who could Tampa Bay hire that would be more qualified or have a better track record? Bill Cowher.

That’s about it.

Only problem, Bill doesn’t seem interested in returning to coaching.

Those that knock Gruden as “having won with Tony Dungy’s players” forget he went 11-5 with Brian Griese and Chris Simms at quarterback in 2005 and 9-7 in 2007 and 2008 with nearly 40-year-old Jeff Garcia. The only time the Oakland Raiders have been any good in the last 20 years? When Jon Gruden was in charge.

Don’t tell me you can’t go home again. Bill Snyder has at Kansas State, and nearly had the Wildcats playing for the national title last year. Joe Gibbs did it at Washington, and while he did not win any Super Bowls like he did the first time, he did take the Redskins to the playoffs twice — or the same number of times they’ve been to the playoffs without him -- and win a playoff game, which no one else has done since the 1970s.

Tampa Bay made a mistake. The Bucs can easily correct it. Bring back Gruden.

Contact Naples Daily News columnist David Moulton at sports@naplesnews.com. This column is distributed by Scripps Howard News Service, shns.com.