Bucs fire coach, general manager
TAMPA, Fla. -- A Super Bowl title bought Jon Gruden time, but ultimately couldn't save his job.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers dismissed their fiery coach and general manager Bruce Allen on Friday, three weeks after the team completed one of the biggest collapses in NFL history, losing four straight games following a 9-3 start to miss the playoffs.
ESPN.com's John Clayton and Pat Yasinskas reported that according to multiple sources, the Bucs would hire defensiver coordinator Raheem Morris as head coach and pro personnel director Mark Dominik as general manager to succeed Gruden and Allen. The team scheduled a news conference for 3:30 p.m. ET Saturday, at which it was expected Morris and Dominik would be formally introduced.
Gruden was a rising star when he was hired seven years ago to take over a team built by Tony Dungy, and led it to the Super Bowl win. But Gruden guided the Bucs to the postseason only two more times after becoming the youngest coach to win the NFL title in January 2003.
That wasn't nearly enough for the sons of owner Malcolm Glazer, who took their time before deciding they had seen enough of aging quarterbacks, mediocre drafts and a coach and general manager who often pinned the blame for poor finishes on injuries.
Gruden, who was 39 when the Bucs beat Oakland in the Super Bowl, went 60-57 in seven seasons, including a 3-2 mark in the playoffs. Allen was general manager for the past five seasons in a reunion of a relationship that began when both were with the Raiders.
"These decisions are never easy. This is the toughest decision you can make for an NFL franchise. ... Jon and Bruce are consummate professionals. They've poured their heart and soul into this franchise," Buccaneers co-chairman Joel Glazer said. "It's really been an honor to work with them. They gave their all."
A source close to Gruden said the coach was "blindsided" by the move, ESPN's Chris Mortensen reported.
The Bucs 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 secured a NFC wild-card berth.
Jon Gruden started fast with the Buccaneers, winning a Super Bowl in his first season. Tampa Bay ran its record to 9-3 this season before it lost four straight and missed the playoffs. Here's a breakdown of Gruden's career in Tampa:
|Postseason W-L||3-1||0-1||*Won Super Bowl XXXVII|
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 and prompted the Glazer family to reevaluate the direction of the franchise.
"Any time a season ends, especially the way our season ended, it's a very, very emotional time. And one thing we always like to do is not act on emotion, let things simmer down, think through things carefully and not make any quick, rash decisions," Glazer said.
"After taking a lot of time to look at our franchise, look where it's been, look where it is, look where we want to go, we just felt this was the time for a change."
That change appears likely to come from within the organization.
Morris, 32, has made a meteoric rise from being Hofstra's defensive backs coach in 2000-2001 to likely head coach of the Bucs in 2009. Morris was on the Buccaneers' defensive coaching staff from 2002 to 2005, was defensive coordinator at Kansas State in 2006, and returned to Tampa Bay as the defensive backs coach in 2007 and 2008.
Morris interviewed for the Broncos' head coaching position after Mike Shanahan was dismissed. Morris was promoted to defensive coordinator of the Bucs after Monte Kiffin left for the University of Tennessee.
Dominik joined the Bucs in 1995 as a pro personnel assistant. He was a candidate for the Chiefs general manager job that eventually went to Scott Pioli.
The Glazers fired Dungy after consecutive first-round playoff losses in Philadelphia 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 was an instant hit, retooling an inept offense and riding a defense that ranked No. 1 in the NFL to the Super Bowl.
Interestingly, his firing came four days after Dungy announced his retirement after a successful seven-year run that included one NFL title with the Indianapolis Colts.
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.
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 at home after winning division titles in 2005 and 2007.
This season's collapse continued a trend of playing poorly late in the year. Since winning the Super Bowl, Tampa Bay is 9-17 in the month of December.
"This isn't a decision that's made on one play or one game or one week or one thing," Glazer said. "You look at the totality of the situation, evaluate it, look at where your franchise is. For us, the goal is to build a championship team that can compete year in and year out."
Gruden and Allen both received contract extensions last winter after the Bucs went 9-7 and won the NFC South for the second time in three seasons. However, Glazer said that was not a consideration in Friday's decision.
"At the end of every season we sit back and look at everything. We did that last year and went forward with the extensions," Glazer said.
"But at the end of the day, every year we feel we owe it to this football team and this community to do a good honest assessment of our franchise. If at any point, we feel that change is in our best interest, we feel we have to make that change. That's where we got to in this situation. You can't let decisions you made a year ago affect a decision today."
The team co-chairman said there's no timetable for naming a successor. When Dungy was fired, the Glazers conducted a meandering search that lasted more than a month after a deal they had to lure Bill Parcells out of retirement fell apart.
They settled on Gruden, who had one year left on his contract in Oakland, after also considering Marvin Lewis and Steve Mariucci for the opening.
Glazer declined to answer questions about possible successors.
"In our mind, there's a plan of where we want to go," he said. "We've thought it through very carefully. It will become apparent as we move along."
ESPN senior NFL analyst Chris Mortensen, ESPN.com's John Clayton and Pat Yasinskas and The Associated Press contributed to this report.