On Thursday, Tampa Bay Buccaneers general manager Bruce Allen revealed that offensive coordinator-offensive line coach Bill Muir, special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia and wide receivers coach Richard Mann had signed contract extensions with the Buccaneers and that the team has extended a contract to defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin. Allen also addressed his contract status and the contract situation of head coach Jon Gruden. The contracts of Allen and Gruden have one year remaining and are set to expire after 2008.
“I meet with the Glazers frequently during the season and obviously talk to them after our game,” Allen said regarding Gruden’s contract situation. “That’s something that at the appropriate time we’ll talk about. Right now, Coach Gruden wanted me to address his assistant coaches first, and that’s what we’re doing.”
The Buccaneers are heading into an important stretch of offseason time when they will be attending the East-West Shrine Game next week, the Senior Bowl the following week and the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis in early February. But the priority at One Buccaneer Place from Allen’s perspective appears to be getting Kiffin’s contract taken care of first before addressing the issue surrounding Gruden’s deal.
The Buccaneers’ general manager was asked if Gruden heading into the final year of his deal as a “lame duck coach” might hinder the efforts of luring in hew assistant coaches or signing free agents who might be reluctant to come to Tampa Bay and work under a coach whose contract is up after the 2008 season. Although common sense may suggest otherwise, Allen did not think it would be an issue.
“Our coaches are very confident of the plan we have in place here,” Allen said. “Actually, free agents aren’t supposed to be calling us until March 1, but I guess our phone number is published so they can find it. I don’t see that as an obstacle whatsoever. But at the right time, we’ll deal with it. The team is really excited about where we are right now. The players that got valuable experience this year from games 1-16 are excited about the opportunity to come back. The players – the young guys – on this team know what is expected of them in an offseason program. They know what is expected of them in the classroom.
“The best way we can improve our team is to get those 14 guys from the injured reserve list healthy again because that would be the greatest increase in talent. We finished the season with 53 men on the roster, but we also had the 14 injured reserve players that we’re looking at as a new group of free agents. We’ve to get them back into the system healthy again, competing for starting playing time and special teams playing time in order to improve this team. If you add that type of quality to a 53-man roster, that’s a great leg up on free agency.”
Allen was also asked about the coaching job Gruden, who is 48-48 during the regular season in his six years in Tampa Bay, did in 2007. Coming off an 11-5 record and an NFC South title in 2005, Gruden’s Buccaneers underachieved last year, turning in a disappointing 4-12 season.
But Gruden was better able to deal with injuries that hit in 2007 thanks to a deeper roster and tight team chemistry. The result was a 9-7 record this past season, a five-win improvement over 2006, and another NFC South title, his third division crown in six years, which is a franchise record.
“Jon, and you can read [Bucs public relations director] Jeff Kamis’ [weekly media release] each week. He’s like Jon’s agent with where he ranks with division titles and wins under [the age of] 45 and where he stands in NFL history,” Allen said. “Jon has performed well this season. Really, the resiliency of this bunch and the tightness of this group were very impressive. Coach Gruden is obviously the leader of this team, but I think there are so many other people that are involved in this and they got their leadership probably from Coach Gruden. The assistant coaches and the players – the way they responded to every situation they were put in was impressive.
“There are certain things that don’t go into Jeff Kamis’ books of statistics that are impressive. I saw from training camp when we give backpacks to kids from the Glazer Foundation, the offensive line’s Thanksgiving Day turkey giveaway program was something that is so proud of. And I know that some of [the media] have written about it – the reaction of this team – the spontaneous reaction of this team when Paris Warren gets injured. And it’s not just 45 guys because it’s a regular season game, it’s a 75-man roster going out because one of their brothers is down to give him some support. It puts a tingle down my back and I’m very proud of that. It’s about everyone who is on injured reserve. It’s everybody who is involved in our training room and our staff that brought this team together. Yes, as head coach, Jon is responsible for that.”
Allen, who became the Buccaneers’ general manager in 2004, signing a four-year deal with the team, was also asked if he had received a contract extension or would be asking for one in the near future.
“I think that will take care of itself,” Allen said. “So much of what we do in personnel and with the building has to do with future thoughts, but right now there are some immediate things that need attention and we are taking care of that. So, at the appropriate time, I’m sure we’ll talk about that.”
In 2004, Gruden was given a raise and a contract extension that made his deal and Allen’s deal coincide and expire after the 2008 campaign.
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Scott Reynolds is in his 25th year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds spent six years giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: email@example.com