It’s not a good sign of your football team’s success if you’re invited, but nonetheless Bucs coach Jon Gruden and his staff jumped at the chance to coach the 58th annual Under Armour Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama on January 27.
Through the Senior Bowl's working agreement with the National Football League, the NFL office traditionally selects coaching staffs for the game based on the team with the worst record that season from each conference. In turn, those franchises obtain a privileged view of the best college talent available for an entire week.
Gruden and his Bucs staff previously served as the coaches for the South team in 2005. That’s where he became enamored with Auburn’s Cadillac Williams whom the Bucs’ selected with their first round pick that year. Tampa Bay also drafted four other Senior Bowl participants that year in linebacker Barrett Ruud, tight end Alex Smith, guard Dan Buenning and defensive tackle Anthony Bryant. In his final press conference on Monday, Gruden made public his desire to return to Mobile to coach the Senior Bowl, saying, “If you’re listening out there, we’d love to be back.”
Gruden’s wish came true. The Bucs received word Friday of their invitation. Detroit, which finished the season 3-13, was unable to attend due to coach Rod Marinelli’s hip replacement surgery and therefore the Bucs (4-14) were next in line.
“We are extremely excited about the opportunity to work with and coach the nation’s elite senior players,” said Buccaneers general manager Bruce Allen. “The Senior Bowl staff and city of Mobile do an outstanding job of putting on this premier sporting event and we are anxious to be a part of it.”
“Yes, I love it,” Gruden said earlier in the week. “It’s a great tool to get ready for the draft, to get to know these guys.”
In 1999, Gruden and his Oakland Raiders coaching staff, coached the Senior Bowl’s North team which lost to Tony Dungy and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers coaching staff. Tampa Bay also drafted a handful of Senior Bowl participants that year, including defensive tackle Anthony McFarland, quarterback Shaun King, kicker Martin Gramatica and safety Dexter Jackson.
More than 700 general managers, head coaches, assistant coaches, scouts and front office personnel attend Senior Bowl practices. However the Bucs will be further advantaged with permission to bring their training, video and equipment staffs to Mobile.
Gruden and his staff will coach the Senior Bowl’s North team, while 49ers head coach Mike Nolan and his staff will handle coaching duties for the South squad.
Oakland (2-14) was the first option to coach the North, but with head coach Art Shell’s firing, it was not possible.
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