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Shortly after Tampa Bay’s 20-6 Week 1 loss in Seattle some of Jon Gruden's detractors were calling for the Bucs head coach to be fired. It wasn’t just that loss that caused their displeasure and frustration with the Bucs and the team’s head coach. The fact that the Bucs have produced three losing seasons over the past four years certainly has something to do with the wave of criticism Gruden is attempting to swim through.
But the dogs have been called off for at least one week thanks to Tampa Bay’s impressive 31-14 win over New Orleans at Raymond James Stadium last Sunday.
Believe it or not, some of the conversation in the fan community has turned from Bucs fans calling for Gruden’s head to asking when he might receive a contract extension.
This is probably a little peculiar, but Titans head coach Jeff Fisher – not Gruden – probably has had more to do with the contract extension questions regarding Tampa Bay’s head coach and offensive playcaller.
Earlier in the week, Fisher, who was in the final year of his contract with Tennessee, signed a contract extension through 2011. According to several published reports, Fisher’s new deal is worth anywhere between $5.5 million and $6 million.
How does Fisher’s deal relate to Gruden’s situation in Tampa Bay?
Well, both head coaches have had produced similar results over the past six seasons, but Fisher has received a new contract in Tennessee while Gruden is said to be in danger of losing his job in Tampa Bay.
Fisher has an overall regular season record of 106-94 with Houston/Tennessee since 1994. He’s taken the Titans to the playoffs four times during his 13-year tenure with the organization.
Gruden’s overall regular season record as a head coach with Oakland and Tampa Bay is 78-68. Gruden has taken both teams to the playoffs two times each, giving him the same amount of playoff appearances as Fisher, but in less time (Gruden became the head coach of the Raiders in 1998).
Both Fisher and Gruden have each taken their respective teams to the Super Bowl. However, Tennessee lost to St. Louis under Fisher while Tampa Bay defeated Oakland under Gruden. Fisher’s overall post-season record is 5-4. Gruden’s is 5-3.
While both head coaches have had success, they’ve also had their fair share of recent woes with their respective teams.
The Super Bowl brought salary cap challenges to both Tennessee and Tampa Bay. In fact, the Titans have produced an overall regular season record of 18-32 since 2004 and have gone three straight years without a winning season. The Buccaneers have actually posted three more wins (21-29 record) and one more playoff appearance than the Titans since ’04.
Since 2002, the Fisher-led Titans have posted a 41-41 regular season record. The Buccaneers, under Gruden, have just one less win and are 40-42 since Gruden’s arrival in Tampa Bay. Ironically, the Bucs and Titans have each been to the playoffs twice since ’02.
Their production as head coaches has been very similar, which begs the question why wasn’t Fisher placed on the hot seat that Gruden currently resides on in Tampa Bay?
The biggest factor that might have led to Fisher’s contract extension was the fact that the Titans have won seven of their past nine regular season games. The Buccaneers have won just three of their past nine regular season contests.
The Buccaneers extended Gruden’s contract by one year shortly after the team hired general manager Bruce Allen during the 2004 offseason. While the Bucs’ 7-9 record didn’t necessarily warrant an extension, the Glazers wanted to make the contracts of Gruden and Allen coincide. Both of their deals are currently set to expire after the 2008 season.
Most NFL head coaches never enter the final year of their contracts – a situation that often times labels them a “lame duck coach." The coach usually receives a contract extension or is fired.
Heading into the 2007 season, most Bucs fans wanted to know how many wins the Bucs would need to have for Gruden and Allen to keep their jobs in Tampa Bay.
The Glazers haven’t commented publicly on the status Gruden or Allen after 2007. They’ve only stated that they expect “improvement” from the Buccaneers this season. The Glazers have not said it, but most pundits believe both the head coach and general manager will be fired if significant improvement isn’t shown in 2007. Expect that to mean at least an 8-8 season if not a playoff berth.
But based on Fisher’s new contract, improvement could not only save their jobs for another year, it could also earn Gruden and Allen contract extensions since it’s unlikely that either one of them would enter 2008 with one year remaining on their deals.
Isn't it a bit weird how Gruden and Allen are in a feast or famine scenario where they could either get canned or rewarded with a new contract depending on how the Buccaneers perform this year?
Here are some nuggets to hold you over until next week.
• Linebacker Jeremiah Trotter has been inactive for his first two regular season games as a Buccaneer. Not only is he making progress in that regard, Trotter has already established himself as a leader at One Buccaneer Place. The Bucs believe Trotter will be able to help lead his new team from the football field on Sundays sooner rather than later. “Jeremiah is closing in on that,” said Gruden. “I’ll also give him a lot of credit. He’s one of our best leaders in the locker room at this time. He’ll get his shot at some point.” But how exactly will that shot come when the best player on defense through the first two weeks of the season has been middle linebacker Barrett Ruud?
• Tampa Bay elected to have second-year quarterback Bruce Gradkowski back up starter Jeff Garcia vs. New Orleans, which surprised some people since Luke McCown served as Garcia’s backup in Week 1 vs. Seattle. The move shouldn’t have been too big of a surprise since McCown struggled in relief of Garcia in Seattle. However, Gruden suggested McCown and Gradkowski would take turns being the No. 2 quarterback each week until one of them can solidify the position. “Both are good players and both of them have done good things,” Gruden said of Gradkowski and McCown. “I don’t think there’s a clear cut second-team quarterback right now. I want to keep both of these guys in it and on their heals a little bit. I want to keep their fingers in the pie.”
• Speaking of quarterbacks, the Bucs should be in the playoff race come December as long as Jeff Garcia stays healthy. Two weeks into the 2006 regular season, Chris Simms had a total of six interceptions. Two games into the 2007 regular season, Garcia has yet to throw his first pick as a Buccaneer and has completed 67.4 percent of his passes for 444 yards and tossed two touchdowns for a quarterback rating of 116.8.
• How big is Tampa Bay’s upcoming game vs. the St. Louis Rams? Well, after the Bucs’ game vs. the Rams, three of their next four games are on the road. In fact, the Bucs will visit Carolina (1-1) and Indianapolis (2-0), return home to play Tennessee (1-1) and then travel to Detroit (2-0). The combined record of those upcoming opponents is 6-2. Tampa Bay is also 1-7 in its last eight meetings vs. Carolina. With a rather tough upcoming schedule, the Bucs can’t afford to slip up at home vs. the Rams on Sunday.
• The Bucs have the opportunity to put a two-game winning streak together with a win over the Rams on Sunday. Winning streaks can be huge in a 16-game season. Just ask the Bucs. Under Gruden, Tampa Bay has missed the playoffs three times (2003, 2004 and 2006). It’s no coincidence that the Bucs put together just one two-game winning streak in each of those losing seasons. However, in 2002 and 2005, both of which were playoff years for Tampa Bay, the Bucs had three- and four- multi-game winning streaks, respectively. The last time the Bucs won two straight regular season games was back on Oct. 15 and Oct. 22 when Tampa Bay defeated Cincinnati and Philadelphia in consecutive weeks.
• So much for having an easier schedule. An easy schedule is what Tampa Bay thought it had when the regular season schedule was announced in April, but things look a little different two weeks into the new season. Some of the easier games were supposed to be against Detroit, Houston and Washington. To the surprise of many, they’re each off to a 2-0 start. Indianapolis and San Francisco, both of which are road games for Tampa Bay, are also undefeated. The bad news is Tampa Bay’s 2007 regular season opponents (only counting Atlanta, Carolina and New Orleans once) currently have a combined record of 15-9. The good news for the Bucs is they host the 0-2 St. Louis Rams on Sunday, and their NFC South rivals – Atlanta and New Orleans – are both 0-2, and Carolina is 1-1.
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