When the Tampa Bay Buccaneers sent four premium draft picks and $8 million to the Oakland Raiders in exchange for head coach Jon Gruden the team and its fans were expecting an "offensive guru."
Six years, the Bucs have won a Super Bowl and three division titles, but everyone still is waiting for Gruden's offense to deliver in Tampa Bay.
Expectations were high going into the 2008 regular season, but this year's Bucs offense looked like a carbon copy of previous offenses vs. the New Orleans Saints, failing to convert a third down or score an offensive touchdown until the fourth quarter of Sunday's game. The Bucs have scored just one offensive touchdown in their last three regular season openers, and Sunday's TD in New Orleans came against a suspect Saints defense.
The Bucs offense has finished the first six seasons of Gruden's tenure ranked 24th (2002), 10th (2003), 22nd (2004), 23rd (2005), 29th (2006) and 18th (2007).
That's not exactly what the Bucs had in mind when they brought Gruden aboard.
Bucs fans did get an idea of what Gruden's version of the West Coast offense is capable of doing in his first season in Tampa Bay. In the playoffs, Gruden's offense scored a total of nine touchdowns in two playoff wins and the victory in Super Bowl XXXVII.
Why hasn't Tampa Bay built on that offensive success? There were a plethora of reasons and excuses, most of which were legitimate. The Bucs were drowning in salary cap hell from 2004 through 2006. Tampa Bay has started nine different quarterbacks in Gruden's first six seasons with the Bucs. Injuries have played a role in the quarterback carousel and had an impact on other positions as well.
Once he won the Super Bowl and former Bucs general manager Rich McKay left for Atlanta in 2003, Gruden and new G.M. Bruce Allen were charged with the task of rebuilding the Buccaneers.
Tampa Bay's defense has carried the torch for the Buccaneers since defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin's arrival in 1996. Tony Dungy and Gruden have reaped those benefits and had offenses that contributed here and there, but not nearly enough.
A closer look at Gruden's offense in Tampa Bay shows that it has severely underachieved, especially when comparing it to the other 31 teams in the National Football League.
The Buccaneers have scored a total of 177 offensive touchdowns in the regular season under Gruden, which averages out to 29.5 per season, which is not even two scores per regular season game.
Only eight NFL teams – Baltimore, Buffalo, Cleveland, Chicago, Detroit, Houston, New York Jets and San Francisco 49ers — have scored less offensive touchdowns than Tampa Bay over the past six seasons.
The most offensive touchdowns the Bucs have scored in a single season under Gruden was 33. They accomplished that feat twice in 2004 and 2007, respectively. But that's nothing to be proud of seeing as only four teams over the last six seasons have not scored 35 or more offensive TDs in a single season, and the Bucs are one of them along with the Ravens, Lions and Texans.
The Lions and Texans are the only two teams in the NFL that have failed to score more touchdowns in a single season than the Bucs' 33 scores from '04 and '07. Their highest TD totals were just one behind the Bucs' highest single-season TD total at 32.
Tampa Bay has had one of the worst offenses in the NFL since Gruden's arrival. Some of the league's best offenses include New England, Indianapolis, Dallas and Kansas City, among others. Each of these teams had at least one season where it posted at least 50 touchdowns, and the Patriots offense scored a whopping 67 TDs in 2007, which is more than double the amount of offensive TDs the Bucs have ever had in a season under Gruden.
Twenty-six of the NFL's 32 teams have scored 40 or more touchdowns in at least one season since 2002. The Bucs are one of six teams not on that list.
Listed below is each NFL team's offensive production in terms of touchdowns scored since 2002. Ironically, Gruden's Bucs are tied for 24th in the NFL for offensive touchdowns scored since 2002 with his former team, the Oakland Raiders.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 2002 – 29 2003 – 32 2004 – 33 2005 – 30 2006 – 20 2007 – 33 Total: 177 (avg. of 29.5 per season)
Gruden is in his seventh season with Buccaneers. Tampa Bay owns an overall record of 51-51 during his tenure, including a 3-2 record in post-season play.
During his four-year stint in Oakland, Gruden's Raiders produced a 38-26 regular season record and won two division titles. His offenses finished ranked in the top 10 in his final three seasons with the Raiders.
That's the type of consistent production people have not seen out of Tampa Bay's offense under Gruden. While there were legitimate reasons why the offense and team struggled after the Bucs won the Super Bowl, some of those excuses no longer apply.
The Bucs have invested premium draft picks in several offensive players, including WR Michael Clayton (first round), G Davin Joseph (first round), RB Cadillac Williams (first round), G Arron Sears (second round), RT Jeremy Trueblood (second round), WR Dexter Jackson (second round), WR Maurice Stovall (third round), TE Alex Smith (third round) and G Jeremy Zuttah (third round).
The Buccaneers have also acquired seven different quarterbacks via trades and/or draft picks in seven years under Gruden, in addition to trading for WR Joey Galloway and signing C Jeff Faine, among others.
Tampa Bay entered the 2008 free agency period with a league-high $43 million in cap room. The Bucs likely will have more cap room than any other team in 2009 as well, but how much of it will they spend?
The Bucs have not jumped at the opportunity to spend that money because general manager Bruce Allen and Co. just got out of cap hell and had long-term, lucrative deals deals backfire for players like tackles Derrick Deese, Todd Steussie, Luke Petitgout and running back Charlie Garner.
Gruden's offense has underachieved and is in need of proven playmakers, evidenced by not only Tampa Bay's poor offensive production, but also the fact that the Bucs have never won a game in which they trailed by more than seven points under Gruden.
The front office maintains that it wants to use its cap room on its own players when their contracts are up for renewal. That's a good idea in theory when considering how much roster turnover there has been in Tampa Bay, but what good is re-signing your own offensive players if they're not performing to the level that Gruden's offense is supposed to be capable of?
The Bucs need stability at the quarterback position. They need playmakers that strike fear into opposing defenses. Tampa Bay needs its draft picks to be those playmakers or spend the cap money to land proven ones in free agency. Six years after Gruden's arrival, the Bucs still are in need of more offensive production.