For a lesser man, these would be perilous times.

When your fortunes are down and your team can't score and your season is over and your the fans are clamoring for your release, a lesser man would be worried about catching a break.

But Jon Gruden is saying all the right things, thinking all the right ways, being positive about his team's negative season, the third implosion in four years. He is trying to ignore the backlash from yet another disaster and, one can only presume, paying little attention to the public outcry for his job.

Shoot, I would too.

What good does worrying about losing your dream job do for you anyway? With four games left and hope for 2006 out the door, it makes no sense for Gruden to start any pink-slip panicking.

Bruce Allen's got his back, right?

There's about $25 million in salary cap cash waiting to fill free agent pockets, right?

There can't be another season like this where so many starters land on the injured reserve list, right?

But focused as he is on Sunday’s game against the Falcons, Gruden has to know it.

He has to know that history doesn't paint a fuzzy portrait. He has to know that as the franchise embarks upon alumni weekend, those who tasted the pain of constant futility in the past want to make sure that the virus doesn't come back again, stronger.

He has to know that the legacy of past coaches will have some influence on his.

Take the late legendary John McKay. In 1984, he went 6-10 and his team only had two games under 10 points and the Bucs averaged 20.9 points. McKay resigned.

Or take Leeman Bennett. In 1986, his Bucs were 2-14, averaged 14.9 points and had five games where they scored under 10 points. He was fired.

Then there was the beloved Ray Perkins. In 1990, under him the Bucs were 5-8 since he only coached in 13 games. They averaged 15.6 points and were held under 10 points only twice. He didn't make it through the season.

His replacement, Richard Williamson, went 3-13 in 1991 and mustered a paltry point average of 12.4, which included five games under 10 points and two shutouts. You guessed it, canned.

That brings us to Sam-dash-Wyche. In 1995, the outspoken one led the Bucs to a 7-9 record with a scoring average of 14.8 points. They were held under 10 points three times. One more time, out the door!

Enter Tony Dungy. Maligned for the ultra-conservative nature of his offense, Dungy made the Bucs a formidable foe. But in 2001, despite averaging a whopping 20.2 points and having only one game under 10 points, Dungy was sent packing.

It’s now 2006 and the pendulum is swinging toward the current coaching staff.

Gruden’s team is currently 3-9, averages 12.08 points per game and has already been held below double digit scoring four times. At this pace, the final numbers will be horrible. As bad as Williamson’s. At this pace, no other Bucs coach would have survived. Those realities don’t bode well for the head man, and they shouldn’t.

Men have been fired for better performances.

Men have been given fewer chances.

Shoot, Dungy got fired after leading the team to the playoffs, for God’s sake!

Of course, you have to grant Gruden one caveat and it’s this: he won a Super Bowl. None of those others did.

That’s like being arraigned for breaking and entering and telling the judge, “Yeah, but I saved a child’s life once I got into the house.”

Scoreboard!

So, while others would have been getting set to call their realtors, Gruden is safe. He is safe because, thus far, there are no murmurs of secret deals with unemployed coaches. He is safe because ownership has not yet given him a vote of confidence.  He is safe because so much was given up to get him and there is so little out there to replace him.

Is it time to go? Considering the history of ineptitude, probably so.

Will he be gone? Considering the history of ineptitude, probably not.


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