I am Bruce Allen. I can hear the coyotes howling, but I’m good!

There is dead meat somewhere on the NFL landscape and its stench is starting to spread across the plains. The scavengers, those who will tear away the last shreds of life from a carcass, are making their way over.

But, I have an escape route.

This is why I left the Raiders to take the Bucs general manager job and this is why I’m not in the least bit intimidated by enquiring minds and salivating mouths.

I know they want answers and I know I don’t have to give them, at least not to those who fill the stands or make lucrative the television revenues or determine the advertising value and the overall profit margin.

I owe them nothing.

No sir, I only have to answer to ownership and I know they won’t ask any questions about what I am doing. They never do. They never get involved when they see the profitability of the franchise begin to sink. Or the losses start to build.

No, really, I’m good!

I’m good because things are going to have to change, across the board. I’m good because I don’t plan on letting this franchise fall apart on my watch. I don’t plan on people pointing the fingers at me and saying the 24-32 record since I’ve come on board is a direct reflection of my failure.

That’s not going to happen!

Sure, I’ve made some mistakes. I’ve miscalculated on some free agents, misdiagnosed some injuries, prematurely jettisoned a bunch of current NFL starters, but who’s counting?

It’s not like I’m Matt Millen.

I’m good because my shrewd salary skills have secured the Bucs about $25-million in cap room next season, just enough to allow me to sign a bunch of wily veterans, like another proven quarterback or another tested offensive lineman.

I’m going after a top safety in free agency and I’m going to draft one, too.

The same holds true at left guard.

I’m going to look at a legitimate quarterback, maybe a Trent Green or Damon Huard. Shoot, I might call the Dolphins and ask about Daunte Culpepper.

I’m going to draft a receiver, like Georgia Tech’s Calvin Johnson, who won’t fumble, won’t drop the ball and will dive – all out – when a long ball is within inches of his fingers.

Hey, if the Saints can get one in the seventh round, so too will I. If not, I’m going to call my good pals in Oakland and ask about Jerry Porter. Or, better yet, Randy Moss!

Really, I’m good!

I am Jon Gruden, I can see the buzzards circling and I’m good!

Yes, there is a dark cloud over my head and the compounding losses are making it seem darker and darker. I’ve got a headache, a thumping boom that’s immune to over the counter drugs.

Yes, the natives are restless and the team is struggling and the chemistry is waning. Yes, we can’t move the ball on offense and can’t stop anyone moving it on defense and we hang our only two wins of the season on a 62-yard field goal and a questionable roughing the passer call.

But, I too have an escape route.

This is why I left the Raiders to come to Tampa and not to worry about having the tablecloth yanked from under a spread I took such care to put together.

They have complained about the age of the defensive stars and the lack of tackling and the disaster known as the secondary. And they have that right.

They have belittled our offense, begged for a non-existence running game, and claimed we have played with no consistency and execution. Right again.

But, I owe them nothing.

No sir, I have to answer to my owners and I’m not in the least bit worried that they might see the continued futility is a sign of implosion.

I’m not in the least bit concerned that they might be secretly talking with Dick Vermeil or someone else.

No sir, I have to answer to my players, my conscience and damn it, I’m good.

No, really, I’m good!

I’m good because we can’t get any worse. We couldn’t possibly have any more injuries or any more breakdowns or any more bad breaks. We couldn’t possibly be in a position where we have to abandon the running game in the first half, game after game after game.

I’m good because I’m on the verge of changes.

I might move Ronde Barber to safety since he’s the person mostly likely to make plays back there. I might start him alongside Kalvin Pearson.

I might give Luke McCown some snaps. Ah, then again, maybe not.

I might recall David Boston and ask, “Can you hold onto the ball?”

To heck with the CBA, I might implement a kangaroo court and bust some healthy fines for dropped balls, missed tackles, blown assignments and stupid penalties.

I might sit the players down and tell them that Sunday they play a Redskins team planning on starting Jason Campbell, a quarterback yet to take a regular season NFL snap. I’ll remind them that it’s a team without running back Clinton Portis.

If the Bucs lose, fall to 2-8, register their third non-winning season in four years, then Gruden and Allen will be in danger of having no future in Bucs colors.

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