FAB 3. Gruden Wowed The Bucs’ Players

Upstairs in the executive offices of the Glazers they are contemplating the future of head coach Dirk Koetter and the current Buccaneers coaching staff. With a terribly disappointing 4-8 record during a season of high expectations, the Glazers will likely wait it out and evaluate how Koetter finishes the season before deciding to make any moves.

But know that this is the time of year when owners that are considering making a coaching change are communicating with agents and putting feelers out there to gauge interest. The New York Giants already have a head coach vacancy after firing Ben McAdoo and more firings will happen in less than one month, culminating on Black Monday, the day after the end of the 2017 season.

Former Bucs head coach Jon Gruden - Photo by: Getty Images
Former Bucs head coach Jon Gruden – Photo by: Getty Images

Downstairs in the Bucs locker room, the players aren’t focused on whether Koetter and his staff have four games left or not. They are simply focused on beating Detroit at home and notching their fifth win of the season, as they should be.

During open locker room on Thursday I wanted to get the players’ impressions of former Bucs head coach Jon Gruden, who has been rumored to want to return to coaching – possibly in Tampa Bay. Gruden hasn’t coached since he was fired by the Glazers in 2008, and has spent his time studying the NFL and college football while working at ESPN doing color commentary for Monday Night Football and his famous Gruden’s QB Camp show, featuring the top quarterback draft prospects each year.

With Gruden returning to Raymond James Stadium to cover the Bucs vs. Falcons game on December 18 when he will also be inducted into the Bucs Ring of Honor, I asked some offensive and defensive players how much they know about Gruden. I also wanted to ask the players about the impression he made on them when he addressed the team before practice following his Bucs Ring of Honor press conference on August 2 in training camp.

If you are age 40 or older reading this, the answers may surprise you.

“He is a great guy, but I didn’t really watch football when I was young, so I didn’t know anything about him,” Bucs middle linebacker Kwon Alexander said. “That’s no disrespect to him, but I didn’t know anything about him. I knew who he was by his face and everything. He won a Super Bowl, right?”

“He’s very emotional and he loves the game – you can tell he loves the game,” Alexander said. “Like I said, I don’t know all that much about him because I didn’t really watch football like that when I was young. I was just out playing. I didn’t know no anybody. From what I’ve seen he is a great person and I’ve heard he is a great coach. He is a great person. People listen when he speaks. I guess he did a hell of a job here. That’s all I know.”

Former Bucs head coach Jon Gruden - Photo by: Getty Images
Former Bucs head coach Jon Gruden – Photo by: Getty Images

Bucs safety Josh Evans was just as clueless about Gruden’s past with the team.

“No, I don’t know much history around football, and I didn’t grow up watching it all the time. I played it, but I didn’t watch it all the time,” Evans said. “He won the Super Bowl in 2002, right? I was in second grade then I think. So no, I don’t remember him.”

Tight end O.J. Howard had heard of Gruden and his achievements before, but never saw him coach in Tampa Bay.

“I know they won the Super Bowl that one year,” Howard said. “I really know him mostly for the quarterback camp he does. The Gruden QB Camp – just seeing him on there grilling those guys and being as competitive as he is. That’s what I mostly know him for.”

Second-year cornerback Ryan Smith also knows Gruden from television rather than the sidelines.

“Honestly, nah, I’d never really heard much about him growing up,” Smith said. “I didn’t even really like football when I was younger. I didn’t pay too much attention to it. I can’t say I know much about things that happened back then. I know that he does the quarterback camps. I know that much, but I probably just learned that a couple years ago. I can’t tell you too much about him.”

It’s interesting that in this day and age how the younger generation of players knows all about Bill Belichick – but not Bill Parcells, his mentor, or Vince Lombardi or Chuck Noll, the men he surpassed in Super Bowl victories. Gruden has been out of coaching for nine years, so for 23-year old Bucs players, they would have been just 14 years old during Gruden’s last year in Tampa Bay.

Yet when the Bucs first met Gruden on August 2 at One Buccaneer Place very few players actually knew who he was.

Until he spoke.

Then they understood why he was a Super Bowl winning coach in Tampa Bay and why he’s going to be inducted into the Bucs Ring of Honor.

Former Bucs head coach Jon Gruden - Photo by: Mark Lomoglio/PR
Former Bucs head coach Jon Gruden – Photo by: Mark Lomoglio/PR

“Any time somebody has won a Super Bowl, I’m very focused and locked in to what they have to say,” Alexander said. “That’s where I’m trying to go. I’m trying to get every little piece of what they did and what made them as a team to help my team out. I’m paying attention. He had me locked in and I learned a little bit from him. Next time I see him I’m going to talk to him even more. When he approached me, I didn’t know him. I knew his face a little bit, but people were like, ‘That’s Jon Gruden.’ It was pretty fun to meet him. I definitely felt the vibe. He’s a great guy.”

Gruden spoke to the team for a few minutes with his typically intense style. As each word left Gruden’s mouth, the players inched forward in their seats.

“I was locked in,” Smith said. “He knows football. He knows what he is talking about. I just felt his presence. He said some real stuff. That was my first time seeing him. I didn’t get to interact with him like face to face, but just to be in his presence was pretty dope. He said some real stuff as far as staying in love with the grind and that the time is now with the people we have. Clearly, the season hasn’t panned out how we wanted it to, but he said some real stuff.”

Evans too was locked in.

“When he came to talk he definitely had a lot of key points,” Evans said. “You could feel the passion he has for football. He rubs some of that off on you and you look at things different. I listened to every word. I didn’t know much about Gruden before, but just hearing him talk he sounds like he knows what he is talking about. Then you find out the background on him and you can see why.”

Howard made sure to grab his notebook and jot down some of the things Gruden said in his speech.

“He spoke to our team and gave some good tips,” Howard said. “I remember taking notes on that. He did a good job of just telling us about that year and what they did when they won the Super Bowl that year – what it took. He gave us tips and a lot of the guys on the team wrote it down. It was a fiery speech.”

Bucs DT Chris Baker, former HC Jon Gruden and GM Jason Licht - Photo by: Mark Lomoglio/PR
Bucs DT Chris Baker, former HC Jon Gruden and GM Jason Licht – Photo by: Mark Lomoglio/PR

Although known for his offensive acumen, Gruden shared that he challenged the Bucs’ Super Bowl-ready defense to score nine touchdowns in 2002. His speech appealed to every player.

Bucs fullback Alan Cross came away thoroughly impressed with meeting Gruden for the first time.

“When I was young I just watched Peyton Manning,” Cross said. “I knew about Alstott and all those guys. I didn’t know – I was a kid – I was too young to know he was the coach. Getting older I’ve heard a lot of great things and he has a lot of words of wisdom. He knows what he is talking about. He’s a ‘Been there, done that,’ type of guy. He’s like an old vet in the locker room, so you always want to listen to him.

“When he came that one day I talked to him about (Cross’ college teammate) Paxton Lynch because he had him on his quarterback camp show. He sat down next to me and he talked for about 10 minutes. He’s just a guy – just a normal dude. He’s a nice fella to talk to. You can tell he loves the game of football. He’s not in it for anything else but to coach and see guys grow as a man on and off the field.”

Howard didn’t get as much face time with Gruden as Cross did, but loved his talk to the team.

“He speaks with so much passion and fire behind his voice that you just want to sit there and listen to what he has to say because you don’t want to miss it,” Howard said. “You want to listen. You’re locked in. I had a chance to introduce myself and shake his hand. I never got the chance to talk X’s and O’s with him. I had to run to meetings so I didn’t get the chance to really sit down and talk to him.”

Perhaps Howard will get that opportunity next year in some form or fashion.

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Scott Reynolds is in his 24th year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds spent six years giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his son's Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: [email protected]

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GoldsonAges
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GoldsonAges

Regardless of the teams issues this year I would keep koetter over McDaniels, Patricia, or Gruden. Gruden’s defense GAVE UP ON HIM during his last 5 years here. Do we not remember that awful stretch? McDaniels does not have the respect of the players. Did you see Brady ripping into him on the sidelines in the last game. And why is Patricia going to be a good coach? Simply because he is under a great coach? Rubbish. I am hoping the Glazers stay the course with Koetter and clean out the awful scouting department. If Peyton Manning is ready to… Read more »

Devasher
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Devasher

Bill Parcells once said “You are what your record says you are.” And that’s true in most cases, except when you are Jason Licht and Pewter Report is covering you. In that case, you may be the GM of the best 4-8 team in professional football, although the 4-8 Houston Texans may disagree and have a better -13 pt differential to Tampa’s -45. The fact that Tampa just lost to a Brett Hundley led Packers team and Licht’s teams have won 35% of their games is really only secondary to the completely subjective “upgraded talent” department that Scott has made… Read more »

Ken Grant
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Ken Grant

The defense didn’t give up on Gruden. Things fell apart when everyone found out Monte was likely leaving.

Also, the scouting department is fine. You are still bitter than you were completely wrong on Josh Evans. Get over it.

Devasher
Member
Devasher

I’m sorry I don’t know who Josh Evans is… are you talking about Justin Evans? And what a great impact Justin Evans has made for the fortunes of this franchise! Why if Josh…I mean Justin Evans wasn’t here, the Bucs might not have beaten the New Englan….I mean, that pick against Green Bay was the difference in the ballgame…oh wait, you mean this team is 4-9 and headed for it’s 4th straight non-playoff season under Licht because his greatest moves in the past two years are drafting a safety, a strongside linebacker and a TE? You mean those positions don’t… Read more »

spartan
Member
spartan

I know you said you are not advocating for Koetters firing Scott, but you certainly are writing like he is a dead man walking.

TBAtlas
Member
TBAtlas

A-effiing-men brother. At this point, I’m not even mad anymore that PR is shilling for Koetter to get fired and Gruden to replace him because the PR’s interview of Gruden got 5 minutes in the national spotlight. We’re not stupid.

And yes, until there’s something actually solid, it’s just shilling.

Here’s the bottom line when it comes to managing a franchise:

Instant
Sustainable
Success

Pick two.

Ja'crispy
Member
Ja'crispy

my favorite thing Belicheck said in that video…”Good players cant overcome bad coaching. Its impossible.” So true.

MudManVA
Member
MudManVA

Nice fab 5 again. Grading the whole Licht should be given a contract extension. If you are the GM your are going to have hits & misses in regards to drafting & signing personnel. We can rehash all his hits & misses, but his wins are far greater than his misses. The roster has gotten better since he arrived. Any BUC fan not drinking the Kool-aide could see that the BUCS were 2-3 more drafts away (after last year) from being a “real” playoff team. Both lines need to be improved, and our young players need to grow up/mature. (I… Read more »

martinii
Member
martinii

Good articles Scott, not exactly what I thought I would be reading at this point in the season. Definitely thought we would be discussing play-offs. let me say at this point as unpopular as it may seem, I am not ready for a coaching change. It has become a bi-annual ritual that over the last several years has produced little to no improvement in the number of Wins. In fact 2016 9-7 was a breath of fresh air and fed into the heightened expectations of 2017. I doubt if we could get a quality coach or coordinator with out reputation.… Read more »

matador
Member
matador

I’m not saying Gruden is the savior but if you still think he won with Dungy’s team you are clearly an idiot. Please please PLEASE recount for us position by position how you came to that conclusion. We’ve become a nation of idiots forming opinions based on feelings instead of facts. Do us the favor of making a fact based argument. Thanks in advance

a-bomb
Member
a-bomb

The premise here about coaches that adjust is spot on. There is little evidence to indicate that Smith and/or Koetter are capable of making these kind of adjustments. I do take some issue with the implication that Licht is somehow insulated because he has “improved the talent.” If you want to see how a “real” GM runs a team look no further than Steve Yzerman. Not only are the Lightning loaded with talent now, but they also have a very well stocked farm system. Yzerman and his staff just make decisions that always seem to work out- I don’t think… Read more »

DonkeyHunter
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DonkeyHunter

I’m glad how SR claims to not have an agenda, and then proceeds to report about how he spoke with players in the locker room about their feelings and thoughts on Gruden.

Koetter and Licht should’ve kicked his ass out of there on the spot.

Naplesfan
Member
Naplesfan

Good fab 5, Scott. In game coaching is an absolute must, and does separate the bad from the good from the great. But good in game coaching, including adjustments, is also a product of preparation and contingency planning, as Bill Belichick explains from his quotes. If you haven’t already thought out not only Plan A but also Plan B and Plan C and Plan D in advance, then you just become clueless on the field, just pulling out of your hindquarters whatever comes to mind (like Coach Smith’s incredible 14 different defenses for JJ!!!). Definitely both McDaniels and Patricia ought… Read more »

matador
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matador

It has been Bust Central under Licht. He must go. If the Glazer boys keep him it will just prove they’re clueless. How many of his picks have been unqualified successes? Very few is the objective answer. Feel free to list them out to prove me wrong, I’m open to information based arguments.

reymatos
Member
reymatos

I fully agreed with you that matador…Jason Light and Mike smith need to GO..!!! …I’m starting the fan push for Derrick Brooks to become our next GM…It’s time…he’s done a great job as the Storm GM and free agents will come here to play and not steal the Bucs money because we over pay for them such as (Lazy Chris Baker). They know a DB a (Hall-of-farmer) is watching…!! Koetter should get another year unless Derrick thinks otherwise..!! Mike Smith should be the first one out the door..!! He system doesn’t work…!!

drdneast
Member
drdneast

So we are going to fire Koetter because the Mike Smith defense has been rancid pretty much all year. Scott, you make abut as much sense as some of the people who post out here. Also, weren’t you one of the people who were relieved last year when Smith wasn’t hired away.an OL Where was your foresight last year. Give me a break. I’m all for firing Smith, but the core reason for this defenses ineptness is because our defensive line is old, slow and over the hill. When I was calling for a defensive lineman in last year, you… Read more »

Buc 1976
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Buc 1976

The D line is old. I have wondered how far VH3 Would have fallen if the Bucs had taken Rankins instead. As for Spence undersized for a Dlineman. As for our GM the best draft was when Jon Robinson was here pluses we had 1st or 2nd pick every RD. The FA signings are bad except for Grimes and he kind of fell in our laps.

surferdudes
Member

Well drd, if you’re going to blame Smith’s defense, shouldn’t you blame the man who wanted to hire him? That would be Koetter. Scott you say Licht signed Martin, and others for fear of seeing them move on, having success, and being criticized for not resigning them. Belichick does not have that fear, part of the reason for his success. He’s let popular players walk, traded others considered by some vital, yet he keeps winning with what he has. Credit has been given for resigning McCoy, and David. I saw David miss a tackle that would’ve prevented that T.D. Sunday,… Read more »

Horse
Member
Horse

Good Article Scott; I just don’t have a clue what we should do after this season is over. The things you have pointed out with the Patriots ares valid. After the season is over I hope the Glazers give Licht and Koetter a pass for one more year if they are willing to make some changes and one of them is to let Mike Smith go and Koetter gives up play calling and be just the Head Coach. I’m not a Gruden fan because I felt part of Gruden problems with the past Bucs as Head Coach and player caller… Read more »

e
Member
e

So, for how many years has PR talked up the new coach in the first year and then proceeded to tear him down the next? I don’t believe that any coach is going to be successful with the franchise under such immense pressure. Ron Riviera won 6 games his first year and then 7 the next? Would he have survived the PR assault? Belichick went 6, 7 & 7 wins his first three years in Cleveland… then, 5 wins in NE before he latched on to Brady. Tomlin did have success, but with an established team & franchise QB right… Read more »

reymatos
Member
reymatos

We just need a GM with an eye for Football talent….Derrick Brooks needs to be the BUCS next GM..!!

cgmaster27
Member
cgmaster27

well when it comes to what we have here, this offseason will be full of some tough choices. One thing is for certain though is that Mike Smith needs to go, end of story. HIs defense has been awful outside of a 5 game stretch last year. Hope the Giants take him. When looking at whether we should keep Koetter and LIcht, if I were the Glazers I would give Koetter another year ONL:Y under certain circumstances. 1, you need to get an offensive coordinator to call plays, and 2 fire you buddy Mike Smith. Then and only then do… Read more »

inspecto
Member
inspecto

Trading up to draft that kicker in the 2md is very damning to Light.If he was 50/50 that would push under.

seat26
Member
seat26

I am still of the opinion that our expectations were unrealistic for this year. we won 9 games last year and maybe we were not as good as other 9 and 7 teams. We still had several positions that we were weak at and we didn’t address them in the Draft. And we have been injured in positions this year that we were strong in making us and all around mediocre team. I love Howard, but we already had one of the best TE’s in football and I really think that first pick was a waste strategically. The Coaching has… Read more »

buccaneerNW
Member
buccaneerNW

The Gruden propaganda network is at it again. PR pumps Gruden like FuxNuze pumps Trump.

Dbuc63
Member
Dbuc63

bucNW, Still suffering from TDS. (Trump Derange syndrome) GET OVER IT

buccaneerNW
Member
buccaneerNW

Not as long as there’s a fascist traitor in the White House. Not gonna get over it. You must be one of the gullible morons who voted for the ignoramus.

buccaneerNW
Member
buccaneerNW

Also, if you wanna talk about derangement, what’s more deranged than a president and a party that still spend time deflecting away from issues to bring up old conspiracy theories about HRC which have been thoroughly debunked. Oh I’m sorry, Russia must be fake news, despite the ongoing investigation and obvious lies and coverups from virtually everyone we’ve heard of in the campaign. But you might not have heard about any of that because you’re probably putting on a tinfoil hat and filling your brain with FuxNuze and Breitbart. Delusional morons.

Pit of misery
Member
Pit of misery

all I know is something has to change! The free agents are terrible the play-calling is terrible and the defense stinks

seat26
Member
seat26

I agree. I am not sure that it is coaching but maybe you are right. I think we got unlucky with Baker. He is past his prime. Ayers is good but too old as well. Jackson is just not being used enough in my opinion.
Some of this is Injury related. But I think if we can have one or two more drafts as good as this last one but in positions that we need addressing, we can be a lot better. One guy on the Defensive line who can play at an above average level is not enough.

reymatos
Member
reymatos

Mike Smith & Jason Light need to go….Derrick Brooks needs to be our next GM..

drdneast
Member
drdneast

surferdude, you make some valid points about McCoy and David and I’m not against trading either of them if the price is right. Unfortunately at the moment, McCoy is about our only serviceable defensive lineman. I also don’t think anyone is going to offer us a No.1 pick for either one of them. This team really needs to revamp it’s defensive line and has needed to for the last four years. Every defensive lineman that Dominick drafted proved to be a bust except for William Gholston and he is no world beater. They better seek an A rated DL in… Read more »

seat26
Member
seat26

I took a lot of heat for wanting to trade McCoy last year, because the hype on him was so great I believed we could have gotten multiple picks. If we had taken a DE, Corner and Running back early, who knows how different this year might have looked? But then without McCoy this year, we might have lost every single game. It’s a tough position to be in when the talent level is so strong at Linebacker and so suspect on the Defensive line.

deeznuts
Member
deeznuts

At this point, it’s time for amageddon. Cut everyone who isn’t Lavonte David, Kwon Alexander, Gerald McCoy, Mike Evans, DJax, Ali Marpet, Demar Dotson, Brate, OJ Howard, or Jameis Winston.

Maybe we can keep a few guys like Justin Evans (even though his INT’s dont make up for his blown coverages), Ryan Smith, Kendall Beckwith, and Chris Godwin.

The offensive line, head coaching, and pass defense/rush are atrocious. Gruden wouldnt touch the current roster with a 50-foot pole.

Bucs Capacitor
Member
Bucs Capacitor

Wait, so the main knock on McDaniels is that once things got tough and they started, he didn’t know how to handle his players? Given our recent history, do you REALLY think that that’s a quality we need in a head coach in Tampa? You can tell me all you want about how he’s had time to learn under Belicheck…but he had time to learn under him BEFORE Denver. I’m sorry, but while McDaniels is a great playcaller, all we can do is hope that he’s learned from his mistakes. The only true proof we have in his head coaching… Read more »

Bucs Capacitor
Member
Bucs Capacitor

* started losing

I need to proof read before posting.

Buc76
Member
Buc76

Scott knew the season was over after the Arizona game and that was Correct. Fire Koetter and Licht

seat26
Member
seat26

Regime changes every two years are not helping us.

Buc-in-Philly Fan
Member
Buc-in-Philly Fan

It seems nothing helps our Team. Maybe we really are cursed. I am so tired of sucking….