FAB 4. Did Gruden Win Super Bowl XXXVII With Dungy’s Team?
With the induction of former Tampa Bay head coach Jon Gruden into the Bucs Ring of Honor at halftime of Monday night’s game against Atlanta some fans are angry that Gruden is entering the Bucs Ring of Honor ahead of Tony Dungy. The vast majority of those particular fans likely believe that Gruden won the Super Bowl with Dungy’s team.
Which is nonsense.
There is only one Super Bowl winning head coach in Tampa Bay history and that’s Gruden.
You’ve heard the arguments before.
Dungy couldn’t win it with his own team when he was the head coach.
If you believe the Bucs were Dungy’s team, then Gruden beat his team, the Raiders, as Tampa Bay’s head coach in Super Bowl XXXVII.
After two consecutive wild card playoff losses in Philadelphia, Dungy was fired after the 2001 season and the Bucs traded $8 million and two first-round draft picks and two second-round draft picks to Oakland for Gruden, who won Super Bowl XXXVII in Tampa Bay. The folks who claim that Gruden won with Dungy’s team point to the Bucs’ star-studded defense, which featured Pro Bowlers in defensive tackle Warren Sapp, linebacker Derrick Brooks, cornerback Ronde Barber, defensive end Simeon Rice and safety John Lynch, in addition to the entire defensive coaching staff.
I asked former Bucs defensive tackle Anthony “Booger” McFarland for his opinion on who gets credit for winning Super Bowl XXXVII.
“I’ll use a construction analogy,” McFarland said. “There’s a house being built and it’s three-quarters of the way done and somebody comes in and buys it and says that they want to change this and this and this. Over the next three months they add their pieces to it and then the house is finished. The house was designed by the original builder, and somebody bought it halfway through and made some adjustments and now it’s their house.
“You have to give Gruden credit because of the work he put in, but if you look at the design of the house, you have to give Dungy credit because he designed the house, built the foundation and developed the culture. Gruden came in and changed some of the finishes, changed the paint and added some new fixtures and did the landscape. Who are we going to give the credit to? Most people are going to give credit to the person who finished the job, and rightfully so. But you would be remiss if you didn’t pay attention to the person who originally built the house and designed it. I think there is credit enough to go around. Obviously, Gruden has the ring, so you have to pay homage to him.”
To his credit, Gruden acknowledged Dungy – unprompted – on the stage immediately after winning the Super Bowl.
“I knew it was going to be a very sensitive situation and Tony Dungy did a great job and I reaped the benefits of a lot of his hard work, but by God, this is Tampa Bay’s night and we’re world champions and I’m going to enjoy it!” Gruden said.
I asked former Bucs Hall of Fame defensive tackle Warren Sapp if it was fair to say that Gruden at least won the Super Bowl with Dungy’s “Super Bowl-ready” defense.
“I was on that defense and I led that defense,” Sapp said. “I wouldn’t say we were a Super Bowl-caliber defense at that point. We were a damn good defense, but we didn’t have that finishing touch and Jon gave us that finishing touch. I’m telling you the first day we did 9-on-7 and he ran the damn bootleg with Brad Johnson. Brad Johnson was running down the damn field like an ugly damn duck with that pigeon-toe run he has. All of a sudden he is high-stepping like Deion Sanders and I turned to Jon and said, ‘If you’re scared, say you’re scared.’ He said, ‘They’ve been running boot (leg) on your ass for the last five years!’ He challenged us and made us correct all of our little flaws. When you rank that  defense against any other defense in history I dare you to come up with any analytic that says that they are better than us.
“I’ll say it to people one more time. There was a mix on the table. Jon came in the kitchen and put some spice in that mix, turned the oven on a temperature that he wanted to put it on, put it inside the oven and he baked that cake. Everybody has ingredients in the kitchen when they get to a football team. Everybody has ingredients, but what do you do with those damn ingredients? That’s what I say. There were some damn good ingredients in there – you’re talking about two first ballot Hall of Famers on defense, and another one that they won’t put in on the back end (John Lynch) and another one they’re going to ignore on the back end (Ronde Barber) and another one on the front end (Simeon Rice) that they should put in because he was nothing but a killer. You’re quarterback wasn’t safe when he was around. Jon’s the one who really challenged us, and we won it.”
Even though Gruden presided over the Super Bowl XXXVII winner, Johnson knows about the argument of him winning with Dungy’s players and doesn’t buy it.
“I don’t know if Jon got enough credit for the guys he’s brought in to win that Super Bowl,” Johnson said. “He brought in about 25 guys or so of his guys. He challenged the defense. He challenged the offense. He made every day demanding as far as offense vs. defense – training camps, mini-camps – everything was competitive. You’re not always going to win every game, but you had to give yourself a chance to win. And that’s what he did.”
The reality is that 28 players that played for the Buccaneers in 2002 never played a down for Dungy.
New Buccaneers In 2002
WR Reggie Barlow
FB Darian Barnes
TE Marco Battaglia
LS Ryan Benjamin
OT Lomas Brown
DT DeVone Claybrooks
TE Casey Crawford
TE Ken Dilger
TE Rickey Dudley
LB Jack Golden
OT Cornell Green
DT Buck Gurley
G Russ Hochstein
G Kerry Jenkins
QB Rob Johnson
WR Joe Jurevicius
WR Charles Lee
WR Keenan McCardell
LB Ryan Nece
LT Roman Oben
SS Jermaine Phillips
RB Michael Pittman
DE Corey Smith
LS Mike Solwold
DE Greg Spires
RB Travis Stephens
P Tom Tupa
CB Tim Wansley
I believe Dungy deserves a lot of credit for assembling half of that Super Bowl roster, but so do former personnel men Rich McKay, Jerry Angelo and Tim Ruskell, in addition to former head coach Sam Wyche, who had a hand in drafting Sapp, linebacker Derrick Brooks in 1995 and safety John Lynch in 1993.
But Gruden deserves the most credit because he actually got the team over the finish line, and that’s why he’s getting in the Bucs Ring of Honor ahead of Dungy, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
Dungy will get in, too, and don’t feel sorry for him. He’s already been inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, which is a bigger honor.
Instead, just cherish the fact that Gruden beat three of his former teams – San Francisco, Philadelphia and Oakland en route to winning Tampa Bay its first and only Super Bowl.
“I kind of knew the Raiders were a heck of team,” Gruden said. “We were pretty good. We made the playoffs and had the bye week. I was really happy when we beat the 49ers and I saw the Raiders advance. I’ll never forget when the Raiders beat the Titans. It was chilling. It was a weird feeling. That was a big day at the office for sure.”
Gruden loved the fact that he beat the team that traded him to Tampa Bay for the world championship.
“Yeah, bring it on,” Gruden said. “If we’re going to put all the chips on the table let’s put every chip we’ve got, right? Let’s not screw around. If you have to beat somebody you might as well beat the old team.”