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Buccaneers fire coach Jon Gruden, GM Bruce Allen

Saturday, January 17, 2009 , Posted by Linda at 10:16 AM

TAMPA, Fla. – The Tampa Bay Buccaneers' late season collapse cost Jon Gruden his job. Gruden and general manager Bruce Allen were fired on Friday after the Bucs lost their final four games following a 9-3 start and failed to make the playoffs for the fourth time in six years.

In this Dec. 28, 2008 photo, Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Jon Gruden watches In this Dec. 28, 2008 photo, Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Jon Gruden watches the game with the Oakland

Gruden, who led the Bucs to a victory over Oakland in the 2003 Super Bowl, was Tampa Bay's coach for seven seasons. Allen was general manager for the last five seasons in a reunion of a relationship that began when both were with the Raiders.

"These decisions are never easy. This is the toughest decision you can make for an NFL franchise. ... Jon and Bruce are consummate professionals. They've poured their heart and soul into this franchise," Buccaneers co-chairman Joel Glazer said. "It's really been an honor to work with them. They gave their all."

The Bucs were tied for first place in the NFC South heading into December, but finished with losses to Carolina and Atlanta on the road and San Diego and Oakland at home, where they had been 6-0. One more win would have landed a NFC wild-card berth.

The 9-7 record this season gave Gruden consecutive winning records for the first time since arriving in Tampa Bay, yet still left the Bucs out of the playoffs and prompted the Glazer family to reevaluate the direction of the franchise — a process that took three weeks to complete.

"Any time a season ends, especially the way our season ended, it's a very, very emotional time. And one thing we always like to do is not act on emotion, let things simmer down, think through things carefully and not make any quick, rash decisions," Glazer said.

"After taking a lot of time to look at our franchise, look where it's been, look where it is, look where we want to go, we just felt this was the time for a change."

The Glazers fired Tony Dungy and used four high draft picks — two No. 1s and two No. 2s — and $8 million cash to pry Gruden away from the Raiders following the 2001 season. He led Tampa Bay to its only NFL title the following year, but the Bucs haven't won a playoff game since the Super Bowl appearance.

Gruden, who had three years remaining on a contract extension he received after winning the NFC South in 2007, leaves as the winningest coach in franchise history at 60-57, including the postseason.

But since going 15-4, including the Super Bowl, in his first season with the Bucs, Gruden went 45-53 and made quick exits from the playoffs at home after winning division titles in 2005 and 2007.

This season's collapse continued a trend of playing poorly late in the year. Since winning the Super Bowl, Tampa Bay is 9-17 in the month of December.

"This isn't a decision that's made on one play or one game or one week or one thing," Glazer said. "You look at the totality of the situation, evaluate it, look at where your franchise is. For us, the goal is to build a championship team that can compete year in and year out."

Gruden and Allen both received contract extensions last winter after the Bucs went 9-7 and won the NFC South for the second time in three seasons, however Glazer said that was not a consideration in Friday's decision.

"At the end of every season we sit back and look at everything. We did that last year and went forward with the extensions," Glazer said.

"But at the end of the day, every year we feel we owe it to this football team and this community to do a good honest assessment of our franchise. If at any point, we feel that change is in our best interest, we feel we have to make that change. That's where we got to in this situation. You can't let decisions you made a year ago affect a decision today."

The team co-chairman said there's no timetable for naming a successor. When Dungy was fired, the Glazers conducted a meandering search that lasted more than a month after a deal they had to lure Bill Parcells out of retirement fell apart.

They settled on Gruden, who had one year left on his contract in Oakland, after also considering Marvin Lewis and Steve Mariucci for the opening.

Glazer declined to answer questions about possible successors.

"In our mind, there's a plan of where we want to go," he said. "We've thought it through very carefully. It will become apparent as we move along."

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