Martin Fennelly Columns
Gruden Era Had Become Old News
So much for the safe water landing. With a ferocious lack of ceremony, it is over. Jon Gruden, who once was astride the football world, holding the Lombardi Trophy aloft, was dismissed by the Glazers in double secret Glazeresque fashion, his world reduced from the Roman Numerals in San Diego six years ago to a Friday Night Massacre initially relegated to the right side of the Bucs' Web site under the heading "News." Allen, Gruden Dismissed. Jonny G. didn't even get top billing.It all was played out. The new day in Tampa Bay belongs to the young, or at least the younger: 32-year-old Raheem Morris, whose life as Bucs defensive coordinator might fit inside a thimble. These are his Bucs now after the Glazers swung the axe on the 14th anniversary of signing the papers to buy the team. Do these guys know how to mark an anniversary or what? Allen's general manager's office now belongs to Bucs director of pro personnel Mark Dominik. This is an inside job all around. It's stunning, sweeping, daring, all of those things. It's also good stuff. Because it was all played out. The Chucky grins, the Chucky moments, the Chucky heyday. We thought of it as Gruden's seventh Bucs season, one more than Tony Dungy, ended with a collapse for the ages, which made ownership squirm, then sour on Gruden and GM Bruce Allen, who went down together. Super Bowl XXXVII, the greatest night in Bucs history, grew dim in the rear view. We weren't sure the Glazers were seeing that, too. Well, they were. "We believe in building a franchise for the long haul," Joel, one of the leading Glazers, said. It couldn't go on like this. There was a meeting Friday, probably filled with Gruden answers and solutions didn't wash. "You know, the thing about Favre..." Just kidding. Hey, wouldn't it be funny if Gruden wound up running the Jets and No. 4 returned at quarterback? A dream fulfilled. I can see it. I see Gruden bouncing back. There's too much jam in the man. I bet he wins again. Here? The Glazers were fed up with patch jobs, with up, down, down, up, with what the Gruden Bucs had become. No more old quarterback. No more quick fixes. No more roller coaster. Even as we say that, remember what the man did, Tampa Bay. Remember Jon Gruden back then. Remember the Gruden who came here in 2002 lit the fire that took the Bucs to the moon. Was there ever a better guy to wire for sound on a sideline? Jon Gruden was once the hottest coach in America. It seems so long ago to us. It finally did to the Glazers. We never saw a man go through his Super Bowl goodwill faster. Gruden could have been beloved in this town, and he wound up being bedeviled. No sooner was he on top of the world then he made power play after power play. Old Bucs fell like duck pins and too many seedy types made their way onto this roster. The Great Gruden Offense never happened. This franchise lost more than it won since that night in San Diego. It was all played out. Gruden wasn't a builder. It didn't help that the great offensive era he was to have ushered in never was ushered in. Give the man his due. He won a Super Bowl. That night will last forever. In the live and die NFL, it lasted six years. The Glazers had a plan. You knew they did. They could have fallen for all those names out there. But the smartest move is to revisit the finest hour in Bucs history - the hiring of Dungy, which was about building, vision, direction and mission. Who's the next Dungy? The Glazers apparently think they've found him inside their own building. We'll know soon enough. The rest of this story is about to play out. The Jon Gruden Story already has.