TAMPA — The worst week of Dirk Koetter’s life rolls on.
It’s Gruden Week, just like Shark Week, only with smaller teeth and a bigger playbook. It’s the big build-up to Gruden’s induction into the Buc Ring of Honor this Monday night, with the accompanying chorus of bring the man back to turn this ship around.
Problem: The Bucs might need to go farther back.
They might need a Tony Dungy.
Gruden and Dungy. The names go together in Bucs history, at the top. This franchise doesn’t ever win that Super Bowl without them, Dungy laying the groundwork, Gruden finishing it off. They are the greatest coach in Bucs history. Gruden was just the one who got to hold up the Lombardi Trophy.
The Bucs are a rather pathetic lot on situations like this. This franchise is constantly chasing its past, if not its tail. Every time a coach is fired, and that is every two years on Glazer clocks, there’s a clamor for throwback greatness. No one represents that more than Gruden and Dungy.
Neither man needs the work. Both are esteemed TV guys with side jobs. Dungy moonlights as the conscience of football. Gruden moonlights as the hottest name in coaching not coaching. Oh, and the Corona spots. Neither man needs the Bucs.
Here’s what I say: The Bucs need another Dungy more than they need another Gruden.
Gruden was the right man at the right time. His coming took the Bucs to the top of the world. He was the perfect catalytic agent, and as such deserves a night like Monday. He never did get a proper farewell, fired in the night as he was. This is it.
But you can’t recreate the past. Things aren’t like they were when Gruden arrived in Tampa Bay. The Bucs seemed poised for greatness. The Bucs were close. Gruden was the closer.
They’re not close anymore.
Watch all the Hard Knocks reruns you want. You’re dreaming. These Bucs aren’t close. They’re not one play away. They’re not one player away. They’re lousy. They need a reset.
They need a Dungy.
Maybe not the man himself, but at least that mind set.
Maybe the next Dungy. Or, failing that, maybe the next Mike Tomlin.
The Bucs need a coach who reverses the culture. They need a new way of doing things, and a new way of realizing that the way they’re going to do things is going to be … the way they need to do things, on the field and in the community. They’re going to win back this football town.
That is what Dungy did for the Bucs when he arrived 21 years ago. He kept his arms folded and emotions intact, unflappabale, while encouraging a young, talented team that repetition, discipline and limiting mistakes was the winning ticket. It took the Bucs where they needed to go — and eventually took them to Gruden, that last missing piece. It took Dungy to Indianapolis, and Peyton Manning, a missing piece himself.
I’m not saying Dungy would sit down Gerald McCoy and Lavonte David and talk to them as he once talked to Warren Sapp and Derrick Brooks. I’m not saying Jameis Winston doesn’t need an advanced quarterback coach to re-teach him proper footwork.
And all of this goes completely against today’s NFL. Sean McVay. A quick hitter. A rapid turnaround. Instant results. That’s the preferred route. A Dungy might not fly today. What says it more than Bucs fans’ Gruden infatuation? The idea of The Return of Chucky is a grabber. The Bucs need a Dungy more.
Maybe there’s no correct answer. The Bucs are in limbo. They aren’t close enough to needing a Gruden to put them over the top. They’re not far enough away to need a Dungy.
Package deal. One runs the offense. One runs the defense.
What do you say, guys?
Contact Martin Fennelly at [email protected] or (813) 731-8029. Follow @mjfennelly