A round of golf with my radio partner, Tim Ryan, against former Tampa Bay Buccaneers general manager Bruce Allen and coach Jon Gruden made for a competitive time. Both of those men need to be back in football as soon as possible, but for one morning, beating Tim and me took center stage.
Don’t believe the bad press that Gruden has been receiving lately since he and Allen were fired Jan. 16. Gruden still is an engaging person with a tremendous knowledge of football and a fine sense of humor. He’ll learn a lot from this setback and come back an even better coach. Remember when Bill Belichick left Cleveland? Not too many people thought what he did in New England was possible, but it happened, and Gruden will land on his feet.
Allen is brilliant with managing the salary cap and people. Here’s a guy who inherited a salary-cap nightmare in Tampa and leaves the new regime in possibly the best situation in the NFL. A smart owner would be all over the prospect of hiring Allen if he could get him to join his franchise. Allen’s relationship with players, agents and league executives would put instant credibility in a front office.
As for my conversations with other Buccaneers players, former players and coaches, emotions ran high on both sides of the issue. Raheem Morris, the new coach, couldn’t say enough about what Gruden and Allen meant to him and told me of how he was torn between all the emotions that came with being offered the top job and knowing the two men who mentored him were on the way out. Morris has those two guys cheering for him to succeed.
DT Chris Hovan and G Davin Joseph both preferred to blame themselves and their teammates for the Bucs’ collapse at the end of the season. As Joseph said, “The defense needed us late in the year, and we didn’t come through.” Said Hovan: “It was on all the players to perform better. We were prepared by the coaches.”