Gruden chasing glory in Tampa Bay

"I remember a long time ago when my dad was coaching at Notre Dame at the Cotton Bowl and Joe Montana was in the locker room eating chicken soup and we were down 34-12. Ever since Joe Montana brought Notre Dame back ... I'll be honest with you. That (New York win) was a dramatic come-from-behind victory. That was one for the ages. I was leaning towards the Giants, in terms of film I was looking at, but we are proud to play San Francisco and hopefully they bring out the best in us."

Q: Do the playoffs alter your sleep routine?

Gruden: I'm really excited to play this game. With a bye week, sometimes idle time could make some of us crazy, but we're really excited about competing on Sunday and we realize that we have a great challenge.

Q: How is Brad Johnson?

Gruden: He's been very sharp. I think he feels good. I can't speak for him, but all of his signs are very positive. He's moving around and making all the throws. He shows no effect of that previous injury whatsoever.

Q: Do you rely on Brad Johnson to get the ball down field with your three wideouts?

Gruden: It's a possibility. San Francisco is a very fast defense. We certainly respect their front four and their ability to generate pressure, even without the blitz. At the same time, if you watch the games carefully, they play some really good defensive football. We're going to make an attempt to have a good mixture and part of that involves throwing the football.

Q: Can you admit at 38-14 that you were breaking down Giants film on Sunday?

Gruden: I remember a long time ago when my dad was coaching at Notre Dame at the Cotton Bowl and Joe Montana was in the locker room eating chicken soup and we were down to the Houston Cougars 34-12. Ever since Joe Montana brought Notre Dame back, I had a tendency not to start doing anything until I really know. I'll be honest with you. That was a dramatic come from behind victory. That was one for the ages. I was leaning towards the Giants, in terms of film I was looking at, but we are proud to play San Francisco and
hopefully they bring out the best in us.

Q: Is there something about that game that heightens your awareness of the 49ers, in terms of momentum and what Garcia could do?

Gruden: No, we don't get that deep and philosophical out here. We realize the 49ers are a very talented team and I tip my hat to them. They lost a couple of games down the stretch that I think many people thought they would win. They were down by 24 points and they showed great resiliency and championship character. We respect that, but at the same time, we feel like we've got some of that here also.

Q: Has the transition from Oakland to Tampa Bay gone as well as you could have imagined?

Gruden: It's been a very exciting time in my life.  I'm very fortunate to have a really good football team here and good solid group of coaches to work with everyday. If you have those two things, you have a chance to have success.

Q: Difference in culture between Tampa and Oakland?

Gruden: I don't really care to get into all of that. No two situations are the same. Obviously, I have great respect for where I came from. At the same time, this is a real exciting time of my life. I love being down here. We have a lot to prove here. We've worked hard to get to this stage and I'm just going to concentrate on that.

Q: Offensively, you guys were 18th in points scored and 24th in yards. Do those numbers stick out to you?

Gruden: We have pride as coaches also. We want to finish first in every category, but we're making improvements. I think Brad Johnson was, if not the top-rated passer in the NFC, he was first or second. We're going to make strides here to improve and get to where we want to be on offense. We're confident we can make that happen.We lead the NFL in turnover ratio. We have a ways to go to get exactly where we want to go. The big thing is we need to win games and find ways to get that done. Whether it be the kicking game, a good solid defense, and some timely playmaking on offense. Whatever it takes that is the bottom line. Just win baby. That is what they say around here.

Q: Is there any containing Terrell Owens?

Gruden: I don't know. He is something else. You people, who cover him, I'm sure feel the same way. He is a beast after the catch. He is great inside route runner and has a physical presence. We have to limit the yardage after the catch. We obviously have to do a great job defending number 81.

Q: Why has Warren Sapp been able put up numbers and be successful?

Gruden: I think the thing that is overlooked with Warren is that he has an unbelievable work ethic. He has a great ability throughout the year to work hard at his game. He's in great shape. He practices very hard. He knows this defense. He has great pride in his responsibilities and he has a tremendous motor that never stops. When you look at the great players in this league, whether you are talking about Terrell Owens or Jerry Rice, they all have that quality that Derrick Brooks and Warren Sapp have. They are finishers. They are very talented and they are full of pride and I think Warren has got all of those things.

Q: Do you feature him in your defense?

Gruden: He is under tackle in a one gap scheme. We all know that is the guy that makes things happen. Over the years and at least since I've been here and have been able to watch him at close range, he's really effective in that
role.

Q: How phenomenal of a year has Derrick Brooks had?

Gruden: Unbelievable. He makes a lot of plays...open field tackles that are amazing plays. Earlier in the year, I kept telling Derrick, 'Jeez that was a great play. Super job Derrick.' By week five or six, he pointed out to me that he has been doing that here for seven or eight years. He is really a great football player. He goes side line to sideline and he's an every-down linebacker who has great coverage ability and has a real knack for the big play. He's an inspiring guy on this team.

Q: Is he a neutralizing presence to take Jeff Garcia out of the picture?

Gruden: This team is very fast defensively. Quarles, the middle linebacker, runs particularly well for a middle linebacker. He's extremely fast. Simeon Rice can really run. Warren Sapp, for a big man, has sideline to sideline speed. We've got a physical safety in Lynch and we've got some guys who can really run. When you're the weak side linebacker and your name is Derrick Brooks, that is going to put you in position to make plays.

Q: Is there something home to you about Florida?

Gruden: I finished my schooling down here and my mom and dad have lived here for about 20 years. This is the place I really do call home. I've come back down to Tampa for the last 20 years. I moved around, somewhat like a gypsy, in my earlier years. This is a place I have a passion for and would definitely like to be part of winning a championship here.

Q: What are your thoughts on the chaotic ending of San Francisco's last game?

Gruden: We were watching it as a staff and it got to be so exciting we kind of
dropped what we were doing and became fans, honestly. When the 49ers scored to make that dramatic lead 39-38 and then the ensuing series when they got the ball down there, it was so exciting. I was really concerned that there might be a pass interference call just looking at it. When it wasn't called I just went back in and tried to find some 49ers tape since I had just found out who we were playing.

Q: Does the offense look the same as it did in 1990 when you were coaching in San Francisco?

Gruden: No, football has changed to me a lot since that time; defenses and all those things, plays and stuff that you see. But there are some things, some concepts that have carried over throughout the years. I think Steve has done a great job putting a balanced offensive system in place. They can run it, they can throw it, they can make big plays. They have a great quarterback who's very disciplined with the ball and I think their defense is very creative too. They will always be on the cutting edge in terms of football in my opinion.

Q: Did it ever cross your mind that you'd be playing the 49ers so soon in your coaching future?

Gruden: You have to expect that if you make the playoffs you're going to see the best teams in organized football and certainly the 49ers have returned the prominence in the last couple of years and you think that there's a good chance you're going to have to see the Niners and here we go.


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