Believe me, I know what you're thinking. I too was surprised when reports surfaced recently suggesting Tampa Bay general manager Rich McKay was leaning toward Baltimore defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis as Tampa Bay's new head coach.
Why fire Tony Dungy and then replace him with his carbon copy? If Lewis is indeed hired, I know this will be one of several inquiries I make at the press conference.
But not to worry Tampa, there's a new dynamic duo in town, and they've apparently saved the Buccaneers franchise, again. Actually, Tampa Bay executive vice presidents Bryan and Joel Glazer have been in town since 1995. They helped turn one of the worst franchises in National Football League history into one of the best, and they did it in just two years. The Glazers are not saints, nor do they claim to be, but they are known to run into the phone booth dressed in suits and come flying out in red and pewter tights and long capes from time to time.
While the dollar sign on the front of their Superman-like shirts and in the middle of their capes might suggest otherwise, the Glazers have temporarily saved face, and more importantly, they may have saved their franchise.
I've thought long and hard about what Lewis might bring to the table for the Buccaneers that Dungy did not, but I'm struggling.
Several reports have suggested Mckay is seriously interested in hiring Lewis as Tampa Bay's head coach, but the Glazers have concerns about replacing one defensive-minded coach with another.
The Glazers have asked McKay to not only rethink his decision on Lewis, but also make a bigger push for Oakland head coach and offensive guru Jon Gruden, who's thought to be at odds with Raiders owner Al Davis.
When the Bill Parcells debacle took place, the Glazers might have lost whatever credibility they had left with Tampa and the rest of the NFL. After all, the Glazers are the people that didn't have a backup plan in place after firing Dungy and losing Parcells. Yes, they almost moved the team out of Tampa in 1996. Yes, they promised to pay for half of Raymond James Stadium and haven't delivered. Yes, the Buccaneers have been waiting for a new training facility to replace One Buccaneer Place for over two years, and the Glazers haven't even decided on a location.
But what the Glazers have done is temporarily prevent what could be a questionable decision by McKay to hire Marvin Lewis.
Is Lewis capable of coaching in the NFL? Yes, absolutely. In fact, Lewis should have secured employment as a head coach in the league a long time ago. But Lewis is not the right fit for the Buccaneers. Tampa Bay needs offense, not defense. Sure, the defense could use some tweaking, but the offense needs a complete overhaul. Is Lewis going to come in and win over Tampa Bay's locker room? Is he going to get an offense that has spent six years on life support off of it? I'm trying to build a case for Lewis, I really am, but I'm finding it difficult to do.
These are desperate times for the Buccaneers, and they call for desperate measures. There's only one coach available that could right Tampa Bay's ship, and that's Gruden. The Glazers understand this, but McKay apparently does not.
Gruden, 38, has posted a 30-18 record and has won two-consecutive AFC West Division titles, but only has one-year remaining on his contract with the Raiders. Gruden has already informed Oakland he has no interest in signing an extension and will not be in Oakland beyond the 2002-2003 season. Gruden is a fiery type of coach, and is exactly what Tampa Bay needs at this stage of the game.
The Glazers have the ammunition to acquire a proven head coach like Gruden, but McKay is holding a cease-fire. At this point, anyone other than Gruden will be a step backward for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Give Oakland a No. 1 draft pick. Heck, give them two or three. Just ask the Patriots if trading a No. 1 draft pick for a head coach is worth it. Just two-years after the Patriots traded a No. 1 draft pick to the New York Jets in exchange for Bill Belichick, they won Super Bowl XXXVI.
The Glazers have put their feet down in terms of blocking McKay from hiring defensive Lewis. If McKay doesn't understand the possible implications of hiring another defensive-minded head coach, then the Glazers will need to take the next step and go after Gruden themselves.
The Glazers have a chance to redeem themselves, and they're already proceeding in the right direction.
Bryan, Joel--take the next step and save your franchise. Save face. Draft picks are a small price to pay for a proven head coach like Jon Gruden. So, if Rich McKay is not going to call Al Davis and get this deal going, get in your phone booth, put on your red and pewter superhero shirt and cape, and call him yourselves.
Copyright 2001 Buccaneer Magazine/BucMag.com
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