Jon Gruden Transcript — Jan. 7

Here is the complete transcript from Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Jon Gruden's end-of-season press conference on Jan. 7, 2007:

Opening statement

Obviously, very disappointed that the season is over. Also, I would also again like to reiterate that I'm very proud of our football team. It was a great group of men that we had this season. It was a unique combination of veteran players, young players, some players that came to our football team even after training camp that helped us capture a division championship, gave us an opportunity to play in the playoffs. The camaraderie and the unity that we had this year was unique. We overcame a lot, but unfortunately we weren't able to overcome the New York Giants. But I'm proud of our team, I'm proud of our coaches, and I'll answer any questions that I can.

On areas of improvement

We have to improve in all areas. I think the number one item on our agenda is to get some of our players to return to health and that includes guys like Sabby Piscitelli, our second round draft pick, Luke Petitgout, Carnell Williams, a number of players that we need to return to full health so they can make key contributions. We'll have time to analyze our season, our individual and collective performances, but we want to improve in every area.

On losing four out of the last five games

Well you know what, we didn't start out with a bang in Seattle, we came together. We were .500 at the break, we came out of the bye week and won four consecutive games and I was really proud of that. We did win our division title after the Atlanta game with two weeks remaining. For the people who cover the Buccaneers daily, I think everyone understands that we made some serious changes on the practice field, just to get through practice and we made the decision, I made the decision to try to get our football team as healthy as possible for the playoffs. We could've probably won a couple of those other games. But the point is that we made the playoffs and we wanted to advance in January. I don't believe we fizzled, I thought we played pretty good football against Carolina given the number of guys that did play for the first time. We had an opportunity to win that game, as we did in San Francisco. I think there is a little bit of an asterisk next to the final two games. I'm happy to take responsibility for them. We just didn't have enough stuff yesterday for a lot of reasons.

On what he learned

Well we may not have won a Super Bowl Championship, we won a division championship, that's a great accomplishment in itself, but in the National Football League that is not enough. But we do have the heart of a champion, we had the heart of a champion, and around that heart we're going to build what we feel is a world championship football team. The character is unique. The work ethnic is tremendous and the camaraderie, you have to be here behind these doors to feel it. Those are things that we're going to emphasize and hopefully strengthen in the years to come.

On RB Earnest Graham

We saw that he can certainly carry the load. We saw that he can stand in there on a down to down basis and only play good, but play great at times. Obviously the situation that he was thrust in to, for him to excel the way he did, certainly proved that he is a quality NFL back and a guy that we can win with. I tip my hat to him. We lost our fullback for a few weeks, which didn't help him. Jeff had his injury, so we had to lean on Graham, and that we did. I think, certainly, he can be a guy that we can give the ball to and ask a lot from. We also need to continue to add to our backfield.

On if the team needs a superstar

Our guys do make profound impacts in the games. You turn on Sports Center and you see week in and week out some of the greatest plays you will ever see. We need that here certainly. We're hoping, obviously, that some of that is on this football team at this point and time. We do want to have firepower, explosive playmaking ability. We did have a guy lead the National Football League in yards per catch, almost 18 yards a grab, Galloway, and we missed him yesterday. We lost a guy that we think can hit the ball out of the park in Cadillac Williams. We need these guys, but we need to continue to address speed and explosive playmaking ability in all phases of our football and the return game as well.

On adding free agents

This is a great place to play and while we are on T.V. somewhere, any of you veteran players out there, that are free agents, we are open for business, men.

On free agents and priorities

I'll let Bruce [Allen] address some of those questions. Obviously the priority is our free agents, their situations will be looked into and we'll go from there. We will address the health of our team, get all the information necessary, and first of all find out who is out there.

On RB Carnell Williams

It's a dark lonely world right now that he's in. It's going to be a grind. All I can say is that we have as many people on it, on his situation that you can imagine. He's in here early. He's going to be pushed, it's not going to be easy, but if there is any guy that can get it done, he can get it done. It's important to him and it's a long road ahead of him. I'm cautiously optimistic because of the kid we're talking about and the work ethic that he possesses.

On QB Chris Simms

It's a strange injury. There haven't been a lot of players that have had it. How long does it take to resume playing? How do you resume playing? All these things are hard to answer. In 2005, when we won the Division, we were excited about building our team around a young quarterback, Cadillac Williams, Dan Buenning. A lot of these guys were considered key components. We surely lacked all three of them. But I don't know the answers to all these questions. He's a great kid. It tears me up to see him unable to compete because he misses the game and he misses the guys.

On WR Joey Galloway's injury

I think more than anything he's very frustrated that he couldn't compete at the level that he wanted to compete at. I have a great relationship with him and I understand the frustration. We needed him yesterday and unfortunately, he wasn't 100 percent. We made a decision to pull him out of the game and obviously he was hurt, you can see it on the tape this morning. It's hard to play in this league, let alone with one arm, and I think emotions flared. This is very important to him, he's played a long time and wanted a shot at a championship and he knows he's a key cog here, one of the big reasons why we have a chance every Sunday. I think the emotions may have gotten the best out of him, but I can appreciate that.

On Jeff Garcia

I think when you acquire free agent players like a Jeff Garcia, particularly at the quarterback position and you put a guy in a new offense, with a new supporting cast, in a new conference and you get a guy who comes in here and performs the way he did, he certainly showcased that he has juice left. Obviously we have to keep him healthy for 16 games, but I think there's a lot left in Garcia's tank, I certainly do.

On the future at the quarterback position

You know what, Luke McCown did some good things. He obviously had seven or eight plays that we can all clearly remember that were negative, but he helped us in Louisiana win an NFC South Championship in his first start in over three years really. He completed a lot of passes, moved our football team. I think with the quarterback, you have to consider everything, and I think as we continue to improve around him, I think Luke McCown has talent to be a player, no question, at that position. We're going to continue to look, we always do, we've been accused of that for probably justifiable reasons, but we'll try to add as many quality players at that position as possible. It's been a real problem position for us here in terms of the lack of continuity, and we want to try to get stability, long term stability, at that position.

On the abrupt ending to the season

The best way to explain it, I guess, was that the stadium atmosphere yesterday was unbelievable. The flags, the noise, the passion, the excitement, and now it's suddenly quiet. To say goodbye to these guys this morning was very emotional for me and very hard because they mean a lot to me and I'm proud of them.

On if this is the most tight-knit team he's been around

Yeah, I think it is. I think it was portrayed really when Paris Warren got hurt in the preseason, when Cadillac went down in North Carolina. You don't see that. It's not scripted, it's just special, especially at this level. This is a unique bond, a unique togetherness that we shared and hopefully we can continue to build upon that.

On preventing a slide following this division title such as the one in 2006

It's tough in the National Football League, especially in the NFC South. I think the team that finishes last finishes first the next year. That's a heck of a trend. I've never seen anything quite like that. I think we have to concentrate on the reality of where we are. We've got to continue to add players, we've got to continue to develop players and we need a few players to explode onto the scene as dominant, great players for us to move on.

On if the team has the right cornerstones in its young players

Well, the right side of the line [G Davin Joseph and T Jeremy Trueblood] had a very good season – 16 starts together. Obviously, Arron Sears is going to be a great player. He's a guy, I think, that can take his game to an incredible height. What he did yesterday to perform in that game from a toughness standpoint will speak volumes about him in his career, I think. He's walking around here today in a boot. He's just one tough, hard- nosed football player that could be great. And Donald Penn, for him to do what he did and play as well as he did gives us, I think, depth at the left tackle position should Petitgout come back, and that's exciting. So I think we do have some key ingredients there, some guys that can be dominant and be a force to be reckoned with. We're excited about it.

On if Luke Petitgout and Donald Penn will fight for the left tackle job next year

We'll talk about all that later. Again, Luke Petitgout has a serious injury; he's got to come back from it. And when he does, when Petitgout does come back, he's going to have to again prove to himself and to everybody that he is the guy that he was before the injury. I've been impressed with his rehab, been impressed with his work ethic, and I expect him to be a key ingredient in our football team next year.

On if he anticipates the same stability in starters from 2007 to 2008 as the team had from 2005 to 2006

We're going to need to continue to add players. The hard part about the National Football League is, no matter who you are there's going to be change with the draft and with free agency. But we do want to try to remain as consistent as we can in terms of keeping continuity. But as we stated earlier, we're going to try to compete for the best players that are out there in America that are available this year to try to help ourselves get better.

On the free agent market

I haven't even looked at it. We just got done playing yesterday. I'm sure the list will be officially documented here soon. Sometimes these guys get signed up before free agency starts. Again, the most important free agents are our free agents, and their situations will be dealt with first and with first priority.

On what is in his immediate future

Well, I'm going to take my 13-year-old son out and start coaching him this afternoon, because that's about all I have left to coach right now. It's been a great year. I appreciate the interest, the enthusiasm that was thrust back into our football team. I think as we enter training camp next year the expectations will be higher. It will be more exciting, certainly, in the offseason program. What I'm going to do is take a little time off and try to help my sons with their homework and just try to rejuvenate a little bit.

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