JON GRUDEN (head coach)
ANALYSIS: 2007 was probably one of Gruden's finer achievements as head coach. With a myriad of injuries and new players to deal with, Gruden appeared to be more open to adjustments and new ideas than in previous years. He directly benefited from a quarterback finely attuned to his game plan in Jeff Garcia, plus a defense that returned to the Top 10 of the NFL. His game plans and play calls late in the season appeared to get more conservative, and that carried over into the NFC Wild Card playoff game. He wasn't as quick to abandon the running game in 2007 as he was in 2006, though there was criticism for his lack of use of RB Earnest Graham in a close game against the Giants.
OUTLOOK FOR 2008: Armed with a three-year contract extension, his goals this offseason appear to be adding playmakers on offense and integrating them into his scheme which, when humming, can be one of the league's best. But it has never been on full tilt since his arrival in Tampa Bay.
LEAGUE RANKINGS: 18th in total offense, 11th in rushing, 16th in passing.
ANALYSIS: Offensive line coach Bill Muir did great work with a young offensive line, especially new LT Donald Penn. He pushed and squeezed as much good play as he could out of the first time starter after Luke Petitgout's season-ending knee injury. RT Jeremy Trueblood also made big-time improvement. … QB coach Paul Hackett helped fine-tune Jeff Garcia's approach and mentored Luke McCown during his first three starts in three years. Hackett deserved a lot of credit for getting McCown ready to play against New Orleans. Bruce Gradkowski took a step back, though that could be more about Gradkowski's ability to play at the NFL level rather than Hackett's abilities as a teacher. Greg Olson will coach quarterbacks in 2008. … RB coach Art Valero got everything he could out of Earnest Graham, who rushed for nearly 900 yards in his first full year as a starter. He also helped accelerated Graham's development in the passing game and as a third-down blocker in the shotgun. Valero has taken a position with the St. Louis Rams. … WR coach Richard Mann did fine work with Joey Galloway and Ike Hilliard. But the rest of the receivers did not develop as hoped, especially Maurice Stovall, of whom much was expected. Mann re-signed with the team, as did Muir. … TE coach Bob Casullo stayed under the radar most of the season, but did solid work in continuing Alex Smith's development and probably had a hand in Jerramy Stevens' late-season surge.
OUTLOOK FOR 2008: With the majority of the staff coming back, two goals are clear — continue the momentum built from 2007 and add playmakers to an offense that sorely needs then.
LEAGUE RANKINGS: 2nd in total defense, 17th in rushing defense, 1st in passing defense.
ANALYSIS: Defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin proved quite nimble in using different formation outside of his Cover 2 to create mismatches and pressure on quarterbacks. This may have been his most creative year as coordinator and he was rewarded with a new contract that will pay him at least $2 million annually. … DL coach Larry Coyer helped accelerate the developments of the Bucs' younger linemen, including Jovan Haye, Greg White and Gaines Adams. By the end of the year the Bucs were brining the type of pressure they wanted up front, though their work against the run was only average. … LB coach Gus Bradley maintained the level of play among the linebackers, which is the defense's backbone. He had a hand in Barrett Ruud's quick rise. … DB coach Raheem Morris had a great year turning around a position group that had a lot to answer to after a horrible 2006. Jermaine Phillips returned to his pre-2006 level of play, Tanard Jackson quickly moved into the starting lineup and Phillip Buchanon had a bounce back year after falling below expectations in Houston and Oakland. Morris' coaching style and attention to detail had much to do with that.
OUTLOOK FOR 2008: The goal is simple. They must maintain the level of play from 2007, plus improve against the run.
LEAGUE RANKINGS: The coverage units ranked in the Top 10 in the NFL. The return units ranked in the lower half of the NFL.
ANALYSIS: Special teams coach Richard Bisaccia did a fine job of marshaling a new group of players into two of the best coverage units in the NFL. Their specialty became directional kicks, which allowed coverage to surround the returner before he could get going upfield. The coverage was busted only once for a touchdown, a kickoff return by Houston's Andre Davis. The return units, meanwhile, struggled after Mark Jones went down to a season-ending injury. Had Jones remained healthy, the units would have been a more consistent asset. But that's not on Bisaccia. He did the best he could after Jones' injury.
OUTLOOK FOR 2008: Bisaccia will be back, and many of his key performers are either under contract or restricted free agents. His real issue will be finding the right kickoff and punt returner, as Jones could be out for all of 2008.
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Matthew Postins covers the Buccaneers for Bucsblitz.com and the Charlotte (Fla.) Sun-Herald. He is a member of the Pro Football Writers Association, and his coverage of the Buccaneers has won numerous state and national awards.