Much was made of Buccaneers wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson's future, or lack thereof, in Tampa Bay during the 2002 season.
Although he caught 76 passes for 1,088 yards and scored five touchdowns, Johnson vented his frustration with his role in Bucs head coach Jon Gruden's offense through the media on more than one occasion during the regular season.
Johnson's public criticism of his head coach along with the fact that his cap value will rise from $3.57 million to $6.857 million next season, has some wondering if Johnson will be traded or released during the offseason.
If the Bucs were to part ways with Johnson via a release or trade, the team would take a $7.2-million cap hit. Towards the end of the season, Johnson and Gruden seemed to settle whatever differences they might have had, but was it too late?
"I don't understand the question," Gruden said when asked if Keyshawn Johnson would be a Buc next season. "I mean he's got a long-term contract. He's -- we got in an argument on a Monday night game (and now) everybody thinks he's being traded. I fully expect him to be a Buccaneer throughout the rest of his career."
TAMPA BAY'S DEFENSE OBTAINS GRUDEN'S GOAL:
Before the 2002 season started, Tampa Bay head coach Jon Gruden challenged Monte Kiffin's defense to score nine touchdowns.
That was quite a high and strange touchdown total for a defense, wasn't it?
Perhaps it was, but the scary part was Tampa Bay's top-rated defense met Gruden's expectations and it happened with just :02 remaining in Super Bowl XXXVII.
Tampa Bay's defense scored five touchdowns during the regular season and they added one more to that total in the playoffs when cornerback Ronde Barber returned an interception for a touchdown against Philadelphia.
With one game left to play, the defense had some catching up to do. But Tampa Bay's defense managed to reach Gruden's goal when they returned three Rich Gannon interceptions for touchdowns in Super Bowl XXXVII.
So, why did Gruden challenge a defense that had already been recognized as one of the best in the league?
"Well, it was a very interesting situation when I got to Tampa, obviously," Gruden said. "No coaches came with me. There weren't a lot of players around. I didn't know anybody in the building - none of the coaches, players, nobody in the front office other than Monte Kiffin and I realized we had a challenge to succeed a great coach. And at the same time the strength of this football team clearly was on the defensive side of the ball. And offensively we were going to construct something that hopefully would be an improvement. And the defense and the offense went after each other hard, starting in the April mini-camps, into the training camp, and I challenged them to back up their excellence. And don't just be satisfied with turnovers and sacks – we want to score. You better score nine times. Why I came up with nine is a long story, I can't get into that today."
DEFENSE CREDITS GRUDEN FOR ABILITY TO SHUT DOWN GANNON:
How did Tampa Bay's defense put such a stranglehold on NFL MVP and Oakland quarterback Rich Gannon in Super Bowl XXXVII? Well, let's just say they received some help from head coach and offensive guru Jon Gruden, who coached Gannon in Oakland for three seasons.
During last Friday's practice in San Diego, Gruden got under center and ran several no-huddle plays against Tampa Bay's defense. Gruden made adjustments to the looks he was given by the defense and he managed to move the scout team down the field. Gruden, a former quarterback at Dayton, gave the league's No. 1 ranked defense a taste of what it was going to be like when they lined up against the best quarterback in the NFL.
"At first we couldn't pick him off at, but I think most of that came because we couldn't hit the quarterback," said Super Bowl MVP Dexter Jackson, who intercepted Gannon twice last Sunday. "But he came out, he showed us some looks, he tried to show us how Gannon thinks. He ran a little hurry-up offensive drill and he came up and faked the hurry-up and made the defense try to adjust and show what we were doing. And he did a great job preparing us for that. Like I said, it's hard to simulate a player's performance, but he did a great job getting us prepared for that."
Gruden obviously did a good job of preparing the defense for Gannon. They sacked Oakland's quarterback five times and they picked off five of his passes, three of which they returned for touchdowns.
"I just wanted the team to get a feel for what it was going to be like," Gruden said. "I don't know how clearly I illustrated it – it's hard to be Rich Gannon, obviously. But I did want them to feel a certain image that Rich Gannon was going to present. And Rich is very unique, he changes plays, two or three times. He can change protections, the flow of the protection, the running game. And I wanted our players to feel like it was indeed going to be a bit of a mind game when they're in that no-huddle offense. And I enjoyed it. I was sore the next day, but I really did enjoy it. I'll keep that film forever."
RAIDERS WR PORTER TAKES SHOTS AT BUCCANEERS' SECONDARY:
His offense was dominated by Tampa Bay's defense in Super Bowl XXXVII, but that didn't stop Oakland wide receiver Jerry Porter from bashing the Buccaneers' secondary on Monday.
"I'm not going to sit here and say they're great. I'm not impressed. Their DBs ----," Porter told reporters on Monday. "Across the board, they're awful, but they apply enough pressure up front to where you can't expose them.
"Let me tell you, if Ronde Barber had to cover all day, he'd be living with his brother (Tiki)."
Strange that Porter would have such choice words for the league's No. 1 pass defense. It was, after all, the same defense that intercepted Oakland QB Rich Gannon five times, four of which were picked off by members of Tampa Bay's secondary. It's also the same secondary that allowed the NFL's MVP to complete just 54.5 percent of his passes for 250 yards.
Porter hauled in four passes for 62 yards and he scored a touchdown in Oakland's 48-21 loss to Tampa Bay.
Porter suggested Tampa Bay's secondary reaped the benefits of the pressure its front four put on quarterbacks throughout the season.
"It was astounding," Porter said of the pressure Tampa Bay's defensive line put on Gannon. "Them boys got it going up front.
"Man-to-man, they're not (great). The only guy who can play man-to-man is Brian Kelly, and he's only decent. They're a team that thrives off their pressure."
Of course, most people would agree that Porter has poor timing. But some would also disagree all together with Porter's opinion of Tampa Bay's secondary, which allowed an average of just 155 yards passing per game this season.
Some are saying Tampa Bay's defense is one of the best to have ever played in the NFL, but Porter didn't agree.
"Hell, no. Hell, no," Porter said when asked of Tampa Bay's defense was one of the best ever. "The Ravens' defense (in 2000), they were hell against the run. You can run on the Bucs. We just didn't. We didn't because that's not our structure this year. You couldn't run on the Ravens. ... But (against the Bucs), all you have to do is -- it's pretty easy to say now because the game is over -- run the ball."
Oakland ran the ball 19 times for 11 yards (1.7 avg.) against Tampa Bay last Sunday.
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