Davis OK's Gruden deal to Tampa

Now that Jon Gruden has been shipped away to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for four draft picks and $8 million in cash, the Raiders turned their attention toward finding a new head coach, a search that owner Al Davis said he would like to complete within 10 days.

Gruden was allowed to sign a five-year, $20 million contract with the Bucs after a late-night conversation Sunday night between Davis and Tampa Bay executive vice-president Joel Glazer swayed the Raiders owner into making the deal. In exchange, Oakland received a first- and second-round draft pick this year, a first-round pick in 2003 and a second-round pick in 2004 and $8 million in cash. And while Tampa Bay celebrated the end to a long and often ridiculous search to fill their head coaching vacancy, the Raiders began their own search following the dealing of the widely popular Gruden to the Bucs. ''I'm looking for someone who wants to win and keep the continuity of what we have going here,'' said Davis, who gave his approval for the Gruden-to-Tampa Bay deal at 2:30 a.m. Monday morning. ''This came so fast. I feel (Gruden) is a bight coach and it's up to us to perpetuate what I call the greatness of the Raiders.'' Gruden had been rumored to be Tampa Bay's choice all along ever since the Bucs fired Tony Dungy following the end of the regular season. Initially the Raiders turned down Tampa Bay's request to talk to Gruden, which left the Bucs dangling in the wind. They tried to lure Bill Parcells out of retirement with no success, then were reportedly close to hiring former Baltimore defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis before those talks fell apart at the last moment. Tampa Bay reportedly offered a deal to San Francisco head coach Steve Mariucci late Sunday night before again backtracking and making a last-second pitch to Davis in an attempt to land Gruden. ''Joel called me from Los Angeles and said (they) were real close with Mariucci and they wanted one more shot at Jon Gruden,'' Davis said. ''I told him I wanted to talk to Jon, and if Jon wants to go, I'll let him go.'' Gruden spoke by phone with Glazer then phoned Davis back and told the Raiders owner it was a deal he wanted to do. Davis then phoned Glazer himself to OK the deal. ''I felt if this is what he wanted to do, we could live with it based on the compensation they were giving us,'' said Davis. ''We've always had a good relationship. I'm proud of the way he came on so strong as a coach and a charismatic character. I wanted to do it if Jon wanted to do it. I wouldn't have done it if I felt it would have derailed what we have here. It'll take some adjustment. '''I understand our fans will be disturbed. Our coaches are a little bit in doubt, but nothing's going to happen to them. Our plays have some mixed emotions. People like Jon. I like Jon.'' Gruden's status as the Raiders head coach had been in question since the middle of the 2001 regular season when his name first popped up as a potential candidate for the then-coaching vacancy at Notre Dame. Two days after Oakland lost to New England in the AFC divisional playoffs, Gruden's agent, Bob LaMonte, told reporters that Gruden would not be seeking a contract extension from the Raiders and had no intention of coaching the team beyond the 2002 season. Davis said the Raiders initially offered Gruden a three-year, $9.5 million extension during the middle of the 2001 season but that was turned down by the coach, whom Davis said wanted to wait until the end of the season to talk contract. Reached at his home in the East Bay, Gruden said the deal to Tampa Bay surprised him even though his name had been bandied about frequently as the Bucs favored choice. ''You guys know I'm a very simple person,'' said Gruden. ''I go to church, I've got football and I've got family. ''There's not a hell of a lot left after that. I'm eager for the next challenge of coaching the Buccaneers, a team with a new stadium. That's very exciting to me.'' Meanwhile the Raiders now become the only NFL team without a head coach. And with free agency and the draft quickly approaching, the search for a replacement for Gruden begins immediately. Already the names of possible successors have cropped up. Art Shell, who coached the Raiders from 1989-94, Denny Green and Parcells have all been mentioned. Current Raider assistant coaches Bill Callahan, Chuck Bresnahan and Marc Trestman are also among those being considered, with Callahan being the odds-on favorite because he was the team's offensive coordinator last season and is familiar with Oakland's players and system. Whomever Davis hires will become the Raiders fifth head coach in the last nine years, hardly the model of consistency. ''I'd rather be right than be consistent,'' Davis said. ''What we're going to do is try to pick the right guy for this team at this time.'' Davis said he hopes to get a deal done quickly, though he would not guarantee anything. ''I'd like to do it done within 10 days,'' Davis said. ''We think the program is in good condition. We're close. We're not there yet, but we're close. We would like to do it (by March 1) but it's not vital.''

SB Report Top Stories