October 16, 2021

Bucs Life

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Dungy vs Gruden: Whose Team Won The Super Bowl?

4 min read

*Opinion Editorial*

Two completely opposite personalities

I have a hard time understanding how it is that Tony Dungy is so beloved, while at the same time, Jon Gruden is so detested by so many fans. I’m sure some of it comes from the fact that, at face value, Tony Dungy is easier to take. He comes off as more of a gentle soul, easy-going, laid back, a players coach, etc., while Jon Gruden makes those Chucky faces and is a more “in your face” emotional type of guy — he’s a bit harder to stomach.

Dungy builds a “Defense for the Ages

It is a fact that Dungy came to Tampa at just the right time; future Hall of Famers Warren Sapp and Derrick Brooks had just arrived, as well as John Lynch. During Dungy and Rich McKay’s watch, many more pieces to the puzzle were added, especially to the defense. Tony Dungy originated his Tampa 2 Defense here with Monte Kiffin; a variation of the defense: he played in as a Steeler. A Super Bowl foundation was poured on the defensive of the ball.

Dungy’s Achilles Heel

There was only one problem, and it was a huge one. As good as Tony Dungy was with his defense, he was that bad with his offense. The Bucs were going to the playoffs basically on the backs of their defense. Once there, the Bucs’ inept offense got them sent home with their tails tucked between their legs every time — twice to the hated Eagles in the Wild Card game and an ever painful loss to the Rams in the NFC Championship game in ’99. Tony Dungy was told he needed a new OC because Mike Shula’s offense “just wasn’t getting it done.” Enter Les Steckel with the same results. 

The following year he hired Clyde Christensen with the same results.

The Bucs’ ownership was tired of the offensive woes and felt Dungy was too conservative, and so were his OCs. So in their eyes, it was time for a change. A secret agreement was made between the Bucs and Bill Parcells to replace Tony; alas, it was not to be. As word leaked out by the Tampa Bay Times two days before what would be Dungy’s last game — the playoff loss to the Eagles — the backlash from NFL coaches was that Parcells had undercut Dungy, and he backed out of the deal. The outcry paved the way for the mega-deal for Gruden, struck with Al Davis. (Two first-round and two second-round picks, plus 8 million). It was arguably worth every Draft pick and every penny!

Jon Gruden arrives in Tampa with high expectations

Jon Gruden came in, and during his first season, made some changes to the roster — Between 8-10 different players were now starting. Gruden brought in players like Joe Jurevicius, Keenan McCardell, Ken Dilger, and Michael Pittman. The defense even had a couple of new faces from the year before as well. Jon Gruden instituted a variation of his West Coast Offense with Brad Johnson at the helm. Monte Kiffin made sure that the defense didn’t skip a beat, and with the new and improved Bucs offense, the team went on to upset the Eagles in the NFC Championship game. The Buccaneers would advance to the big show and absolutely destroy Jon Gruden’s former team, the Raiders, in Super Bowl XXVII.

It seems that Jon Gruden didn’t win with Tony Dungy’s players, but he won with some of Dungy’s players and a bunch of new players he brought in of his own. It took both coaches to put together the team that the 2002 Buccaneers became. But make no mistake about it; Tony Dungy couldn’t get to the Super Bowl on his own. Jon Gruden came to Tampa and got it done with the addition of necessary offensive talent. Many fans blame Jon Gruden for breaking up that Super Bowl team in the following years. The fact of it all is, over time, teams change, it’s a business, and players move. It’s time for the fans to get over it — and recognize the biggest and best thing that the Bucs have ever done: Won a Super Bowl. 

The Bucs and the fans are frothing at the mouth right now to get back to one. Isn’t it so Buccaneer that the only coach to actually lead the team to the promised land — and the franchise’s most winningest coach — gets so little respect and admiration from the fans? If he were standing in front of me now, I would kiss him on the mouth, hug him, pat him on the shoulder and tell him, “Thank you, Jon! You’re my hero!” He deserves better from the fans. He brought the Buccaneers a Lombardi Trophy!