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Everyone's talking except the Glazers

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By GARY SHELTON, Times Sports Columnist

© St. Petersburg Times
published January 5, 2002


And now for the latest on Florida's former football coach . . .

After weeks of careful, behind-the-scenes negotiations, Steve Spurrier is set to join the Tampa Bay Bucs . . . as a quarterback. He will start in Sunday night's game against the Eagles and expects to perform well, considering that his arm has been resting for 25 years now.

Perhaps you heard that one Friday. Perhaps you heard all the rest of the rumors, too.

By the latest count, Spurrier is going to coach about nine NFL teams. Roughly, that's a third of the league, which is really going to affect his golf game. Expect that number to grow by Monday.

He is going to the Falcons, or possibly the Panthers. And the Vikings, or maybe the Chargers. And the Jaguars, not to mention the Cowboys. Or the Texans, if he doesn't agree with the Cardinals.

Mostly, what you heard is this.

Spurrier took a solid step toward the Bucs.

You heard it was cast in stone. You heard Spurrier would own part of the team, and the Outback Boys would own the rest. You heard that, as soon as Monday, Spurrier will be announced as the new man in the job. You heard that Tony Dungy was already on his way to Minnesota, if Carolina doesn't hire him first.

And, in all the silence, who knows what to believe?

Shame on the Bucs' ownership for not stepping on this rumor before it grew into a monster. Shame on them for hiding behind a statement that they did not make statements. Shame on them for not dealing with a possible distraction as the Bucs prepare to begin their playoffs.

There is supposed to be a bond between ownership and fans, isn't there? At a time such as this, don't the Glazers owe their customers a glimpse of honesty? The heck with their policy of silence. All the Glazers had to say was, "We wish Coach Spurrier the best of luck, and we admire his ability. But his future isn't with us."

Instead, what we had was rumor and speculation, of fans trying to make their point by raising their voices louder than the next guy. Who are you to believe? What are you to believe?

Here's a guess: Spurrier has no deal with the Bucs.

But if they want to call, he'll answer the phone.

There are those who swear the agreement has been made, the same as there are those who will tell you the Bucs have already made an agreement with Bill Parcells. Heck, maybe they can share the big office. Parcells can coach defense and Spurrier can coach offense.

But if you are to believe the deal is done, that a back-room deal has been struck, here is what you have to believe:

1. That some weeks ago, the Glazers decided they were going to fire Dungy and hire someone else no matter how the season turned out.

2. That nothing Dungy does in the playoffs will change their minds. Not even if he wins the Super Bowl. By 30.

3. That the Glazers sought no counsel from their front office when they decided to make this change, because frankly, the front office was gobsmacked by Spurrier's resignation.

4. That the people who believed the Parcells rumors bet the wrong horse.

5. That Spurrier, a man who takes pride in being bluntly honest, didn't tell the truth when he told the Gainesville Sun on Friday that he had no agreement in place with any team.

6. That the Glazers lied when they told Ray Anderson, Dungy's agent, that he would be evaluated at season's end.

7. That the Glazers are willing to sacrifice this year's playoffs by undercutting Dungy the week before the games begin.

8. That Darnell Dockett has zero chance of ever being drafted here.

9. That Spurrier was negotiating as his team prepared for the Orange Bowl.

10. That the Glazers plan to be far, far from town when this is announced to the team.

Frankly, there are too many theories per conspiracy going on here. You have to suspend too much disbelief to believe it all could take place.

On the other hand, the refusal of the Glazers to make a comment leaves you to speculate. Maybe they are interested in Spurrier, depending in how the playoffs turn out. Maybe today's rumor will turn into tomorrow's news.

My guess is that Spurrier is weary, frustrated and feeling his age. He was quoted a few days ago as saying that no NFL team had called him. Maybe Spurrier wondered if he had said no too many times, if the teams had written him off as someone who will listen but will never agree. Maybe the curfew violations, and the sniping by Rex Grossman's father, grated on him.

And so he said farewell. It's a shame, really. Spurrier had become a fixture in college football, and in Gainesville. If he had hung around a few more years, they would have named elementary schools after him. No NFL town will love him quite so unconditionally. No place will defend him so vigorously, see his side so readily, cheer his name so loudly.

Let the rumors fly. Logic tells you there is no deal.

But check back, just in case.

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