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OVER, AND OUT?

Coach Tony Dungy is expected to be fired after a lackluster loss that leaves a tearful and profane Keyshawn Johnson ripping teammates.

By RICK STROUD, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published January 13, 2002


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PHILADELPHIA -- It felt like goodbye.

When it was over, there were hugs, slaps on the back, emotional outbursts and tears.

In the same cold stadium as a year ago, the Bucs said bye-bye to the season on Saturday by losing to the Philadelphia Eagles 31-9 in the NFC wild-card game.

In a few days, they may have to bid farewell to coach Tony Dungy.

Unless he has a change of heart, Bucs owner Malcolm Glazer is expected to dismiss Dungy by the end of the week, and indications are he plans to replace him with two-time Super Bowl coach Bill Parcells.

Following a 9-8 record and the third straight playoff loss on the road in which the Bucs failed to score a touchdown, Dungy said he expects to return as Tampa Bay's coach.

"But I don't make those decisions," Dungy said. "I'm not going to speculate. ... We don't need a funeral here."

However, in an emotional locker room, players reacted in disbelief at the lackluster effort in a game in which they might have saved Dungy's job and their season.

Receiver Keyshawn Johnson, who addressed the team Friday night, ripped some of his teammates for their poor effort Saturday in an emotional postgame interview and later shouted down a Kansas City Star reporter.

"For that man (Dungy) in there and the things that he's done for this team and for this organization and to know that where we stand and where he stands in this situation and then to watch people play the way they played ... there's no excuse," a tearful Johnson said. "We've got a lot of guys on this team, they do a lot of barking and no biting. They need to go see somebody and get some help. And that's the truth.

"It's people not playing. You've got to play. You've got to play. You've got to want to play. You've got to want to be good. You've got to want to make plays. And it's very evident out there that there wasn't a lot of people out there trying to do that."

Johnson declined to identify the players he was describing, but said, "they know who they are."

The Bucs receiver, who played four seasons for Parcells with the New York Jets, said he has mixed emotions about Dungy's likely departure and the arrival of his former coach.

"I wanted it bad," Johnson said of Saturday's game. "I know the other guy who's involved. I know him very well. And it's difficult for me because I'm torn between the two. I just want to play football, I want to win. I may never get back to this position again, to another playoff game. And to have an opportunity and do what we did, it doesn't make a whole lot of sense.

"Because if (Dungy) is the coach here next year, I know one thing, he'd better get some (expletive) people in here who are going to play for him. Not just run their mouth. Because the guy they're talking about coming in, he ain't going to put up with this s---. Period. He ain't going to put up with it. If that's the truth, if he's coming here, he ain't going to put up with it. If not, Coach Dungy better get some players who will play for him, and play for him fast and not lay down."

The loss was worse in some respects than the Bucs' 21-3 wild-card defeat at Veterans Stadium a year ago.

The Bucs blew an opportunity to jump on the Eagles early after an interception by safety Dexter Jackson, treating the end zone like a mine field. In three trips inside the red zone, quarterback Brad Johnson never attempted to throw a pass into that big painted area where points are scored.

"We had five chances and ended up with three field goals and two interceptions," Dungy said. "That's what sealed our fate."

On third and 6 from the Eagles 11 in the second quarter, the NFL's leading receiver, Keyshawn Johnson, wasn't on the field.

"Don't ask me. They had a play they wanted somebody else to run," Keyshawn Johnson said. "Go ahead, put them in and run the play. That's not my decision."

When they let Keyshawn Johnson touch the ball, it was met with pretty good results.

Trailing 17-6 with less than half a minute in the first half, he turned a pass over the middle into a 46-yard gain. But on first down with 11 seconds remaining, Brad Johnson rolled out and threw a short pass to Mike Alstott in the flat for a 3-yard gain rather than take a shot at the end zone.

Martin Gramatica, playing his first game in three weeks after straining his right hamstring, was limping on the sideline as the Bucs used their final timeout. He kicked his third field goal to cut the lead to 17-9 before the Bucs were shut out in the second half.

Tampa Bay could not contain Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb, who passed for 194 yards and two touchdowns and ran four times for 57 yards. The Bucs yielded 148 yards on the ground, including a 25-yard touchdown that put the game away in the fourth quarter. Brad Johnson was intercepted four times, twice by safety Damon Moore, who returned the second one 59 yards for a touchdown.

"It's a disappointing way for the season to end," Dungy said. "I think we ran into a good football team. They made some big plays. I thought McNabb played outstanding, moving around, making things happen."

What happens next for Dungy and the Bucs is a little unclear.

General manager Rich McKay said the team will wait 48 hours before meeting with Dungy to evaluate the season.

"This league is a tough place to work," McKay said. "It demands a lot. There's a lot of speculation that goes with it, I think we all accept that. I think we've accomplished a lot but we haven't accomplished everything we wanted to."

If the Glazers go with Parcells, who is believed to have reached a tentative agreement with the Bucs on a five-year contract, it's unlikely McKay would have a position in the new front office.

McKay said Saturday he was uncertain if the Bucs owners would ask for his input regarding Dungy's future.

"I don't know," McKay said. "I have great respect for the owners. I know what they've done for this franchise. They never get enough credit for what they've truly done. I know what it was before they got there and what we were and I'm proud of what we've been able to do."

Against the Eagles on Saturday, the Bucs weren't able to do much good for their beleaguered coach.

"What Tony Dungy has done for this organization is incredible," Brad Johnson said. "Making the playoffs the last four out of five years, he made the championship two years ago.

"You don't judge a guy on one game. I'd hate for anybody to be judged on one day. We as players just didn't come through today."

DUNGY ERA

1996

FEB. 22: Linebacker Hardy Nickerson agrees to a four-year deal worth $12.8-million

OCT. 8: After starting the season 0-5, Dungy gets his first win -- 24-13 against the Vikings.

1997

FEB. 13: Tackle Paul Gruber, the Bucs' designated franchise player, agrees to a three-year deal.

APRIL 9: Bucs unveil new logo and colors.

SEPT. 28: With a 19-18 win against Arizona, the Bucs start the season 5-0.

DEC. 7: An attendance record is set when 73,523 at Raymond James Stadium watch the Packers beat the Bucs 17-6.

DEC. 12: An NFL-high seven Bucs are named to play in the Pro Bowl.

DEC. 21: A 31-15 win against the Bears gives the Bucs 10 wins and clinches a playoff spot.

DEC. 28: In the first home playoff game in 15 years, Tampa Bay beats the Lions 20-10 in the final game at Houlihan's Stadium.

1998

MARCH 11: The Bucs sign Dungy to a five-year, $6.5-million contract. His annual salary of $1.3-million makes him the ninth highest paid coach in the league.

MARCH 18: Warren Sapp agrees to a six-year, $36.05-million contract, the biggest deal for any defensive player.

APRIL 30: General manager Rich McKay gets a five-year contract extension, good through the 2002 season.

SEPT. 20: The Bucs erase a 15-point deficit against Chicago and win their first game in Raymond James Stadium 27-15.

DEC. 7: The Bucs beat Green Bay 24-22 for their first victory on Monday Night Football since 1982.

DEC. 16: Four Bucs are selected to play in the Pro Bowl.

1999

JUNE: 30: Defensive end Chidi Ahonotu, the Bucs' designated franchise player, signs a six-year deal.

SEPT. 3: The Bucs finish the preseason 4-0 with a 16-13 win at Washington.

NOV. 28: With quarterback Trent Dilfer injured, rookie Shaun King comes on in relief and leads the Bucs to a 16-3 win.

DEC. 6: King makes his first start against the Vikings on Monday night and the Bucs win 24-17 before a then-record crowd of 65,741 at Raymond James Stadium.

DEC. 23: Six Bucs players, including four on defense, are selected to play in the Pro Bowl.

DEC. 26: The Bucs finish 7-1 at home with a 29-10 victory against Green Bay and clinch their fifth playoff appearance.

2000

JAN. 2: A 20-6 victory at Chicago clinches Tampa Bay's first NFC Central title since 1981 and sets a club record with 11 wins.

JAN. 15: Trailing 13-0, the Bucs score 14 consecutive points to beat Washington in the NFC Division playoffs.

JAN. 23: In another poor offensive showing, Tampa Bay loses to St. Louis 11-6 in the NFC Championship.

FEB. 2: Mike Shula, who had served as the Bucs offensive coordinator since Dungy was hired in '96, is fired while the staff prepares for the Pro Bowl. The Bucs had finished 28th overall and 30th in passing offense during the '99 season.

FEB. 20: Former Titans offensive coordinator Les Steckel is hired in the same role for the Bucs, filling the vacancy left when Shula was fired.

MARCH 1: Former Vikings player Randall McDaniel signs a three-year contract.

APRIL 12: The Bucs trade two first-round picks in the 1999 draft to the Jets for Keyshawn Johnson. The wide receiver gets an eight-year contract worth as much as $56-million with incentives. It includes a $13-million signing bonus, the biggest in team history.

SEPT. 11: The Bucs lock up safety John Lynch with a five-year, $24-million contract extension.

NOV. 26: Defensive tackle Warren Sapp breaks Lee Roy Selmon's record for sacks in a season (13.5).

DEC. 15: The Bucs set a team record and equal the Titans for tops in the NFL by getting eight players named to the Pro Bowl roster.

DEC. 18: Tampa Bay clinches its second consecutive playoff berth with a 38-35 win against St. Louis on Monday Night Football.

DEC. 31: Eagles 21, Bucs 3 in the NFC wild-card game.

2001

JAN. 10: After one season, Bucs fire offensive coordinator Les Steckel. His offense set a team record for points and returned the Bucs to the playoffs, but its downfall was its struggles in the playoffs.

JAN. 26: Quarterbacks coach Clyde Christensen gets promoted to offensive coordinator.

MARCH 4: In need of a veteran quarterback with a proven arm, the Bucs sign free agent Brad Johnson to a five-year deal worth $28-million.

MARCH 23: Defensive end Simeon Rice signs a five-year, $34-million contract that includes no signing bonus and a $1-million salary this season.

JUNE: 10: The first coach in franchise history, John McKay, dies of kidney failure at 77.

NOV. 26: A 24-17 win against the Rams on Monday is the first of three consecutive victories and five in six games that helps the Bucs make the playoffs.

2002

JAN. 2: For the second consecutive year, the Bucs place the most players in the Pro Bowl (6).

JAN. 6: Bucs lose 17-13 to the Eagles in the final regular season game.

JAN. 12: In a rematch of the 2001 wild-card game, the Bucs lose to Philadelphia.

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