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Draft may pay for Gruden

The Bucs' price to the Raiders could equal or exceed the four picks the Jets gave up to hire Bill Parcells in 1997.

By ROGER MILLS, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published February 6, 2002


TAMPA -- It no longer is a question of whether the Bucs want Raiders coach Jon Gruden to replace the fired Tony Dungy. They do.

Now the question is, are they willing to mortgage the future to get him? Tuesday, the Bucs continued talks with Oakland officials, including owner Al Davis, over the availability of the 38-year-old Gruden, who has one more year on his contract.

The Bucs, who have targeted Gruden since the collapse of the Bill Parcells deal, plan to exhaust all possible avenues to acquiring the rights to Gruden and do not have a deadline for giving up on negotiations. The process could last until next week or longer.

According to an ESPN report, the Bucs likely would have to give up at least as many draft picks as the Jets when they acquired Parcells from the Patriots in 1997. The Jets gave up a third- and fourth-round pick that year, a second-round pick in 1998 and a first-round pick in 1999.

Though the Bucs covet their draft picks, acquiring Gruden would be costly and would involve draft picks, players, cash or a combination of the three.

Bucs general manager Rich McKay has refused to comment on the status of the coaching search.

Ravens defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis remains the top candidate interviewed. Gruden aside, Lewis' chances to become the franchise's seventh coach got better Tuesday when former Chargers offensive coordinator Norv Turner, one of the other two candidates the Bucs interviewed, agreed to become assistant coach/offensive coordinator of the Dolphins, reuniting him with coach Dave Wannstedt, with whom he worked in Dallas.

The Bucs interviewed Steelers offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey, but the first-year coordinator is considered a longshot.

Turner, who informed the Bucs on Monday he was taking the job in Miami, said he could not wait any longer.

"Dave and I talked a week ago and we planned on doing this a week ago," Turner said. "I had a chance to go talk to (the Bucs) and Dave said, "Let's put it off a week and see what happens.' I've gone through the talks and the thing is getting drawn out. I called Dave Sunday and said, "Hey, if you're ready to do this, I'm ready, too. I would like to get down and get started.' "

Even without a coach, the Bucs have started assembling an offensive staff. Former Jets offensive line coach Bill Muir reportedly was hired. Muir had been Parcells' choice to coach the offensive line had he come to Tampa Bay. Lewis' hiring would raise questions about the rest of the offensive staff and what would happen to the defensive staff retained after Dungy's firing.

The Bucs likely would demand Lewis, who has no head coaching experience and is seen as a clone of Dungy, hire some inventive offensive assistants, such as Patriots offensive coordinator Charlie Weis.

Weis' contract expired after the Super Bowl win over the Rams and is a hot commodity. But the Patriots appear eager to match any offer for Weis, who also is being coveted by new Carolina coach John Fox, unless that offer is for a coaching position.

All Bucs defensive coaches remain under contract through next season. If Lewis is hired, it is unclear what would happen to defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin. Should Kiffin leave, defensive line coach Rod Marinelli, denied a chance to become defensive coordinator of the Jets last year, could be promoted to defensive coordinator, with the rest of the defensive coaches staying put.

Meanwhile, executive vice presidents Bryan and Joel Glazer, sons of owner Malcolm Glazer, have insisted the Bucs leave no stones unturned in finding out whether Gruden is a possibility.

The Glazers were unhappy with the team's offense under Dungy, and hiring a defensive wizard such as Lewis would not seem to address the problems of putting the ball in the end zone.

Gruden, considered one of the game's most inventive offensive minds, is 38-26 in four seasons with the Raiders. He has led Oakland to two AFC West titles, reached the AFC title game last season and came within a controversial call of returning to the title game this season.

Gruden, whose father Jim was a former Bucs scout who still lives in Tampa, has said through agent Bob LaMonte, he does not intend to coach in Oakland once his contract expires.

Monday, the teams began discussing the possibility of making Gruden available to the Bucs.

Monday night, Raiders senior executive Bruce Allen described thoughts of Gruden coming to the Bucs as "speculation."

"I am certainly not going to make a comment based on trying to figure out what the Tampa Bay Bucs are doing," Allen told the Oakland Tribune. "There is nothing for me to answer."

Meanwhile, Lewis waits.

"It's tough watching Marvin go through this," Ravens coach Brian Billick said.

BUCS IN EUROPE: Third-string quarterback Joe Hamilton, who has not thrown a pass in his two NFL seasons, was among seven Bucs allocated to NFL Europe. Hamilton will be joined by cornerback Corey Ivy, receiver Jermaine Kelly, guard Kendell Mack, linebacker Eugene McCaslin, tight end Damian Vaughn and defensive end Ron Warner.

Hamilton, a seventh-round pick out of Georgia Tech, spent the season on the active roster, while Ivy and Warner were on the team's practice squad.

Mack and Vaughn also will be making their second appearance in NFL Europe, which opens camps in Tampa on March 4 when quarterbacks report. The rest of the players are due March 9.

- Times staff writer Rick Stroud contributed to this report.

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