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Super Bowl XXXVII

Gruden right investment for present, future

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By JOHN ROMANO, Times Sports Columnist

© St. Petersburg Times
published January 25, 2003

SAN DIEGO -- The one-year warranty on Jon Gruden is about to expire.

So, if you had the chance, would you wrap him in his original packaging and take him back to Oakland to ask for a refund?

Yeah, riiiight.

This is the bottom line in the debate about bottom lines. Everyone wants to know if the price was right for Gruden. Of course the price was right.

If it were any more right, he would have come with floor-model warnings about nicks and dings.

You want to know how right the price was?

The Glazers might have paid more.

"If we get a head coach that you know is going to be here a long time and is going to be successful, really there is no price too high for that," Bryan Glazer said. "There just isn't."

At times like this, everyone likes to look for winners and losers. Okay, so the Bucs lost when they let Frank Middleton get away. And the Raiders lost when they drafted a safety named Patrick Bates in the first round in 1993 when another safety, name of John Lynch, lasted until the third.

But, in the case of Gruden, there has been no losers.

If you're a Raiders fan, you got two No. 1 draft picks, two No. 2 picks, an $8-million infusion and still made the Super Bowl. Of course that's a great deal. Considering Gruden was probably going to jump ship after this season anyway, it was a stupendous deal.

Now, if you're a Bucs fan?

Look at it this way:

Tampa Bay has had 25 first-round draft picks. The Bucs have used No. 1 picks on Ray Snell and Charles McRae. On Keith McCants and Eric Curry. They have traded No. 1 picks for Wally Chambers and Jack Thompson.

So, after 26 seasons of falling short of the Super Bowl with dozens of No. 1 picks, was this such an exorbitant price to pay?

"We were in a situation where we thought we were a championship team," general manager Rich McKay said. "We knew we would go to the playoffs. We'd done that three years in a row and four of the last five. We knew we had a lot of pieces so we said, 'What do we have to do to try to keep going?'

"Jon was the guy we identified because he fit. He could fix our offense. He could re-energize our defense. So, to me, the price could have been eight No. 1s or one No. 1. It doesn't matter. Whatever it took to get the transaction accomplished was the right price."

You can take this further. As a playoff team, the Bucs were not going to be drafting high in the first round. Their chances of landing an impact player with any of these picks were remote.

As for the $8-million? I haven't missed it at all.

That's the best part about the trade. The Glazers paid a heavier price than the organization. They gave up the $8-million. They gave Gruden the four-year, $17-million contract.

"I think it's a great deal for the Raiders and a great deal for us. I don't flinch over it. I'm tickled with it," Bryan Glazer said. "The moment it happened, we knew it was a good deal because we gave two No. 1s for Keyshawn. This wasn't much more than that.

"The money doesn't count for anyone but us. It just makes it sound sexier, that's all."

None of this means the trade was not without risk. The Glazers pulled the deal off withouta meeting with Gruden. They bought him, essentially, sight unseen.

They were going on his reputation, on his past record, on his snarl and his glare. They believed in him before they had even seen him.

"Yeah, it looks like a bargain for what you got now," Warren Sapp said. "But what if we're sitting here at 8-8 today? You would have said we paid a king's ranson for doo-doo."

Standing here today, with the Super Bowl a few pregame shows away, the trade looks good for Tampa Bay. And you know what? It may get better.

With the Glazers seemingly willing to spend, the Bucs can offset some of the losses from the draft by signing free agents, though the salary cap eventually might be a concern.

Better still, Gruden does not appear to be going anywhere. He has been a coach five years and has averaged 10 victories a season. At 39, he is the youngest coach in the NFL.

So it's not difficult to imagine Gruden high on the NFL's all-time victories list long after a Bill Parcells or a Steve Spurrier retires.

At this time a year ago -- the day before the Super Bowl -- news reports were breaking that Marvin Lewis was a leading candidate for Bucs coach. This was after Parcells pulled out and before Steve Mariucci became a candidate. It was right in the middle of a monthlong soap opera that cast the Glazers as dupes and the Bucs as hapless.

It took time, it took effort and it took a high price for Tampa Bay to eventually get its coaching search resolved.

Today, it is easy to look back. It is easy to judge.

Today, you may say Gruden was worth the wait. In gold.

Back to the Super Bowl XXXVII
Today's lineup

Super Bowl XXXVII
  • John Romano: Gruden right investment for present, future
  • Gary Shelton: This season, it all seems attainable
  • No joy in just earning berth in big game
  • Raider nation
  • Who's going ...
  • Wagering options: Oh, yeah, wanna bet?
  • Notebook: Coleman, Darby practice; Gruden emphasizes focus
  • Don't give him a microphone
  • Watch for Raider outside spotlight
  • Raiders notebook: Reports of Davis' illness, retirement are premature
  • Bucs going 'global'in preseason matchup
  • Raiders fans dancing to a different tune
  • Raiders fans proud, loud, in the neighborhood
  • Tampa Bay Raiders
  • High profile: Mike Alstott
  • High profile: Rod Woodson
  • Guest analyst: Mike Golic: Perfect matchup hard one to pick
  • For Janikowski, change is good
  • Gramatica's ebullience compensates for size
  • Super Bowl A to Z: Awful L.A. attendance, zany 'zebras' and everything in between
  • Key matchups as seen by former NFL players
  • Cue the theme in 'Get Smart'
  • In brief: Setup perfect for Allen's Hall election
  • View from above provides best seat for game
  • Overtime overhaul expected
  • Internet: Diary has become big news
  • Radio/TV: Deckerhoff proud of talking up the Bucs
  • Letters: Bucs owners get backlash
  • Back to Top
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