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Writer's block? Not for Gruden

RICK STROUD
Published September 28, 2003

TAMPA - Turn the page. That's Jon Gruden's motto for the world champions in 2003.

But it's Gruden who has written a page-turner. His autobiography, Do You Love Football? Winning with Heart, Passion & Not Much Sleep, offers some interesting insights into the career of the youngest coach to win a Super Bowl.

Much of what co-author Vic Carucci gleaned from transcribing hours of conversations with Gruden over the summer will not rate as news.

But Gruden is one of the most colorful and charismatic coaches in the NFL and his storytelling is a strength.

For Bucs fans, the final 46 pages are the most poignant. Gruden recalls the circumstances that led to his after-midnight trade from the Raiders to the Bucs, where he watched his father, Jim, coach under John McKay.

"I saw the old Coke machine that my father had bought his cokes from 20 years earlier," Gruden writes. "I saw old showers that I used to shower in after sitting in the sauna - which was still there - along with the other coaches' sons acting like we were big-timers. Now I was back there as head coach. Unbelievable."

Gruden's task was daunting. He was taking over from a beloved coach, Tony Dungy, and inherited his entire defensive staff.

But Gruden found a way to improve the offense and squeeze even more out of the defense by challenging their pride in practice.

"I p----- off our defensive guys. I made it my mission to p--- them off every day since because that's my way of challenging them, of keeping myself involved in what they're doing," he said.

There are other insights as well. Before the NFC Championship Game at Philadelphia, he put together a tape of the '95 Tampa Bay-Philadelphia game at the Vet. Warren Sapp, Derrick Brooks and John Lynch wore orange. Gruden was a first-year offensive coordinator for the Eagles.

"You came to Veterans Stadium in the opening game and kicked our (butts)," Gruden said.

" ... You guys have won at the Vet."

The storytelling ends, appropriately, at the Super Bowl.

Gruden has a humorous account of playing quarterback against the Bucs defense at the end of practice three days before the game. Defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin explained to his players that Gruden was going to give the defense a feel for Raiders quarterback Rich Gannon. But Gruden wasn't supposed to throw.

A former quarterback at Dayton who rarely played, Gruden did not want to embarrass himself.

But Gruden started making completions, moving the team in the no-huddle offense.

"Somehow, I had become a damn good quarterback that day," Gruden said. "And I don't care if you do think I sound arrogant when I say that. I was on fire. ... At one point I wondered, why the hell didn't I ever play this way in college?'

"Of course, Simeon Rice told me afterward he could've easily sacked me three times but he held back out of sympathy because he saw I was having such a good time."

Gruden's imitation of Gannon worked. The Bucs intercepted the Raiders quarterback five times in the Super Bowl.

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