Jon Gruden says the Bucs may be the best 1-5 team in the league.
By DAVE SCHEIBER
Published October 20, 2004
TAMPA - His team might have lost five of six games and blown a golden opportunity to salvage a sinking season Monday night in St. Louis.
But Tampa Bay Bucs coach Jon Gruden remained stoic Tuesday in the face of a 28-21 defeat, praising his team's effort. He lamented a handful of plays that again cost his team dearly:
The fumbled exchange between quarterback Brian Griese and center John Wade at the Tampa Bay 5, setting up Marshall Faulk's 1-yard plunge to tie the game at 14 as the second quarter wound to a close.
The stunning third-quarter play in which St. Louis safety Adam Archuleta stripped tailback Michael Pittman of the ball at the Rams 7, then returned it 93 yards to put St. Louis ahead 21-14.
The pair of botched field goals, from 35 and 48 yards, by struggling kicker Martin Gramatica.
Gruden was asked at his weekly news conference if he was beginning to feel snakebit, in view of the rash of mistakes and injuries that have undercut the Bucs so often this season.
"Well, I don't know about snakebit," he said. "Maybe rhinoceros bit feels a little bit better. Fumble on the 7-yard line, there's a 14-point swing potentially, a couple field goals here, a fumbled snap there, yes indeed. I do feel that way sometimes.
"But I continue to work and continue to be optimistic. I know optimism is a pessimist's worst nightmare, but I'm going to continue to be just that.
"You might say also that this is the best 1-5 team in the league. Take one play out of four or five games and we might be sitting differently. We're not going to give up on this season."
Then there was Gramatica, who has now missed three of his last four kicks. He appeared to have overcome his inconsistencies of 2003 with an 8-for-9 start this season, but he has once again become erratic.
"Well, we're concerned, we're obviously concerned," Gruden said. "Three misses in the last two games are reasons to be concerned. ... At the same time, we're counting on him. I know when I got this job, one of the things I did notice was that Gramatica had a lot to do with some 12-10 and 15-9 wins. He was an iceman, a tremendous kicker, and we need him quickly to return to that form, obviously."
Still, Gruden acknowledged he has been checking the market. "We had some kickers in last week," he said. "We're looking for not only field goal kickers. We're looking for kickoff men. We're looking for guys who possess that skill. They don't grow on trees. At the same time, we feel like we've got a guy here under contract whose a great talent who we don't want to give up on."
Gruden is at a loss to explain Gramatica's woes.
"You can only work on it so much," he said. "He's very good on the practice field, but for whatever reason he has struggled in games in the last year and a half from an accuracy standpoint. He had perfect conditions here in the last two weeks. "His approach is good. He's hooking the ball at times, he's pushing it at others - I don't know. All I can say is, we've got to make our kicks."
On the other hand, Gruden praised the play of Griese in his first start for the Bucs, labeling his performance in the offensive system as "outstanding." Griese will start again Sunday against Chicago.
He also said that offensive tackle Kenyatta Walker "did some good things," expressed excitement over the play and future of rookie wideout Michael Clayton and singled out defensive end Greg Spires.