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Some free advice for Gruden
By RICK STROUD
Published September 24, 2006
TAMPA - The debate continues about whether the best way to prevent Chris Simms from losing his confidence is for Jon Gruden to ease up when it comes to sideline tirades.
But there are other ways the head coach might try to help his young, and struggling, quarterback.
- Adapt the game plan to Simms' talent. Gruden is committed to the West Coast system, which utilizes short, horizontal passes and quick, three-step drops. Simms seems a lot more comfortable throwing downfield in five- and seven-step drops.
Take a cue from the Falcons. They adapted their offense to fit Michael Vick last week, and he torched the Bucs for 127 rushing yards.
- Have some patience with the running game. Gruden has a history of abandoning the ground attack prematurely. Although the Bucs never trailed the Falcons by more than two touchdowns, the running attack was scrapped early in the third quarter. If the strength of your team is defense, three plays and a punt to gain field position is not always the worst thing that can happen. An interception on third and 10 is.
- Take some responsibility. We're not talking about lip service here. It was Gruden's call to bank the whole season on Simms. If he misjudged how far he had progressed, it's on him.
Because of that decision, Gruden was reluctant to play Simms in the preseason. He knew an injury could sink the season before it started. As a result, Simms attempted just 26 passes, among the fewest among starters in the league. But as a young quarterback, he needed the playing time.
Gruden is used to working with veteran quarterbacks - Jeff George, Rich Gannon, Brad Johnson, Brian Griese. It takes years of experience to process his complex offense.
Of course, nobody criticized Gruden's handling of quarterbacks when he was winning the Super Bowl. But losing invites scrutiny (although far be it for Gruden to be swayed by sports writers).
WHERE'S THE HELP? Lost in the embarrassment of the Bucs giving up a club-record 306 rushing yards last week at Atlanta was their slow adjustment to Vick's spread option attack.
Keying on defensive ends Greg Spires and Simeon Rice, Vick pulled the ball out of the gut of tailback Warrick Dunn any time those players bit on the play-fake inside.
It's a play used by quarterback Vince Young at Texas. The one he successfully ran over and over against Southern Cal in the Rose Bowl. The play former Trojans assistants and first-year Bucs coaches Jethro Franklin and Greg Burns couldn't stop.
Last week's game exposed one truth that was bound to become self-evident: how much the Bucs miss defensive line coach Rod Marinelli and defensive backs coach Mike Tomlin.
BAD KARMA: Incidentally, Gruden is 0-4 in games against Tony Dungy, John Lynch, Warren Sapp and Rich McKay (in his first game with the Falcons). Makes you wonder how he'll fare against Keyshawn Johnson today.