Jon Be Gone? Glazers Must Make Call
Wherever the Glazer family gathered Sunday night, we have to hope someone piped up somewhere between the appetizers and the main course, "You know, we might just have to fire Jon."
They just might. As franchise owners, the Glazers have a responsibility to view this season with cold-blooded detachment – starting with the head coach.
"Stay the course" only works if the course isn't pointed straight for the iceberg. Look dead ahead, guys. The water is at your ankles and the Carpathia is steaming toward Philadelphia.
With a 31-24 loss to lowly Oakland, the Bucs completed the kind of collapse that often results in regime change, even when the coach is named Jon Gruden and he has three years remaining on his contract. Nobody gets a pass after the futility of this month. Especially after the futility of this month.
Reputations are made in December in the National Football League and the numbers tell you where Gruden's is headed. Since winning the Super Bowl, his teams are 10-18 in regular-season games after the calendar flips to the last month of the year. The Bucs are 45-51 in the regular season since hoisting the Lombardi Trophy.
It's the kind of mediocrity the Glazers used to justify firing Tony Dungy when his teams lost consecutive years in the playoffs at Philadelphia. The Bucs needed a jolt then and they sure need one now. They've become a treadmill team, capable of getting close enough to tease but little else. It is the worst kind of purgatory for a franchise. "As a coach, you have to take responsibility," Gruden said.
There's the core statement right there. It's the starting point for any conversation by the owners, and once you go there the road leads to sweeping change. If they don't want to replace Gruden, they have to at least change the way they do business.
Quarterback is a good place to start. Wish Jeff Garcia well and develop a quarterback who can give this franchise some stability and a future – the kind that Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco give their teams. If Gruden insists on bringing in another old guy, find out where Bill Cowher is headed on vacation and just happen to show up there, checkbook in hand.
It's easy to scream to the rooftop that Gruden must go but this isn't something anyone would do on a whim. Gruden has been alternately brilliant and baffling during his time here, and ultimately a coach is only as good as his players. That's why Bruce Allen shouldn't get a pass, either.
The Bucs have so many players at the end of their contracts, the team figures to have a complete overhaul on the field no matter who is in charge. Gruden has lost his safety blanket in Monte Kiffin – the defense always bailed out the offense until this last month – so it's really a question of who you trust with the renovation project that must be done at One Buc Place.
That's a question only the Glazers can ultimately answer. That's assuming, of course, it even comes up. After a collapse like this, how can it not?
Joe Henderson, The Tampa Tribune 29 December 2008