Derrick Ward Should Have Promising Future with Gruden-less Bucs

Steven FinchCorrespondent IMarch 4, 2009

Now that Jon Gruden has left the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, running backs on the team can breathe easy. Derrick Ward has to be the main one that will reap the benefits of a "Gruden-less" team.

Gruden's past history of running his prospects into the ground is well-known. Just ask Michael Pittman, Carnell Williams, and even Earnest Graham.

We start with Pittman, drafted by the Arizona Cardinals in 1998. Pittman already had a lot of mileage when he came to the Bucs in 2002.

After joining the team the same year Gruden did, Pittman was utilized a lot. From 2002-04, Pittman played in 45 games. During that time span he rushed for 2,395 yards on 610 attempts. That's an average of 203 attempts, and 798 yards a year for three seasons.

"That's not too bad," you think. Well, that pales in comparison to what happened when Carnell Williams was drafted in 2005 by the Bucs.

As soon as Williams joined the team, he was inserted into the starting role, but at what cost?

Williams played in 28 games between 2005-06, just four games shy of two complete seasons. During those two years, Williams had 515 attempts for just 1976 yards! That's just 95 attempts shy of Pittman's three-year mark.

Gruden definitely ruined Williams' short-term career, but we still have to see if he could be that running back from 2005.

Earnest Graham is a different case altogether. Graham came in for the injured Williams in 2007. He played in 25 games through a two-year period, amassing 354 attempts with 1,461 yards.

Add together those three running backs' totals through Gruden's seven-year stint as a Buc. If you do, you get 1,479 attempts with 5,832 yards. That's a dismal 211 attempts for 833 yards a year for his seven-year period. Just dismal.

Derrick Ward comes from the Giants. He is still a young running back with only four seasons under his belt.

He has to be the guy for at least the next six years, and he should produce as long as the team can depend less on the run.

In my book, I would hold Gruden responsible for the tragedy that is Williams. A lot of talent wasted away.

Even with Ward there, Graham will be the second string in front of a player with a lot of attempts already under his belt.