Apparently Malcolm Glazer's sons think Jon Gruden and Bruce Allen have the Tampa Bay Buccaneers headed in the right direction. At least that was the message the owners of the Buccaneers sent Tuesday when they re-signed Gruden, the coach, and Allen, the general manager, through 2011.
The extensions were rewards for Gruden and Allen digging the Bucs out of the NFC South cellar to a third division title in Gruden's six seasons. The Bucs reached the playoffs for the third time in that span, although they lost at home to the New York Giants in the wild-card round.
Gruden had a year remaining on a contract that paid him about $4.3 million this season, and the Glazers obviously are confident the team is poised to rise above the humdrum .500 record Gruden has compiled in his six years in Tampa.
This is the third time the Glazers have put a lot of faith in Gruden. They did it first in 2002, when they sent the Oakland Raiders four high draft picks and $8 million to hire Gruden away. Then, after he led the Bucs to the Super Bowl title, they gave him a new contract. And now, after a 48-48 record and two playoff losses since that Super Bowl, they are putting their confidence—and more money—in the 44-year-old coach one more time.
Gruden obviously bought himself some time by bringing the Lombardi Trophy to Tampa in his first season. He has two first-round playoff losses and three losing seasons since that year, with a see-saw record to go with it—12-4 in 2002, 7-9 in 2003, 5-11 in 2004, 11-5 in 2005, 4-12 in 2006 and 9-7 in 2007.
But the Glazers apparently agree with Gruden that the future is bright in Tampa Bay. The Bucs finally have some good young players on the offensive line, they have a veteran quarterback in Jeff Garcia and a defense that defies age. They plan to be active in free agency—with about $23 million to spend—and will look for players to complement some of the young guys who have developed.
"We made the playoffs this year, and there are so many positives for the team right now," Garcia told reporters. "There is $20 million to $30 million in salary cap room and there is room to build even more with free agents. And major reasons for that are Jon Gruden and Bruce Allen."
The Glazers apparently agree, but will they four years from now if Gruden's team is still riding the elevator up and down the NFC South?
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