Ex-Bucs Coach Could Return to Tampa: Report

Jon Gruden

Getty Jon Gruden gets an ice bath from Derrick Brooks and Warren Sapp in 2003 after the Buccaneers beat the Eagles in the NFC Championship Game.

Former Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Jon Gruden no longer appears in the franchise’s ring of honor, but he could roam the sidelines at Raymond James Stadium again.

WDAE’s Zac Blobner reported that Gruden is the prime candidate for the University of South Florida football head coaching job according to sources. The USF Bulls notably play home games in the Bucs’ stadium. Blobner added that a “a couple [of] Bulls Boosters are ready to write the check now” if Gruden takes the job.

Gruden coached the Bucs from 2002 to 2008, which included the franchise’s first Super Bowl in the 2002 season. He left coaching for decade as an ESPN analyst until he returned to coach the then-Oakland Raiders in 2018 until his resignation in 2021 amid off-field controversy over discriminatory comments in old emails of his. That controversy also led to the Bucs removing his name from the ring of honor.

USF athletic director Michael Kelly couldn’t even get a word in at his press conference on Tuesday, November 8, before someone asked him about it.

“Can I make my (opening) statement, please?” Kelly with a laugh.

Kelly fired previous head coach Jeff Scott on Sunday, November 6, amid a 1-8 start. Kelly described what he is looking for in the next head coach but didn’t tip his cap on who he is looking at.

“I’m not going to speak about any candidates,” Kelly said. “I’ve spoken to the (coaching) profile of what I’m looking for. I think that’s where I’ll stand for right now.”

Gruden last coached at the collegiate level as a wide receivers coach at Pittsburgh in 1991. He went to the NFL the following year.

Bucs Coaches Still Under Scrutiny

Scott may not wind up as the only high-profile Tampa area coach to lose a job this year.

Both Bucs head coach Todd Bowles and offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich have taken heat from the fanbase due to on-field struggles amid a 4-5 start. The hashtag #FireLeftwich trended on Sunday as the Bucs offense struggled until the final minute before pulling out a 16-13 comeback in over the Los Angeles Rams. Calls for firing Bowles likewise have been frequent on social media.

Whether or not Bowles and Leftwich stay with the Bucs in 2023 could easily hinge on the final eight games of the regular season. The Bucs just slipped out of a three-game losing streak and 1-5 stretch, but significant issues remain — especially on offense.

Bucs’ Biggest Issues at a Glance

The Bucs mustered four touchdowns their last 44 drives — “the worst stretch in the NFL” according to JoeBucsFan.com. Bucs quarterback Tom Brady has 10 touchdown passes in nine games. The Bucs running attack averages a league-worst 60.7 yards per game. Red zone play leads to touchdowns only 44.4% of the time, third worst in the league.

Defense has its issues, too, and Bowles specializes in defense. The Bucs sank to the 10th-worst run defense in the NFL this season after being dominant for a few years. The Bucs gave up 24 points in fourth quarters during the three game stretch.

While the Bucs remain in the top five for a few key defensive categories, this year’s unit tied a franchise record for five-consecutive games without creating a turnover, per JoeBucsFan.com. It last happened in 1976, the franchise’s first season.

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