Off Topic: Sapp providing points in the Gruden debate

From the moment the Tampa Bay Buccaneers defeated the Oakland Raiders in Superbowl XXXVII, some friends and I followed with a debate over John Gruden and Tony Dungy. Dungy was fired and replaced with Gruden, which cost the Bucs first and second round picks in ’03 and ’04, along with a cash amount of $8 million. And though the Bucs seemed to immediately profit from the acquisition, I always viewed it as an optical illusion. The question for the debate was simple. Who is the real genius behind the Buccaneers championship team, Dungy or Gruden?

It has always been my opinion that Gruden jumped aboard a fast moving train, riding it to become the NFL’s youngest coach to reach the supreme destination. Others argued that Dungy was a perennial underachiever, and had he remained at the helm, the Bucs would never have a taste of champagne. We see now that they were wrong about Dungy, who has since retooled another NFL franchise, and wears a Superbowl championship ring, just like Gruden. The difference is, his Indianapolis Colts are stabilized, and remain one of the NFL elite, where Gruden’s Superbowl champions took an immediate plunge before working their way back to some respectability in 2007, which I credit to a weak NFC Southern Division.

Looking at the 2002 season, you’ll either see “Gruden the Great” or “Gruden the Bust”, depending on which team your focus is on. Looking at his Bucs, he resembles greatness, leading them to glory. But looking at the team left behind, the Oakland Raiders, you’ll see a bust, because Bill Callahan was able to step in as their first year coach and drive them into that championship game, something Gruden never accomplished in silver and black.

It’s easy to form opinions as a fan, blogger, or member of the media, but how much weight does the opinion of a player hold? I would say it holds more weight than all others. In a recent question and answers session with the San Francisco Chronicle, newly retired Raider and former Buccaneer, Warren Sapp, touched on this very debate. When asked who is most deserving of the credit for Tampa Bay’s Superbowl victory, Dungy or Gruden, Sapp responded with:

“I always say this: The damn cake was already in the oven. It was just a matter of when it came out. All Jon had to do was put the icing on it.”

His answer appears more supportive of my theory, and I’ll gladly take the points. Icing the cake is the easiest part of the process, where it’s more time consuming and requires more skill to gather the ingredients, estimate the correct portions, and determine the temperature for baking. Dungy baked another cake in Indy, but this time he iced it himself. On the other hand, Gruden doesn’t appear to be a baker, and his product continues to collapse in the middle.

Beginning with 2002, the records of the two coaches reflect as follows:

Gruden’s Bucs

2002- 12-4*
2003- 7-9
2004- 5-11
2005- 11-5
2006- 4-12
2007- 9-7

Total- 48-48

Dungy’s Colts

2002- 10-6
2003- 12-4
2004- 12-4
2005- 14-2
2006- 12-4*
2007- 13-3

Totals- 73-23
*Superbowl championship year

It’s no contest. And if I were a Tampa Bay fan, I’d be begging for Dungy’s return. Both coaches only have one championship ring, but keep in mind that Dungy ran into a playoff wrecking ball named the Patriots 3 times, managing to defeat them just once. It was also that Patriots wrecking ball that kept Gruden’s best Raiders team from reaching the Superbowl. And seeing that Gruden once worked as a part time caddy for the PGA’s John Daly, he was already prepared to celebrate another’s victories, when he did nothing but hold the bag.

~ by Anthony on July 1, 2008.

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