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Gruden, general manager walk the plank

Buccaneers settle on Morris as new coach

John Gruden is looking for work after his Bucs finished 9-7.  (Associated Press / The Spokesman-Review)
John Gruden is looking for work after his Bucs finished 9-7. (Associated Press / The Spokesman-Review)
By FRED GOODALL Associated Press

TAMPA, Fla. – Hours after firing Jon Gruden in a surprise move, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers settled on defensive coordinator Raheem Morris as the new coach.

The move to promote Morris, 32, was confirmed Friday night by a person familiar with the decision who requested anonymity because the team had not scheduled an official announcement.

Gruden and general manager Bruce Allen were dismissed earlier in the day, three weeks after the team completed one of the biggest collapses in NFL history, losing four straight games following a 9-3 start, to miss the playoffs.

Director of pro personnel Mark Dominik, with the Bucs for 14 seasons, will replace Allen.

Gruden, who helped lead the Buccaneers to a victory over the Oakland Raiders in the 2003 Super Bowl, was Tampa Bay’s coach for seven years. Allen was general manager the last five seasons.

“We will be forever grateful to Jon for bringing us the Super Bowl title, and we thank Bruce for his contributions to our franchise,” Buccaneers co-chairman Joel Glazer said in a statement. “However, after careful consideration, we feel that this decision is in the best interest of our organization moving forward.”

The Buccaneers were tied for first in the NFC South heading into December but finished with losses to Carolina and Atlanta on the road and San Diego and Oakland at home, where they had been 6-0. One more win would have netted a wild-card berth.

The 9-7 record gave Gruden consecutive winning records for the first time in Tampa Bay, but he missed the playoffs for the fourth time in six years.

The Glazer family fired Tony Dungy and used four high draft picks – two No. 1s and two No. 2s – and $8 million cash to pry Gruden away from the Raiders following the 2001 season. He led Tampa Bay to its only NFL title the following year, but the Bucs haven’t won a playoff game since the Super Bowl appearance.

Gruden, who had three years remaining on a contract extension he received after winning the NFC South in 2007, leaves as the winningest coach in franchise history, 60-57, including playoffs.

But since going 15-4, including the Super Bowl, Gruden went 45-53 and made quick exits from the playoffs after winning division titles in 2005 and 2007.

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