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News » Tampa Bay Buccaneers Inside Slant 2008-12-30


Tampa Bay Buccaneers Inside Slant 2008-12-30


Tampa Bay Buccaneers Inside Slant 2008-12-30
It's been 15 years since an NFL team started 9-3 and failed to reach the playoffs.


So instead of celebrating back-to-back winning seasons (9-7) for the first time since arriving in Tampa Bay, Jon Gruden was left to explain four straight losses and one of the league's biggest collapses.

"I hate not competing for championships and we're not, so it's not a very good season," Gruden said. "It's not good enough. Again, I feel like this football team, 16 games, had a chance to win every game. We were tied or protecting a lead in the fourth quarter 16 weeks. I don't remember once feeling like we didn't have a chance to win. But 9-7 doesn't feel good when you're not in the tournament competing for a championship.

"Nine and seven isn't a disgrace. The way we finished was somewhat disappointing to say the least. We lost again to some pretty good football teams. We didn't play well enough yesterday with the lead and I take responsibility for it."

Gruden said he hasn't spoken with the Glazer family, which owns the Bucs. But he understands the fans' disappointment.

"I'd say they have every right to feel the way they do," Gruden said. "I'm working as hard as I can, and I'll continue to do that as long as I'm in this position."

On Monday, defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin second-guessed the timing of his announcement to end his 13-year career with the Bucs to go to the University of Tennessee. "I don't know if it was the right thing or not," he said.

Kiffin's announcement coincided with a monumental collapse of the defense, which yielded 123 points and 1,544 yards in the past four games.

"It's been tough," Gruden said. "Because it's been talked about daily. All I can say is I love that guy and I've really got a lot of respect for him and appreciation for what he has done. It's been tough, certainly. All I can say is I won't use that as an excuse."

Clearly, injuries to defensive tackles Jovan Haye (knee), Chris Hovan (knee), linebacker Derrick Brooks (hamstring) and safety Jermaine Phillips (broken arm) were a factor in losing all four games in December. The Bucs were either tied or leading in the fourth quarter in all four.

"You don't go 11 games where you don't give up a rushing touchdown, basically, to the final four games where I think three different backs went for 160-yards or more," Gruden said. "Injuries took its toll on us. We've got to get more pass rush. We've got to get more turnovers."

Raheem Morris will take over for Kiffin as defensive coordinator in 2009 and Gruden said he also may continue coaching defensive backs. "I embrace that change," linebacker Derrick Brooks said.



Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: December 30, 2008

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