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Gruden and McKay not on same page - ESPN - 6/11/2003


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Gruden and McKay not on same page

By Darrell Trimble

NFL Insider

Wednesday, June 11

Updated: June 11

11:38 AM ET

The fact that Tampa Bay coach Jon Gruden and general manager Rich McKay don't see eye-to-eye on personnel matters is a matter of public record, thanks in large part to Gruden, who made critical comments regarding McKay to coaches and front-office personnel at the NFL owners meetings in Phoenix.

Gruden complained that McKay is too wrapped up in his duties with the NFL's competition committee, blamed him for the team's recent contract dispute with quarterback Brad Johnson, and the struggle to sign left tackle Roman Oben, and finally whined about the team's salary cap situation, which falls under McKay's list of responsibilities.

One major point of contention between the duo dealt with the possible signing of Emmitt Smith. Gruden wanted to sign the 33-year-old Smith, but McKay was convinced the former Cowboys star would create too much of a distraction, despite the minimum salary he would have been offered.

McKay didn't want a circus-like atmosphere surrounding the team's running game, and as a backup there would constantly be questions about playing time and Smith's quest for 20,000 yards. Gruden, though, felt he could make it work.

Gruden never got the chance, because Smith felt the tension between the pair and eventually signed a two-year deal with the Arizona Cardinals.

The next day, at a speech in Dallas, Smith revealed his take on the Gruden-McKay situation. "There was a dynamic going on in Tampa Bay that was a battle between two individuals. One individual (Gruden) wanted me down there very badly. The other individual (McKay) saw his position as, `I am going to make this decision, and I don't think we should do this.'

"There was a power struggle going on down there. When you see what was going on in Arizona, and how badly they wanted me from head to toe, versus what was going on down in Tampa, I didn't want to fool with it."

To be fair, even had Gruden and McKay been simpatico, they would not have been able to come close to the Cardinals offer. Smith got paid between $7-million and $8-million to play the next two seasons in the desert, and he also got the change to be the starter. And while Emmitt said he wanted to play for the Bucs, Smith was adamant about his belief that he's a 1,300-yard back, even at this point in his career. In Tampa, he never would have the opportunity to reach those numbers, at least if he was behind Pittman.

As it stands now, Pittman might not be a Buc for much longer, a scenario neither Smith, Gruden, or McKay couldn't forsee. But this is likely to futher widen the rift between the two, given Gruden's sometimes irrational thirst for players he wants.

For example, Gruden was very upset that McKay couldn't work out a trade for left tackle Kyle Turley. The fact that Turley's cap number made it nearly impossible for the Bucs to attempt such a maneuver didn't douse his ire. Similarly, Gruden will no doubt harbor some resentment that he didn't get Smith, who would look very good in pewter and red right about now.

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Who cares if the Bucs ever win it again. Let me tell you, Tampa fans are still pinching themselves because they can't believe that decades of losing are over. Gruden could go 8-8 three years in a row and he still won't get fired. However, expect McKay to find a new post in the coming year because those Glazier brothers aren't that fond of him and if he wasn't under contract, he would have been gone by now already. Gruden is their guy and they will ultimately listen to him..........Again, as a Skins fan, I hope they go 8-8......

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Is it possible for McKay to run our FO? This guy is great.

I have heard that the Glazers are pursuing the LA Dodgers. If they were able to purchase it and forced to sell the Bucs, the McKay's tenure would come to the end.

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Very interesting. If Snyder was on record as wanting Smith and Turley, he would be denigrated as just chasing stars. Gruden wants them and people think he knows what he is talking about.

But I don't see the problem in the relationship here. Isn't this why people were nervous about Mendes getting the heave-ho? That there would be no balance in the organization? Isn't this part of the normal coach-GM dynamic that people here clamor for?

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