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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Sean McDonough expects Gruden to stay with ESPN

Roy Cummings

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TAMPA – Regular readers of Florida Football Insiders may or may not have noticed that we haven’t written very much about the possibility of former Buccaneers coach Jon Gruden returning to the sidelines in recent weeks.

We haven’t written that because, after years of chasing those kinds of stories, we have come to the educated conclusion that Gruden has little or no intention of ever coaching again, either at the college level or in the NFL.

Sure, there is a part of Gruden that wants to return to the sidelines because coaching is in his blood. It’s truly what he loves to do most. But he’s got an even better gig now at ESPN and he knows it.

In his current capacity at ESPN, Gruden has become more than the face of a franchise, he’s become one of the faces of football, period, and it probably won’t be long before his name gets a boost in stature, too.

The generation of gamers who know who John Madden is has begun to fade. The likelihood then is that at some point in the near future, Gruden’s name will replace Madden’s on the NFL’s premier video game.

That’s not a reason never to coach again but it’s just one of the many reasons why Gruden will continue to have it much better where he is now than he ever had it or would have it again as a coach.

So, no, we’re not going to write a bunch of baseless stories saying Gruden is coming back to coach the Bucs or any other team simply to drive up site traffic, even though we love spikes in site traffic.

What we do here is report stories that have some basis in fact, and that’s what we’re doing here in light of a recent radio interview with Gruden’s Monday Night Football partner, Sean McDonough.

McDonough, who does the play-by-play that Gruden provides analysis for on ESPN’s Monday night telecasts, was a guest recently on the Chris “Mad Dog” Russo show on SiriusXM radio.

During that interview, Russo did what he should have done and asked McDonough to address the Gruden rumors, asking specifically if he thought Gruden loved his ESPN gig enough to stick with it long term.

McDonough’s response was telling because it spoke to both Gruden’s love for what he’s doing now and his love for coaching but also provided an avenue to follow at least for the short term.

“I know Jon loves what he is doing,’’ McDonough said. “I think that is obvious to anybody who is around and watches “Monday Night Football”). And obviously he is very well compensated.

 “So I don’t think he would go back to coaching because, ‘Oh, the money is so different. I can’t afford not to do that.’ But he is a coach and I think he enjoys getting on there every Monday night and teaching America football.

 “It is always going to be there for him because he doesn’t totally have the coaching bug out of his system. So I think whenever these (openings) come up, he has to weigh the positives and the negatives.

“But I would be surprised if he went back (to coaching) next year. Would I would be completely shocked? No. But my full expectation is that he will be back with us again next season.’’

So there you have it. The man who works closest to Gruden doesn’t believe Gruden is going back to coaching, at least not yet, and if he’s not ready to go now, well then when would he go? Really, think about that for a second.

A lot of good jobs opened up this year, particularly in the college game, where Gruden could have had his choice of jobs at Tennessee, Florida, Florida State, UCLA or even Oregon.

He chose none and he won’t choose any of the NFL jobs that open up either because none of those jobs – including the Bucs job, should it open up – is as good as the job he has now. And chances are it will stay that way.

Oh sure; there’s chance that maybe someday down the road, some Super Bowl-ready team will suddenly fire its coach and ask Gruden to carry them the rest of the way to the promised land the way he did with the Bucs.

But even that seems a bit unlikely. After all, NFL owners have a pretty good gauge on what it is Gruden really wants to do, too, and tarnishing his ever-growing legacy by failing to polish off a champion isn’t one of them.

Roy Cummings is a native of Chicago, Illinois who grew up in the suburb of Lombard. He and his family later moved to Lakeland, Florida, where Roy attended high school at Kathleen High. He graduated from the University of South Florida with a Bachelor's Degree in Mass Communications in 1983 and immediately went to work for the Tampa Tribune. After five years working in a Polk County bureau covering everything from high school sports to college football to the Orlando Magic of the NBA, Roy moved back to Tampa and became the Tribune's first beat writer for the Tampa Bay Lightning, covering the team from its inception through the first eight years on the ice. He was then moved to the Buccaneers beat, where he stayed until the paper was folded in May, 2016. A two-time Florida Sports Writer of the Year, Roy has extensive experience covering all Tampa professional sports teams, including the Tampa Bay Rays.

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Buccaneers cornerstone player in 2018?

Florida Football Insiders

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Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

(This is the first look at all three state NFL teams’ roster and identifying a player that we at F.F.I. believe is the foundation starter for their potential success in 2018)

It’s still a couple of weeks before the Buccaneers gather for training camp at One Buc Place and there’s already uncertainty everywhere. Off a disappointing showing down the stretch with a 5-11 finish in 2017, both head coach Dirk Koetter and GM Jason Licht were already feeling warmth under their seats.

Now, the perceived team leader, QB Jameis Winston, is suspended for the first three games of the season for violation of the NFL personal conduct policy. And, this has called into question whether he Winston is going to be on borrowed time himself, once he comes back.

So, who is the player that the Bucs will look to for leadership, stability and to help them get through tough times this year? Well, it’s not clear cut in Tampa Bay, but we have a strong guess.

If we are talking cornerstone player for 2018, we are talking yearly Pro Bowl DT Gerald McCoy.

The reasons are apparent.

McCoy has tenure in the Bucs locker room and has played at the high level for the past six seasons (under three different head coaches) and made the Pro Bowl in each one.

Most importantly, he provides a veteran presence to what is an uncertain situation.

And with the additions of former Eagles DE Vinny Curry in free agency, a trade for Giants Pro Bowler and Superbowl champion Jason Pierre Paul and the drafting of Washington All American DT Vita Vea in the first round, McCoy has more help than at any point in his career.

This means the former #1 pick out of Oklahoma will have a chance to excel, especially right away, this season.

Sure, the Bucs have a “franchise receiver” in Mike Evans, and gave him a huge extension in March. And they have one of the top star defenders in the NFL that few on the national level talk much about in LB LaVonte David.

However, with Winston’s future with the Buccaneers uncertain, Gerald McCoy is the guy to count on for this and the next few seasons.

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Hall of Fame WR Randy mentoring Bucs QB Jameis Winston in Tampa

Florida Football Insiders

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Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Controversy has followed Jameis Winston throughout his college and NFL careers and now, former controversial NFL star receiver turned ESPN analyst Randy Moss, is trying to help.

As you probably know by now, the Bucs QB is suspended for the first three games this season by the NFL for violation of the personal conduct policy after he inappropriately touched a female Uber driver in Arizona in 2016. It’s the latest in a long line of personal missteps and problems that have dogged Winston off the field, since his days at Florida State.

Meanwhile, Moss, who will be enshrined at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, OH, later this month, has been in Tampa recently working with and apparently trying to help mentor Winston.

Tampa TV station, Fox 13 and reporter Kevin O’Donnell, got exclusive comments from Moss on helping Winston on Tuesday:

“He’s doing things right,” Moss told the station.  “It’s a bump in the road…Man, just continue to fight. It happens…. What he did was wrong. You know. I’m not saying right or wrong. There was a woman involved. So, I’m not going to get into all of that. What he did was wrong. He know (sic) it was wrong. So, I think it’s up to him as a man to understand what he did wrong….to live and learn from it and let it go.”

Moss had early controversies and arrests in his own college career, as he was denied entry at Notre Dame and later kicked off the FSU football team while red-shirting for arrests and probation violations that led him to being back behind bars.

He later thrived at Marshall University, was a Heisman Trophy Finalist, a first round pick by the Vikings and had a 14 year career as one of the most explosive NFL receivers of all time. Moss, who caught for 1,000 or more yards in 10 NFL seasons and is second all time with 156 TD receptions, was voted into the Hall of Fame (above) in his first time on the ballot back in January.

Winston was shown by the station running sprints and making throws to some other prospective NFL receivers at the workout Tuesday, but refused to talk on camera. He has not spoken publicly, since the NFL suspended him two weeks ago. He told the station he will talk at Bucs training camp later in July.

As for Moss, he further said Tuesday that he’s trying to give Winston and other young players advice from his own experiences and failures off the field.

“One of the things that I always told my people: ‘Don’t be scared or shy to tell me no, because I check my pride in at the door….I’ll thank you later, you know, when I’m not behind bars, or when I’m still on a football team.” Moss continued, “A lot of these guys don’t realize that they’re being watched under a microscope and they don’t realize it until it happens to them and they’re out of  job.”

At this point, the fourth year Bucs QB Winston, has to realize that he is on the verge of being out of a job in Tampa. That’s if he doesn’t respond well from the suspension by staying out of trouble and performing well on the field.

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

New Bucs DE Jason Pierre Paul still great reminder of July 4th safety

Florida Football Insiders

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Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

The Buccaneers are excited to see what former USF and New York Giants star Jason Pierre-Paul can do on the field in Tampa Bay this fall. After being acquired in a trade with the G-men in March, Pierre Paul hopes to energize an almost non-existent Bucs pass rush from last year.

One thing is for sure, as much as he’s known for being a star on the field, Pierre Paul has become a reminder of “what not to do” and specifically fireworks safety on July 4th.

It was three years ago Wednesday night that Pierre Paul’s decision to celebrate and ignite amateur hand-held fireworks in South Florida led to a horrific and potentially, career threatening right hand injury.

But, out of what could have been football tragedy involving his  hand, Pierre-Paul has made a comeback and is now a national PSA symbol for firework safety.

The beginning of Pierre Paul’s football story is the Deerfield Beach, as a native of Hatian immigrant parents playing  as a Juco star in both California and Kansas. Then, he was brought back to Florida, by coach Jim Leavitt and staff, as USF’s dominant pass rusher in 2009. That year he attained All Big East honors with 6.5 sacks and 16.5 tackles for loss for the Bulls.

This fast tracked Pierre Paul to the NFL after only one season in Tampa and he was drafted 15th overall by the Giants in the 2010 NFL Draft.

After a rookie year with 4.5 sacks, he burst on the pro scene in season two with 16.5 sacks for the G-men leading to a Pro Bowl selection and was part of the New York Superbowl victory over the Patriots that February.

Pierre-Paul continued to be regarded as the Giants most consistent pass rushing threat and had another double digit sack season with 12.5 in 2014.

Then came the off season of 2015, where he chose not to sign his one year Franchise Player free agent tender (the Giants still had his exclusive rights) seeking a longer term deal. And, he remained unsigned as of July 4th that year.

That night in 2015 he loaded up a van with handheld amateur fireworks and with friends and neighbors began shooting them off until one obviously malfunctioned and mangled his right hand. Pierre-Paul was hospitalized and eventually had multiple surgeries on the hand and his right index finger amputated.

The Giants stood by him, when they could have dumped him for non-football injury, and he eventually made his way back onto the field in November of 2015. Signing a “pro rated” week to week one year deal, his debut came as New York traveled to Raymond James Stadium (Pierre-Paul’s USF home for a season) and he played with a padded “club” protecting his right hand against the Bucs.

He would play in eight total games that season with one sack and then, as further proof of the Giants being in his corner, they re-signed him on a one year $10 million deal for 2016. Pierre-Paul then worked a year ago with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission on a July 4th fireworks safety video:

The gnarly image and video of Pierre-Pauls right hand is obviously the deterrent the agency is looking for with the PSA campaign about safety. He played 2016 with a special padded glove to protect the hand/fingers registering another seven sacks before being placed on I.R. with a sports hernia.

Finally, and happiest of all financial endings after the fireworks disaster, Pierre-Paul inked a four year $62 million deal with $40 million guaranteed in March of last year to stay, so he thought, in New York.

Alas, the Giants had a nightmare of a 2017 season that finished at 3-13. Pierre-Paul had a solid season with 8.5 sacks and 68 total tackles despite the dismal team finish.
Then, Bucs GM Jason Licht swung the deal for Pierre-Paul and Tampa Bay agreed to assume his $12.1 million dollar salary for 2018.

So, while it all worked out in the end, obviously, the Jason Pierre-Paul July 4th fireworks mess could have had a much different ending all the way around for he, the Giants and now, the Bucs.

It’s a reminder to stay safe Wednesday night. Leave the handheld fireworks to someone else.

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