Dungy was fired by the Buccaneers following a disappointing loss to the Philadelphia Eagles 31–9 in the Wildcard Round of 2001 and soon thereafter hired as the head coach of theIndianapolis Colts, while the Bucs mounted a prolonged and much-maligned search for his replacement. Several potential candidates were offered the job, including University of Florida head coach Steve Spurrier, former New York Giants head coach Bill Parcells, and Baltimore Ravens defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis. Spurrier jumped to the Redskins when he was offered the most lucrative salary package ever offered to an NFL head coach, and Parcells eventually passed on the Bucs’ offer—the second time he had done so in the history of the franchise. Bucs general manager Rich McKay threw his support behind Lewis. The Glazer brothers were so displeased with the selection of yet another defensive-minded coach that they overruled McKay and took control of the candidate search themselves. They made it clear that their top choice was Jon Gruden. The problem was that he was still under contract to the Oakland Raiders.

While talks with the Raiders were secretly under way, the Glazers publicly pursued another respected offensive mind, San Francisco 49ers head coach Steve Mariucci. Just when initial reports indicated that Mariucci had agreed to become both the Bucs’ head coach and their general manager, Raiders owner Al Davis agreed to release Jon Gruden to Tampa Bay.

The Glazers’ shrewd move eventually paid off in acquiring Gruden, but it was costly. The team hired Gruden away from the Raiders on February 20, 2002, but the price was four draft picks, including the Bucs’ first and second round picks in 2002, their first round pick in 2003, and their second round selection in 2004, along with $8 million in cash; the league as a result prohibited any further trading of draft picks for coaches. Gruden was frustrated by the limitation of his coaching authority by Davis and was more than pleased to return to Tampa Bay. His parents lived in Carrollwood, and he had spent part of his childhood in Tampa in the early 1980s when his father was a running backs coach and later a scout for the Bucs.

Upon his arrival in Tampa, Gruden immediately went to work, retooling a sluggish offense. The league’s sweeping realignment sent the Bucs to the new NFC South Division, along with the Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers and New Orleans Saints.

Led by the league’s top defense, the 2002 campaign was the Buccaneers’ most successful season to date. Linebacker Derrick Brooks was named the 2002 NFL Defensive Player of the Year with a tendency to make big plays. They won the NFC South title with the team’s best ever record, 12–4, and went on to rout Gruden’s former team, the Oakland Raiders who had the league’s number 1 offense, by a score of 48–21 in Super Bowl XXXVII, nicknamed “The Pirate Bowl”.


Cubs in Five

They’re gonna find intelligent life up there on the moon
And the Canterbury Tales will shoot up to the top of the bestseller list
And stay there for 27 weeks

And the Chicago Cubs will beat every team in the league
And the Tampa Bay Bucs will make it all the way through January
And I will love you again
I will love you, like I used to
I will love you again
I will love you, like I used to

The stars are gonna spell out the answers to tomorrow’s crosswords
And the Phillips Corporation will admit that they’ve made an awful mistake
And Bill Gates will single-handedly spearhead
The Heaven 17 revival

And the Chicago Cubs will beat every team in the league
And the Tampa Bay Bucs will take it all the way to the top
And I will love you again
I will love you, like I used to
And I will love you again
I will love you, like I used to

from Nine Black Poppies (1995)