Jon Gruden is notoriously intense about football and lives the game to the point of obsession. But as a kid, he enjoyed watching the Super Bowl on TV for other reasons.
“I remember just about all of the games,” he said, “and the older I got, the more I wanted to see the commercials, see what companies were doing the commercials. I thought that was pretty neat.”
The games themselves had an impact on the man who will lead the Buccaneers into their first Super Bowl today at Qualcomm Stadium. His most vivid memories are of the great San Francisco 49er teams of the late 1980s.
“Those are the games that you can’t wait for as a kid, and the games you dream about as you get into coaching or playing,” he said. “And the 49ers’ games had a great impact on me. That was the offense, as I’ve said earlier, that I always wanted to learn and be a part of philosophically. And the execution, the perfection with which they played in big games always inspired me. The 49ers, to me, those teams were just unbelievable.”
Gruden’s brother, Jay, an offensive assistant with the Buccaneers, said he suspects his brother feels as if he has something to prove as a coach.
“I think he has always felt that maybe because he didn’t play in the NFL or anything like that, he almost feels like he has to outwork everybody,” Jay Gruden said. “He wants to be sure that when he puts something on the chalkboard and teaches it to the team, he wants it to be good information and worthwhile, and it usually is.
“He’s going to research it, he’s going to study it, so he’s sure that it’s a good play.”
Should Jon Gruden deliver a rah-rah speech before his team takes the field today? Play it low-key? Say nothing at all?
Gruden said he hasn’t decided what he will say.
“I thought a little about it,” he said. “With this crowd, you don’t have to say a lot. The later you play into the season, the less you have to say sometimes....
“I try not to talk for very long when I do speak to them. I think we all understand the magnitude of the game, and with that said, there’s enough motivation out there for us now.”
General Manager Rich McKay said the Buccaneers were delighted when NFL executives asked if they’d be willing to play an exhibition game against the New York Jets this summer in Tokyo.
“From a worldwide exposure standpoint, it certainly is a positive for the franchise,” he said. “We just need to figure out the logistics and try to use it to our advantage, having an extra preseason week.”
Although Gruden has talked about making the Buccaneers into a “global” franchise, he acknowledged having some reservations about the journey.
“I’ve never been overseas, so that will be a new experience to me,” he said. “I thank the NFL for selecting us.... I’m worried how it’s going to affect me, but I’ve got more things to concern myself with right now.”
(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)
HOW TAMPA BAY WAS BUILT
1993--John Lynch, S, 3rd.
1995--Warren Sapp, DT, 1st-A; Derrick Brooks, LB, 1st-B.
1996--Mike Alstott, FB, 2nd.
1997--Ronde Barber, CB, 3rd-B; Alshermond Singleton, LB, 4th.
1998--Brian Kelly, CB, 2nd-B; Todd Washington, C-G, 4th.
1999--Shaun King, QB, 2nd; Martin Gramatica, K, 3rd; Dexter Jackson, S, 4th.
2000--Cosey Coleman, G, 2nd; Nate Webster, LB, 3rd.
2001--Kenyatta Walker, T, 1st; Dwight Smith, CB, 3rd; John Howell, S, 4th; Jameel Cook, FB, 6th-A; Ellis Wyms, DE, 6th-B.
2002--Jermaine Phillips, S, 5th; Tim Wansley, CB, 7th-A.
1996--Karl Williams, WR.
1997--Shelton Quarles, LB.
2000--Chartric Darby, DT; Todd Yoder, TE; Aaron Stecker, RB.
2001--Ryan Benjamin, LS; DeVone Claybrooks, DT; Ron Warner, DE.
2002--Keenan McCardell, WR; Rickey Dudley, TE; Casey Crawford, TE; Buck Gurley, DT; Charles Lee, WR; Reggie Barlow, WR; Kerry Jenkins, G; Roman Oben, T; Lomas Brown, T; Daniel Wilcox, TE; Dan Goodspeed, T; Corey Ivy, CB; Tom Tupa, P; Rob Johnson, QB.
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS
2000--Jeff Christy, C (previous team: Minnesota).
2001--Simeon Rice, DE (Arizona); Brad Johnson, QB (Washington).
2002--Greg Spires, DE (Cleveland); Ken Dilger, TE (Indianapolis); Joe Jurevicius, WR (N.Y. Giants); Michael Pittman, RB (Arizona).
2002--Jack Golden, LB (N.Y. Giants); Darian Barnes, FB (N.Y. Giants).
Keyshawn Johnson, WR, from N.Y. Jets, April, 2001.
Cornell Green, T, from Miami, Aug., 2002.