The Tampa Bay Buccaneers fired coach Jon Gruden and general manager Bruce Allen yesterday after the team collapsed after a 9-3 start and missed the playoffs for the fourth time in six years.
Gruden, who helped lead the Buccaneers to a victory over the Oakland Raiders in the January 2003 Super Bowl, was Tampa Bay's coach for seven years. Allen was general manager for the past five seasons.
The Buccaneers were tied for first place in the NFC South heading into December but finished with losses to the Carolina Panthers and Atlanta Falcons on the road and the San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders at home, where they had been 6-0. One more win would have landed an NFC wild-card berth.
The 9-7 record this season gave Gruden consecutive winning records for the first time since arriving in Tampa, yet still prompted the Glazer family to reevaluate the direction of the franchise.
"After taking a lot of time to look at our franchise, look where it's been, look where it is, look where we want to go, we just felt this was the time for a change," Buccaneers co-chairman Joel Glazer said.
Glazer said there's no timetable for naming a successor and declined to answer questions about possible candidates.
The Glazer family fired Tony Dungy and used two No. 1 and two No. 2 draft picks and $8 million cash to pry Gruden away from the Raiders after the 2001 season. He led the Buccaneers to their only NFL title the next year, but they haven't won a playoff game since.
Gruden, who had three years remaining on a contract extension he received after winning the NFC South in 2007, leaves as the winningest coach in franchise history at 60-57, including the postseason.
But since going 15-4, including the Super Bowl, in his first season with the Bucs, Gruden went 45-53 (including 9-17 in December) and made quick exits from the playoffs after winning division titles in 2005 and 2007.
More Buccaneers: : Fired Lions defensive coordinator Joe Barry returned to Tampa Bay as linebackers coach.
NFC championship game: : After missing a playoff game with an injured hamstring, Cardinals wide receiver Anquan Boldin said he expects to play against the Eagles tomorrow.
For Philadelphia, running back Brian Westbrook, who has a knee injury, practiced for the first time in three days and is expected to play.
Chargers: : San Diego appears to be bracing its fans for the possibility that LaDainian Tomlinson's brilliant eight-year run with the team could be over.
According to the Chargers' Web site, president Dean Spanos called the running back Thursday to discuss reports that the team might part with Tomlinson, who has been slowed by injuries the past two postseasons and will count $8.8 million against next year's salary cap.
"We talked about the situation and I just tried to explain everything that must be considered," Spanos said.
Lions: : Jim Schwartz, a Mount St. Joseph graduate and former Ravens defensive assistant, faces the biggest challenge among the 32 NFL teams next season: turning around a team that didn't win a single game.
Bring it on, Detroit's new coach says.
"There's no better feeling in football than turning a situation around. That's what drives me here," the former Titans defensive coordinator, 42, said during his introductory news conference at Ford Field.
Et cetera:: The Cowboys fired defensive coordinator Brian Stewart after two seasons. ... Longtime Redskins trainer Bubba Tyer, the last link to the George Allen era of the 1970s, retired for the second time. Tyer has been with the Redskins for 37 seasons.