Buccaneers fire Dungy after six seasons

Posted: Tuesday, January 15, 2002

TAMPA, Fla. -- The Tony Dungy era is over in Tampa Bay.

The most successful coach in Buccaneers history was fired Monday night, paving the way for the team possibly to replace him with Bill Parcells.

Dungy compiled a 54-42 record in six seasons and led the Bucs to the playoffs four times. A lack of success the past two postseasons cost him his job.

There was no immediate word on a successor, but the team is believed to be close to agreeing to terms with Parcells, who won two Super Bowls with the New York Giants.

The late-night announcement came just hours after a team spokesman said Dungy's status wouldn't be determined until the coach met Tuesday with general manager Rich McKay and the sons of owner Malcolm Glazer.

''It has been a privilege to work with not only Tony Dungy the coach, but Tony Dungy the man,'' Glazer said in a brief statement. ''This has been a most difficult decision. Tony has done great things for our football team and our community.''

There has been speculation that McKay's job also could be in jeopardy if Parcells replaces Dungy, however there was no indication Monday night whether the general manager will return.

Dungy took over a struggling team that had not had a winning season in 13 years and transformed the Bucs into a Super Bowl contender in just three seasons.

He led the team to the NFC Championship game two years ago, but was under fire for most of his tenure because of an anemic offense that ultimately cost him his job.

The Bucs had three offensive coordinators the last three years, yet never finished better than 21st in offense under Dungy, whose defenses routinely ranked among the best in the NFL.

The Bucs went 9-7 this season, overcoming a slow start to earn the final NFC wild-card spot. But a second straight loss to Philadelphia in the first round of the playoffs sealed his fate.

The Eagles eliminated Tampa Bay 21-3 a year ago and 31-9 last Saturday -- the third straight playoff game the Bucs have gone without scoring a touchdown.

Dungy, who had refused to speculate on his future, scheduled a news conference for Tuesday at the Bucs training complex.

The coach's agent, Ray Anderson, did not return telephone messages. He had sought a quick decision from the Glazers so Dungy could be considered for other head coaching vacancies.

Indianapolis, Carolina and San Diego have openings.

''It's a disappointment,'' Pro Bowl safety John Lynch said.

''You look upon it in terms of what he meant to our organization and to me, and that's a great deal. As a coach he has brought a tremendous amount of respect to the franchise. More importantly is the contribution he made to a number of players by making them better men. There are few people I admire more than coach Dungy.''

The Glazers have remained silent about their pursuit of Parcells.

, who won Super Bowl titles with the Giants in 1986 and 1990, took New England to the Super Bowl in 1996 and the New York Jets to the AFC Championship game in 1998.

Whoever replaces Dungy will inherit a team in much better shape than the one the former coach took over in 1996.

Before Dungy's arrival, the Bucs posted a .307 winning percentage (94-213-1), won 10 games in a season once and made three playoff appearances in 20 seasons.

Dungy has a .563 regular-season winning percentage, has won 10 or more games three times and guided Tampa Bay to its first NFC Central title in 18 years in 1999.

The Bucs had 18 Pro Bowl appearances before Dungy, an average of less than one per season. In the past six years, the team has sent 35 players to the Pro Bowl, in addition to having an average of two players per season voted first-team All-Pro.

Cornerback Ronde Barber was an All-Pro selection for the first time this season.

''He gave me an opportunity in the league and it's something I hold dear to my heart. I'm at a loss for words,'' Barber said.

''He should be remembered for how he pulled this franchise from the ashes. He made it into something, and made a bunch of players into special players.''

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