TAMPA, Fla. -- The Tampa Bay Buccaneers acknowledged for the first time Tuesday that they are pursuing Bill Parcells.
The Bucs fired Tony Dungy, the only winning coach in the franchise's 26-year history, on Monday night and are believed to be close to an agreement with Parcells.
After denying during a news conference that the team had ever had discussions with the former Giants, Patriots and Jets coach or his representative about coming to Tampa Bay, the sons of owner Malcolm Glazer issued a statement saying talks began with agent Jimmy Sexton late Tuesday afternoon.
Sexton did not immediately return a telephone message from The Associated Press.
Speculation about Dungy's future and the possibility that Parcells would return to the NFL with the Bucs began during the Super Bowl in Tampa last January.
The rumor mill heated up again after the Bucs got off a slow start this season, and winning five of seven down the stretch to make the playoffs didn't stop reports predicting Dungy's ouster.
''This is the ugly side of this business,'' Joel Glazer said, addressing the firing of Dungy, whose 56-42 record with four playoff appearances in six seasons is by far the best of any Tampa Bay coach.
''It wasn't one thing or another. It's just a sense of where this franchise is at, a sense as to how our team was doing on the field and where we thought was the best direction to go.''
General manager Rich McKay, whose job also could be affected if Parcells is hired, lobbied unsuccessfully to retain Dungy, who transformed the Bucs from perennial doormats into Super Bowl contenders.
Tampa Bay advanced to the NFC Championship game two years ago. But Dungy's inability to get past the first round of the playoffs since then left a sour taste in the mouths of the owners.
The Bucs spent generously the past two offseasons to bolster an anemic offense, yet the addition of receiver Keyshawn Johnson, quarterback Brad Johnson and offensive linemen Jeff Christie and Randall McDaniel didn't produce the desired results.
Tampa Bay never finished higher than 21st in the NFL in offense under Dungy, who critics felt relied too much on a defense that routinely ranked among the best in the league.
''I think he's proud of what we accomplished. I think he knows the role he played in it, how important he was and I think he also understands that in the business, there are going to be changes,'' McKay said.
At a separate news conference at the team's headquarters, Dungy said goodbye before cleaning out his office.
The Bucs are one of just three teams that have made the playoffs each of the past year, and he thanked management and the fans for providing an environment conducive to winning.
''It's been a great six years,'' said Dungy, who could be a candidate for NFL openings in Indianapolis, Carolina and San Diego.
''When you're a Christian, you kind of look at things from a different perspective. Some things that are supposed to be bad, even though they're sad, they don't necessarily strike you as bad times. I think that's how I look at today. ... We came with the idea of winning the Super Bowl. We didn't get that done, but we accomplished a lot.''
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