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Tampa lands Gruden

Posted: Tuesday, February 19, 2002

TAMPA, Fla. -- Tampa Bay's long, embarrassing search for a coach ended Monday with the hiring of Jon Gruden, one of the elite candidates they had sought all along.

Not only was he the one the Buccaneers coveted after Bill Parcells turned them down, but actually prying him from the Oakland Raiders provided one last bizarre twist to a five-week saga.

The sons of Bucs owner Malcolm Glazer settled on Gruden after spending the weekend in negotiations with San Francisco's Steve Mariucci, who was offered the opportunity to become Tampa Bay's coach and general manager, but never got a chance to turn it down.

''We talked about contract, but nothing had been agreed upon as far as solid numbers,'' said Mariucci, who cited family reasons for wanting to remain in San Francisco.

By the time the 49ers coach called the Glazers with his answer Monday morning, the owners had already contacted Raiders owner Al Davis to revive talks that broke down two weeks ago when Tampa Bay and Oakland could not agree on compensation for Gruden, who had one year left on his contract.

Gruden has family ties to Florida. His father was a scout and assistant coach with the Bucs in the 1970s and lives in Tampa. His younger brother, Jay, is player/coach of the Arena League's Orlando Predators.

''They've got themselves a heck of a coach,'' said Mariucci, who didn't want to uproot his family. ''The Tampa Bay situation is perfect for (Gruden's family).''

The Raiders said the Bucs will give up first- and second-round draft picks this year, a No. 1 in 2003, a second-round pick in 2004 and $8 million over the next three years.

The price was steeper than the Glazers would have paid for Mariucci, who has two years left on his contract. The 49ers were offered first- and third-round picks in 2002 and second- and third-round picks next year.

''We let Jon make the decision. If he wanted to go, we'd let him, provided we got our demands,'' Davis said.

The Bucs said Gruden had received a five-year deal. Terms were not disclosed, however ESPN.com reported it was worth $17.5 million, or about $3.5 million per season.

The 38-year-old Gruden, the NFL's youngest head coach, had a 40-28 record in four seasons as the Raiders' coach. He led the team to the AFC title game a year ago losing to eventual Super Bowl champion Baltimore.

This year, the Raiders again lost to the eventual champion, dropping a second-round game in overtime at New England after blowing a 10-point lead in the final quarter.

Gruden replaces Tony Dungy, who was fired Jan. 14, leading to a search that made the Glazer sons the laughingstock of football.

Boselli excited to join Texans

HOUSTON -- With face-painted fans shouting his name, Tony Boselli became the Houston Texans' top pick Monday -- the second time an expansion team began building a franchise around him.

''We have a Hall of Famer and we haven't played a game,'' general manager Charley Casserly said.

After five Pro Bowl seasons as an offensive tackle with the Jacksonville Jaguars, Boselli proved to be too attractive for the Texans to pass up, even at a huge cost.

Hundreds of Texans fans wearing blue-and-red jerseys and helmets with bulls' horns cheered the choice of Boselli, who missed most of last season with a shoulder injury that makes him something of a question mark. He seemed equally enthused about joining the new team.

''I've been with a group of guys that no one thought could play before,'' Boselli said. ''The sooner this team comes together and becomes cohesive the sooner we can be good.''

Boselli was the first player chosen by the expansion Jaguars in 1995 and quickly became a dominant offensive lineman. He has allowed 15 1-2 sacks in his seven pro seasons.

The first eight choices came from just three teams -- the Jaguars, the New York Jets and Baltimore, all of whom had serious cap problems.

''Obviously Charley knew the teams in cap trouble -- us, Baltimore and Jacksonville,'' said Terry Bradway, general manager of the Jets, who lost starting right tackle Ryan Young and both starting cornerbacks, Aaron Glenn and Marcus Coleman.

The Texans, who will play their first game against the New York Giants on Aug. 5 in the Hall of Fame game in Canton, Ohio, also took three players from Jacksonville -- defensive tackles Seth Payne and Gary Walker. Baltimore, the 2001 Super Bowl winner, lost starting linebacker Jamie Sharper and Jermaine Lewis, one of the NFL's best kick returners.

The Texans took 19 players in the expansion draft. They also planned to make use of free agency and will get the first pick in the college draft on April 20.

''We got experience at positions that are hard,'' coach Dom Capers said. ''We got two starting offensive tackles, two starting defensive lineman and a playmaker in Jermaine Lewis.''

Glenn, who played college football at nearby Texas A&M, said he was happy to be coming home.

''I don't know what the Jets were thinking,'' Glenn said. ''But I'll tell you, they did a favor for us. I think me and Marcus will do well on this team. The fact that we played together in New York will make it easier on us to communicate.

''Inside, you guys can never know how I feel. ''I've always been a fan of any team in Texas...except the Longhorns. I never thought I'd get a chance to come back home and play football.''

The Texans are expected to make Fresno State quarterback David Carr their first pick in the college player draft in April. In the 17th round, they chose quarterback Danny Wuerfell from the Chicago Bears.

Wuerffel has been strictly a third-stringer for most of his career, meaning Carr will have to learn quickly. That was one reason the Texans concentrated on quality offensive linemen -- or, beyond Boselli and Young, what pass for quality in an expansion draft.

Sharper was a mainstay of the Baltimore defense that led the Ravens to their Super Bowl victory.

''I'm definitely ready to move on, I can get out of Ray Lewis' shadow,'' Sharper said. ''I can play for Dom Capers' defense, the 3-4, where linebackers have a bigger part to play. I'll be able to get more sacks.''

The Texans had to take at least 30 players in the draft or a lesser number of players totaling 38 percent of the league's $71.8 million salary cap.

Young, who has started for most of his first two seasons, has a cap number at $566,000.

''It's exciting to be mentioned with player like Tony Boselli,'' said Young, who said he was shocked to be on the expansion list.

Walker had played at Jacksonville for coach Dom Capers, who was the Jaguars' defensive coordinator. He was disappointed when his name first appeared on the team's unprotected list.

Walker started all 16 games for the Jaguars last season and ranked third among defensive tackles in the NFL with 7 1-2 sacks.

Walker is the only link among Monday's selections to the former Houston Oilers, who left after the 1996 season for Tennessee. Walker played two seasons in Houston and two more with the Titans.

He pointed out that the city's annoyance was with owner Bud Adams, not the team.

''The fans never hated us,'' Walker said. ''They had it with Bud. I had a great time here. This is a football city and they loved us. But I couldn't blame them being mad at Bud. Why fall in love with a team that's not going to be here?''



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