It's hard to top Mike Shanahan's ouster after 14 years in Denver for shock value, but the Tampa Bay Buccaneers may have pulled it off late on Friday afternoon. They fired coach Jon Gruden after seven years and the franchise's only Super Bowl title, creating both another opening and an intriguing candidate on the very active NFL coaching carousel almost a month after the season came to an end.
Could he become a factor in the Jets coaching search? Like Eric Mangini, Gruden was fired because of the way his team ended a promising season. Gruden's Bucs lost their last four games to finish 9-7 and out of the playoffs. In 2007, the team finished 9-7 as well, losing their final three games, including a Wild Card home game to the Giants, in the process. Throw in a 4-12 2006 and Gruden's three-year record of 22-26 actually compares unfavorably to Mangini's 23-25 mark.
Those late disappointments take a lot of luster off Super Bowl titles, something to which Shanahan can attest as well. They can also take their toll on a coach who brings Gruden's level of intensity to the table. The last few years have seen the Buccaneers veer from quarterback to quarterback with little rhyme or reason to Gruden's choices. All the while deficiencies at other positions went unaddressed and contributed to the team's lackluster finishes.
None of that will overshadow the fact that his reputation is well above that of a coach with a 57-55 record during his time in Tampa. That's likely to throw him into the mix for the Jets job, as is the fact that Gruden was rumored to want Favre to come to Tampa before he wound up with the Jets. Gruden was an assistant in Green Bay, so there's history there, and his West Coast offense would be a better fit than the one Brian Schottenheimer employed.
Each of those things will be appealing to Jets brass, but that doesn't make Gruden the right man for the job. He's gone so hard for so long that he may need a year or two off before he's ready to tackle a new coaching project. Rex Ryan and Steve Spagnuolo, on the other hand, would bring the freshness that only a first time head coach can bring to the table. That style is a better fit for the current team.