Jon Gruden: Buccaneers to win NFC South

TAMPA, Fla. – I just got settled into the press box at Raymond James Stadium and got a transcript of the conference call Jon Gruden took part in with the national media Thursday.

Gruden, the ESPN analyst and former Tampa Bay coach, predicted big things for the Buccaneers.

"I think this is the year for Tampa to win the division and return to the playoffs," Gruden said. "I have a lot of confidence Tampa is going to be a very good football team this year."

For the record, the Bucs haven’t been to the playoffs since 2007, when Gruden was coaching the team. Gruden was fired after the 2008 season.

Gruden also had some kind words for Tampa Bay quarterback Josh Freeman, who recently took some public criticism from former NFL quarterback Fran Tarkenton.

"I've got a lot of respect for Fran Tarkenton," Gruden said, "but I don’t necessarily agree with his comment on Josh Freeman. I've lived in Tampa 13 years, and I have studied Tampa Bay carefully for a lot of reasons. If you don’t think Josh Freeman can play, I think you’re making a huge mistake.

"He broke franchise records [for passing yards and touchdown passes], and I've seen him do it at a high level. That means he can do it again. Not everyone agrees. I’m accused of being too positive and liking everybody, but I do like Freeman. I wish I had Josh Freeman, I’ll just say it like that."