Merril Hoge

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Monday, February 18
Gruden a perfect fit for Bucs

By Merril Hoge
Special to

Although I seldom use the word "brilliant" to describe a coach, Jon Gruden is one of the NFL's brilliant coaching minds. Gruden is the perfect fit for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, exactly what they need, and he will set a certain standard and bring discipline as their head coach.

Even though the compensation is reportedly four draft picks, including a first- and a second-round pick in 2002, Gruden will be worth it to the Bucs. Teams are built with free agents and draft picks in the second, third and fourth rounds, not by first-round picks; that's a myth.

As he showed in Oakland, Gruden gets more mileage out of people and players than any coach in the league. He is terrific at designing offense and attacking teams by catering to his team's strengths. In the last two years, he went from a two-tight end, smash-mouth power team to a more pure West Coast team. That's what coaching is about, if you are going to be a good one, and he clearly is.

Based on the personnel in Tampa, I don't expect Gruden to go with a pure West Coast offense. He will try to integrate the West Coast as much as possible, but he will cater more to the Bucs' strength, which may be more of a smash-mouth attack with Mike Alstott. Gruden will incorporate enough twists and wrinkles in the Bucs' offensive scheme for them to be both creative and explosive.

Even though Gruden never had a receiver to really stretch the field, he has always been able to adjust. That's what makes him a great coach, and I expect him to do the same in Tampa Bay.

Gruden's loss will be a blow to Oakland because he established a winning mentality in four seasons as the Raiders' coach. Trying to find another head coach as a match for the Raiders' philosophy and style won't be easy.

Former NFL running back Merril Hoge is an ESPN analyst on Edge NFL Matchup and NFL 2Night.

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