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Monday, January 14
Updated: January 15, 5:09 PM ET
Bucs fire Dungy after another playoff failure news services

TAMPA, Fla. -- Tony Dungy transformed the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from the laughingstock of the NFL into championship contenders, creating lofty expectations that Bill Parcells might get a chance to fulfill.

Can Bill Parcells turn around the Bucs' anemic offense? We'll likely find out.
Dungy was fired by the Bucs on Monday night, and the team is believed to be close to agreeing to terms with Parcells to succeed the winningest coach in franchise history.

The official hiring of Parcells probably will be delayed for four to six days as he finalizes contract details and begins the process of assembling a staff.

According to a report in the Tampa Tribune on Monday, Parcells' deal is believed to be for three years and may include an option for two years or more that would allow Parcells to assume a higher role in the organization should he desire it.

Contacted by The New York Times on Monday, Parcells denied he had reached a deal with the Bucs.

"My status has not changed since January 2000," when he stopped coaching the Jets.

"I've had at least two inquiries and a couple of college inquiries but nothing is imminent. Nothing is in place. The TV reports are so far ahead of the facts, it's ridiculous."

But a Jets official told the Times on Monday that Parcells, 60, had contacted Dan Henning, who was his offensive coordinator from 1998 to 2000.

The Bergen (N.J.) Record reported Tuesday that Parcells might even be the frontrunner in San Diego. The same report indicated that Parcells said Sunday that he didn not intend to coach the Bucs, and has not decided whether he wants to return to coaching at all.

Meanwhile, ESPN's Chris Mortensen reports that Dungy instantly becomes a leading candidate for the vacancies with the Colts and Panthers.

Tony Dungy's agent thinks the fired Tampa Bay Bucs coach might interview next week with the Indianapolis Colts.

Ray Anderson would not say if someone from the Colts had contacted him directly, but told The Associated Press on Tuesday that there were "informal indications" that could lead to an interview.

"I'll know more tomorrow," Anderson said. "I've just told Tony to get with his family and relax for 24 hours."

"It's been a great six years," Dungy said Tuesday during a packed press conference at the team's headquarters.

"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."

The Bucs went 54-42 and made the playoffs four times under Dungy, who led them to the 1999 NFC championship game before gradually losing a grip on his job the past two seasons.

"It's a disappointment," Pro Bowl safety John Lynch said.

"You look upon it in terms of what he meant to our organization and to me, and that's a great deal. As a coach he has brought a tremendous amount of respect to the franchise. More importantly is the contribution he made to a number of players by making them better men. There are few people I admire more than coach Dungy."

The announcement that Dungy wouldn't return for the final year of his contract came hours after a team spokesman said a decision on the coaches future wouldn't be made until after a meeting Tuesday with general manager Rich McKay and the sons of owner Malcolm Glazer.

Even though the firing was handled clumsily, Dungy said he didn't feel mistreated by the Glazers, who also fired the team's offensive staff. The defensive staff will remain under contract until they've been interviewed by the new coach.

"I think as a boss you have to make a decision. I've had to make decisions. I made them and did what I felt was best for the team, and my boss made a decision what he feels is best for the team," Dungy said. "That's what you go by. Everybody is trying to get to the Super Bowl and you do what you think is best to reach that goal."

All season long, the Glazers declined to discuss rumors about Dungy's future and the possible hiring of Parcells. The family announced the firing with a brief statement.

"It has been a privilege to work with not only Tony Dungy the coach, but Tony Dungy the man," Malcolm Glazer said. "This has been a most difficult decision. Tony has done great things for our football team and our community."

The coach's agent, Ray Anderson, pushed for a quick decision in order to give Dungy a chance to pursue other vacancies in the NFL.

Indianapolis, Carolina and San Diego also are in the market for coaches.

"I don't know what I'm going to do," Dungy said. "I'm going to look at all the options and see what happens. ... I've had some phone calls, but nothing's set up."

Anderson would not say if he had contacted any teams.

But he did say: "We would hope absolutely to have the opportunity to speak with the Colts."

There has been speculation that McKay's job also could be in jeopardy if Parcells replaces Dungy, but there was no indication Monday night whether the general manager will return.

Dungy sought a contract extension before this season, but was rejected by the Glazers -- a move that some of Tampa Bay's fiercely loyal players felt was insulting.

The coach ultimately lost his job because an anemic offense prevented the Bucs from getting beyond the first round of the playoffs for the second straight year.

The Bucs have had three offensive coordinators and three starting quarterbacks the past three seasons. They never finished better than 21st in offense under Dungy, whose defenses routinely ranked among the best in the NFL.

The Bucs went 9-7 this season, overcoming a slow start to earn the final NFC wild-card spot. But losing to Philadelphia in the first round of the playoffs for the second straight year sealed his fate.

The Eagles eliminated Tampa Bay 21-3 a year ago and 31-9 last Saturday -- the third straight playoff game the Bucs have gone without scoring a touchdown.

The Glazers have remained silent about their pursuit of Parcells, who won Super Bowl titles with the Giants during the 1986 and 1990 seasons, took New England to the Super Bowl in 1996 and the New York Jets to the AFC championship game in 1998.

Since last week, Parcells has consistently denied that he was close to a deal to coach the Bucs.

Whoever replaces Dungy will inherit a team in much better shape than the one the former coach took over six years ago.

Before Dungy's arrival, the Bucs posted a .307 winning percentage (94-213-1), won 10 games in a season once and made three playoff appearances in 20 seasons.

Dungy had a .563 regular-season winning percentage, won 10 or more games three times and guided Tampa Bay to its first NFC Central title in 18 years in 1999.

The Bucs had 18 Pro Bowl appearances before Dungy, an average of less than one per season. In the past six years, the team has sent 35 players to the Pro Bowl, besides having an average of two players per season voted first-team All-Pro.

Cornerback Ronde Barber was an All-Pro selection for the first time this season.

"He gave me an opportunity in the league and it's something I hold dear to my heart. I'm at a loss for words," Barber said.

"He should be remembered for how he pulled this franchise from the ashes. He made it into something, and made a bunch of players into special players."

Information from the Associated Press and senior writer Len Pasquarelli was used in this report.

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