Why Did the Raiders Trade Jon Gruden to the Buccaneers?

Jon Gruden has had nothing short of an intriguing path as an NFL head coach that initially began with the then-Oakland Raiders. However, Gruden‘s tenure came to a sudden end after a shocking trade to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Jon Gruden’s first tenure with the Raiders

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Before the then-Oakland Raiders brought Jon Gruden aboard, he bounced around the league in various coaching jobs.

The Raiders gave him the opportunity to become the youngest head coach in league history at 34 years old. It didn’t take long for him to guide the franchise to success as the team finished with an 8-8 record in each of his first two years.

In his third campaign, Oakland broke through, securing their first of two AFC West titles but fell in the AFC Championship Game to the Baltimore Ravens. The following season, the Raiders earned another AFC West division title but fell in the AFC divisional round to the New England Patriots in what is forever known as the “Tuck Rule” game.

Gruden’s coaching career took a dramatic change after the 2001 season in Oakland.

Why the Raiders traded Jon Gruden to the Buccaneers

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The entire dynamic of the situation changed on February 18, 2002, as team owner AL Davis agreed to trade Jon Gruden to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Tampa Bay gave up a massive haul in exchange by sending a 2002 and 2003 first-round draft picks, 2002 and 2004 second-round picks, and $8 million in cash. The initial asking price included four selections that saw the conversation attempt to include Hall of Famer Warren Sapp.

The move came as a complete shocker as Gruden had the Raiders positioned for tremendous success. The franchise was coming off back-to-back double-digit win campaigns earning the AFC West division title in each instance. Instead, the organization elected to move away from Gruden. 

The Raiders didn’t decide to keep all their assets from the deal. The picks turned into the 21st and 53rd overall in 2002 with the selection Napoleon Harris and tackle Langston Walker, respectively. The 2003 first-round choice wound up being defensive end Tyler Brayton at the 32nd overall spot.

Although management never distinctly voiced why Gruden was traded, the Buccaneers had precise desires. According to ESPN, Tampa Bay initially eyed Bill Parcells to replace Tony Dungy, but he remained in retirement. Buccaneers ownership wanted an offensive-minded head coach to pair with Monte Kiffin, while Gruden was near the end of his contract with the Raiders, which led to him being open to the move.

The Buccaneers got what they hoped to earn with a Super Bowl 37 win in their first year with Gruden. His seven-year tenure saw him finish with a 57-55 record with three playoff appearances behind NFC South division titles. Since Tampa Bay fired him, they haven’t had a playoff berth since 2008 and had five different head coaches in 12 years.

Second tenure is an open book

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The entire situation is water under the bridge with Jon Gruden
back in the fold for his second stint with the franchise.

Gruden’s tenure hasn’t gone the way the organization hoped as the team has struggled to get into the playoff picture. The Raiders finished in last place in the AFC West with a 4-12 record in his first campaign in 2018. The team experienced a slight jump up in his second year with a 7-9 record.

In the franchise’s first campaign in Las Vegas, the team has hovered around the playoff picture throughout much of the 2020 season. The Raiders’ struggles the last few weeks have put them on the verge of missing out on a wildcard berth.

The conversation has now shifted over to Gruden possibly being on the hot seat due to the team’s continued shortcomings. Ultimately, the Raiders will likely wait until the offseason to decide on his future.