- The Washington Times - Friday, August 9, 2002

The eight new bosses among the league's 32 coaches fall into three categories.

Tampa Bay's Jon Gruden, Indianapolis' Tony Dungy, San Diego's Marty Schottenheimer and Houston's Dom Capers have each guided teams to conference championship games.

Carolina's John Fox, Minnesota's Mike Tice and Oakland's Bill Callahan are career assistants getting their first shots at top jobs.

Washington's Steve Spurrier was one of the nation's top college coaches while at the University of Florida.

Gruden and Callahan, the only new coaches who inherited playoff teams, have the best chances of winning this season while Spurrier and Dungy figure to have the biggest impacts.

Former Gruden right-hand man Callahan's task is to coax the creaking Raiders (quarterback Rich Gannon, receivers Tim Brown and Jerry Rice, defensive end Trace Armstrong, linebacker Bill Romanowski and safety Rod Woodson are all over 36) into the playoffs for a third straight season and perhaps to their first Super Bowl since 1983.

The whole league is waiting to see whether the cocky Spurrier known for belittling even Florida's toughest foes can transfer his magical offensive touch to a unit that was among the NFL's stodgiest last year and whose most experienced passer is career backup Shane Matthews.

Gruden prodded the previously underachieving Raiders to the AFC title game in 2000 (they were upset by visiting Baltimore), but his hard-charging style wore on the moody Gannon. Their increasingly testy relationship and egotistical owner Al Davis' refusal to give the coach the long-term contract that he wanted combined to send Gruden to Tampa.

That's where the low-key Dungy had guided the long-downtrodden Buccaneers to four playoff berths including a narrow 2000 NFC title game loss in St. Louis the past five seasons. However, consecutive first-round losses in Philadelphia caused owner Malcom Glazer to decide that Dungy was too soft on his talented players.

After flirtations with seemingly every coach from Spurrier to Craig T. Nelson, Glazer finally found the taskmaster he sought. Since offensive centerpiece Keyshawn Johnson thrived under Bill Parcells' tough love with the Jets the biggest question is how defensive force Warren Sapp will respond to Gruden.

In any case, after 25 years in the rigorous and chilly NFC Central, the Bucs should dominate Atlanta, Carolina and New Orleans in the weak NFC South. Gruden has replaced scatback Warrick Dunn with the more physical Michael Pittman, upgraded with No.2 receiver Keenan McCardell and tight end Ken Dilger and threatened quarterback Brad Johnson with the acquisition of former Buffalo starter Rob Johnson.

Meanwhile Dungy landed in Indianapolis, replacing the overly emotional Jim Mora. The Colts have a dynamic offense led by quarterback Peyton Manning, halfback Edgerrin James and receiver Marvin Harrison, but they lost playoff openers in 1999 and 2000 and missed out last fall after James suffered a season-ending knee injury.

The defense plunged from 15th in 1999 to 29th last year. Enter Dungy, whose Tampa defenses were among the top three in 1997, 1998 and 1999 and never ranked below 11th. Dungy inherited future All-Pros Derrick Brooks, John Lynch and Sapp as well as proven star Hardy Nickerson in Tampa. The Colts don't have that kind of defensive talent base, but as long as Dungy can forge a decent unit, their offense should make the Colts the AFC South co-favorite along with Tennessee.

Trivia time Seven active coaches made the playoffs in their first full seasons. Can you name them? (Answer below.)

Still kicking Kansas City kicker Morten Andersen is heading into his 21st season, a record topped only by Hall of Famer George Blanda's 26. And if Andersen who turns 42 on Aug.19 can match the 98 points he scored last year for the Giants, he'll pass Gary Anderson to become the NFL's all-time leading scorer with 2,134. However, Andersen would have to play in every game this season and next to match Blanda's record of 340 games.

Show him the door Receiver Rob Moore's release by Denver after he missed the past two seasons with injuries means that he's all but done with 628 career catches. Former Jacksonville teammates Jimmy Smith (584) and McCardell (579) are next in line to crack the all-time top 20. The retired Drew Hill is 20th with 634, Hall of Famer Charley Taylor 19th with 649.

Trivia answer The New York Jets' Herman Edwards (2001), New Orleans' Jim Haslett and St. Louis' Mike Martz (both 2000), the New York Giants' Jim Fassel and San Francisco's Steve Mariucci (both 1997), Pittsburgh's Bill Cowher (1992), and Schottenheimer with Cleveland in 1985. All but Martz and Mariucci took over teams that had missed the playoffs.

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