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Long, embarrassing process over for Bucs

Associated Press

TAMPA, Fla. -- The Tampa Bay Buccaneers didn't wait for Steve Mariucci to turn them down before filling their coaching vacancy with Jon Gruden.

The sons of Malcolm Glazer, after a long, sometimes embarrassing search, finished on a high note Monday.

Sensing Mariucci was going to reject an offer to become Tampa Bay's coach and general manager, the Glazers struck a deal to free Gruden from the final year of his contract with the Oakland Raiders.

The Raiders said the Bucs will give up first- and second-round draft picks this year, a No. 1 in 2003, a second-round pick in 2004 and $8 million over the next three years.

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The price was steeper than the Glazers would have paid for Mariucci, who has two years left on his contract. The 49ers were offered first- and third-round picks in 2002 and second- and third-round picks next year.

"We let Jon make the decision," Raiders owner Al Davis said. "If he wanted to go, we'd let him, provided we got our demands."

Gruden received a five-year deal that ESPN.com reported is worth $17.5 million. Mariucci was said to have been seeking up to $42 million for seven years, although it was unclear exactly what the Bucs offered.

"We talked about contract, but nothing had been agreed upon as far as solid numbers," said Mariucci, who was offered the job after meeting with the Glazers for several hours Sunday.

By the time the 49ers' coach called the Glazers with his answer Monday morning, the owners had already contacted Davis to revive talks that broke down two weeks ago when Tampa Bay and Oakland could not agree on compensation for Gruden.

While Mariucci cited concerns about uprooting his family as one the reasons he preferred to remain in San Francisco, Gruden has close ties to Florida.

His father was a scout and assistant coach with the Bucs in the 1970s and lives in Tampa. His younger brother, Jay, is player-coach of the Arena League's Orlando Predators.

Gruden appeared to be a popular selection among Tampa Bay players, who were extremely loyal to former coach Tony Dungy, who was fired on Jan. 14.

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"He's definitely a coach on the rise, and his best years are in front of him. He's a guy that is going to reach legendary status in this league one day and it's going to be exciting to watch," defensive end Simeon Rice said.

"You put a guy on the rise with a team on the rise and we're going to reach the top of this game. The situation didn't look good for awhile, but you put a guy like him in the mix and everything looks beautiful now."

At 38, Gruden is the NFL's youngest head coach. He led the Raiders to the AFC title game a year ago, losing to eventual Super Bowl champion Baltimore.

Oakland was the only repeat division winner this season and again lost to the eventual NFL champion in the playoffs, this time dropping a second-round game in overtime at New England.

In four seasons with the Raiders, Gruden went 40-28.

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