Bucs were interested in Bill Cowher, Jon Gruden before hiring Lovie

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Tampa Bay ownership pursued a reunion with former Super Bowl winning head coach Jon Gruden, according to league sources, making a run at him prior to their eventual hiring of former Bears coach Lovie Smith. Furthermore, according to league sources, the Bucs sent word to former Steelers coach Bill Cowher about their interest in him back in November, but were quickly informed Cowher was more than happy working as an analyst for CBS.

The Glazer family, which owns the Buccaneers, has been reaching back to some former employees following the firing of coach Greg Schiano and general manager Mark Dominik, and, some believe, they may ultimately approach former coach Tony Dungy about an upper-management position once his son concludes his college career at Oregon. Smith is a former assistant of Dungy’s in Tampa, and the idea of reconnecting with their salad days seems to be resonating with the ownership group.

Gruden, like Dungy, still lives in the central Florida area and the allure of bringing either back would hold substantial weight with their fanbase and likely help with ticket sales. Many top coaches view the Tampa situation as one of the best opportunities of this offseason, given the talent assembled there, but not all left there on great terms with the organization. Gruden, who was also pursued by the Oakland Raiders, did not have interest in the job and Dungy has been steadfast he will never coach again (though, again, some wonder if a special consultant-type role might one day appeal to him).

Bill Cowher last coached in the NFL in 2006. (USATSI)

The Bucs are still sorting out their new front-office structure, with it quite possible that Smith could end up holding considerable sway about personnel as well. Smith has several young execs he would like to work with there -- Chris Ballard of the Chiefs among them -- but many lack the experience that would cement their status as general managers. It remains to be seen if the new general manager in Tampa will in essence end up reporting to Smith, which, in the eyes of many veteran execs, could be a flawed structure given Smith’s lack of expertise in that regard.

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Before joining CBS Sports, Jason La Canfora was the Washington Redskins beat writer for The Washington Post for six years and served as NFL Network's insider. The Baltimore native can be seen every Sunday... Full Bio

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