Preseason finale at Tampa Bay a homecoming for Gruden, much of staff

The Post Sports Live crew debates whether Jay Gruden should play the Redskins' offensive starters for a few snaps in the last preseason game considering the team's poor performance in the first three. (Post Sports Live/The Washington Post)

Thursday’s preseason game at Tampa Bay will be familiar to Washington’s veterans; it’s the fourth time in as many years that the Redskins (2-1) have squared off against the Buccaneers (1-2) in their final regular-season tune-up.

But Raymond James Stadium will have a ring of familiarity to first-year Redskins head coach Jay Gruden and much of his staff.

Gruden, 47, was a member of his brother Jon’s Tampa Bay coaching staff for seven seasons, from 2002 to 2008. He coached the 2002 Super Bowl-winning squad that was led by former Redskins quarterback Brad Johnson.

Jay Gruden
Jay Gruden. (John McDonnell/The Washington Post)

The younger Gruden served as an offensive assistant while trying to keep his own playing career alive. A former Louisville quarterback who was overlooked in the NFL draft, he played quarterback for the Arena Football League’s Orlando Predators during Tampa Bay’s offseason, in 2002-03. He returned to coach the AFL team from 2004 to 2008, while working for the Bucs, as well. It was his second stint as the squad’s coach, having served in the role from 1998 to 2001. In his nine seasons coaching the team, he led the Predators to four AFL championship games and two titles.

But Gruden has never worn the Super Bowl ring he got as a member of Tampa Bay’s coaching staff, he told The Post’s Dave Sheinin earlier this summer, but stores it in a safe instead because he feels he didn’t do enough as a first-year assistant to earn the right to wear it.

Gruden is hardly Washington’s only link to the NFL’s Tampa Bay franchise. Redskins president and general manager Bruce Allen served as the Buccaneers’ general manager from 2004 to 2008. Defensive backs coach Raheem Morris was Tampa Bay’s head coach from 2009 to 2011 and coached its DBs prior to that. Offensive coordinator Sean McVay started his NFL coaching career in Tampa as an assistant in 2008. Wide receivers coach Ike Hilliard played for the Buccaneers, as did Redskins personnel executive and former quarterback Doug Williams, who later returned to Tampa to run its pro personnel department.

Have a Redskins question? Send an e-mail to mike.jones@washpost.com with the subject line “Mailbag question,” and it might be answered on Tuesday in The Mailbag.

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