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Bucs Fire Coach Shula

Mike Shula is out as Tampa Bay's offensive coordinator barely a week after coach Tony Dungy said a change of leadership wasn't necessary to jump-start a sputtering attack.

The Buccaneers failed to get into the end zone on offense in five games this season, including two weeks ago when a late touchdown gave the St. Louis Rams an 11-6 victory over Tampa Bay in the NFC championship game.

Dungy said last week that he had no intention of firing Shula, the club's offensive coordinator since 1996, because he wasn't convinced that a change would increase production.

The Bucs ranked 30th in passing and 28th overall in offense, yet still managed to have the most successful season (12-6) in franchise history because of a dominant defense.

The St. Petersburg Times reported Thursday that ownership made the decision to fire Shula, whose conservative game plans were the target of criticism the past two years.

While conceding that the Bucs needed to get more out of their passing attack, Dungy nevertheless said turnovers not Shula's play calling or offensive philosophy were most responsible for the team's problems.

The Times said Dungy broke the news to Shula at a Honolulu hotel following a conference call late Wednesday with general manager Rich McKay and team vice presidents Brian and Joel Glazer.

Dungy and his assistants are in Hawaii this week to direct the NFC squad in Sunday's Pro Bowl.

McKay was not available for comment Thursday. However, the team released a statement from Dungy, who hired Shula although the son of Hall of Fame coach Don Shula had no previous experience as an offensive coordinator.

"It's always difficult to make these kinds of decisions because it involves someone's livelihood and family," Dungy said. "We made this decision based on the criteria that we use in making all football decisions. And that involves giving us the best chance to be successful."

A day after the NFC title game, Dungy said changes would be made to the offense to tailor the system to rookie quarterback Shawn King's strengths. But the coach emphasized that he still favored a run-oriented attack.

"We would like to thank Mike for his efforts," the coach said Thursday. "He played a vital role in helping us reach the playoffs two of the last three years, including this year's run to the NFC championship game."

Shula, an assistant in Chicago for three years before being hired by Dungy, was relieved of his duties as quarterbacks coach before the 1999 season.

Under his direction, the Bucs never ranked higher than 22nd in total offense. They were 30th in passing two of the past three seasons, including 1997, when the team went 10-6 and made the playoffs for the first time in 15 years.

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