Jon Gruden is being heavily rumored as the next head coach of the Oakland Raiders, and the brakes need to be pumped for a number of reasons.
When new broke that the Oakland Raiders were so desperate to hire Jon Gruden that a stake in ownership, it instantly became the talk of the NFL. Rightfully so, as there hasn’t been a sexier head coaching candidate in the last few years than Gruden — a Super Bowl winner with a throwback personality that fans gravitate towards.
The ‘Grumors’ have been around for years, but all predictions about his return to football have proven false. This is as hot as the talks have been, but as each year passes it becomes less and less likely that a Gruden return to the NFL will be anything other than a disappointing dose of nostalgia.
A disclosure: I’m a Buccaneers fan (the team Gruden spurned to entertain talks with the Raiders), and had talked myself into Gruden becoming the next head coach of the team. This isn’t bitterness; criticisms of his candidacy are valid and can’t be tossed aside.
For those waxing poetic about the idea that Gruden will turn Derek Carr into an MVP, it’s worth mentioning that Gruden hasn’t developed a single quarterback in his entire coaching career. The quarterback legacy of his tenure in Tampa Bay was winning a Super Bowl with Brad Johnson and supposedly being overruled in wanting to draft Aaron Rodgers.
Whether the Rodgers story is true or manufactured in hindsight, here are the quarterbacks Gruden has drafted over the years:
- Marques Tuiasosopo (2nd Round pick in 2001)
- Chris Simms (3rd Round pick in 2003)
- Bruce Gradkowski (6th Round pick in 2006)
- Josh Johnson (5th Round pick in 2008)
Gruden’s best teams were with any combination of Rich Gannon, Brad Johnson, Brian Griese, and Jeff Garcia under center.
Beyond that, the argument that the game has simply passed Gruden by is as valid as ever. Sure, he’s been watching film for years while preparing for Monday Night Football, but it’s an apples to oranges situation. Gruden is prepping for commentary, he’s not game planning — the difference needs to be distinguished.
The idea that Gruden will come back to Oakland and turn the clock back to 1999 is misguided at best. To get a realistic idea of what could happen is Joe Gibbs return to Washington in 2004 after becoming a legendary head coach with the team in the 80s and 90s. Gibbs won three Super Bowls with Washington, and many believed that his return in 2004 would recharge the franchise and restore that dominance that hadn’t existed since he was there the first time.
Gibbs was in Washington for four years, making the playoffs twice against two losing seasons. Never were the Redskins “dominant”, and it became apparent that old heroes in a new era don’t work. Gibbs has regularly done studio work breaking down NFL film, not unlike Gruden does, and that didn’t help him stay up to speed with the schemes and gameplans that had changed since the last time he coached.
The idea that Gruden will flame out is as reckless as saying he’s going suddenly make them into Super Bowl favorites. If he comes back to Oakland, expect a bumpy ride and lower expectations to somewhere a little more realistic than the blurred vision that being drunk on nostalgia will give us.