The first time I met Jon Gruden was at the NFL combine in 2001. Before I went to Indianapolis, my close friend Steve Corkran – and now partner on RaidersSnakepit.com — told me if I see Gruden to tell him that he was going to kick his ass in golf. I chuckled and said, “Yeah, sure.” I didn’t think I’d run into Gruden. Also, I had zero plans on saying anything like that to him, even though Corkran insisted Gruden would dig it.
Lo and behold, on my last night in Indy, I was in an empty hallway at the convention center. It was late, and most people were gone except for the grinders. As I was talking on the phone with a source, I saw an image headed my way.
As it got closer, I could see blonde hair under a visor. “Oh shit, it’s Gruden. Corkran will kill me if I let this pass up.”
So, as Gruden approached, I excused myself from my phone call and said, “Hey man, Steve Corkran said he is going to kick your ass in golf.”
Chuckie stopped in his tracks, snarled at me and said, “Oh, yeah, well, you tell him that money talks and bullshit walks … you have a nice day.”
Sixteen years later, Gruden is living his mantra as he agrees to a 10-year, $100 million deal to coach the Raiders again.
Money talks, Chuckie.
The pressure is on Gruden. Will he be a smashing success? We will see. Let’s look at some of the pros and cons of Gruden going back to coach the Raiders on this big-money deal.
He’s Jon Gruden: There are better coaches in the NFL than Gruden, but not a lot. There is an aura around Gruden. Many teams have tried to hire him over the years. The Raiders won. That brings excitement and national attention. There will be very few stories bigger than this one this offseason.
He can coach offense: The Raiders need a fix on offense. Both quarterback Derek Carr and receiver Amari Cooper swooned in 2017. The offense was broken for much of the year. Gruden is an offensive expert. His passion is the passing game. He should be able to fix this mess.
He provides hope: The Raiders were the biggest disappointment in the NFL in 2017. They went from a 12-4 team that was expecting to make a Super Bowl run to a team that went 6-10 was in disarray. The roster still has issues and it may not be an immediate fix. But fans can now spend the offseason thinking about the Gruden Raiders instead of the 6-10 Raiders. This erases the misery of 2017 with the signing of one $100 million check.
He’s rusty: Gruden hasn’t coached since he was fired after the 2008 season in Tampa Bay. Nine years away from the NFL sideline is a long time. The game has changed. However, Gruden, 54, has kept up on the rules and the changing game. His brother, Jay, is currently the coach of the Washington Redskins. So, he has a good sounding board. Expect getting back on the sideline to be a theme of Gruden’s press conference Tuesday. He will be asked about it often. He will say the right things. But we won’t know if the game has passed him by until we see him on the sideline again.
He hasn’t won a playoff game in 15 years: Gruden’s last postseason win was the Super Bowl victory over the Raiders in his first season in Tampa Bay. The Buccaneers made it to the postseason just two more times in Gruden’s final six years in Tampa Bay.
If he fails, it’s a disaster: There are risks. If Gruden is a flop and he must be fired after two or three years (which is unlikely) Davis will still be on the hook for all of his remaining contract. If Gruden fails in the Raiders’ Las Vegas life, it could be difficult to rebound from.
Conclusion: Gruden may not be an elite coach, but he is very good, and he is a great get for the Raiders. Hopes are sky high and that’s a good thing, of course, until bullshit has to walk.