Every week, it seems like the broadcast people give Jon Gruden the benefit of the doubt. I hear people say Gruden will get it turned around no doubt, it is just a matter of time. What has Gruden done to earn that benefit of the doubt?
Each week we hear about his coaching ties to Mike Holmgren as well as people cut from him including Jay Gruden and Sean McVay. So what has Gruden done to earn this great reputation?
I don’t see it on the field with his archaic offense. In addition, I don’t see the proof in how the offensive line and quarterback have taken steps back under his genius. I don’t see it with his first draft class which has been meh or his free agency class that made the team a few steps short of those old flag football games they used to have a the Pro Bowl.
You would not believe that if you only listened to NFL broadcasts. Even on the initial Monday Night game that was his return to coaching, the crew seemed to love reuniting with their former colleague Chucky.
What did he do to deserve that love fest beyond his QB Camp which was a stable for ESPN late night reruns and unmemorable coaching clichés during each draft and MNF broadcast?
Don’t forget the beginning of the season. ESPN and many other media outlets loved Gruden’s quotes about technology. Even in the season, they were happy to quote him calling out players like Khalil Mack, Amari Cooper, Derek Carr, Bruce Irvin, Rashaan Melvin, etc.
If nothing else, Jon Gruden is guilty of being an extremely likeable and charismatic guy. I get that from the lasting connections he made in both coaching and media. Also, that with the respect some of his former players and coaches show him.
I mean Gruden was loveable enough for Raiders owner Mark Davis to offer him an unheard of price. They agreed on a 10-year deal worth up to $100 million to lead the Raiders. A deal some questioned but many figured was the cost of luring him away from the booth at ESPN. Year one returns are not looking so good on that investment.
Still, let’s not get distracted from the fact that Gruden essentially turned around two teams in the NFC while destroying his own team. He traded the Bears Khalil Mack and the Cowboys Amari Cooper which berthed two playoff contenders and sent the Raiders towards tanking for the draft.
It also shouldn’t distract you from the fact that Gruden is the head of the 21st offense. His system has also set his QB and o-line back a few years.
You don’t even want to get into the defense. He was insistent on playing veterans and many of his draft picks seemed too raw to be playing this early.
Speaking of draft picks, can you name one that Gruden hit on in Tampa Bay? How about a QB he developed outside of the savvy veterans Rich Gannon or Brad Johnson as both were on their last legs?
Again, you don’t hear much about that history. You don’t even hear too much about how he has marginalized Reggie McKenzie and an entire personnel department. It is assumed, speculated, and occasionally attributed to an anonymous source.
The point is, there is a an unearned optimism in Oakland around Gruden. He is 97-91 overall as a coach with five playoff wins and four playoff losses. Yet, we hear more about those two great seasons in Oakland and the one year when he won a Super Bowl with Dungy’s team in Tampa, than the rest of his relatively mediocre coaching seasons. Gruden made the playoffs just twice in six seasons with Tampa after the Super Bowl win.
So why haven’t we heard more skepticism about Gruden? For no fault of its own, the media has kind of had a love fest for Gruden. As I mentioned before, the broadcasters have been kind. Even beat reporters have been objectively giving him the benefit of the doubt. Some have even defending his decision to rebuild the team.
Gruden is good for the media business. To many die-hard Raiders fans, he represents the last piece of when the Raiders was great. He’s the prodigal son returning to lead the team after Al Davis banished him to Tampa Bay. Gruden’s return gave some of the old media heads room to go into their bag of stories and sources.
Moreover, Gruden was recently in the media. He’s not afraid to give a quote because ESPN paid him to do that every week. Before the Raiders were completely removed from contention, Gruden was still driving many of those conversations with his quotes.
Nonetheless, fans, media, and even Mark Davis are guilty of falling in love with Gruden’s persona. It’s one of the reasons he’s getting the benefit of the doubt as well as being compensated among the league’s best despite leading a boring and horrible team. That is all fair in year one since the team is going through transition. However, I fully expect and need the heat turned up next season as Gruden’s power increases with the team and he moves further from his media ties.
Gruden has been great for media relations but it is time for him to live up to that great coaching reputation. So far, I am not seeing the genius but I am seeing even less people willing to talk about it. I hope that that changes if Gruden cannot get the Raiders failures changed. I cannot be the only one skeptical of Gruden every week.