Football has a very large and very confusing collection of rules. The rulebook itself seems to confuse officials on a regular basis. If you don’t believe me, try getting a description of what is and isn’t a catch. But there’s one rule in football that everyone understands and everyone follows. It’s a rule that went into effect after the 2008 NFL season and has continued to this day. I’m talking about the Gruden Rule, which is the rule that says that if there is a job opening in college football or the NFL, Jon Gruden’s name has to be included among the list of candidates.
You cannot have a job opening without at least mentioning his name three times… and if that job is with the Tennessee Volunteers, well, you have to mention his name three times in every sentence. So of course it was no surprise that Jon Gruden’s name came up when it was clear that the Raiders were moving on from Jack Del Rio. Especially given that Mark Davis is known to be a huge Jon Gruden guy.
Jon Gruden. The guy who is legendary for waking up so early it’s practically before he went to bed, for grinding at the office like nobody else, and gritting his teeth like crazy, whether he’s raging with excitement or raging with rage. The guy who became a legend during his four year stint in Oakland before being traded to Tampa and then beating Oakland in the Super Bowl. Gruden’s coming back!?!?
So if you want to get fired up, Raider fans, go ahead. Just don’t expect me to riding shotgun with you. Because unlike you miopians I have questions about this deal. Lots of questions.
Starting with exactly what are you getting? That’s the 10 million dollar a year question, reportedly. Are you getting the guy who went 50-30 in his first five years and won a Super Bowl? Or the guy who went 45-51 with zero playoff wins the rest of the way? Are you getting the guy who Tampa liked so much they gave up two first-round draft picks, two second-round picks and 8 million dollars to get? Or the guy who they fired after six straight seasons with zero playoff wins? The guy who was an offensive genius in Oakland or the guy whose offenses struggled in Tampa? An icon or a boring TV analyst, who hyped anyone and everyone and never told anybody anything they didn’t already know.
There’s no denying what Gruden did in Oakland the first time. He turned around a team that had struggled under Mike White and Joe Bugel. He injected fire, passion and life into them. And helped Rich Gannon to new heights. Can he do it again? Can he help Derek Carr find himself again? Who knows.
What you do know is that if he comes, you’re getting a guy who hasn’t coached an NFL game in nearly a decade. That doesn’t mean he can’t coach or that he’s out of touch with today’s game and player. Or maybe it does. But it does mean that he hasn’t coached an NFL game since Matthew Stafford was drafted. And Matthew Stafford just finished his ninth season.
So what are you getting in Jon Gruden if you do get Jon Gruden? A great name? Yes. A fired up fanbase? Yes. Is it a slam dunk? No. Because nobody knows if you’re getting 2002 Jon Gruden or 2008 Jon Gruden when you get 2018 Jon Gruden.
Mark Davis knows he can’t roll into Vegas without a star. He thinks he has one in Gruden. And one that will sell tickets. But a big name alone, if he’s even that, won’t put asses in the seats. Only wins can do that. So are they trying to hire the best available coach or the best available name?
It’s Davis’ team, he can do whatever the hell he wants. But I think he can do better than recycling some bored TV analyst who hasn’t done it in nearly a decade. Hell, the Bengals bringing back Marvin Lewis can’t believe what Davis is trying to do with Jon Gruden.