Like most of the folks who have watched it, we were fascinated by ESPN’s recent “QB Camp” special featuring Jon Gruden, who dusted off the role of head coach and conducted a film review session with the four top quarterback prospects in this year’s draft: Sam Bradford, Jimmy Clausen, Colt McCoy, and Tim Tebow. It provided excellent insight into the manner in which coaches and quarterbacks communicate, and it reintroduced us all to “Chucky,” who had traded in his snarling scowl when he stepped into the broadcast booth.
It also made us even more frustrated by Gruden’s ultra-positive shtick when he’s working games. If he’d bring to football season the same attitude that he employed when dealing with the incoming rookies, Monday Night Football immediately would reclaim the status of appointment viewing that disappeared once Howard Cosell made his exit.
“We criticize, we analyze, we work it,” Gruden said during the show, even though McCoy at times didn’t seem to be happy with Gruden’s scrutiny, which included Gruden making a crack about McCoy’s height and making fun of McCoy’s Texas twang.
So why won’t Gruden criticize, analyze, and/or work it when rubbing elbows with Mike Tirico and Ron Jaworski?
The prevailing opinion is that Gruden wants to return to coaching, and that he’s deliberately being careful not to say anything during game broadcasts that could alienate any owners, players, front-office personnel, assistant coaches, and/or fan bases. Surely, he wants a bidding war to emerge for his services; burning bridges isn’t the way to make that happen.
Last year, Gruden defended his happy-thoughts approach in an interview with Mike Silver of Yahoo! Sports. “I’ll be honest with you — I’ve been criticized by some for being too
positive, for loving everybody because I’m trying to get this job or
that job,” Gruden said. “That’s
a crock. I love the game, OK –
and I’m enthusiastic because of it. There are positives about
everybody, and I try to find them.”
Except, of course, when trying to demonstrate to NFL owners and General Managers that he knows how to point out and correct the negatives in a young quarterback.
It’s easier for Gruden to be negative in that context, since he can immediately mend fences with a bruised ego. If he were to begin breaking down quarterbacking flaws for a national audience at a time when he can’t immediately charm the quarterback into thinking that Gruden is doing him a favor, Gruden would risk the development of hard feelings if the player hears about the criticism from someone else.
So as part of our job to criticize, analyze, and/or work it, we believe Gruden is taking full advantage of his current career in order to maximize his pay and power in his next career, a return to coaching in the NFL.
And we believe that it’s working.