Former Raiders and Buccaneers coach Jon Gruden has been the subject of plenty of articles. Most recently, he served as the subject of a comprehensive profile in The New Yorker.
It’s a lengthy article, and I actually read the whole thing. Which means it’s good; otherwise, the adult ADD would have kicked in within the first few paragraphs.
Still, something was missing.
The article points out that Gruden routinely is “criticized for overpraising players” publicly, but also points out that, in private settings, Gruden displays far less charity.
Writes Kelefa Sanneh of Gruden: “He is forever judging players who don’t or can’t excel — ‘slapdicks,’ he calls them, or, more familiarly, ‘slappies.’ A defensive lineman gets shoved back on his heels and collapses, too calmly, onto the turf. ‘He just looks like he’s enjoying this, getting blocked,’ Gruden says. Three receivers run malformed routes, and they all end up in the same throwing lane. ‘That’s horrific,’ Gruden says. An offensive tackle dives halfheartedly at the feet of a defender, who leaps over him and knocks down the quarterback. ‘I can’t take it,’ Gruden says.”
So why the disconnect between the public and private persona? “His enthusiasm isn’t meant to fool the fans,” Sanneh writes, “it’s meant to motivate and inspire them, as if they were players.”
Even if that isn’t a large chunk of baloney (and it probably is), the article overlooks the most prevalent theory regarding Gruden’s homage to Harvey Dent. Many believe that Gruden fully intends to coach again, and that his “everyone is the greatest” routine is aimed at ensuring that no bridges are burned, so that he’ll have maximum options — and leverage — when he decides to return.
It’s clear he’ll return. “I miss it a ton,” Gruden told Sanneh. “In some ways, I can’t believe I’m not a coach.”
And I can’t believe that a lengthy profile of Gruden was written without pointing out the possibility that his lack of authenticity in the broadcast booth flows from that desire to return to the sidelines under the best possible conditions.
Gruden was at it again on Monday night, chiding on-air partner Ron Jaworski for being “the most negative guy I’ve ever met” after Jaws expressed an opinion that the Chargers won’t turn around their current 4-7 record. Gruden then proceeded to apply his lips to the buttocks of Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers, rattling off Rivers’ record in the months of December and January and eventually encouraging him to tune out “negative people” like Jaworski.
It makes sense. With the Chargers reportedly poised to fire Norv Turner, there’s a chance that Gruden will be Rivers’ next head coach.