Ten years ago, they won a Super Bowl together in Tampa. Nine years ago, the coach sent the player home with pay for the rest of the season. Last year, shots were fired via their mutual airwaves at ESPN.
Today, ESPN announced that former Bucs coach Jon Gruden and former Bucs receiver Keyshawn Johnson will attend Sunday’s anniversary celebration of the only championship team in franchise history.
The announcement, of course, makes no mention of the ugly history between the two men, or of Johnson’s on-air remarks from last season regarding his belief that Gruden “messed with” the receiver’s “psyche.”
Gruden later acknowledged the remarks without mentioning Johnson. “I had a guy on SportsCenter say he couldn’t get along with me the other day on TV,” Gruden said. “So I know how it feels. You’ve got to have some thick skin, and you’ve got to know when things get tough there are going to be some negative things said.”
Gruden may need to thicken his skin some more before Sunday. Shaun King, who was a backup to Brad Johnson in 2002, called Gruden “inherently dishonest” last year. After Gruden was fired, former Bucs defensive end Simeon Rice labeled Gruden a “scumbag.” In both cases, no one from the 2002 Bucs team — or any other Bucs team — came to Gruden’s defense.
These are things that perhaps should be kept in mind by any NFL owner who decides to join in the Bob LaMonte-inspired Jon Gruden land rush.