For years, Raiders coach Jon Gruden seemed destined to return to coaching. So how did he know now was the time to return?
“You know, we had an event, Mike, in Tampa,” Gruden said during a recent visit to PFT Live. “We had a Monday night game in Tampa, and there was a Ring of Honor event that I was a part of down on the field, and I got to be around 60 or 70 of my ex-players in Tampa. It just hit me like a brick. I just missed being around those guys, I missed being around that coaching environment, and I got all choked up emotionally. I remember driving home that night thinking, ‘I gotta get back on the field, I just wanna be a part of a team again, and see if I can help somebody. So I think that was the signature moment for me really.”
Of course, he chose not to re-join the Buccaneers but to return to the Raiders, and the fact that the Raiders would soon be leaving Oakland was a factor for him.
“It really was,” Gruden said, “it really was. I love football, you know me, the one thing no one has argued about with me is I love football, love the NFL, and I’m really emotional about that. These people in Oakland, they supported me as an unknown nobody. When I was 34 years old they got behind me, they got behind the Raider football team, and they helped me. And I feel the urgency to come back here and do everything within my power to try to deliver the best possible football for them for the next two years before they move to Vegas. It was very important.”
Those nine years in broadcasting has helped his return to coaching in ways he wouldn’t have realized.
“I remember when I was a coach for the Raiders in 1998,” Gruden said. “I was always wondering what was Marty Schottenheimer doing on the practice field. I wonder what their weight room looks like. I wonder what their practice facility’s like. I wonder what’s going on in Kansas City. And over the last several years I’ve had a chance to sit down and talk to the head coach, see their training rooms, see their facilities, watch them practice. So it has made me certainly a lot more well-rounded. I’ve had a chance to see things I never got to see before when I was a head coach.”
Gruden now gets to use those things in an effort to take the Raiders back to the Super Bowl, for the first time since they faced Gruden and the Bucs 15 years ago.