When he appeared last month on PFT Live, Raiders coach Jon Gruden said he’d deal with the NFL’s restrictive offseason workout rules by complaining about them. And complain about them he is.
The complaints derisively refer to the people who made the rules as “geniuses,” but he need not look very far to find them. He works for one of them.
The “geniuses” are the league’s owners. More specifically, the “geniuses” are the owners who negotiated the 2011 Collective Bargaining Agreement.
In July of that year, as management and labor began to face the loss of significant revenue with the disappearance of preseason games, the NFL Players Association showed willingness to accept the financial terms on which ownership had been insisting for months. The players wanted a variety of terms that resulted in no expense, and the owners agreed. One after another, piece by piece, the league surrendered items like padded practices and offseason workout time in order to get the monetary arrangement the NFL coveted.
The coaches and other football personnel weren’t involved. When they learned of the changes, they weren’t happy. As one source put it at the time, the players secured everything but the right to have someone else play for them.
The coaches who have coached from 2011 through 2017 have had no choice but to deal with it, and Gruden has followed the game closely enough to know about it. But it’s now affecting him for the first time as a coach, and he doesn’t like it.
Other coaches who have made the adjustment to the restrictions aren’t shedding tears for Gruden. Sure, they’d all like to have more of anything/everything when it comes to access to players, but they’ve had no choice for seven full seasons but to make it work.
Gruden will have to make it work at least until the next CBA negotiation. Even then, the owners may not be willing to give up money in exchange for enhanced work time.
So Gruden can complain all he wants (and we like it when he does), but real change is possibly several years away, if it ever comes at all.