The teams coached by brothers Jon and Jay Gruden were both eligible to be drafted to serve as this year’s subject of Hard Knocks. Before the Raiders received the short straw, Jay jokingly tried to nudge the obligation toward Jon’s team.
And for good reason. While serving as the offensive coordinator in Cincinnati, Jay Gruden witnessed the extra burden of Hard Knocks on a head coach.
“Coach [Marvin] Lewis handled all of the editing and all that stuff,” Jay Gruden told reporters on Monday. “I think it’s probably a lot on the plate for a head coach to be able to handle that because you don’t want to put anything out there that could be a negative light on [what] a player said in a coaching staff meeting or whatever. So, you’ve got to actually make sure you go through and watch the edits, what’s going to be out there. I think it’ll be a great show. I’m sure Jon will handle that, but it’s not easy for them to, you know, handle all that stuff.”
So apart from the distraction that comes from having the NFL Films cameras and microphones constantly present, the head coach — who is primarily focused on getting his team ready for Week One — has to spend time watching the proposed content of each episode and decide whether it will present the team, and the coach, in the best possible light.
Last year, former Browns coach Hue Jackson learned that lesson the hard way. He thought the debut-episode back and forth with former Browns offensive coordinator Todd Haley would make Jackson look good and Haley look bad. And that backfired on Jackson, badly.
While Jon Gruden developed during his time in TV a good sense of what does and doesn’t work, there’s still an ever-present risk that he’ll guess wrong. It won’t take much to create a problem, especially with fans and media scrutinizing every scene of every episode for any hint of dysfunction or drama that can become a talking point the following morning, and beyond.
Jay Gruden doesn’t have to worry about that; he can simply focus on getting his team ready. Jon, as he prepares for a season that will include a game in Winnipeg, a game in London, an extended absence from Oakland, and regular-season games against the likes of the Chiefs twice, the Chargers twice, the Broncos twice, the Bears, the Packers, the Vikings, the Texans, the Jaguars, the Colts, and the Titans, he’ll have to add to that burden the weekly obligation of ensuring that nothing in Hard Knocks makes a hard-knocks season even harder.