Does Jon Gruden get judged by a different standard?

Kansas City Chiefs v Las Vegas Raiders
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While previewing Thursday night’s game between the Chargers and Raiders on PFT Live, Simms and I (OK, it was mainly me) stumbled onto an interesting question: Does Raiders coach Jon Gruden get judged by a different standard than other coaches?

Gruden is finishing the third season of his second stint with the Raiders. The team has compiled records of 4-12, 7-9, and 7-6. A win tonight guarantees a non-losing season, but the playoffs may not be in the cards for the team’s first year in Las Vegas. How many coaches survive three straight years of no playoff appearances with no questions whatsoever about their jobs?

This isn’t about whether Gruden should be on the hot seat; it’s about why there’s not even a whisper of a mention of the possibility of any scrutiny regarding Gruden’s status. Any other coach would at least be the subject of chatter that change could or should be coming.

Yes, Gruden has a Super Bowl win on his resume. But that happened 18 years ago. Since then, Gruden hasn’t won a playoff game. He has a record of 63-78 in the regular season since winning Super Bowl XXXVII, and a record of 0-2 in the playoffs.

In Philadelphia, they’re calling for Doug Pederson’s job only three years after a Super Bowl win, even though he’s been to the playoffs for three straight seasons and has a 1-2 postseason record since winning a championship. If Gruden were the coach of the Eagles, would fans be clamoring to get rid of him?

Maybe they would. Maybe Gruden benefits from the fact that Raiders owner Mark Davis is happy just to have Gruden coaching the team, and that actually qualifying for the playoffs and/or winning playoff games doesn’t matter. It’s unclear whether and to what extent Gruden’s much-hyped 10-year, $100 million deal still has guaranteed money remaining on it. Surely, there’s some. But it’s surely not $70 million, the prorated remainder of the $10 million per year average for the seven years left.

Regardless of whether it’s $70 million, $7 million, or $7, it doesn’t matter if Davis is happy with Gruden. And Davis seems to be. Gruden is synonymous with the Raiders, and the team’s fans for the most part remain thrilled that he’s back.

But should Davis and Raider Nation demand more? Back to the original question, would another coach be facing more scrutiny than Gruden, who is facing none?

This isn’t criticism of Gruden, it curiosity about a football-coaching unicorn. If anything, he should be praised for finding a way to be impervious to the kind of analysis that fuels the Fired Football Coaches Association he once founded. Chargers coach Anthony Lynn, for example, went 12-4 two years ago, and many believe he’ll be gone after the current season ends.

The Raiders were 12-4 in the season before Davis decided to supplant Jack Del Rio with Gruden. Del Rio had a regular-season record of 25-23 in three years as head coach; Gruden is 18-27 with three games to play in his third year. And Gruden inherited a quality team that G.M. Reggie McKenzie had compiled.

Simms, who played for Gruden in Tampa, argued that Gruden needs more time to retool the roster. But how much time does Gruden need? Look at how quickly other coaches have turned around teams that had been perennial losers. The Rams, for example, have 13 straight non-winning seasons before Sean McVay, a Gruden protege, immediately delivered an 11-5 record in 2017 and a playoff berth in 2018.

In San Francisco, Kyle Shanahan was beginning to hear some rumblings about his future until the 49ers exploded with a stellar third season. Other coaches have, within three years, cobbled together serious playoff contenders. And while the Raiders definitely are in contention for a playoff spot, recent performances indicate that they’re not ready to truly contend in January.

So, once again, back to the original question: Does Gruden benefit from a special standard? Is it his time in TV, his snarl, his penchant for profanity? Is he fundamentally no different than Rex Ryan — a telegenic entertainer whose actual job performance in an industry otherwise driven by wins and losses becomes secondary?

Again, good for Gruden if he can pull off sustained NFL head-coaching employment without suffering the same fate that routinely threatens other coaches. Maybe, for the Las Vegas Raiders, it’s not about chasing championships but putting on a good show. Gruden seems to always do that.

For how long will that be good enough? Some Raiders fans may resent the question. Others who crave a return to a time that entailed the actual pursuit of championships and who don’t view their fandom as membership in a personality cult may appreciate it.

49 responses to “Does Jon Gruden get judged by a different standard?

  1. Nobody is considering Gruden on the seat, because every knows how much Mark Davis is in love with him. It’s borderline creepy. Sorry Mark, but can you please stop pretending that he is in the same league as Belichick. Nobody is.

  2. “How many coaches survive three straight years of no playoff appearances with no questions whatsoever about their jobs?”

    How many coaches have the sort of contract Gruden has? His entire 10-year contract is reportedly fully guaranteed and Davis is among the poorest of NFL owners (some lists have him dead last). Nobody wants to pay two head coaches at the same time but in Davis’ case he truly may not be able to afford to.

  3. Gruden was hired to put fans in the seats of the new Las Vegas stadium. Of course, no one knew that there wouldn’t be any fans to attend games. He’s still a big marketing chip for when people start going to games next season.
    They got blindsided by Antonio Brown and then the pandemic.
    Besides, you want to give a guy with a 10 year deal at least 7 years before you pull the plug. Otherwise why give him that much time?

  4. Many Raiders fans have already turned on Gruden! Read the timelines of the Raiders beat reporters Twitter. Gruden is torched for his many poor Free Agent signings, his poor draft picks, for hiring weak assistant coaches such as Paul Guenther and for not firing Guenther a year ago! Davis had to be hearing the drum beat!!

  5. Almost every head coach gets fired sometime (Paul Brown, Tom Landry to name just a few of the more notable ones). Rarely do they go out on their own volition (Dungy and Cowher come to mind).

    Its just so difficult for coaches to see that it is probably time to move on. The coaching “bug” is real indeed……

  6. He’s perfect for the raiders..mediocre,big mouthed with a bad haircut..Perfect..7 more years..$70 million more for being mediocre!!! The raiders way !! Fanboys will give a million excuses on why they lose ..

  7. I am neutral on Gruden, but he is improving every year and patience is a lost issue these days. He seems to be doing fine. A couple of plays have kept Raiders from winning two games alone.

  8. Context, context, context. Look at what happened before and after Gruden coached various teams. The Raiders were stuck in mediocrity before Gruden’s first tenure, and despite having an aging roster he boosted the team to high-end levels. The team he built went to the SB the season after he was traded away, and then proceeded to immediately turn into the NFL’s laughingstock franchise. Meanwhile, Gruden won the Super Bowl he was hired to win with Tampa Bay, which had been very talented but struggled to break through under Tony Dungy. Of course, a franchise that would give up big assets for a HC and didn’t have a young roster couldn’t be expected to thrive, but despite being given terrible QB options Gruden at times make TB competitive anyways. He left, and just like that TB entered a period of major struggles. Gruden then returned to a young Raiders team that after one breakthrough year was sliding back, and after a reset season he has driven improvement for the second straight season. THE RAIDERS! This is not a franchise that gives its HC an advantage, and indeed usually handicaps its HC. Any wise franchise doesn’t bring in a notable HC with a mandate of instant high quality, but instead asks the HC to turn the “program” around for sustained competitiveness. Gruden may or may not have LA on that path, but at least it’s on the right pace at the moment.

  9. He’s got a 10 year deal so it really would be a bad business decision to fire him this early. Plus, Mark has some daddy issues he wants to settle by winning one with the guy dad let get away, AND that cost him a Super Bowl.

  10. This is a very good question. Gruden was hired DURING the season following the last Raiders’ playoff birth. That only became public afterwards. Del Rio was essentially fired in the middle of a season after going 12-4. Meanwhile, Gruden hasn’t even come close to 12-4.

  11. Gruden has shown he can still design and call an offense. A better question is how did he merit a 10 year contract? Wouldn’t a 6 or 7 year contract have been enough?

    Gruden has always loved “veteran” players, and they’re not usually a good value. If the drafts can be good enough, then we’ll see. Otherwise…

  12. I have said all along that gruden is a mediocre coach and a horrible GM. The only place he won he inherited an incredibly talented roster that he eventually ran into the ground. And the SB he won was against the team whose offense was implemented by him. According to Warren Sapp the raiders didn’t even change their audibles during the SB. Sapp and Lynch were calling out the plays before the snap. Then, after the SB as I pointed out gruden ran TB into the ground. He has won about 40 percent of the games he has coached since that SB.
    Face it, he at best mediocre. At worst the raiders should have fired him already.

  13. I guess the question is what’s acceptable. Teams are so quick to get rid of the coaches and that just leads to more problems due to lack of continuity. You end up being a team like the Jets or the Browns, etc.

  14. I mean he signed a 10 year contract, then dismantled half the team to build it his way. He’s got at least decent results this year. If they finish 10-6/9-7 this year I’d say it’s been at least going to plan, so I don’t really get your point.

  15. He’s a 500 coach at best. just because you make angry faces does not make you a quality head coach!

  16. if Gruden coaches for the whole ten years it will be interesting to see how many playoff wins he gets the team in a decade’s time…

  17. Seriously wonder why the Raiders think this trip with Gruden will be different than the last. He won the Super Bowl with a team built by Dungy. He is not a team architect, yet that’s what the Raiders need/want from him. Good luck.

  18. As a Chiefs fan, I hope they keep Gruden at least until they’re forced to move to Boise in 2025.

  19. tempests says:
    December 17, 2020 at 6:04 pm
    Look how much rope Fisher and Marvin Lewis got.


    Have you seen the Bengals since Marvin Lewis left? It’s a miracle his teams won as much as they did.

  20. A couple of different issues here. The Raiders were bad enough that he was going to get 5 years barring a scandal. Add COVID, and relocation, and he is safe in this climate.

    Lynn will get canned because of special teams.

  21. Gruden has 7 years left on his contract so talk of him being on the “hot seat” are somewhat foolish. Wait until season 6 or 7 and see where he is at then. Personally, I think the team will be in bad shape because he is not a good judge of talent, pro or college, and that is what got him and Kevin Demhoff shown the door in Tampa. He can blame the coaches or the players but you have to remember that he, and only he, is the one who signs and/or keeps them.

  22. Gruden has always been overrated and thinks he’s better than what he does in reality. That contract is already an albatross. Come back in 7 years and clown on me if I lose a bet that he never wins a SB with the Raiders.

  23. Raiders fans don’t complain about Gruden because they’re all convinced that they would have 25 Lombardis if the League wasn’t out to get them.

  24. He has a 10 year contract and the record improved every year. The latter part would keep a coach not named Gruden employed too.

  25. If Gruden were the coach of the Eagles, would fans be clamoring to get rid of him?

    Considering they ran Andy Reid out of town, yes.

  26. Ah, the Gruden “Apology Tour” begins. He inherited a great team in Tampa Bay, then proceeded to run it into the ground after winning the Super Bowl. The team hasn’t recovered since. Meanwhile, Kyle Shanahan leads the 49ers to the Super Bowl in Year 3, Sean McVay leads the Rams to the Super Bowl in Year 2, Sean McDermott leads the Buffalo Bills to the playoffs in Year 1 and Andy Reid has led the 2-12 Chiefs to 8 straight winning seasons, multiple playoff games and a Super Bowl win.

    Gruden traded away two of his best players for draft picks in order to build his team. Both of those teams have earned playoff appearances while the Raiders are stuck in mediocrity. Unless he can somehow turn this around, history will not be kind.

  27. Jon Gruden gets 100% jobbed by Corrupt Officials!!!!!!!!!!! Hussey and his entire crew should get fired for this Hose job tonight.

  28. Gruden will be fine. I mean look at Hue Jackson, Lovie, Jeff Fisher, Marvin Lewis, those guys were terrible and got plenty of run as HC. Like all coaches he’s only as good as his QB

  29. I also think it can’t be underestimated how much Gruden helped get the Raiders to Vegas. The team was lacking starpower and needed a “name” to get Vegas to bite as hard as they did. That the team sold out the stadium with their record in recent years is testament to that. He’s not going anywhere – hell, fat Elvis still sold out the Riviera when he was past his prime. What worries me is Gruden somehow convincing himself that three years in, the team needs another rebuild and a new QB to give him another three years. The team should not suck this much in the third year of a coaching tenure. The defense is horrible. But the stadium IS very nice

  30. It is truly ridiculous the pass that Gruden gets as a coach in the NFL. I have been a Raiders fan for over forty years and not making the playoffs in year three is a joke, at some point Gruden has to be held accountable. In any other profession or coaching position, the guy would be under a big time microscope. I hated the fact that he traded Mack, but he then had five number one picks and still nothing to show for it in terms of playoffs. So my question is, when does this crappy Raiders D show up and get this team to the playoffs? What year in Gruden’s ten year cushy deal does he get the Raiders back into the playoffs. I am so pissed about this, because Gruden gets a ridiculous pass from most Raider’s fans, but at tome point you have to call it out. My buddy always says, the Raiders super bowl is the draft, he is starting to make me believe that with the Raiders now not making the playoffs in year three of Gruden. Taking so long to get rid of Guenther was absolutely crazy!!! I am not a happy Raiders fan and Gruden should be held accountable for his failures.

  31. I was against Del Rio being fired because he had elevated the 3-13 Raiders team he inherited into a 12-4 playoff team in his 2nd year. The Raiders regressed in Del Rio’s 3rd year because (1) the owner forced the cancerous Marshawn Lynch onto the team (2) the Raiders caved to Donald Penn’s holdout and Penn was disruptive throughout 2017 (3) Carr got his way and Bill Musgrave was replaced as OC by the inept Todd Downing. The Raiders still had a competitive roster and the mistakes above were all reversible – all while keeping Del Rio as HC.

    I was against Gruden being brought back from the very beginning because I always felt he was overrated and didn’t produce a winning record in his first Raiders stint until his 3rd season with a team that Al Davis (not Gruden) built. I also resented that when he had some success he used the media to go job searching which was why Al Davis got rid of him. And as pointed out in the article, he inherited a team in Tampa built by Rich McKay then systematically dismantled it and ran it into the ground. Also aside from Rich Gannon who was already good, Gruden has never had long-term success with any QB and can’t develop a young QB to save his life. Lastly he’s a control-freak who insists on having the last word on draft picks and aside from drafting some good RBs, his draft picks generally have never panned out.

    Unfortunately, I doubt that Son-of-Al will get rid of Gruden anytime soon. Because this owner – unlike his father – cares more about glitz and publicity stunts than putting a winning product on the field.

  32. Gruden is a poacher. He rode Tony Dungy’s team to a Super Bowl. Then unloaded the expensive talent (Sapp, Rice…etc) and sucked for 5 years. Mark Davis just had his feelings hurt by Gruden crushing the Raiders in the Super Bowl and vowed to get him back if he had a chance. Gruden was offered the Raiders job every year since Al Davis died. Said no repeatedly. He was asked before Del Rio took the job and declined again. Too much work to turn that mess around. Then Del Rio turns the bus around and makes the Raiders relevant again and then Gruden wants on after the heavy lifting is done. And he unloads the expensive talent (Mack, Irvin..etc.) and is 3 years into another 5 years of sucking. I’ve been a Raiders fan since I was kid in the late 60’s. I didn’t think Gruden should have been traded by Al Davis and he got a raw deal. I wanted him back after he went to Tampa, until he showed what a crappy team he could put together. Del Rio didn’t deserve to get replaced after a season with a qb who wouldn’t hold onto the ball for more than 2 seconds because he didn’t want his neck broken again. Carr was the main reason the season after going 12-4 was so bad. I don’t blame Gruden for taking the gig offered to him. This mess falls 100% in the lap of Mark Davis. I was as loyal a Raiders fan as there was until 3 years ago. I have a dog named Raider. Now I hope Mark Davis loses every single game that he is involved in as the Raiders owner. I’ll be back after Mark Davis is forced to sell when he can’t compete with the money it is going to take to play winning NFL football. He is the only NFL owner without an additional source of income and the “Haves” are gonna leave him in the dust in the next few years.

  33. “And Gruden inherited a quality team that G.M. Reggie McKenzie had compiled”. This is your statement that’s wrong.
    That team was old, yes some names but older or not producing at their worth and selfish. Carr couldn’t even get a 3 step drop back. We couldn’t run the ball and had ZERO $$$$$ This was never a 3 year build. The first year was basically a wasted clean house, reduce salary, players that didn’t want to be there year. The offense has greatly improved. The D is horrid but very very young. This won’t go on for 7 more years. Playoffs next year and forward or he’ll not last.

  34. To start the 2020 season, only 6 players remained on the roster from the 12-4 team (yes, they were fluky). That means that Gruden has turned this roster over almost completely and brought in all “his” guys and all his “gruden grinders” and we still have yet to have a winning season. We’ll be lucky to be .500 this season. Two seasons in a row at 6-4 with a chance to make the playoffs and we just fall apart down the stretch. He is a good coach but he is a terrible personnel decision maker. Mayock has helped but he is overly praised in the media (probably because he comes from media). His draft picks, especially on defense have made little impact, and their free agent signings have been a best. Tyrell Williams is overpaid, injury prone and probably gone after this year. Lamarcus Joyner was overpaid and can’t play nickel or S, so he should be gone after this year. Trent Brown was a huge overpay, and he’s good when he plays but he is often not on the field. Best ability is availability. Corey Littleton has been a disaster this season. Maliek Collins managed 0 sacks this season, disaster signing. Crosby was a nice pick in the mid rounds because of his motor but he’s never going to be a game wrecker, just a really solid player and good mid round pick. Ferrell was a complete bust pick, we should have taken Josh Allen, Devin White, or Brian Burns (the three players on my board after Murray, and Bosa. I had Quinnen Williams at 6). Nassib is a rotation piece but overpaid at 8 mill per. Riot was their only good free agent signing. Mullen had a nice start to his season but has tailed off (partly due to lack of pass rush). Jury is out on Arnette but I like him. I loved Amik Robertson and Isaiah Johnson coming out so I hope we see more of them and they pan out. Mo Hurst’s development has been lacking, he was a 1st round talent we stole in the 5th round and he’s had flashes but he needs to step it up and get better coaching. Same with Arden Key, 3rd round pick who hasn’t found his footing yet. Jonathan Abram flat out sucks, there’s a reason he’s the 93rd graded S out of 96 on PFF. He can’t cover, blows zone coverages (like the TD to Kelce to lose the KC game). All he’s looking for is big hits and interceptions instead of maintaining his discipline and playing within the defensive system. He just throws his body around and never wraps up, he lost his rookie season to injury and it wouldn’t surprise me if he has a short career because of his reckless play. Erik Harris is a nice Big Nickel SS/3rd safety/box safety, but he can’t be expected to guard WRs one on one. It’s recipe for disaster. Yes, Paul Guenther didn’t do a good job coaching this defense, but Mayock and Gruden also didn’t give him the players to make a good defense possible. With no pass rush, an underachieving linebacker corps, young and inexperienced corners, and safeties who flat out suck and can’t cover will make any D coordinator look bad. We needed a solid veteran CB to help bring the young guys along. I have no idea who the Raiders didn’t try to bring in Logan Ryan on a one year deal to play the nickel so Mullen and Arnette could play outside. He would have been a huge influence in he locker room. And all these guys are Gruden and Mayock picks. How about lighting the Tanner Muse pick on fire? Mayock seems to be scouting the helmet more than the players. We keep taking guys from big name schools instead of taking the best players available. And I know there were some issues with Lynn Bowden but he’s playing well with the Dolphins at the moment. And he can play emergency QB/wildcat, RB, and WR. And Gruden, the offensive guru, couldn’t find a place for him to play? Theo Riddick is on the team for god’s sake. To give up Bowden (a 3rd rounder) plus a 2021 4th rounder, plus a 2021 6th rounder to Miami for Raekwon McMillan (a former 2nd round pick, who I loved coming out of college but has had major injury issues) and a 2021 5th round pick shows the Dolphins fleeced the Raiders. They got the better player in the deal and got better draft capital. Gruden and Mayock’s trades have been abysmal: Trevor Davis for a 6th, Zay Jones for a 5th, Martavis Bryant for a 3rd, AB for a 3rd (who became Diontae Johnson-who would look great in the Silver and Black atm) and a 5th (TE Zach Gentry, though Dre Greelaw went 6 picks later). He got a 1st for Cooper but then spent it stupidly on Johnathan Abram. The Mack trade ended up sort of working for us, getting out from having to pay him all that money, but our pass rush has sucked since he left. The trade ended up being Khalil Mack, TE Cole Kmet, and CB Blesaun Austin (who plays for the NYJ) for Josh Jacobs, Damon Arnette, and Bryan Edwards. Fair deal? I’d never draft a RB in the 1st round unless it’s an AP or Saquon level talent. How’s Zeke working out? Gurley? Sony Michel? Leonard Fornette? Even Christian Mcaffrey has only played 4 games this year. The year we drafted Jacobs, Miles Sanders was available in the 2nd round, Darrell Henderson in the 3rd, David Montgomery in the 3rd, Devin Singletary in the 3rd, Damien Harris in the 3rd, Alexander Mattison in the 3rd, Bryce Love, Benny Snell, TONY POLLARD, and Justice Hill in the 4th, and Myles Gaskin in the 7th. Now not all of those RBs are better than Jacobs, but could give us similar value and production without the 1st round cost. We could have added impact defensive players or other playmakers along with adding solid RB production. The reason the defense is terrible isn’t just Guenther, it’s because of bad personnel decisions, trades, and draft picks by Gruden and Mayock. They’re giving Guenther crap and expecting him to turn it into gold.

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