What happens with Jon Gruden’s contract?

NFL: DEC 22 Raiders at Chargers
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Several have asked about the status of Jon Gruden’s much-hyped 10-year, $100 million contract, given his resignation after five games of his fourth season. Here’s a look at some of the issues relevant to whether and to what extent he gets paid.

First, the resignation generally waives all rights to ongoing compensation. This assumes, however, that the resignation was voluntary. If owner Mark Davis told Gruden that, if he doesn’t quit, he’ll be fired, that becomes what the lawyers call a constructive discharge.

Second, if it was a constructive discharge, the question becomes whether the Raiders did or didn’t have cause to push him out. If Gruden was discharged without cause, he gets the balance of all guaranteed money under the contract. That said, it’s not known whether the full $100 million was guaranteed. When news of the contract first emerged, we reported that the full amount was not guaranteed. Thus, the buyout could be far less than whatever he was due to be paid.

We’d also reported that the deal wasn’t a straight $10 million per year, and that it was backloaded. Thus, he could have a lot more than $50 million remaining on the final five years, and it’s possible that much of it was never guaranteed.

Third, if Gruden was constructively discharged for cause, he gets none of the remaining guaranteed money. He could choose to fight it. The vast majority of coaching contracts include a provision that requires a grievance to be filed, and that delegates the resolution of the fight to Commissioner Roger Goodell. That stacks the deck in favor of the Raiders and any other team; in 2010, for example, the Commissioner ruled that the Raiders had fired coach Lane Kiffin “for cause,” cutting off his entitlement to ongoing pay.

For Gruden, the question becomes whether emails sent before he was employed by the Raiders can be characterized as “cause.” If, however, he signed a document affirming upon taking the job declaring that there was nothing out there that would cause embarrassment for or reflect poorly on the team, that clause could become relevant.

It’s also possible that Gruden and former Washington president Bruce Allen continued to exchange emails after Gruden took the job with the Raiders. None were leaked. That doesn’t mean they don’t exist. And it’s possible that the league gift-wrapped those materials for the Raiders, who then used them to invoke what essentially became a resignation by Gruden and a forfeiture of any rights to future pay.

The more likely result is that the Raiders and Gruden negotiated a severance package, with a specific dollar figure and an agreement to pursue no further claims. Although it all happened quickly, it would be naive to assume that Gruden didn’t instruct his agent and lawyers to secure financial certainty before he walked away.

But if they didn’t, this may not be over. If they didn’t, Gruden could take aim at the Raiders for not paying him and/or at the league for selectively using supposedly secret results of the WFT investigation to force him out.

15 responses to “What happens with Jon Gruden’s contract?

  1. “If I can’t get it done, I’m not going to take their money,” – Gruden when signing his 10 yr contract.

    He hasn’t gotten it done and wasn’t getting it done. The only question was how long would he continue to take their money. The answer most likely was as long as the team let him.

    He isn’t suing the league, as much as the armchair lawyers keep begging him to, because his lawyers know they wouldn’t win.

  2. Mark Davis would continue paying him regardless. He probably has him in his will. This guy feigns over Gruden, and probably the only thing that upset him is that he had to push him out.

  3. Mark Davis didn’t force Gruden out …the league forced Gruden out through Davis. I’m sure Davis has a hand shack deal with Gruden if he left on his own. (Btw…this is on Gruden when it’s all said and done)

  4. Not sure I agree he wouldn’t win. He’s been singled out and what appears to be intentionally pushed out of a job. It would be very interesting to understand the motivation behind the leaks.

    No other league employees are being treated this way (yet). Until all the emails are available for review, we won’t know if he was singled out for some reason, or if this was an inside job by someone with a personal beef with Gruden. Either way, the league is responsible for the security of those emails. Their excuses to date are utter BS.

    Personally, this whole retroactive cancel phenomena is getting tiring. I’m sure all of us have done something in our past we’d like back, or no longer believe. How we act and speak in the present is far more important, and what we can control. The past is over.

  5. Given how quickly he resigned I wouldn’t be surprised if there wasn’t some agreement behind-the-scenes. Not many people would just walk away from $60 million. But if somebody told you they’d give you like half that amount and you wouldn’t have to worry about paying attorneys or hoping the courts ruled in your favor years down the road that might change your mind.

  6. No one knows for certain it was the league that leaked the emails. They were submitted in a filing as part of on-going litigation between Snyder and Bruce Allen. It may have come from there. The league does not want this type of press in the least. If it was the league they probably would have gone to the Raiders in quiet and Jon would have resigned due to health reasons. Bad look all the way around and no matter what anyone thinks of Goddell he is about league image above anything (other than feeling superior).

  7. It’s very likely the “leak” came from the filing. There are too many people who will not let the facts get in the way. Sure it’s fun to vilify the NFL and Snyder, but after all the truth should matter. This all should be easy for a former lawyer to figure out.

  8. I still believe Snyder had them leaked to embarrass Bruce Allen.
    He’s been going after him for awhile.
    I think Chucky just got caught in the crossfire.
    Terrible as the words were he’s just collateral damage in Danny’s vendetta against Allen

  9. Contract language aside, if Gruden can demonstrate that Davis had the information and/or emails before the hiring, the Raider lose a lot of sting to their punch here. My opinion is that there most certainly had to be a negotiated settlement amount for Gruden to give the public impression he was resigning.

  10. Gruden was the best coach in the NFL and their 3-0 start scared some well connected people.

  11. Gruden destroyed a flawed but decent team assembled by McKenzie & Del Rio. His departure from the Raiders therefore represents addition-by-subtraction although the damage he did was extensive.

    However Gruden was only symptomatic of what the Raiders’ REAL problem is: they have no real chance of becoming consistently successful again until the ownership changes. Son-of-Al is the worst owner in the league.

  12. I sure hope he collects more than he’s already been paid, he deserves every penny of that contract, his name along got them to Vegas and a state of the art stadium.
    Pay that man!

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