Former Oakland Raiders and Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Jon Gruden, who currently analyzes and entertains in the "Monday Night Football" booth, has long been known for his apathy regarding the expertise of certain members of the NFL's officiating brethren. Let's just say he never met a ref he wouldn't happily argue with at the drop of a dime.
That's all well and good in the pros, where the stakes are a bit higher and the level of sportsmanship is generally lower as a result. But at the high school level, a different measure of deportment is generally required. Gruden, who's been coaching with Carrollwood Day School in Tampa (his son is on the team), went off in the first quarter of the team's Sept. 3 season opener. He exploded at the officials, grabbed a 15-yard penalty for his trouble, and simply left the field for the rest of the game. He wound up in the stands, where he continued to berate the refs (calling them "Forrest Gump" among other things, according to a former high school official who was watching his own son playing for the other team).
"Whether or not it was his celebrity, I don't know, but the officials made the call," Carrollwood athletic director Frank Mabry said Wednesday. "I was right there myself. In all honesty, he was upset with the officials and he did receive a sideline penalty and a warning, but it was definitely overblown.
"He was not ejected. He left the sidelines on his own volition and watched from the stands. [Gruden] has been absolutely awesome with our students and accommodating with our coaches. It's a shame that people were saying that he was ejected and making a big deal out of that. That's not what happened. He chose to remove himself from the situation."
Well, that's sort of the point. Had Gruden been ejected, his disappearance from the field would have been excusable; perhaps he could have come back on the sidelines in a disguise, Bobby Valentine-style, if he was in a particularly creative mood. But he was still welcome on the sideline after the flag, and he still had alleged responsibilities as a coach -- Gruden simply couldn't hold his water, and he stormed off in a way that would have been an embarrassment had any of his players done it at any level. For a grown man, who's coached in the NFL and has a Super Bowl ring to show for it ... well, it's pretty out there.
Gruden is known as a fiery guy, and that plays well in the booth. I think his shtick is very entertaining. And he has a great deal of playbook wisdom to impart. I would like to think that his high school charges can benefit from that knowledge as well, if their coach can stay on the field and keep his head in the game. Does the world really need one more stereotypical Little League parent?
- Jon Gruden