“Raider Nation, this is a big effin’ deal. Please welcome the head coach of the Oakland Raiders, Mr. Jon Gruden!”
Smiling like a child on Christmas morning who saw the present he wanted most under the tree, Raiders owner Mark Davis used those words to re-introduce his team’s fans to Jon Gruden. Davis began Tuesday’s news conference by bringing in Gruden’s wife, Cindy, and three sons, and thanking them “for helping to make my dream come true.”
Here are 10 things we learned during the news conference:
Gruden still believes Tom Brady fumbled in the “Tuck Rule” game, the last game he coached with the Raiders, in the 2001 season’s playoffs. Spotting ESPN analyst Charles Woodson in the audience, Gruden said, “Brady fumbled that ball.” Woodson, the former Raider who forced what many thought was a fumble, appeared to have strip-sacked Brady late in regulation of that snowy divisional-round game, but the officials cited the rarely used tuck rule to deem it an incomplete pass, and the Patriots went on to win the game, and later the Lombardi Trophy.
Gruden confirmed his first three hires: Paul Guenther has been hired away from the Cincinnati Bengals to be defensive coordinator, Greg Olson, who spent this season as the Rams’ quarterbacks coach, will be offensive coordinator, and Rich Bisaccia has been hired away from the Dallas Cowboys to be special teams coordinator.
Gruden was traded from Oakland to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2002, with Oakland getting two first- and two second-round draft picks plus cash from Tampa Bay; the parting was partly due to a contract dispute. Gruden said on Tuesday that he never wanted to leave the Raiders, and “never thought I’d be back. … I love football. I love the players that play it, I love the preparation, I love the journey. Love football. And I love the city of Oakland. I had a son here. Some of my great memories in life are in Oakland. And I want to give them two of the best years of football that I can possibly help deliver. And I love the Raiders.”
Asked why now is the right time to come back – Gruden has not coached since 2008 and has spent the past nine years in the ESPN “Monday Night Football” booth as an analyst and there have been rumors of him returning to coaching pretty much every year since – Gruden said, “I just, in my heart, I feel this is the thing to do. This is what I want to do, this is the organization that I want to be part of, and I’m all in. I only live one time. This is something that I feel deeply, strongly about, and I’m going to do everything I can to hire a great coaching staff and put the Raiders back on track.”
Gruden, who became famous for his maniacal work schedule and 3:17 a.m. daily wake-up alarm, said none of that has changed: “So far I do; yes I do. My wife and kids can attest to that. Work ethic is a big part, I think, of anyone’s success. Any success that I’ve had starts with the drive. The excitement of getting up and helping the team and helping a player improve. My schedule hasn’t changed at all; it really hasn’t.”
Gruden acknowledged that there have been a lot of changes in the decade since he last was a head coach, noting things like changes in the collective-bargaining agreement and the offseason schedule and an increased attention on player safety. And he added, “I have a lot to prove. There’s no question. I haven’t coached a game since 2008. I haven’t won a game since 2008. I haven’t lost any either … I’ve got a lot to prove; I know that. But the game is still decided by players between the lines, and we all have to adapt every year.”
Neither Gruden nor Mark Davis would confirm that Gruden’s contract is for 10 years and $100 million, as reported by ESPN’s Adam Schefter. “I don’t have a guarantee to be alive for 10 years,” Gruden quipped, then said he doesn’t know the terms of the deal, and you’ll forgive us if we say we don’t believe him on that. But Gruden doesn’t think his contract equals pressure. “I worked for Al Davis in 1998, that was pressure. I was 34 years old. I’ve dealt with pressure before.” Woodson asked if this time around there’s a no-trade clause in the deal and Gruden affirmed that there is.
Though he’s hired Olson, Gruden said he will call the plays on offense.
Gruden is clearly excited to work with quarterback Derek Carr. The 26-year old, who just finished his fourth NFL season, is a two-time Pro Bowler and one of the best young quarterbacks in the league. Carr had a decline in play this season, but Gruden noted that the back injury Carr suffered early in the season – he had a transverse process fracture but missed just one game – may have had something to do with that.
Davis was asked why bringing Gruden back “when my father passed away and we had the first press conference, I told everybody here that the one thing I know is what I don’t know, and I’m going to surround myself with the people that do know those things. My vision at that time was Jon Gruden to coach this football team, and Reggie McKenzie to bring in the talent. It took me six years of chasing Jon, but every trip I made to Tampa Bay and I sat down in the ‘fired football coaches’ association’ room, and saw the work that Jon does, every day, starting at 3 a.m. in the morning, watching film, marking down plays, how much he enjoys it, and over the six years, that passion never waned. He’s continually doing it, and I continually tried to convince him that he’s wasting his time teaching everybody out here how to play football, he should come back and do it with a football team in the National Football League, and if he’s going to do it, he should do it with the Raiders. And it is the biggest day of my life right now, to have him here to run this organization and to be the leader of this organization is phenomenal. I’m excited.”