Well, despite the various Gruden rumours (or Grumours as they were affectionately known) ESPN commentator and ex-Head Coach Jon Gruden has returned to coaching with one of his former teams but not in Tampa Bay as most expected. Gruden has decided that the time is right for a return to coaching but also, more importantly, for a return to the Oakland Raiders almost 16 years to the day that Al Davis famously traded his Head Coach in the middle of the night to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for a bounty of draft picks and eight million dollars.
So with both of his former teams vying for his attentions why did Gruden decide to return to the team that traded him?
As reported, the 10 year, 100 million dollar contract sure helps but Gruden has unfinished business with the silver and black. Chucky’s last ever game as Raiders HC ended in controversy as Oakland were contentiously knocked out of the 2001 AFC Divisional game courtesy of one of the most controversial overturned calls in NFL history. With the Raiders leading the game late in the fourth quarter by three points in a snowy Foxboro Stadium, home to the New England Patriots, future hall of fame Defensive Back Charles Woodson had Tom Brady in his sights as he blitzed the Quarterback causing a fumble which was recovered by the Raiders. After the play was ruled a fumble recovered by the defense, a period of 12 minutes passed before officials finally overturned the call based on the relatively unknown Tuck Rule. The Patriots retained the ball and shortly after, kicker Adam Vinateri tied the game with one of the greatest clutch field goals in history before going on to win the tie in overtime and send the Patriots through to the AFC Championship game, the Raiders out of the post season, and ultimately Gruden to the Bucs. Not only was this the start of the decline for the Raiders, it was also the beginning of the Patriots dynasty.
So why did Gruden decide to snub his other former team? In 2009, Gruden was surprisingly and unceremoniously sacked by the Glazers just weeks after receiving a new long term contract. Although both parties have since buried the hatchet, I’m sure this sacking still irks. Although the real reason may be exactly the opposite of why he went ot Oakland. There is no unfinished business for him in Tampa. Gruden won the Vince Lombardi in his first season, is the most successful Head Coach in franchise history and now, thanks to recent events, has his name up in lights in the Bucs Hall of Fame. When Gruden joined the Bucs, Tampa were a regular diner at the Post Season table. Those days are long gone as the Bucs haven’t reached the post season for a decade so not only would he have difficulty in matching his previous exploits in the Bay he may feel that the risk of damaging his legacy is too big a risk.
So is Tampa’s loss, Oakland’s gain? Only time will tell, but with both teams regressing in 2017 the Raiders, with no doubt one eye on the move to Las Vegas, appeared to be just that more desperate to get Gruden as they have no issues with making a man who hasn’t coached since 2009 the richest Head Coach in NFL history. One things for sure, with Jon Gruden back coaching, the NFL will be a much more interesting place to be.
Welcome back Chucky!
Image courtesy Raiders.com