Gruden 2.0: What will be different this time around?

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Gruden 2.0: What will be different this time around?

Postby blazin1 » Fri Jan 12, 2018 5:22 pm

ALAMEDA — Cindy Gruden believes her husband of 26 years has evolved from the days when he was a young assistant coach who had to be forced by his boss to leave work and take his wife out to dinner.

But she still knows “the look” that can signal his exasperation. That was a Jon Gruden specialty long before a player nicknamed him after the murderous movie doll “Chucky” when he was a first-year coach of the Raiders in 1998.

Whether it be coaching, broadcasting or going out on a family outing, Gruden is going places. Waiting is not part of the plan.

“If I ever want to make him upset with me, just be five minutes late,” Cindy Gruden said. “I’ve told him, `We are not your football team. We may not be on time.’

“Things like that still get in his craw. He still likes things a certain way. In that way, he will never change.”

Gruden, 54, is back for a second tour of duty as Raiders coach, given a contract reported to be worth $100 million over 10 years to do what he did the first time around. In 1998, at the age of 34, he took over a Raiders team that had gone 4-12 the previous season. After finishing 8-8 in Gruden’s first two seasons, the Raiders won consecutive AFC West titles and came within one game of reaching the Super Bowl in 2000.

Gruden’s in-your-face style made him one of the most telegenic coaches of all-time. He was a non-stop snarling dervish. Subtlety was not part of the Gruden repertoire.

Traded to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers following the 2001 season — an unusual move triggered by a contract impasse — Gruden returned Tuesday to much greater fanfare than the boy wonder hired by Al Davis 20 years earlier.

Gruden is older and presumably wiser, having found a way to stay immersed in football tactics and strategy since being fired by Tampa Bay following the 2008 season. Besides serving as an ESPN analyst, he met regularly with college and pro coaches to stay abreast of the game’s latest trends.

To be determined over the next several months is whether the styles and strategies employed by Gruden the last time he coached in Oakland can be effective again.

Or if Gruden, confronted by a more restrictive collective bargaining agreement and the changing attitudes of a younger generation, will have to either change his style or find new ways to connect with his players.

“You know, the reality is I haven’t changed much at all since 1998,” Gruden said. “I really haven’t. I am not a deep, philosophical person. I’ve always loved football, always wanted to come back. I’ve prepared to come back . . . I’m at a point in my life where I need another challenge.”

Mark Arteaga, an administrative aide to Gruden with the Raiders who followed him to Tampa Bay and continued working for him after both were fired by the Bucs, watched with interest Tuesday at the press conference as Raiders alumni flocked to their former coach.

“I was talking with Steve Wisniewski, and he said, ‘Mark, this guy hasn’t changed since he left’,” Arteaga said. “I think all of us get a little older and wiser with age, but in the end, you fall back on what worked. Jon’s one constant is his work ethic. He worked just as hard at broadcasting as he did on football. He just had a different team to prepare.”

As a receivers coach for the Green Bay Packers in the early 1990s, Gruden worked so much that coach Mike Holmgren once handed him some cash, ordered him from the office and insisted he take Cindy to dinner.

The hours he put in were legendary, awakening at 3:17 a.m. each day to the sound of the Notre Dame fight song (his father Jim coached there when Jon was a youth). He’d had issues sleeping in college at Dayton, with doctors eventually telling him he didn’t need much sleep and to find a way to pass the time doing something he loved.

Steve Mariucci, the former 49ers coach who was also a member of the Green Bay staff, laughed when asked if he thought Gruden would be different this time around.

“He’ll tweak his offense a bit, but he’s got some old-school in him where he’s going to coach hard and he’s not going to be interested in being a players’ coach all the time,” Mariucci said. “He’s hard on officials. He’s hard on his players. His coaching style is his coaching style. And he loves it, loves being in the arena, on the grass. I think you’re going to get the same Jon Gruden.”

Besides working for ESPN, Gruden and Arteaga have maintained an office in a Tampa strip mall called the “Fired Football Coaches Association” where Gruden has immersed himself in football.

College and pro coaches have spent weekends in Tampa just to hole up with Gruden and watch film, trading tips and strategies. It is out of the FFCA office where his “Gruden Quarterback Camp” shows are filmed.

Bob LaMonte, Gruden’s agent since he became a professional coach, said his client’s energy level is as high as ever and that the last nine years have given him a wealth of knowledge in terms of schemes and philosophies he wouldn’t have had otherwise.

“He’s by far better equipped to become a head coach at 54 than he ever was at 34,” LaMonte said.

Cindy Gruden described her husband as “rejuvenated” after he got to spend valuable time with his three sons in the last nine years. Deuce, 24, will join the Raiders strength and conditioning department. Michael, 21, is a junior at the University of Tennessee and Jayson, 17, will finish his junior year of high school in the Tampa area before moving west.

Although Gruden plans on remaining the offensive coordinator and play-caller, just as he was with the Raiders and Bucs, Cindy Gruden anticipates at least a slight shift in work habits.

“I think he will probably work smarter this time around,” she said. “I think you trust people and you delegate. When he was young he tried to do all the work. Now he’s at a point in his life where he knows he can trust people and be OK (letting) other coaches take the reins. He’s at a good place in his life.”

Hall of Fame wide receiver Tim Brown, who played under Gruden for five seasons with the Raiders and Bucs, believes there could be a slight difference in terms of coaching style.

“Look, there’s always going to be difference between a 34-year-old man and a 54-year-old man,” Brown said. “He would say things back in the day in a very abrasive way. Maybe now he doesn’t have to because he knows a quicker way, where he can get right to the point.

“But he still has to be who he is. He’s a passionate fireball and if he tries not to be that guy, it’s going to be tough.”

Former Raiders great Charles Woodson said the whole “Chucky” persona is only one part of the way Gruden relates to players, but whether it’s with humorous pointed jabs, enthusiastic encouragement or a blistering critique, the message will be the same.

“If you don’t respond, you gotta go,” Woodson said. “Gruden isn’t going to come in favoring or babying anybody. He’s going to come in and he’s going to be trying to hit the ground running. If you’re not ready to jump on that train, maybe there will be another team for you. It’s got to be all in, or nothing.”

Woodson was not familiar with Gruden until being drafted by the Raiders in the first round in 1998. He knows first-hand how different things will be for the Raiders players under Gruden.

“It will probably take them by surprise, that star-like quality Gruden has and the relationship that he has with the fanbase here,” Woodson said. “They haven’t seen that. He’ll be the most popular guy on that sideline. It won’t be Derek Carr, it won’t be Khalil Mack. It will be Jon Gruden.”


http://www.mercurynews.com/2018/01/12/how-jon-gruden-is-different-from-his-first-tour-with-raiders-and-also-how-he-isnt/
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