Raiders Give Gruden an Opportunity to Resolve Unfinished Business
Heavy snow is pounding down on 22 men at Foxboro Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts. It’s Saturday, January 19, 2002, and the New England Patriots (11-5) welcome the Oakland Raiders (11-6) into town in an AFC Divisional Round game. The Raiders dispatched the New York Jets one week earlier, 38-24, at Network Associates Coliseum behind wide receiver Jerry Rice’s nine catches for 183 yards and a touchdown. The Silver and Black have a 13-10 lead with 1:50 left in the fourth quarter. Patriots starting quarterback Tom Brady is facing a 1st and ten from the Raiders 42-yard line. Brady looked to his first read on the left. Realizing it was covered, Brady moved to his check down in the left flat. Crunch! That’s when Raiders cornerback Charles Woodson hit him, fumbling the football. Raiders linebacker Greg Biekert recovered the fumble. The Patriots were out of timeouts, and all of America assumed the Raiders would move on to the AFC Championship game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. However, the play would be reviewed, and the country would learn about the NFL’s Tuck Rule. Referee Walt Coleman said that Brady’s arm was moving forward and the pass was deemed incomplete. Patriots kicker Adam Vinatieri would go on to kick a game-tying field goal in the fourth quarter and a game-winning kick in overtime. After defeating the Raiders and Steelers, the Patriots triumphed over the St. Louis Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI. Raiders owner Mark Davis has hired John Gruden to replace Jack Del Rio as the team’s head coach. Gruden’s new gig gives him the opportunity to resolve some unfinished business, stemming from the 2002 Tuck Rule game.
During the Raiders’ press conference on January 9th, Gruden was asked about the Tuck Rule game. “There’s unfinished business. As a coach, I was traded, I’ve been fired. I miss the game terribly, but I’ve missed the Raiders. For my career to end on that night in New England, it still ticks me off, he said.” Brady started as a backup quarterback. He replaced starting quarterback Drew Bledsoe when Jets linebacker Mo Lewis hit Bledsoe in week two of the 2001 season. 16 seasons, seven Super Bowl appearances and five Super Bowl victories later, Brady is a more accomplished signal caller than the one Gruden faced in 2002. Brady’s trainer and business partner Alex Guerrero coupled with the quarterback’s TB12 Method has allowed him to find the Fountain of Youth. Gruden will need time to make the Raiders a championship unit. Brady wants to play another five seasons, which gives Gruden the time to improve the Raiders.
Gruden’s track record, work ethic and passion for the game are three reasons why he will significantly improve his team. From 1995-1997, Gruden was the Philadelphia Eagles Offensive Coordinator. In 1996, the Eagles ranked ninth out of 30 teams in the NFL. One year earlier, they ranked 21st out of 30. The Eagles scored 363 points in 1996, +45 from 1995. It should be noted that Gruden did this with Randall Cunningham, Rodney Peete, and Ty Detmer at quarterback. Running back Ricky Watters ran for 1,411 yards, 13 touchdowns and caught 51 passes for 444 yards in 1996, making the Pro Bowl. Wide receiver Irving Fryar caught 88 passes for 1,195 yards and 11 touchdowns to join Watters in the Pro Bowl. Gruden became the Raiders head coach in 1998 and held the position through 2001, when he was traded to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for two first-round picks and two second-round picks.
In 1998, the Raiders had an 8-8 record, a four-victory improvement over the 1997 group under Joe Bugel. In 1998, the Raiders scored 18 points per game, 22nd out of 30 teams. In 1999, the team scored 390 points, 24.4 points per game, eighth out of 31 teams. Quarterback Rich Gannon and wide receiver Tim Brown made the pro bowl. In 2000, Gruden commanded an elite offensive system, scoring 479 points, 29.9 points per game, third out of 31 teams. Gannon threw for 3,430 yards and 28 touchdowns with only 11 interceptions. He joined right tackle Lincoln Kennedy as Pro Bowlers and First Team All-Pro players. In 2001, the Raiders scored 399 points, 24.9 points per game, fourth out of 31 teams. Gannon’s 3,828 yards, 27 touchdowns and nine picks were Pro Bowl worthy. Brown, Kennedy, punter Shane Lechler and Woodson joined Gannon in the Pro Bowl. Gruden coached the Bucs from 2002-2008, winning Super Bowl XXXVII, becoming a member of the team’s Ring of Honor and winning more games, 57, than any other coach in Tampa.
Several of Gruden’s assistant coaches have become head coaches in the NFL. Below is Gruden’s coaching tree:
- Bill Callahan: Raiders HC – 2002-2003
Rod Marinelli: Lions HC – 2006-2008
Raheem Morris: Bucs HC – 2009-2011
Gus Bradley: Jags HC – 2013-2016
Marc Trestman: Bears HC: 2013-2014
Gruden: Redskins HC: 2014-Present
Mike Tomlin: Steelers HC: 2007-Present
Sean McVay: Los Angeles Rams HC: 2017-Present
Gruden’s passion for the game is as evident in yesterday’s press conference as it is on the field. “Number one, I love football. I love the players that play it. I love the preparation; I love the journey, I 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 help deliver. And, I love the Raiders. The brand is global. Everywhere I went, as a Monday Night Football analyst, Raider nation would come out of the ground. I love the Raiders. Most of all, I love to win. I’m going to do everything I can, no guarantees, no promises, but I want to win,” Gruden said. Gruden is a beloved coach and mentor. Several of his former players attended the press conference to support him.
While it’s true that he hasn’t coached since 2008, Gruden has been around football as an analyst. He has been around several schemes in production meetings getting ready for the broadcasts and knows that experience will help him.
“Look, I’ve got to see every facility in the league. I’ve had a chance to watch them practice. See how they conduct training camps. I’ve had a chance to learn some things and see some things that I would have never gotten to see as a coach. I’ve had a chance to study different offenses, different defenses, and I’ve had a chance to get into personnel more. I think I’m the more big picture now than I was in the past, but I still want to be very detailed in terms of how we play offense. I still want to be very involved in how we move the football. I’ve had some opportunities that are unique and I think beneficial as a broadcaster.” – Jon Gruden
Gruden may have some unfinished business from the Tuck Rule game, but he has an opportunity in the city that he loves to create new history.
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Published on 1/13/17 at 7:24 PM EST. Credits: ProFootballReference.com and NFL.com.Share this post on:
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