After long break, can Gruden channel Vermeil, Carroll?

After long break, can Gruden channel Vermeil, Carroll?

Jon Gruden spent nine seasons in ESPN’s employ, working primarily as Monday Night Football’s color analyst.

That chapter is coming to a close. Saturday’s AFC playoff game between the Kansas City Chiefs and Tennessee Titans serves as his swan song, before becoming the next Raiders head coach.

He’s expected to sign a 10-year contract and be formally introduced in a Tuesday press conference.

Gruden’s coming back to coaching after a nine-year hiatus. That’s a long time between gigs, but Gruden hasn’t spent that space away sipping Coronas on a white-sand beach. He’s been immersed in NFL football, thanks to a broadcasting job and an ever-present coaching itch.

He’ll re-join a league with different practice policies and ever-evolving schematics, but should hit the ground running.

"Just about every year I talk about coming back to coach,” Gruden told Buccaneers blog in July. “I'm not in here every day at 4:30 or 4:00 in the morning watching pinball, you know? I'm preparing myself to come back. I am. Every day. I'm preparing to come back."

A total of five men have returned as head coaches after such a long break. The results have been mixed. The Raiders fell victim to one such decision, hiring Art Shell to coach the 2006 season. That Silver and Black squad, which didn’t have much talent and featured Andrew Walter and Aaron Brooks at quarterback, went 2-14.

Pete Carroll has been excellent since returning to the pro ranks, and Dick Vermeil stands as an example of someone who succeeded after returning from the broadcast booth.

Many have tried to lure Gruden back to coaching after cushy jobs in broadcast media – Bill Cowher and Tony Dungy have been other popular targets – but Gruden finally decided to return to an Oakland Raiders team he coached from 1998-2001.

Here’s a list of head coaches in the last 25 years who returned to the position after at least a nine-year break, according to NFL Research, and how they fared:

Pete Carroll (returned in 2010)
Years away:
Job away from NFL: USC head coach
Returned to coach: Seattle
Record after return: 79-48 (still coaching)
Accomplishments after return: Super Bowl XLVIII champion, 2 NFL championships (2013, 2014)

Chan Gailey (returned in 2010)
Years away:
Job away from NFL: Miami offensive coordinator (2000-01), Georgia Tech head coach (2002-07), Kansas City offensive coordinator (2008)
Returned to coach: Buffalo
Record after return: 16-32
Accomplishments after return: No division titles, postseason qualifications

Art Shell (returned in 2006)
Years away:
Job away from NFL: Kansas City OL coach (1995-96), Atlanta OL coach (1997-2000), NFL senior VP in football operations
Returned to coach: Oakland
Record after return: 2-14
Accomplishments after return: Last place finish in one season

Joe Gibbs (returned in 2004)
Years away:
Job away from NFL: Owner of Job Gibbs Racing (NASCAR team)
Returned to coach: Washington
Record after return: 30-34
Accomplishments after return: NFL wild card qualifier (2005, 2007), 1-2 playoff record

Dick Vermeil (returned in 1997)
Years away:
Job away from NFL: Football color analyst for ABC, NBC
Returned to coach: St. Louis (1997-99), Kansas City (2001-2005)
Record after return: 66-62
Accomplishments after return: Super Bowl XXXIV champion (St. Louis), 2003 AFC West champion (Kansas City)

Will a Gruden-Lynch partnership work? ‘Guys like him interest me’


Will a Gruden-Lynch partnership work? ‘Guys like him interest me’

Jon Gruden asked to speak with Marshawn Lynch several times but got turned down.

His job title earned an automatic veto. The enigmatic running back doesn’t talk to the press, even a Monday Night Football analyst with Gruden’s street cred. No production meetings, no insight flowing outside the inner circle.

Lynch must honor the next request. Gruden’s his boss, after all.

“I’m anxious to sit down with Marshawn and meet him,” the new Raiders head coach said Tuesday during his introductory press conference. “We’ll talk about his future and the Raiders. I can’t wait. He came back to the Raiders for similar, I think, reasons that I did. I think he loves Oakland. I think he loves the Raiders and guys like him interest me, so I’m looking forward to talking to him.”

The veteran running back and Oakland native has a year left on a two-year deal struck last April. The 2018 payouts, per, include a $4 million base salary, a $250,000 workout bonus, a $1 million roster bonus and $750,000 in per-game roster bonuses. There are also significant performance-based incentives.

Marshawn is under contract, but also has some say in this matter. He could post an image of cleats hanging on a telephone wire like he did after the 2016 Super Bowl and call it a career. Lynch made it clear in a rare press conference that he didn’t miss football. He returned for the opportunity to play in front of a East Bay community he champions and bring attention to his significant charitable efforts.

There are several possible outcomes from the Gruden/Lynch tete-a-tete. Gruden might not consider him worth the while. Lynch may walk away, for good this time. Or, the two could traverse 2018 together.

Predicting Marshawn’s movements is a fool’s errand. We can, however, make an educated pros and cons list. Let’s take a look at some factors influencing the ultimate outcome.


-- The phrase in Gruden’s last sentence above may have tipped his hand: “Guys like him interest me.” Lynch is an intense presence, one of his generation’s most physical runners. Gruden can use on-field talents like him, though it’s uncertain whether he’s a perfect fit in an offense that has certainly evolved during nine years in the broadcast booth.

Also, Gruden loves Oakland. Lynch loves Oakland. That may be a good starting point.

-- Marshawn still has it. The 31-year old was the Raiders’ most productive skill player in 2017’s second half. He averaged 4.6 yards per carry over the last season games, totaling 625 rushing yards and five touchdowns. He also had at least 92 yards total offense in five of those contests. When he’s motivated and healthy – he didn’t miss a single practice with injury – Lynch can be a force on the ground

-- Gruden reportedly hired Tom Cable as offensive line coach a few days back. That’s probably a plus from Lynch’s perspective. Cable was Seattle offensive line coach, and heavily involved in the running game, during Lynch’s best seasons. He ran a system that fit Lynch well, though Gruden said schemes will be based around team strengths. Lynch and Cable reportedly get along well, and could be a major reason why Lynch finds it appetizing to return.

-- Lynch carried locker room clout. Last year’s coaching staff didn’t love him, but player certainly did.


-- Lynch comes with some baggage. He’s an eccentric sort who does his own thing, at times without regard for small rules. That may rub Gruden and staff the wrong way. It certainly bothered Del Rio’s crew, especially when he seemed to have his own set of rules.

The Raiders tolerated Lynch’s choice to sit during the national anthem all year, despite being vocal against such actions the year before. He also had a production crew following him around quite often, especially in camp.

He got suspended for sticking up for the other team in Week 7, protecting great friend, Oakland native and Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Marcus Peters in an on-field altercation. He then practiced with his old high school during the suspension.

Gruden may not love the prospect of dealing with extra weight, depending on how strict he plans to be during this coaching tenure.

-- Lynch turns 32 in April. While Lynch might be an exception, running backs often fall off a production cliff in their early 30s. Can the Raiders get good value from Lynch at that age, knowing full well another running back might be added to the roster?

-- Lynch may simply not be into another year in Oakland. He enjoyed taking 2016 off, travelling the world and increasing charitable and business endeavors. Is his drive still strong?

Report: Former Raiders head coach returning to join Gruden's staff


Report: Former Raiders head coach returning to join Gruden's staff

Jon Gruden isn’t the only Raiders head coach returning to the Silver and Black.

Tom Cable’s on the way, albeit in a lesser role. Gruden already has the top job. Cable’s coming back, NFL Network reported Saturday afternoon, as offensive line coach.

He occupied that role in Oakland from 2007 until he assumed the head coach role when Lane Kiffin was fired five games into the 2008 season. The interim tag was lifted in 2009, and he coached the Raiders to an 8-8 record in 2010.

He followed that feat with the now famous quote, “We’re not losers anymore.” The Raiders had seven straight losing seasons before finishing .500 in what would be Cable’s last season with the club. He was 17-27 in two-plus seasons as Raiders head coach.

He went to Seattle after that, and spent seven seasons as Seahawks assistant head coach in charge of the offensive line. He also worked extensively with Marshawn Lynch during the rusher’s salad days in Seattle.

Cable returning to the Raiders seemed highly unlikely after late owner Al Davis detailed Cable’s misgivings in a post-firing press conference. Cable was allegedly involved in a 2009 incident where then Raiders assistant Randy Hanson was left with a broken jaw. ESPN also aired a report where three women accused Cable of domestic violence. One of Cable’s accusers sued Cable and named the Raiders as a co-defendant. Davis docked Cable’s pay in relation to that litigation.

Cable is a respected position coach, though the Seahawks offensive line has fallen on hard times. He and offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell were fired after a disappointing season where the Seahawks missed the postseason.

Offensive line coach was a top priority as Gruden built a staff. Cable is known for using a zone blocking scheme, though it remains uncertain what he’ll use in Oakland with a powerful, expensive offensive front locked in place save the right tackle spot.