Gruden has 'a bullseye on my chest,' plenty to prove in Raiders return


Gruden has 'a bullseye on my chest,' plenty to prove in Raiders return

Jon Gruden has star power, maybe more than any other NFL head coach. He can hock Coronas and Hooters wings with ease following a nine-year stint in the broadcast booth and a colorful stretch roaming the sidelines for Oakland and Tampa Bay.

The spotlight will track the silver and black in his return to coaching. Gruden understands it will be part of the Raiders experience now. The magnifying glass will expose beauty and warts alike while Gruden trying to show he’s still got it.

“I know there is a big bullseye on my chest, certainly,” Gruden said. “If the people want to use that as an incentive, then so be it. I worked for Al Davis in 1998. That was pressure. I was 34 years old. I’ve dealt with pressure before. I don’t really feel pressure. I love the excitement and thrill of competing, and I can’t worry about things I can’t control in that regard. I know people will want to step on me and beat me, and that is just the way this league is.”

The Raiders didn’t deal with pressure well last year. They were deemed AFC contenders and a sexy Super Bowl pick over the summer yet ended up 6-10, well known for having a glass jaw. Adversity often won the day, an unattractive attribute Gruden won’t tolerate moving forward.

Expectations are sky high entering Gruden’s first season, and despite the Super Bowl ring on his finger and five division titles in 11 seasons coached, Gruden feels he has plenty to prove in his the Raiders.

“I have not coached since 2008. I haven’t won a game since 2008,” Gruden said. “I haven’t lost any either, so I just want to keep that in perspective. I’ve got to hire a great coaching staff. It’s about the people, it’s about the staff, it’s about the tempo that we establish as a coaching staff. I’ve got a lot to prove and I know that.”

The NFL has changed since Gruden last ran a franchise, with schematic advancements and practice restrictions that make life harder on those teaching the game. Gruden won’t play as much catch-up as you might think. He has stayed involved with the game both as a broadcaster, a consultant and a football nerd who likes studying game tape.

“There are advantages and disadvantages, depending on what website you want to read,” Gruden said. “I will be people who are positive about this and those who don’t like it. I’ve been away for a awhile, but I didn’t close my eyes and shut my ears. I’ve been involved in football. My brother (Jay Gruden) is a head coach. Most of my friends are in coaching, and I go on vacations with my wife to training camp. That’s where I take her. It’s not I’ve been away from the game, but I do have a lot to prove.”

That isn’t just a motivational tactic. Gruden has to show he’s still got it, and justify a massive 10-year, $100 million contract.

“It’s always about the money. If you’re the highest paid quarterback or receiver or safety, the target’s always on your back,” former Raiders defensive back and current ESPN analyst Charles Woodson said. Gruden’s coming back after a long layoff, and everyone knows about the contract he got. They’re asking, ‘Is he worth that much money? That will be a part of the deal. There will be a lot of expectations, even after such a long layoff. I know he’ll be up to the challenge.”

Back again: Patriots rally past Jags, head to eighth Super Bowl since 2001


Back again: Patriots rally past Jags, head to eighth Super Bowl since 2001


FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Give `em a hand: Tom Brady and the New England Patriots are heading back to the Super Bowl.

Brady shook off a hand injury and threw a 4-yard touchdown pass to Danny Amendola with 2:48 remaining , rallying the Patriots to a 24-20 comeback victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars in the AFC championship Sunday.

Brady, wearing a black bandage on his right hand after hurting it during practice earlier in the week, showed no signs of being hampered.

And, with the game - and possibly the season - on the line, the Patriots star came up big again.

"I've had a lot worse," Brady said. "I didn't know that on Wednesday. It was a crazy injury. Wednesday, Thursday, Friday was a little scary. Then I started getting some confidence and today we did just enough to win."

Brady finished 26 of 38 for 290 yards and two touchdowns for the Patriots (15-3), who'll play the winner of Sunday night's game between Minnesota and Philadelphia in Minneapolis on Feb. 4.

It's the eighth Super Bowl appearance for Brady and coach Bill Belichick, who have won five times - including last year's 34-28 overtime rally against the Atlanta Falcons.

The Jaguars (12-7) led 20-10 early in the fourth quarter, but couldn't hold against the defending champions.

Jacksonville - looking to reach the Super Bowl for the first time in franchise history - had one more shot, but Bortles' throw on fourth-and-15 to Dede Westbrook was knocked away by Stephon Gilmore.

The Patriots then ran out the clock, with Dion Lewis' 18-yard scamper with 90 seconds remaining sealing the victory. And they did it mostly without tight end Rob Gronkowski, who left the game late in the first half and didn't return.

Brady's hand was the most-scrutinized body part in Boston since the quarterback's right ankle before the 2008 Super Bowl, and Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling's right ankle tendon - the bloody sock - in the 2004 playoffs.

Brady was listed as questionable after he hurt his right hand during practice earlier in the week. He was limited Wednesday, sat out Thursday and was limited again Friday because of the injury.

That caused some panic among the Patriots faithful.

Turns out, it was nothing to fret about.

Brady came out for warmups without a glove on his hand, and he came out throwing. He completed his first six passes - including a 20-yarder to Amendola on fourth-and-1 from the Jaguars 30 - for 57 yards to march the Patriots down the field. The drive stalled when Brady was sacked by Dante Fowler Jr., and New England settled for Stephen Gostkowski's 31-yard field goal.

A wide-open Marcedes Lewis gave the Jaguars a 7-3 lead 45 seconds into the second quarter with a 4-yard touchdown catch from Blake Bortles, who was 5 for 5 for 66 yards on an impressive and efficient seven-play, 76-yard drive.

Leonard Fournette gave Jacksonville a 14-3 lead midway through the second quarter with a 4-yard TD run, hushing the crowd at Gillette Stadium.

The Jaguars made some big mistakes that hurt them just before halftime. Bortles completed a 12-yard pass to Lewis on third-and-7 from the Patriots 44, but Jacksonville was called for delay of game - after New England called a timeout.

That wiped out a first down, and Bortles was sacked by Adam Butler on the next play to force a punt.

With just over two minutes left before halftime, New England's offense took over and the fans chanted "Bra-dy! Bra-dy!"

And their quarterback delivered - with some help from the Jaguars on two long penalties.

On first-and-10 from the Patriots 40, Brady threw a long pass for Gronkowski, who was injured when he got popped by Barry Church just as the ball was arriving. Church was called for unnecessary roughness, putting the ball at Jacksonville's 45.

A.J. Bouye was called for pass interference on the next play on an incomplete throw for Brandin Cooks. The 32-yard penalty put the ball at the Jaguars 13. After a 12-yard catch by Cooks, James White ran it in from the 1 to make it 14-10 with 55 seconds left.

Josh Lambo gave Jacksonville a 17-10 lead 4:37 into the third quarter with a 54-yard field goal. He added a 43-yarder 8 seconds into the fourth quarter to make it a 10-point game.

But Brady & Co. were just getting started.

Report: Before hiring Olson as OC, Gruden interviewed ex-Texas A&M coach


Report: Before hiring Olson as OC, Gruden interviewed ex-Texas A&M coach

Greg Olson is back as the Raiders offensive coordinator, but he may not have been Jon Gruden's first choice.

Before hiring Olson, Gruden interviewed former Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin for the OC position, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter.

Despite not getting the Raiders' job, Sumlin was able to find work as he was announced as the new head coach of the Arizona Wildcats on Jan. 14.

Sumlin went 51-26 in six seasons with the Aggies and was 35-17 in four prior seasons with the Houston Cougars. The 53-year-old Sumlin has no NFL coaching experience.

Olson served as the OC in Oakland in 2013 and 2014. He spent this past season as the Rams quarterback coach.

“Greg Olson coached Derek Carr for a year here. His intel there will be very important. He coached with me in Tampa and he coached with Sean McVay, one of my ex-assistants, in LA. So, the system of football that we run will be a real natural flow,” Gruden said when the Raiders announced Olson's hiring on Ja. 12.