NOTow that Jon Gruden was kicked out of Las Vegas – after a eight year email trail of his racist, homophobic and misogynistic exchanges came to light as part of an investigation into the frail work culture of the Washington football team.
Six years before Gruden was lured out of ESPN’s Monday night football booth with a core of $ 100 million over 10 years, the Raiders circled the drain; in 2014, they would win three paltry games on their way to tie for the third-worst NFL record. But over the following seasons, the team slowly rebuilt themselves into a contender, winning 12 games to reach the 2016 playoffs. And there was no doubt that the resurgence was due to the astute work of general manager Reggie McKenzie, former Raiders linebacker and first person to run football operations other than owner Al Davis.
But when Gruden returned to the team in 2018, what did he do? He’s won four huge games with almost the same group that won 12. He undermined McKenzie – the top NFL executive in 2016 – by setting up a rival scouting department and creating a separate selection board. And Gruden ditched many of McKenzie’s best finds, including swapping All-Pro defensive end Khalil Mack to Chicago. Ultimately, the yawning rift in the Raiders’ front office became untenable and McKenzie was released – and now it’s hard not to wonder if it wasn’t because he’s black.
You can believe Gruden when he says he doesn’t have “a racist bone in my body.” You can think of it as the bloody sacrifice of a football culture whose moral decay extends beyond mere emails. You can think of his exchanges as the private ramblings of a small, insecure man, terribly out of touch with the world at hand. You can’t say it’s not rich that the coach who called the NFLPA chief a sambo doll is the same guy who creates his personal brand around the image of Chucky.
But the fact that Gruden felt free enough to insult the appearance and intelligence of NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith (who is also black) in a message to Bruce Allen (then the WFT’s top executive) at the course of a business server not only confirms what most black people around the game have long thought (this is what these white people really think of us). This proves that black people are not foolish to think that they are denied opportunities in the league because the white ruling class has no interest in sharing power with them.
You can tell Gruden’s words don’t matter. But consider his 15 years of experience: there are no young black assistants in his coaching tree; Willie Shaw is the only black person Gruden ever took on as coordinator – and Shaw only lasted a few seasons.
For all of Gruden’s disproportionate reputation as an offensive prodigy, he never developed a black quarterback. Shaun King, a holdover from the Tony Dungy era who led Tampa to the playoffs in his sophomore year in the NFL, was effectively doomed when Gruden stayed with a Brad Johnson over the hill. In Oakland, he bypassed the famous an opportunity to sign Colin Kaepernick (whom we now know the coach vehemently opposed to social justice activism) and instead signed Nathan Peterman, who is white and most likely the worst quarterback ever. For good measure, Gruden cut Marquette King, one of the few black gamblers in NFL history and a solid contributor to special teams, apparently for no other reason than to be too outspoken and outgoing for his job. And he found room on his list for Richie Incognito, a confirmed bully who was suspended for bullying a former Black Dolphins teammate. with racist insults.
Here is a refrain that the coach always comes back to, that he can only win with “his guys”. And while it’s true that Johnson’s quarterback was just stable enough to guide Gruden’s Bucs to a title in 2002, it’s also true that none of that success would have been possible without the Temple’s defensive staff. fame and the innovative Cover-2 system put in place by the team’s former head coach, Dungy.
That’s why it’s so disappointing to see Dungy, an NBC analyst now, support Gruden on last week’s Sunday Night Football TV show, when he can better than anyone say that Gruden’s success was built on the backs of black men like him.
Take Dungy’s team away, and Gruden would be just another retread coach. In the nine seasons since his Super Bowl crown, he’s averaged seven wins while reaching the playoffs twice. And that’s spending the last three years working with one of the his guys – former TV analyst Mike Mayock, who had no front office experience when he was hired to replace McKenzie as managing director. Despite the passionate support Gruden received from other buddies like Dungy, former Monday Night Football sidekick Mike Tirico and Tim Brown, who played for Gruden in Oakland and Tampa, be clear: they are companions. Let a black man deign to defy old-fashioned Gruden football conventions or otherwise threaten the absolute power he wields over his teams, and watch how quickly he rises in rank.
In the locker room stuffed with dominant Tampa men, Gruden publicly clashed with Warren Sapp, Keenan McCardell and other well-paid veterans. When the Bucs’ Keyshawn Johnson was filmed yelling at Gruden on the sidelines, the explosive climax of a long-smoldering rift, Gruden turned off before shipping him to Dallas. At the time, the move was hugely controversial and cemented Johnson’s reputation as a diva. So you can imagine the satisfaction Johnson, now an ESPN analyst, felt seeing Gruden get his bonus this week. “He’s always been an impostor to me,” he said. In infamous radio interview in 2009 Brash ex-Bucs defensive end Simeon Rice described Gruden as a hypocritical “scumbag” who quickly rejects players when injured and seemingly no longer useful to him.
Then, of course, Gruden’s second tour with the Raiders started with him, forcing Mack to step down when he demanded to be paid as much as the other top defenders. After trading two first-round picks for Mack, the Bears signed him to a six-year extension of $ 141 million – a godsend in retrospect. Prior to this season, Pro Football Focus had ranked Mack as the sixth best player in the entire league. So that fits with the fact that Gruden’s coaching career ended last week with a loss to Chicago, which saw Mack compile eight tackles and a sack. Never mind that two years ago Gruden told reporters he “cried for three days” after the successful trade. It’s about as believable as the apology he made earlier this week when his emails were simply racist and, therefore, survivable.
It doesn’t take a special x-ray to see if Gruden has a racist bone in his body. If his emails don’t make it clear, his actions certainly do. For a coach who owed his position to nepotism and circumventing NFL hiring practices for diversity, equity and inclusion, it is too easy to attribute success to intelligence and make fun of it. fanatic peer-to-peer emails with hiring influence like harmless jokes. But in his dealings with McKenzie and others in his immediate orbit, Gruden told us a long time ago where he believes a black man’s place in football should be. And you have to admit that his actions went way beyond words.