The Coaching Search: Jon Gruden

Written July 22nd, 2011 by Eric

After a brief hiatus, we’re back with a look at the next name on the list for head coach.  You may recall some of the names we’ve already featured in this series.

Jon Gruden

Many fans have expressed many ideas regarding the Ohio State coaching search.  Urban Meyer and Bo Pelini are two of the biggest that we’ve already taken a look at.  Mentioned in the same breath with those two illustrious names is another young bright star of the coaching profession – Jon Gruden.

It is worth noting that this is not the first time Gruden’s name has come up in a coaching search in the last six months.  He was first suggested as a replacement for Randy Shannon at Miami, followed by Rich Rodriguez at Michigan.  He was also offered, and turned down, a position as offensive coordinator at Oregon.  The Ohio State job is simply the most recent addition to the list.

Gruden has spent 11 years on the highest stage of football with varying success.  There is plenty of debate regarding his success – specifically that his greatest have come due to the hard work of others.  There is no debate, however, that he is very good in his own right.  That makes him worth a look for this position.

Gruden is a born and bred son of Ohio who grew up in Sandusky.  You may recall a famous Buckeye lineman who was also from that area.  The Buckeyes have a strong fan presence in that area (certainly much stronger than in southern Ohio) and it’s hard to imagine that Gruden didn’t experience some scarlet and gray influence.

His family eventually moved to South Bend, Indiana where he graduated from High School.  His father, Jim, was an assistant to Notre Dame head coach Dan Devine.  Jon believed that he had no chance to play football for the Golden Domers, and instead chose to play Quarterback for Muskingum College.  He later transferred to Dayton and finished his career as a backup quarterback.

His coaching career saw him jumping back and forth between the college and NFL ranks.  Soon after he graduated from college he found himself a job as a graduate assistant under Johnny Majors at Tennessee.  While there, he helped the Volunteers to wins in the Liberty Bowl (21-14 over Minnesota) and Peach Bowl (27-22 over Indiana).

His first coaching jobs after finishing his graduate schooling came at a pair of sub-D-1A schools.  While there, his father set up an interview with then San Francisco 49er’s offensive coordinator Mike Holmgren.  Holmgren was so impressed with the young Gruden’s knowledge that he hired him as an Offensive Quality Control coach.

Gruden stayed for only a year before Walt Harris offered him position as the Wide Receiver’s coach at the University of Pittsburgh.  Harris remembered Gruden from Tennessee (where Harris was the Offensive Coordinator) and had hired Gruden at the University of Pacific two years previously.

Again, the stay lasted for only a single year.  Holmgren again offered Gruden a job – this time as an offensive assistant – and eventually wide receivers coach – with Green Bay.  When Packer’s assistant Ray Rhodes took over at Philadelphia in 1994 Gruden followed him and became his offensive coordinator.

In 1998, Jon Gruden got his first chance as a head coach.  After Mike White had been fired in 1996 one of his assistants, Joe Bugel (a 1974 Buckeye assistant coach) took over for a single season before Al Davis found a more permanent replacement in Gruden.

Gruden’s four seasons at Oakland were a reasonable success.  After going 8-8 in his first two years, Gruden lead the Raiders to two straight AFC West Championships.  He wasn’t able to take his team past the second game in the post season – though his second try against the Patriots was controversially snatched away with less than two minutes to play.

The next season, Gruden found himself on the sidelines of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. During the off-season, the Buccaneers had fired Tony Dungy in a wildly unpopular move – particularly after he was hired by the Indianapolis Colts.  Hiring Gruden was an attempt to quiet the fans and media.  Gruden’s hot-shot reputation was sure to do just that.

In his first season with the Bucs, Jon Gruden succeeded in winning his first (and only) Super Bowl – a victory over the Oakland Raiders.  Many believed that Gruden’s success in that season was due mainly to what Tony Dungy had left behind.  That idea was supported over the next several seasons.

The Buccaneers had offered an awful lot of trades in order to get Gruden as their head coach, and it took several seasons for Tampa Bay to make up for it.  After a 5-11 year in 2004, Gruden succeeded in turning the team around going 11-5 and winning the NFC South.  Unfortunately, that wasn’t quite the proof of recovery as Tampa Bay sank to 4-12 the following year.

After two straight 9-7 years, including another NFC South Championship, Jon Gruden was fired.

Are you ready for some Gruden?

Gruden has since gone to work for ESPN as a broadcaster and color analyst on Monday Night Football.  He has also called several bowl games, including the 2010 Rose Bowl for ESPN Radio.

Gruden has an impressive resume with a 100-85 overall record, including a 5-4 winning record in postseason play.  He’s also won on the biggest stage in football, as mentioned earlier.  Earning a winning record in the NFL over a decade of coaching is quite a feat.

That said, there is still some question as to how well he can coach with his own style.  While he was with San Francisco he spent time learning Bill Walsh’s west coach offense.  That style can be very effective, particularly if run by the right quarterback.  However, his on-again off-again teams at the Buccaneers seems to suggest that he struggles at times when things aren’t exactly the way he needs them to be.

However, as a highly popular, well known and successful NFL coach, Gruden would be a particularly effective recruiter at Ohio State.  I have absolutely no doubt that he would be able to draw in the absolute best with his ability and charm.

Playing Career

Quarterback, Muskingum College, 1981

Quarterback, University of Dayton, 1982-1984

Pedigree

  • Graduate Assistant, Tennessee 1986-1987
  • Quarterbacks Coach, Southeast Missouri State 1988
  • Wide Receivers Coach, Pacific 1989
  • Offensive Quality Control Coach, San Francisco 49ers 1990
  • Wide Receivers Coach, Pittsburgh 1991
  • Offensive Assistant, Green Bay Packers 1992
  • Wide Receivers Coach, Green Bay Packers 1993-1994
  • Offensive Coordinator, Philadelphia Eagles 1995-1997
  • Head Coach, Oakland Raiders 1998-2001
  • Head Coach, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 2002-2008

Why Gruden may be the next coach of the Buckeyes:

  • He has been a highly successful coach in the NFL and has impressed a number of very good coaches.
  • With his personality and reputation he could be a very good recruiter.  Add to that the fact that he can tell them that he can help get them to the NFL and he’s near golden.
  • He has 10 years of experience as a head coach, and 22 years in the coaching profession as a whole, at both the D-1 level and in the NFL.
  • He has won a Super Bowl, and demonstrated that he can win on the biggest stage consistently.

Why Gruden won’t be the next coach of the Buckeyes:

  • He has limited experience coaching D-1 football with only 3 years at programs at that level, including 2 as a graduate assistant.
  • There are concerns with his coaching style, believing that he may not be as good as advertized.
  • He has no personal experience with the Ohio State/Michigan rivalry beyond that as an observer.
  • He’s been suggested as a head coach in multiple different high profile searches, but has yet to accept an offer.  It’s possible that he either doesn’t want to coach again, or those coaching searches turned up something unsatisfactory.

7 Comments

  1. Dale NienbergNo Gravatar
    July 22nd, 2011 at 10:16 am

    You’re missing the biggest reason why Gruden won’t be the next coach.

    The Buckeyes are going to have a very successful season under Luke Fickel and he will remain the head coach.

    [Reply]

  2. EdNo Gravatar
    July 22nd, 2011 at 10:50 am

    Get off the coach search. We have a coach. Give him a chance. This silly conjecture certainly is not helping us get past our most miserable recent experience.

    [Reply]

    JimNo Gravatar
    July 22nd, 2011 at 11:12 am

    Looking at potential candidates to be the next head coach at Ohio State and giving coach Fickell a chance are not mutually exclusive endeavors.

    I think you will find that almost every writer here supports Coach Fickell 100% and would be very happy to have him sign a long term contract after this season.

    There was a reason Fickell was the first person profiled and we called him the favorite very early on.

    It is still interesting to contemplate other possible candidates.

    [Reply]

    MaliBuckeyeNo Gravatar
    July 22nd, 2011 at 12:10 pm

    Wait… so Ty Willingham isn’t coming to Columbus?

    [Reply]

    KenNo Gravatar
    July 22nd, 2011 at 4:56 pm

    Nope. The fact that Gruden bailed from Muskingum means he is dead to me. Let’s get one of the Heacock brothers in…

    [Reply]

  3. NC_BuckeyeNo Gravatar
    July 22nd, 2011 at 11:50 am

    Success in the NFL doesn’t always translate to success in college. Charlie Weis being the prime example. (A lesson which Florida must have absent for and will have to learn again.)

    Recruiting always seems to be the hurdle for “these guys”. Almost as if it’s an annoyance for them. I think it’s always better to get someone who’s established a history of success at a smaller school.

    I’m going to go on record and say that Kill at Minnesota is going to be the new coach that will make the most waves. However, I also think that Fickell is going to shock the B1G with his ability to pick up right where Tressel left the program. (Thereby making this series moot.)

    [Reply]

    ErictBBCNo Gravatar
    July 22nd, 2011 at 12:31 pm

    I certainly hope this entire series is moot, considering (as Jim mentioned above) that I think Fickell is the guy and have for some time.

    Thanks for bringing up the point about NFL success – I mentioned that in the Lovie Smith article. I actually meant to include that point here, but completely forgot.

    [Reply]

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